Colton, a Union Army Captain, spends the years following the Civil War wandering from town to town in the American West, meeting old friends and strangers alike and helping them solve their problems while trying to find himself.
The show followed the basic format of other Western shows such as Have Gun Will Travel and Maverick, but added Serling's trademark philosophical qualities in an attempt to make a Western series for mature audiences. CBS wasn't happy with show's focus on ideas over action, however, and when ratings failed to elevate the show's status it ended up being cancelled at the end of its first season.
The show's music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
Tropes Associated With This Series Include:
- Adventure Towns
- Badass Preacher: Jack Lord plays one in "The Vespers"
- Berserk Button: Hurting or disrespecting the vulnerable (particularly women) is a big one for Colton.
- Beware the Nice Ones / Tranquil Fury: Colton is rarely seen speaking above a normal pitch, but he does get mad, and lord help you if you find yourself on the receiving end of his anger.
- Heroic BSoD: Colton suffers one after killing a teenage Confederate soldier is in his backstory. The colonel in "One of the Wounded" is nearly catatonic as a result of his own wartime trauma.
- Just a Flesh Wound: Colton tries to avoid killing people if he can help it, and is a good enough shot that he can incapacitate his adversaries with a nonlethal wound.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: "Widow on the Evening Stage" involves the family of a man recently killed by an Apache war party rejecting his newly-arrived wife and their son (whom they had never seen before) because she is Native.
- Powder Keg Crowd: Discussed in "Widow on the Evening Stage":"If you stick good men into a mob... take away their names, faces, identities - take away their responsibility, they are no longer good men!"
- Gray and Gray Morality: One of the things that distinguished The Loner from the rest of its genre. There were good guys and bad guys, but all characters were typically allowed to speak their mind and express their own motivation.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Colton
- Wandering the Earth