The Wild Wild West: Season 1, Episode 21

The Night of the Puppeteer (25 Feb. 1966)

TV Episode  -   -  Western
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 63 users  
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The mad puppeteer Zachariah Skull re-creates a courtroom drama, using life-size puppets, to seek revenge on both Jim and the Supreme Court Justices who sentenced him to death.



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Episode complete credited cast:
Lloyd Bochner ...
Zachariah Skull
Justice Vincent Chayne
Imelda de Martin ...
Nelson Olmsted ...
Dr. Lake
Sara Taft ...
Mrs. Chayne
Lennie Rogel ...
Sign Man (as Len Rogel)
Janis Hansen ...


The mad puppeteer Zachariah Skull re-creates a courtroom drama, using life-size puppets, to seek revenge on both Jim and the Supreme Court Justices who sentenced him to death.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

25 February 1966 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although listed in the cast only as "Butler (uncredited)", the character played by Jack Tygett is referred to as "Pitney" by both Skull and West. The Waitress, played by Janis Hansen, says her name is Wilbur, but this name does not appear in the credits either. See more »


The Supreme Court of the United States is, strictly speaking, an appeals court, and does not commonly pass verdicts in the ordinary sense of the word. Instead, it upholds or overturns the decisions of lower courts. While it is true that overturning Skull's conviction in a lower court would have nullified the death sentence, the Supreme Court did not pass the sentence, although both Skull and Justice Chayne incorrectly spoke as if this were the case. (The possibility also exists for the Supreme Court to overturn a sentence while upholding a conviction; however, cases such as these only affect a sentence already passed by a lower court, so even in these examples, it is also not accurate to speak of the Supreme Court "passing sentence"). See more »

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User Reviews

Trapped in Lloyd's lair!
24 May 2011 | by (Ambrosia) – See all my reviews

A marvellous episode from Season 1.

Jim West ( Robert Conrad ) is at the home of Justice Vincent Chayne ( John Hoyt ) when he sees children enjoying a puppet show. Without warning, a marionette fires real bullets at first Chayne, then West himself. West peers behind the curtain but there is no-one there. A clue takes him to Triton's, a seedy seaside tavern. Following a brawl with some customers, he escapes into the deeper recesses of the building, becomes trapped in an elevator, and taken to the underground lair of Zachariah Skull ( Lloyd Bochner ), a deranged puppeteer seeking revenge on the Supreme Court that convicted him. West is menaced by one life-sized puppet after another. Skull has harnessed the power of steam to make the puppets do as he wishes...

Even by this show's standards, this is an offbeat episode. Henry Sharp, the writer, had written for 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E', but I think his talents were better employed on this show. Though only puppets, what makes Skull's creations chilling is that they can actually kill. The late Lloyd Bochner seems to have played smooth-talking villains in almost every American adventure series at one time or other - you'll find him in 'Mission: Impossible', 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea' and the original 'Battlestar Galactica'. He makes Skull a better-than average baddie. Later we learn that he himself is also a puppet, and that the real Skull ( badly deformed from injuries ) is hiding in the rafters at the centre of what looks like a giant spider's web. The pretty Imelda De Martin plays 'Vivid', Skull's daughter.

Whereas 'U.N.C.L.E.' had the same producer ( Sam Rolfe ) for its first season, 'Wild Wild West' went through several, including Fred Freiburger ( reviled by fantasy fans for his work on 'Star Trek' and 'Space:1999 ), Gene L.Coon ( a guiding light in 'Star Trek's early days ) and John Mantley ( who created 'Gunsmoke' and brought 'Buck Rogers' crashing to Earth in 1980 ). Despite the changes in personnel at the top, the shows are generally consistent in quality.

The unique look of Skull's base recalls those German expressionist films of the '30's, consisting as it does of a bare room with few props and stark lighting. According to Conrad, this was the idea of Irving J.Moore, the director. It certainly contributes to what is already a very entertaining episode.

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