Series / Wagon Train

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Incredibly successful Western series about a group of pioneers heading out west after The American Civil War. The show lasted for eight seasons (1957-62 on NBC, 1962-65 on ABC), thanks in part to the broad range of storylines that its Walking the Earth format provided. These days, however, it's more well-known for being the first two of those five famous words Gene Roddenberry used to pitch Star Trek: The Original Series.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Adventure Towns
  • Actor Existence Failure: Series star Ward Bond unexpectedly died of a heart attack in 1961, necessitating a change to John McIntyre as the new lead. Interestingly, no episode actually deals with Maj. Adams' (Bond's character) leaving/retiring/dying, and so the next episode is McIntyre's character taking over from a tyrannical replacement played by Lee Marvin.
  • The Beastmaster: The title character of "The Ruth Marshall Story" has four wolves that follow her everywhere and protect her.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Adams and the title character of "The C.L. Harding Story." He had given permission for a reporter to accompany the wagon train, but was astonished when it turned out to be a woman. He reluctantly allows her to come anyway, but then she gets the wives on the train to participate in a suffragette movement. She and Adams spend the whole episode arguing, though it's clear to Charlie and C.L.'s assistant, Arletta, that they secretly care for each other. At the end of the episode, they argue even more, but then kiss before going their separate ways.
  • Berserk Button: Bruto in "The Alexander Portlass Story" hates being called a "brute" because of the word's association with Brutus. Brutus opposed Caesar just as Bruto spoke out against Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, for which his tongue was cut out. Calling him "brute" reminds him of that.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: In "The Countess Baranof Story," when the Countess decides she doesn't care about the land in Alaska she may have a claim to, Colonel Vasily tells her she'll claim it whether she wants to or not, because he's a revolutionary and his side needs the money that can be gotten for the land.
  • Bodyguard Crush: In "The Countess Baranof Story," the Countess's bodyguard, Colonel Vasily, reveals he is in love with her.
  • The Cavalry: Shows up in "The Luke Grant Story" just as an Apache war party is about to attack.
  • The Chief's Daughter: In "The Charles Avery Story," some soldiers are escorting a chief's daughter (played by Oscar-nominee Susan Kohner) back to her people with a peace treaty signed by the President. When they come under attack and their mission is threatened, Flint agrees to aid them.
  • Comedic Spanking: Flint does this to the title character of "The Maggie Hamilton Story" after he's had enough of her immaturity. (She was played by Susan Oliver, who was 27 or 28 at the time.)
  • Cute Mute: The title character of "The Ruth Marshall Story" is a pretty young woman (played by Luana Patten) who never speaks. Flint admits he's not sure if she can't speak at all, or can speak but chooses not to.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "The Jonas Murdock Story" is one for Bill Hawks. Murdock, one of the wagon trainers, violates a Native chief's order not to hunt on his land. Adams confronts him about it and is accidentally seriously wounded. Murdock runs, forcing Charlie Wooster to take charge of the wagon train while Bill goes after Murdock.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Elizabeth (a very young Nurse Ratched, Louise Fletcher) in "The Tom Tuckett Story." She starts out telling Tom that she'll never love anyone (her aunt having taught her not to), but by the end she returns his love.
  • Domestic Abuse: The title character of "The Emily Rossiter Story" (played by Oscar-winner Mercedes McCambridge) is married to an abusive man.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In "The Mary Halstead Story," Tracey, leader of a gang of bandits, becomes obsessed with vengeance on Tommy Nichols for killing Earl, the previous leader of the gang. But when he finds him, Earl's mother, Mary Halstead, defends Tommy, saying her son would listen to her and spare him. Tracey figures Earl would want him to listen to Mary, so he does, and even guns down one of his own men who wanted to kill Tommy and Mary.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: The title character of "The Luke Grant Story" was a preacher whose wife left him for another man, and then his congregation deserted him. After that, all he could see were bad people who professed to faith, so he turned away from God.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: In "The Captain Dan Brady Story," the title character is a hero of the West and travels around with a "Wild West" show. His main claim to fame was defeating the Sioux chief Red Cloud in single combat. But it's ultimately revealed that he's not that capable; he gives bad, outdated advice to several of the wagon trainers, and even his great victory over Red Cloud wasn't as impressive as he makes it out to be. He's not a bad guy, really, he just got caught up in the fame and fortune and doesn't even remember himself how much truth there is in some of his stories.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: A male example in "The Steele Family." Charity isn't particularly interested in the bookish Jeremiah until Adams gives him a quick "makeover," making him take off his jacket and tie, mussing his hair, and leaving his glasses behind.
  • A Handful for an Eye: In "The Estaban Zamora Story," the title character does this to a bandit leader so he and Flint can escape (right after telling the bandit that people in his country do this).
  • Instrumental Theme Tune
  • Lady Macbeth: In "The Captain Dan Brady Story," John Grey Cloud functions as a non-married variant. He and the title character are Heterosexual Life-Partners; Brady had killed John's father, the Sioux chief Red Cloud, and took care of him after that. John is constantly egging Brady on, encouraging him to commit underhanded deeds and stoking his ego. It's actually a malevolent plan of John's. He knows Brady wasn't the great hero everyone thinks he is, and is well past his prime. He wants Brady to make a fool of himself because he hates Brady (and all white people, really).
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In "The Tracy Sadler Story," the title character has come to the wagon train looking for her twelve-year-old son. Neither of them knows the other because she has been in jail for killing her husband, his father, his whole life, and he was raised by his paternal grandfather (who he thinks is his father).
  • The Matchmaker: Adams is forced into this role in "The Steele Family," when four beautiful sisters cause chaos among the men in the wagon train. Getting the girls married seems to be the only way to calm everyone down.
  • My Beloved Smother: In "The Steele Family," Jeremiah is definitely interested in Charity, but he has a hard enough time getting her interested in him, and his mother's opposition to the match only makes things worse.
  • My Greatest Failure: The title character of "The Colter Craven Story" (directed by John Ford) is a doctor so haunted by his failure to save more men during the Civil War that he can no longer perform surgery.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Miller, a scout Adams hires in "The Cathy Eckhart Story," turns out to be an undependable drunk, and comes under suspicion of murdering the title character and possibly even betraying the train to Kiowa natives. He's actually an Army Captain on a secret mission to expose the traitor.
  • Red Baron: Earl "Laramie Kid" Halstead in "The Mary Halstead Story."
  • Sibling Murder: At the start of "The Estaban Zamora Story," Flint comes across a dying man. We find out he was killed by his brother, Bernabe (Leonard Nimoy), but a third brother urges Bernabe not to tell their father, Estaban (Ernest Borgnine), because he will feel honor-bound to exact revenge.
  • Signed Language:
    • The title character of "The Ruth Marshall Story" uses this to communicate.
    • Major Adams communicates this way with some friendly Native Americans in "The Elizabeth McQueeny Story."
  • Sinister Minister: The preacher (played by Martin Landau) in "The Cathy Eckhart Story" murders the title character and betrays the train to hostile Natives.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Jethro Creech, the villain of "The Baylor Crowfoot Story," spends most of the episode talking about his personal philosophy of strength (which amounts to bullying everyone around him and calling anyone who won't stand up for himself a coward). Then he calls a big meeting of everyone in the train and expounds on his views, before taking out a bottle of his "special tonic." He says this is a key component in achieving the strength (and thus, success in life) he himself has, and can also cure "arthritis, rheumatism, headache, and consumption!" It seems that just about everyone who hadn't already dismissed his arguments realizes at this point that he's nothing more than a self-aggrandizing fraud.
  • Spoiled Brat: The title character of "The Maggie Hamilton Story," who runs away from the wagon train and throws tantrums constantly.
  • Starts with Their Funeral: "The Lita Foladaire Story" starts with the death of the title character, the wife of an old army friend of Adams. His investigation leads to numerous flashbacks to her life, after which he feels he knew her very well.
  • Syndication Title: Major Adams, Trailmaster (Bond episodes); Trailmaster (post-Bond episodes).
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: Flint describes the "wolves" in "The Ruth Marshall Story" as "the biggest wolves you ever saw," but they're actually just (not particularly big) huskies and German shepherds.
  • Tomboy: Judy Rossiter in "The Emily Rossiter Story" wears pants and is a pretty good shot with a rifle. She's a bit of an Action Girl, too, and shoots one of the bad guys dead in the climax.
  • Traumatic C-Section: A pregnant woman in "The Colter Craven Story" needs one, but the title character has lost his nerve for surgery.
  • Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: In "The Jonas Murdock Story," Bill gets into a fistfight with the title character and wins. Then Murdock surreptitiously draws a knife and throws it into Bill's shoulder. Bill pulls it out and the fight resumes, and at one point Murdock clearly punches Bill's wound.

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