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At one uncharacteristically poignant point during Wild Wild West's final season, secret service agent James West raises a glass to toast "absent friends." That would be Artemis Gordon, West's resourceful sidekick and a master of disguise and the odd "diversion." Ross Martin, who portrayed Gordon, had suffered a heart attack and was missing in action for several episodes, so missed that it took several actors to fill his shoes: Charles Aidman as Jeremy Pike, William Scharlett (who early in the season portrays a villain in the episode, "The Night of the Gruesome Games") as Frank Harper, Pat Paulson, the hangdog mock-Presidential candidate on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, as the seemingly milquetoast Bosley Cranston in "The Night of the Camera," and Alan "The Skipper" Hale, Jr. as chemist Ned Brown in "The Night of the Sabatini Death," (which also features Jim Backus and contains a cute Gilliganís Island in-joke at episodeís end). With or without Martin, this was a wild, wild season that offers genre-bending kicks in episodes that evoke James Bondian espionage, Jules Verne fantasy, bizarre Avengers-style villainy, and even The Phantom of the Opera. James and company are up against some entertainingly over-the-top megalomaniacs bent on world domination. Of course, the sun couldnít set on the West without one last encounter with the seriesí most popular villain, the "dictatorial, vain, short-tempered, and occasionally unreasonable" Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn), who re-emerges yet again to pass judgment over those he professes to have wronged him in "The Night of Margueriteís Revenge." Two of TVís comedy icons, Harvey Koran and a pre-Mary Tyler Moore Show Ted Knight, play it straight as formidable foes in "The Night of the Big Blackmail" and "The Night of the Kraken," respectively. "The Night of the Winged Terror," the seriesí only two-parter, is an effective creep show featuring a hypnotizing bulging-brained adversary. Conrad, as one character compliments him, is "better than ever," whether dispatching goons (he performed all his own stunts) or romancing the ladies ("He said something about showing the big dipper to the daughter of the Lithuanian ambassador," Artemis explains Westís absence in "Big Blackmail"). While there are signs that the series was poised to jump the shark, it is too bad it ended before further encounters with Professor Montague, who is introduced in "The Night of the Janis" as the Q-like creator of such nifty gadgets as a harmonica gun

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PA853214 Wild Wild West Fourth Season DVD (1968) $39.98 $35.99