Tuesday, December 11, 2007

from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli

Found one that the Steampunkopedia and I agree on--1995's Legend.

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Legend was a very odd show. Not fully drama, not fully comedy, smart in an occasionally brainless way, it starred Richard Dean Anderson as Ernest Pratt, a man making his living writing the "true" stories of "Nicodemus Legend", steampunk savior of the West. He arrives in Sheridan, Colorado, to track down the culprit playing on "his" name--which is actually the name of his character from the dime-store novels--only to find Professor Janos Bartok playing him (not only a thinly disguised Nikola Tesla, but in another brilliant move, portrayed by John de Lancie).

Someone put together a lovely selection of clips for those who've never seen Legend on YouTube.

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(John de Lancie on the left, Richard Dean Anderson on the right)

The beauty of the show was its quirky sense of invention, in all things. This was the first show Richard Dean Anderson had ever produced, and the first show he starred in post-MacGyver. One very definitely got the feeling that he was learning his way, learning to split his attention between actor and producer.

But also, the addition of John de Lancie, master of the sardonic look, the casual phrase--and playing the Tesla-like 'mad Spark' inventor--was a stroke of genius. No one could have played Bartok better.

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The costuming was top-notch. The inventions ranged from unusual to downright bizarre. And of course the blend of old West and electrical incomprehension nearly sounds familiar, doesn't it? And steam-powered everything...

More scenes from the show.

"I call it the Bartok Steam-Powered Town and Country Quadrovelocipede"....sounds very familiar, doesn't it?

Alas, only twelve episodes were aired, and though DVDs of the show occasionally turn up on eBay, they're not official. The show has never been released since its air date.

It ran from Aprille to August, 1995. Very little has been quite like it on the air. The closest comparison is Bruce Campbell's Western whatever, Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., a show which aired two full years prior to Legend's premiere--and still didn't cover this exact territory.

Twelve episodes is thin to base a fandom on, especially so considering the lack of DVDs to pore over, but there are still fans of the show who hold it in high regard.

One last time--with a balloon!

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Ellen said...

LOVED Legend!

Frau Lowey said...

How I wish this one had been continued.

The fanfiction from that year has been destroyed (Builder be praised) but it did include Bartok's wedding.

Emilly Orr said...

Ellen: it was a wonderful moment in television history--I always mourn the departure of smart shows.

Frau Lowey: Fan...fiction? *shudders*

Please tell me Bartok didn't marry Pratt. Because...no. Just no.

Corgi said...

The only person better than DeLancie was a real Hungarian who was already, sadly, deceased - and he'd already been Artemus Gordon.

Actually, the Bartok offspring, born by normal means, figure into the ancestry of the modern-day Wests and Gordons. Or so I've heard. ;)

Emilly Orr said...

Oh, indeed.

If we ever develop the ability to time-travel, imagine the television potential. :)

And ooh, really? Now that sounds very interesting.

Frau Lowey said...

Nononononono... she was only a distant cousin to Pratt. It did involve the group having to disable a doomsday device on the honeymoon, and coordinating the inside and outside teams by means of coded notes.

Who knew Reno was a hotbed of international discontent?

Emilly Orr said...

I can believe it, strangely enough. Reno's sufficiently odd on its own.

Edward Pearse, Earl of Primbroke said...

I *loved* LEGEND. I have all the episodes on a home made DVD set, (which, if you like, I'd be happy to copy and send).

There used to be a rather excellent fan-site for the show at http://www.nicodemuslegend.com/ but the site went the way of the Dodo.

One of my goals was to build the "Bartok Steam-Powered Town and Country Quadrovelocipede" as a vehicle in SL, but my scripting skills are rather crap to say the least. I might have a chat with Mr. Offcourse and see if he may be able to assist.

Emilly Orr said...

Ooh, yes, Edward, we will have to talk.

Because yes, twelve episodes or no, it was such a unique show, so funny, and very smart. Operated fully with tongue firmly in cheek, and hand pressed to heart, and that is hard to do and still look cool driving a wicker basket around.

I miss it still, I wish it had had another season--or even a full season one!