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:

  • Absentee Actor: A lot of episodes focused either on Major Adams (or, later, Chris Hale) managing the various problems of the train or on Flint, out scouting and dealing with situations that had little to do with the train. This often led to one or the other actor being entirely absent from the story.
  • 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 Alcoholic: The title character of the very first episode, "The Willy Moran Story," is an old Army buddy of Adams's who has been a drunk for a long time. Adams warns him not to drink on the train, but it's hard for him to stop.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Caesar Augustus, a lion owned by the title character of "The Shadrack Bennington Story," plays fetch.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The title character in "The Sam Garland Story" says, "'Wherever you go, I shall be with you.' That's what the Good Book says, Mr. Hale."
  • 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 Cameo: An old college football buddy of Ward Bond's showed up in "The Colter Craven Story": John Wayne. (The episode was directed by John Ford. The three of them went back decades.)
  • 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.)
  • Continuity Snarl: In "The Captain Dan Brady Story" it's stated that Red Cloud was killed by the title character some years before. He then appears in the later episode "The Sam Darland Story." (He actually died peacefully at the age of 87 in 1909.)
  • 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 (before he's promoted to the main cast when Ward Bond died). 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.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Early on, Bill Hawks seemed to be merely travelling with the train, not employed by Adams (and also seemed to be a bit of a Rabble Rouser).
  • 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).
  • Identical Stranger: In "The Frank Carter Story," Duke Shannon (a scout for the train) comes to a town where he learns he looks just like a former resident, Jason Carter. Only one man, a local attorney, knows Jason is dead, and he convinces Duke to pretend to be him in order to help Carter's mother.
  • It's Not Porn, It's Art: In "The John Augustus Story," the title character's "indecent" relationship with a young Chinese woman is brought under further suspicion based on various paintings and statues he has in his wagon. We never get a look at them, but it's heavily implied that they fall under this trope.
  • Karma Houdini: In "The Zeke Thomas Story," the title character finds out that his first wife never died and his second wife, with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life, is pregnant. He refuses to let his child be born a bastard (if his second marriage wasn't legal) and resolves to kill his first wife if she won't give him a divorce. He doesn't even care if he's hanged or sent to prison for it. She won't grant the divorce, not wanting to give him up for good, but someone else conveniently kills her first. At episode's end he and his second wife happily ride on with the wagon train, and the fact that he had resolved to murder a woman and, as far as we can tell, would have done it if Flint hadn't interfered carries no consequences.
  • 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).
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: In "The John Augustus Story," the title character wins a young Chinese woman, Mayleen, in a poker game shortly before joining the train. He doesn't see any reason they canít travel together, but many on the train are offended by the relationship, and it's eventually clear they won't find any peace unless they leave.
  • 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.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: In "The Albert Farnsworth Story," the title character, feuding with an Irish family who is also travelling in the wagon train, chases away the family's daughter, then sends his orderly over to them, who says, "Colonel Farnsworth presents his compliments, sir, and requests you keep that dirty-nosed little Irish monster of yours in a suitable cage... I took the liberty of toning down the language."
  • Noble Bigot: The title character of "The Albert Farnsworth Story" (played by Charles Laughton) is incredibly arrogant and racist towards just about everyone, including Irish and Native Americans, whom he calls "monkeys" to their faces. But he's also a military doctor who treats people who need him, and obviously deeply cares about his orderly, Jeremy.
  • 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.
  • Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: In "The Zeke Thomas Story," the title character and his new wife, Maggie, are travelling west with the train when Zeke encounters his first wife, Violet. He had thought she was dead, and spent some time trying to find out for sure, but admits to Maggie that once he fell in love with her he just stopped caring whether he ever found out what happened to Violet.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: In "The Naomi Kaylor Story," Bill Hawks comes to the ranch of John Kaylor to buy some horses, only to discover that he has just died, leaving behind his widow, Naomi (Joan Fontaine), and daughter from his first marriage, Grace (Natalie Trundy). Naomi clearly does not mourn John, is carrying on with the ranch foreman, and expects to get the bulk of the estate (with a bit set aside for Grace's dowry). When the will is discovered, it turns out Grace gets everything except for a stipend for Naomi — thirty silver dollars a month. (It seems John was well aware of his wifeís infidelity.)
  • Red Baron: Earl "Laramie Kid" Halstead in "The Mary Halstead Story."
  • Saw a Woman in Half: The title character of "The Shadrack Bennington Story," in addition to being a Snake Oil Salesman, is also a Stage Magician, and performs this trick.
  • Sibling Murder:
    • In "The John Cameron Story," three outlaw brothers spend a night with the train, and the next morning a dissatisfied wife rides off with them. Her husband (the title character) and Flint go after them, and by the time they catch up, the brothers are killing each other over her.
    • 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:
    • The title character of "The Shadrack Bennington Story" sells "Dr. Bennington's Beneficent Balm," which supposedly cures the bends, dystrepsia, gout, and other ailments.
    • 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.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: "The John Augustus Story" has a Chinese woman, Mayleen, who is an excellent cook and submissive, but is also very caring and loyal. She is actually referred to, non-derisively, as a "China doll."


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