The Dakotas (TV Series 1962– ) Poster

(1962– )

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An excellent series
Mal12 December 2005
I've always loved westerns. Some shows I can remember well from the late 60s, while other earlier shows are just vague and fond memories, or forgotten over the decades. I couldn't recall what category The Dakotas came under - forgotten or never seen - but as Jack Elam was a long time favourite actor of mine I decided to get a couple of episodes on DVD. I was stunned. The episodes were gripping, atmospheric, hard-edged. Jack Elam was brilliant in it. I'd have to say that I never saw the series in the 60s, as it's not one easily forgotten. I have since acquired all the episodes and am still watching them. There hasn't been an episode that has disappointed me yet. What a shame there were only 20 of them. What a shame.
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Jack Elam made this series worth watching
captaindallas281 June 2003
As an adolescent when this show debuted, I immediately fell in love with the character J.D. Smith, so adeptly played by Jack Elam. In the pilot ("A Man Called Ragan"), he was a gunfighter called in by Del Stark's stepfather to kill Frank Ragan, the Federal Marshal. Realizing that Ragan might have more to offer him than his boss, he decides to join the marshal's team (including young Del Stark and town constable Vance Porter) and begin bringing justice to the Dakota Territory. J.D. Smith is somewhat uneasy in his new role as a deputy, using wry humor as a means to temper his natural tendency to dispense his own brand of 'justice' to those who cross him or otherwise bully the downtrodden. Having seen some of the episodes recently, the stories are good, albeit some a bit preachy, but Jack Elam is absolutely delightful to watch. This character "made" the show and was clearly the forerunner to The Man With No Name and Dirty Harry, and nobody could have done it better than Jack Elam!
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J.D. Smith was "the man"
dhines57032 August 2002
I was 8 years old when this was on. I don't remember too much about this show other than Jack Elam as J.D. Smith. I thought his character was real cool. He wasn't physically handsome like the other "good guys" on television at the time but the way that he portrayed his character and the way he walked made this 8 year old boy take notice. I just watched an episode that I have on tape and realize that this was a well-made western. Too bad that it didn't last longer.
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Ahh-- happy days and fond memories.
merkred7 August 2002
Being born in 1940, by the time we got a tv it was the US western series that were being shown and I loved em all--'Maverick'--'Sugarfoot' and my special favourites 'Bronco' and 'Cheyenne', which I still remember with fondness, but it was this series that really impressed me, as I seem to recall it had a harder edge to it. Having only recently discovered I was stunned but pleased to note that 3 of the above series are still available on video but was so disappointed that this series wasn't ---- how could you go wrong with anything in which the wonderful Jack Elam appeared. I still maintain that 'Support your local Sheriff/Gunfighter are two of the best films ever made. Oh for a time machine and a video!! God bless America for all the enjoyment you've given me over the years.
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As real as western tales get
revtg1-211 December 2006
Jack Elam's best role ever. Deputy J.D. Smith DID NOT take crap from anyone or any thing. When he sensed things were about to get tough, he shot old women, kids, dogs, cats, horses, tree stumps, preachers, shadows and, now and then, an outlaw. If an outlaw in the Dakota Territory had to make a choice between being captured by hostile Indians or facing J.D. Smith he might flip a coin, if he was really brave. If he was not really brave he'd run towards the hostile Indians. If this series had had Amanda Blake and Glenn Strange it might have run as long as Gunsmoke. Given the propensity of producers of "western" TV shows during this period of having a "good guy" or well meaning but troubled "good guy" in the leading role, (Jim Bowie, Sugerfoot, Johnny Yuma) this western series stood out bold enough to make a pablum fed audience, weaned on formula plots, really uncomfortable. It exhibits a whole new definition of "ahead of it's time."
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liked the series
charley-821 June 2002
_The Dakotas_ was very good. Its ratings were not good, as I recall. Another of my recollections is that it faced stiff competition in its time slot. It was also launched as the "adult western" craze was receding. Some of the scripts were thought-provoking. Jack Elam was terrific. I suspect it could be run today in Fance and be a hit with intellectuals at least, owing to its penchant for ambiguity and ambivalence. Not your standard western, n'est-ce pas!
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Needs to be re-aired
wgroves4419 March 2005
I have just watched 15 episodes of The Dakotas, This is a group of men that the public was not ready for. These guys were awesome. The episode that started their demise "Sanctuary at Crystal Springs" where the TV public wrote in and complained to take it off the air. This was due to the shooting that JD and Dale did inside of the "Church" That was going too far said the public. But, remember the priest in his remarks to Dale in the Church. "Nothing goes on in here unless God permitted it to happen". 1963 TV public, God led them there for what reason I do not know, but he did. This should have been the longest running western in the 60's As a boy, age 9 in 63' I was not happy when it went off the air. So I have spent the last few years searching for those episodes, I have 5 more to locate.
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Best TV western of all
wildbillharding28 October 2007
Well said, patmyhill. I agree with all your points. Jack Elam was simply one of the best western actors of all time. It's so sad that public reaction to the Sanctuary at Crystal Springs episode shot such a fine series dead in the dust. The Dakotas makes other TV oaters like Gunsmoke and Bonanza look like soap operas. The episodes I've seen take me right back to '63. It's the only time I ever remember people on the bus talking in hushed tones about the episode shown the previous evening. As I recall, the blokes were delighted and a little shocked at the shootout, but I can't remember which episode they were discussing.

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!
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"This Dakota, it's going to be something someday". - Episode #4
classicsoncall15 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
One thing is certain - "The Dakotas" had the coolest sounding episode titles of any TV Western series ever. Like 'Red Sky Over Bismarck' and 'Requiem at Dancer's Hill'. Or how about 'Walk Through the Badlands'? They all conjure up these terrific images of heroes and villains in the Western landscape of the late 1800's. The great thing is, the series had some terrific stories to back up the titles. Part of that greatness I think is that they didn't rely on a lot of the standard formula. Sure there were showdowns and gunfights, but a lot of the tension came from how conflicted the principal characters were often portrayed. Take for example 'Crisis at High Banjo' - Marshal Ragan (Larry Ward) struggles to balance the scale of justice versus revenge when he discovers the identity of the man behind the murder of his newlywed wife five years earlier. Then there's the remorseful deputy Del Stark (Chad Everett), questioning his very existence in the stunning episode, 'Sanctuary at Crystal Springs'. Both are among the best stories of the series.

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.
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I loved the Dakotas and especially Jack Elam
kathis-34 August 2008
I was 14 when the Dakotas was first broadcast and for me it was love at 1st sight with JD Smith...aka Jack Elam. As far as I'm concerned he made the show and I will try to find DVD's of the show and try to relive the young girls dreams.

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.

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One of the greatest TV westerns
patmyhill15 October 2007
Well what does one say, others have said it all! Like the other contributors I saw The Dakotas in my mid teens, thought it was the best western to date, and, of course it was the great Jack Elam that made the show! J D Smith could have been a good feature film story. Oh if only Peckinpah had used Jack Elam more (in Pat Garrett & ...) and earlier - imagine Jack partnering Warren Oates, especially in The Wild Bunch as the Gorch brothers.

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...........
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Warner Brothers presents "The Dakotas"!
geostrategic7 June 2009
Of all the Westerns on TV during the early 1960s "The Dakotas", produced by Warner Brothers, was by far the very top of the top shelf. The hour long western drama was hard hitting, likely a bit too early for its time, but one true TV Western fans wished was not taken off the air so quickly.

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"!
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Sorry, but this is a "thumbs down"
dinky-419 August 2008
Time has not been especially kind to "The Dakotas" but it may not have been all that good to begin with. The main problem may be the casting of Larry Ward, an adequate supporting player but lacking the charisma needed to "carry" a series. His presence leaves a dead spot at the heart of each episode. (Mentioning that his wife was shot dead on their honeymoon seems like a lame attempt to add depth to his character.) Jack Elam is fine in "eccentric" parts but casting him as a lawman puts unfortunate limits on him and his unique style. Michael Greene may have eventually developed into a character with personality but in the limited number of episodes which were shot, he has little to do. With better scripts, Chad Everett might have been able to lift this series above the mundane with his "star quality" but there's not much focus on him and he's usually allowed only a bit of "beefcake" footage. He's briefly seen without his shirt in "Fargo" and in "The Chooser of the Slain" but only in "Mutiny at Ft. Mercy" is his physique put on blatant display. For much of that episode he's shown tied -- bare-chested and sweaty -- to a T-shaped post. This dose of "beefcake-bondage" is only equaled by Clint Walker in a "Cheyenne" episode called "The Trap" and by George Montgomery in a "Cimarron City" episode called "Terror Town."
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