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Series / The Big Valley

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Left to right: Audra, Nick, Victoria, Eugene, Jarrod and Heath.

"Nick! Heath! Jarrod! There's a fire in the barn!"
Johnny, Airplane!

Western TV series which ran on ABC from 1965 to 1969, starring Richard Long, Peter Breck, Linda Evans, Lee Majors (in his first starring role) and Barbara Stanwyck. The series featured the Barkleys, a wealthy ranch family living near Stockton in California's Central Valley. The family consisted of Victoria, a tough pioneer turned elegant lady; her four sons, and a daughter. It was more socially conscious than other Westerns of the time, featuring some diversity (black cowboys, Chinese railroad workers) and plenty of angst, often arising from various family members' attempts to fight injustice.


  • And Starring: "And Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck as Victoria Barkley."
  • Ax-Crazy: Major Eliot (Adam West) in "In Silent Battle" is revered as a war hero, but he's actually a serial killer who hated his mother and sees her reflected in "impure" women (which seems to be just about all of them), whom he then kills.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Jarrod is a lawyer who doesn't ordinarily wear a gun, and he apparently has large amounts of legal code memorized to quote off the top of his head at the drop of a hat. He can also mend fences, throw a solid punch, and hit precisely what he shoots at when he does carry a weapon.
    • Similarly, Victoria Barkley is dignified, polite, polished, and well-educated. And she is a frontier wife who has shows no hesitation to pull a gun on a threat, wade through hip-deep mud, or snark at armed criminals. Mess with her or her family at your own peril.
  • Badass Family: The Barkleys. Victoria and Audra may float around in hoop skirts, but they're quite capable of putting on tight pants and shooting straight when the situation requires it.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: The three brothers. Jarrod is an attorney, Nick runs the ranch, and Heath is a Walking Shirtless Scene.
  • Big Brother Instinct: All three of the boys have a protective instinct towards Audra.
  • Cartwright Curse: All four Barkley children, despite being rich and attractive, can't make it out of an episode with a love interest still alive. This might even include their mother, who from the start of the series was a widow.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In "The Death Merchant," Handy Random, who killed the man who killed Thomas Barkley, comes into the area. All the Barkleys welcome him except Heath. The Barkleys are in a land dispute with a neighbor, and Random makes it clear he could defend their claim by shooting anyone working for their neighbor. Nick and Jarrod don't want that, and then Heath reveals why he doesn't like Random: Random has a habit of stirring up range wars, and doesn't stay particularly loyal to one side once he has. The Barkleys ask him to leave, whereupon he immediately goes to their neighbor and offers his services to him.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Eugene Barkley, originally a Berkeley student, was written out after seven episodes when the actor playing him was drafted.
  • Date Rape Averted: In "My Son, My Son", Audra is having a birthday party and meets the son of their neighbors, who's been away for several years. She lures him away from the party and lets him kiss her, but when he tries to go further she resists him. He throws her into a shed and tries to rape her, but her screams bring Heath to her rescue. She spends much of the episode wondering how much of it was her fault, while Victoria tries to stay on good terms with the neighbors. Then he tries again, and Victoria is forced to shoot him dead.
  • Death by Falling Over: In "Four Days to Furnace Hill", a group of guards transporting a female prisoner accidentally cause her to fall and fatally strike her head on a rock. They then take Victoria hostage as a replacement for the dead woman.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In "A Day of Terror," a family of criminals, led by the mother, Annie Morton, captures Victoria and Audra. One of the sons, Troy, twice tries to rape Audra. Each time Annie interferes, but when the family is ready to leave, she wants to kill Audra. Troy argues that there's no reason to do that, and believes that Annie just hates any woman he pays attention to because she wants all her sons to be loyal to her and her alone. (So in this case, Troy actually inverts Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil; he's willing to do that, but believes murder for no reason is wrong.)
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Nick, whose character uniform is head-to-toe black leather, cowboy style.
  • Heroic Bastard: Heath, the son of Thomas Barkley by a short-lived relationship with Leah, joins his brothers' side for what seems like it will be the losing side of a gunfight by the end of the second episode.
  • Hold the Line: The way in which Thomas Barkley died, fighting against the oncoming forces of the railroad trying to unseat the citizens of the valley. He was shot to death against insurmountable odds.
  • Holier Than Thou: The self-righteous marshal played by James Whitmore in "Night in a Small Town".
  • Like Brother and Sister: Heath and Audra. She's defensive of him and he protective of her.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Jarrod always wears a homespun suit and tie; Nick, a black cowboy outfit; and Heath, tan pants and a vest.
  • Mama Bear: DO NOT DARE try to threaten or harm Victoria's children. Especially Audra. She will kill you outright in justified time.
  • Nitro Express: In a two-part episode, fittingly titled "Explosion!", Jarrod, Nick, and Heath have to carry nitro to a forest fire to blow a fire break.
  • No Ending: Axed at the end of Season 4, with "Point and Counterpoint" being the last episode and the series Left Hanging.
  • Old Retainer: Silas, who apparently single-handedly takes care of the massive Barkley mansion and cooks all the meals, as he's the only servant ever seen.
  • Put on a Bus: The actress who played Audra was written out of an episode because of negotiations with the network over renewing her contract. Her mother mentions in the episode that Audra had to go to some distant town on an errand. She returned from wherever she was visiting in the next episode.
  • Precision F-Strike: In the pilot, Heath comes onto the Barkley estate and ends up fighting with Nick, and Nick wants to know who he is and why he's there, so Heath uses the only profanity used in the entire series when he states, matter-of-factly, just who he is: "Your father's bastard son." (The comic book of the series completely ignores how Heath ended up with the family.)
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Nick and Jarrod. When Josh Hawks first makes his accusations about Thomas Barkley in "Target," he's glad that Nick is there because he knows Nick is a hothead (and sure enough, Nick decks him, which earns Nick a lecture from Jarrod about how he played right into Hawks's hands).
  • Ruptured Appendix: Audra ruptures her appendix in the first season episode "Last Train to the Fair".
  • Sexy Silhouette: In "In Silent Battle", Major Eliot is propositioned by a prostitute, who tells him she has an upstairs room nearby. He contemptuously tells her to leave him alone, but later sees a silhouette of her getting ready for bed and goes over there (unfortunately for her).
  • Sleazy Politician: Joshua Hawks, in "Target", is a gubernatorial candidate who makes headlines by accusing Thomas Barkley of having stolen the family land. He's making it up out of whole cloth, and even plans to murder the people looking into it and blaming it on the Barkleys. He eventually reveals that he hates the Barkleys because he used to work for them and (apparently) thought they looked down on him.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Leah nurses Thomas Barkley back to health, after which he returns to his family, never discovering that he left Leah pregnant.
  • Stuffed In A Fridge: In "Days of Wrath", Jarrod meets Beth, whom he meets and marries after a few days only for her to take a bullet meant for him and die in his arms, just so Jarrod can go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after her killer. All this happens in one episode.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: In "Days of Grace", Heath is accused of rape in another town and put in a cell in the sheriff's office. An old flame who had become a nun breaks him out and they go on the run together. He even gets into a shootout with several deputies as they pursue him, but once Victoria convinces his accuser to recant, neither he nor the nun are punished.