When I was younger, The Museum for Television and Radio (now the Paley Center) was the only place where I could see TV rarities. Now, thanks to DVD, and programs like the Warner Archive manufacture-on-demand DVD service, some more older television is readily available at my own home.
One of the Archive’s latest rare releases is the Gary Lockwood-starring series The Lieutenant, where he plays a young Marine lieutenant at Camp Pendleton in California. Between two “volumes,” the first season of 29 episodes is on eight discs. If you’re curious about the breakdown, there are 16 episodes in Volume One and 13 plus a special bonus feature on Volume Two.
I was too young to have seen The Lieutenant when it was originally on, and because (as far as I know) it was rarely syndicated in my lifetime, it was a show I hadn’t even heard of, despite the talent involved.
The Lieutenant also happens to be created by Gene Roddenberry, the visionary creator who gave us Star Trek a few years later. In fact, the series star, Gary Lockwood, even appeared in the first regular episode of Star Trek titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Another Star Trek connection is that the main character, Lt. William Tiberius Rice, shares a middle name with a certain Captain James T. Kirk.
As with most Warner Archive releases, the picture looks beautiful, and again, is probably better than how it looked when it was originally broadcast in 1963. Sound quality is also on the high end.
Content-wise, I am impressed with the look and scope of the show, which is nearing 50 years old. It is said in the credits that there was “technical assistance” from the real U.S. Marine Corps involved, and I’m assuming that’s how they got some of their more realistic shots and locations.
Several future stars are seen in the show, and… I hope I’m not offending any fans of these actors by saying that it’s so early in their careers that they’re sometimes not their best. Linda Evans from Dynasty plays a love interest for Bill Rice in several episodes, as an example, and she’s largely awful, either by direction or her own delivery. The Incredible Hulk’s Bill Bixby appears in the very first episode and is also over the top. As the series lead, Lockwood is good, and it’s always good to see Robert Vaughn or Richard Anderson in just about everything. Future Trek actors like Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Ricardo Montalban and Walter Koenig appear throughout the course of the series.
Many episodes of the series explore what happens when this young lieutenant navigates the military world… what protocols or behavior are appropriate? He’s young, but of a certain rank, but he’s definitely set as the “Everyman” that navigates the audience through the show. Like Star Trek, social issues are explored such as racism. Wikipedia lists an episode called “To Set It Right,” which is on the set, as being unbroadcast; however, at the same time, an air date is listed on that same page, which makes me assume it did air after all.
As a bonus, the “Volume Two” DVD set includes an extended “international theatrical release” version of the show’s final episode, “To Kill A Man,” complete with movie-style credits. This is probably the first time this has been seen in the United States.
The Lieutenant is a great opportunity to revisit some very rare TV. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Warner Archive comes up with next.
You can get The Lieutenant directly from the Warner Archive here. Here’s a video clip that they have provided, complete with one of those other Star Trek actors: