The Dakotas (1962– )
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Does anyone know if the twentieth episode, Black Gold, is available on DVD or videotape? What a treat it would be to catch this missing segment. If only it had gone on to become the long-running series it deserved to be. Long live JD Smith!
Of course, deputy J.D. Smith (Jack Elam) was pretty much conflicted in every episode. It wasn't unusual to see him question Ragan's authority from time to time, and his renegade past often came back to haunt him. As in 'Reformation at Big Nose Butte', when his old gang leader (Telly Savalas) is released from jail and summons his former comrades to join him. That one also featured DeForest Kelley as another gang member, before he joined the crew of Star Trek.
Though Larry Ward was top billed, I'd have to agree with most posters on this board who feel that the series got it's energy from Elam. By this time in his career, that lazy eye of his gave him the perfect 'bad guy' look to offset the 'good guy' image he was meant to portray. Oddly, his name was the third one down in the credits, behind Chad Everett, who supplied the beefcake factor in a number of stories, most notably in 'Mutiny at Fort Mercy' where he spends most of his time bare chested and staked to a whipping post. The fourth member of the cast, Michael Greene, had largely a throwaway role as Deputy Vance Porter, but he got to use his size and strength to good advantage a few times. However in those episodes he didn't appear, sad to say, I don't think he was much missed.
Though short lived for only a few months during the 1963 NBC season, the series managed to secure a few prominent guest stars. I guess they seem more prominent today at least, since back then, they probably didn't make much of a dent in the recognition department. Savalas and Kelley were two mentioned earlier, but you also had Dennis Hopper (Requiem at Dancer's Hill), Claude Akins (The Chooser of the Slain) and the great Lee Van Cleef (Thunder in Pleasant Valley). Additionally, you had your reliable bunch of character actors as well who saw action, folks like Royal Dano, Richard Jaeckel, Strother Martin and Beverly Garland. Part of the fun for me in these old time series is just waiting to see who shows up.
A number of reviewers here make mention of the 'The Dakotas" getting it's start as an episode of "Cheyenne". Specifically, 'A Man Called Ragan' was the season six finale of that series. What's interesting to me is that Clint Walker doesn't appear in that one - how about that!
As a huge fan of the Western genre, I find it hard to pick a favorite among all the great Western Series that have come down the pike, but for it's brief run, "The Dakotas" would have to rank highly. Overall, maybe not as strong as the first season of "Rawhide", but better I think than most of the half hour series of the era. That owes to it's heroic but flawed characters, and stories that put you in the middle of the action where you had to pick who's side you were on, as many times, Marshal Ragan and his men found themselves facing tough questions without easy answers.
The characters were awesome and the story line was excellent. I didn't know until now why the show was canceled. Adults back in those days...they had no clue of what was to come.
Jack Elam's persona and his acting skills brought the show to the forefront of the western era. I recall as a teen actually sending away for an autographed picture of Jack Elam. Imagine my surprise when I got one and a thank you from the studio for requesting one. Except for the price of a stamp it was free.
But to details. Now, in Oct 2007 I have realised an old ambition and got hold of all 20 episodes that were shown. Look on ebay if you want them.
A little research shows there is a fair bit of misinformation around, but Wikipedia is a good start, together with this site and Classic TV Archive.
21 episodes were made in all, the last, number 20, Black Gold was not transmitted in the US. The first, number 0, A Man Called Ragan was first shown in the US in 1962 as part of Cheyenne.
But what about the UK? I'm sure it was on Sat night, 8 or 9pm and that the series started with number 0, possibly retitled as The Dakotas. So all the web info appears to relate to the US. I recall complaints in the UK about the violence, but was the series terminated early in the UK as well? Or was it all shown. what happened in the UK, was it bought, leased/rented/syndicated or is there a copy, maybe of the full set lying in a vault somewhere? 16mm versions of some episodes are available on US ebay, suggesting that is how Warners distributed it. So is there a Warner Bros archive? So you guys in the UK try and remember when you saw it, it might be traceable. You guys in the US, what about it? These 16mm versions came from somewhere. The thought of a full set of high quality print DVDs is tantalising.
This series is probably the greatest memorial and testament to one of the west's finest character actors, so for Jack's sake...........
I agree with the vast majority of reviewers, Western TV & motion picture veteran gunman & bad guy, Jack Elam, really made this TV western show one I really looked forward watching, after homework of course. The rest of the cast was equally fine, attempting to maintain the Dakota territorial law any way they could. The show had numerous familiar favourite guest Western stars who appeared, making for great Western TV entertainment. The show's musical score was wonderful! I shall always fondly remember "The Dakotas"!