In 1973 in the movie Westworld, written by Jurassic Park scribe Michael Crichton, we were propelled to the ultimate fantasy resort, the ultimate Disneyworld if you will.
Here we could travel to any period in history and indulge in any pleasure we wished. How? Thanks to the creation of androids that acted as human as you or I and could be programmed to be a pirate, a nymph from Roman times or the one we all remember, the Gunslinger.
Played by the Magnificent Seven’s Yul Brynner, the Gunslinger foreshadowed Arnie’s Terminator and in many ways is his relation. In fact, the relentless killer that never spoke and just kept coming inspired John Carpenter to create Michael Myers. The Gunslinger stalked you until you were dead, we have the iconic image of his face hanging off to reveal his robotic nature (see below) and he was as relentless as the Terminator or Myers ever were. He was the unstoppable killing machine with no mercy, no compassion, no humanity. And all because there was a fault in the robots’ wiring that sent them crazy, wiping out the holidaymakers in their wake. Really, has nobody heard of those famous last words, the Titanic is unsinkable? When someone says nothing could ever go wrong with the robots you just know things are going to go arse up. It happened again in Futureworld but do they ever learn? However it took some years before someone thought it would might make a good television series. Unfortunately it suffered a terrible blow as five episodes were made with only three broadcast.
The premise of Beyond Westworld was that Jim McMullan, playing John Moore, security chief of Delos, the company involved in production of the robots, had to stop the evil scientist Quaid, played by James Wainwright, from using his robot doubles to replace key figures in government and industry in order to take over the world. Moore was joined by Pamela Williams, as played by Connie Sellecca, as his partner. McMullan was most famous for Ben Casey but also appeared in the Incredible Shrinking Woman and Batman and Robin. Pamela Williams was known for her role in The Greatest American Hero.
Like many shows of this time, the premise looked solid and even garnered two Emmy nominations, one for outstanding make up and the other for outstanding art direction. Bizarrely this was based on just the three episodes aired and yet cancellation came swiftly.
The five episodes produced were:
1. Westworld Destroyed: More must find a robot hiding out among the crew of a U.S. nuclear sub.
2. My Brother’s Keeper: Quaid blackmails the owner of an oil company and Moore and Connie must find yet another robot in the ranks.
3. Sound of terror: They must find a robot hiding in a rock band.
4. The Lion: When Delos circuitry is found in an explosion, Moore and the crew must figure out Quaid’s latest plan.
5. Takeover: Quaid’s latest target is the police chief in charge of a state governor’s visit, The race is on to identify him.
Though exact reasons for cancellation are sketchy, it’s obvious from the episode guide above that this show was rapidly turning into robot of the week with no wider game plan or sense of imagination. This alone would bore viewers as they have nothing to look forward to that is exciting or at least trying to be different. The recent Alcatraz would be a prime example of the same formula, although its mystery elements were too slow in being drip fed to the audience who didn’t see beyond the villain of the week premise.
Whilst there has been talk of a revival so far nothing concrete has solidified but for fans of the movie there will never be another Gunslinger so maybe this one is better left in the past…