Every Thursday, we here at ScienceFiction.com bring you a throwback to add to your to-watch/read list. This week, we’re going to focus on that popular series, and less popular remake, ‘The Wild Wild West’, a steampunk spy adventure set in… you guessed it… the Wild West.
Is steampunk strictly science fiction? Yes and no. Yes, because it deals with technologies that were definitely in the future for our favorite Victorian era characters. No, because it predicts a past, and not a future.
But hey, it’s a gray area and ‘The Wild Wild West’ is fun, even if the remake movie has a giant spider.
I’m getting ahead of myself though.
‘The Wild Wild West’ focusses on the adventures of Jim West and Artemus Gordon, who travel around the country in a very strangely posh train car that appears to leave them off wherever they need to be, lack of that actual infrastructure and schedules of other trains on the track be damned. While it’s a western, it was created to compete with the spy-genre that was dominating the airwaves at the time. In an attempt to save the western, they started adding crazy gadgets that had nothing to do with the era. And that, my friends, was how steampunk was born.
The remake made in 1999, and was met with rather mixed reviews – but I dare you to find someone who was a kid during that time who doesn’t fondly remember that movie. But it held true to a lot of the original source material, even as it veered away from the track in its gadget-infested private train. The villain Loveless is actually a villain in the original series, though he’s an evil dwarf hell bent on taking over California because he feels his family owns it, rather than a man who lost his legs and reproductive organs during the Civil War. On a side note, I don’t really know which is better. It also has Artemus’ love for disguises, though Jim West is a lot more irascible and stubborn which betrays the closer friendship of the original series. Oh, and did I mention a giant steampunk spider? Yeah, that didn’t happen in the original.
While the movie did okay, the real shame is the original series was cancelled. Immensely popular, the show was pulled off the air in concession to the Congress over violence on television, which is kind of funny if you watch it now and compare to say… any CSI episode. The violence is slapstick at worst, and cheesy at best.
But hey, if you’re in the mood for the origin of steampunk and a lot of late 60s effects, this is definitely the series for you. And while you’re at it, be sure to check ‘The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.’, which is an homage to the great series and stars the wonderful Bruce Campbell. If you’re interested in the movie, it is currently streaming on Netflix.