Episode Two: Mystics and Mayhem

Our Hero Brisco County, Jr., and the Orb

Speeding down the tracks in a picturesque Western setting, a special train is carrying John Bly, arch-villain, guarded by his captor, Marshall Brisco County, Sr., and a hand-picked team of lawmen. His rendezvous with justice is interrupted when the locomotive drives full-speed into a boulder, carefully camouflaged with a beautiful painting of the tracks and valley beyond and placed across the tracks by Bly's gang. Marshall County and his deputies die heroically in a hail of bullets, as Bly is released by his henchmen.
...Meanwhile, a Chinese construction crew toiling exhaustedly in a tunnel deep within a nearby mountain unearths a mysterious metallic gold orb. Touching one of the glowing rods emerging from this Unidentified Found Object, they are imbued with a miraculous strength, shatter their chains and make their escape from indenture.
...Not far away, in San Francisco's Chesterfield Club, the members (aka the "Robber Barons" who control most of the railroad, banking, and mining concerns of the west) hire Brisco County, Jr.,  son of the late Marshall, to recapture Bly, prevent his obtaining possession of the orb and its powers, and by so doing avenge his father's death.

Dizzy yet? These are only some of the elements of “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.,” inspiration for “They Went Thataway!” taking place on April 25, at Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad.

The series followed the exploits of (sometimes rival) bounty hunters Brisco and Lord Bowler, assisted by Brisco's faithful steed Comet (an equine of a perspipacity unseen since Dudley Doright's horse, Horse), in their pursuit of the dastardly John Bly, the secrets of the mysterious orb, and , ever elusive, The Coming Thing. Featuring a historical venue informed by contemporary dialogue, references, and in-jokes, it was the precursor to the style now famous in the popular series Hercules and Xena.

Except for obvious anachronistic references (Aaron Viva, a motorcycle-jacket-clad Elvis-impersonator sheriff; Blackbeard LaCutte, who leads a gang of cutlass-wielding, "Aaarrrr matey" crying buccaneers aboard their sail-driven, Jolly-Roger-flying armored stagecoach; and Agent Brown, who works for a mysterious "executive branch" after the orb a la the X-files), the costume designs in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. are impeccable:

  • Lord Bowler, aka James Lonefeather, is a part-Cherokee "Buffalo Soldier", a veteran First Sergeant of the 10th Cavalry. True to his character, Bowler's wardrobe includes old, well-broken in cavalry trousers and Indian beadwork. In one episode, the plot depends on our heroes acquiring enough uniform pieces for Bowler to walk unchallenged into a cavalry headquarters.
  • Brisco's wardrobe usually consists of a trailworn and sweat-stained hat, kerchief, trousers, chambray shirt, and (always dusty) undyed leather jacket. Not at all what you'd expect of a graduate of Harvard Law, he's the classic picture of the genuine trail-bum.
  • Socrates Poole, Brisco's liaison to the Robber Barons, wears the dignified suit of a western 19th century attorney.
  • Dixie Cousins, the sultry saloon songbird with whom Brisco maintains an intense yet uneasy affection, can be found in anything from gauchos to Las Vegas showgirl to classic late Victorian walking attire or lady's suit.
  • The supporting characters wardrobes have included coolie garb, Imperial Chinese court costumes, belly dancing outfits, Mad-Max style motorcycle garb, deep-sea diving gear (one of "The Coming Things"), and American Gothic.

Dastardly Villain John Bly and the Orb John Bly, of course, turns out to be an evil despot from the 25th century and the orbs (there are actually 3) he so covets are, in fact, neither magical nor mystical (despite Timothy Leary's psychedelic cameo delivering a eulogy consisting entirely of old Beatles lyrics), but instead "a man-made, electromagnetic wave-particle net, that captures energy at certain nodal intersections of the space time grid" sent from 5000 years in the future.

To catch an example of what we’re talking about; you can see it first hand every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. on TNT

© February, 1999 by Kevin Roche

They Went Thataway: the Twisted Western 
Brisco, County Jr. Links