Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Recastaways are a common enough occurrence in Toobworld, thanks to the constant turnover of actors for characters in soap operas. They can be easy enough to splain away when they're fictional characters; the televersions of historical figures can be a bit trickier. An Abe Lincoln in one TV movie who's different from the Honest Abe in another TV movie is easy enough - they're from two different TV dimensions. Two different President Lincolns in TV series that should be in the same TV dimension? Several options are available - quantum leaping, alien replacement, Famous Impostor Syndrome.

But recasting an historical figure within one TV series not once, but twice? And screwing up the Toobworld timeline in the process? That needed some thinking to splain it away....

The example I have in mind is from 'Bonanza' in which Samuel Clemens - AKA Mark Twain - showed up in three different episodes over the course of the series:
"Enter Mark Twain" from 1959 in which Mark Twain was played by Howard Duff'
"The Emperor Norton" from 1966 with William Challee as the author and riverboat captain (and Sam Jaffe as Joshua Norton)
"The Twenty-Sixth Grave" from 1972 featuring Ken Howard as Samuel Clemens.

First off, let's go back over the way to date episodes from 'Bonanza' in the Toobworld timeline. (And I promise - no stupid jokes about dating episodes.)

Every season of 'Bonanza' was about what took place one hundred years before, although I don't think it has to be a hard and fast rule. And when it comes to the 1872 entry especially, I think we have to abandon it altogether. But more on that later.

So those three episodes in which Mark Twain appeared supposedly took place in 1859, 1866, and 1872 respectively. Leaving the last episode aside, Samuel Clemens was 24 in "Enter Mark Twain" and 31 years of age at the time of "The Emperor Norton". And yet he was played by actors aged 46 (Howard Duff) and 62 (William Challee). Sorry - neither one of them looked as though they might have been younger. In fact, when Duff stepped into the office of the Territorial Enterprise newspaper, the editor called him "Old Timer".

I'm leaning toward the idea that neither of them was Mark Twain.

And it's more than just the discrepancy in age, at least in the case of Howard Duff's Twain. "Enter Mark Twain" had Samuel Clemens in Virginia City when in real world history he was busy working for his riverboat pilot's license on the Mississippi. But a tweak to an historical figure's personal timeline in Toobworld can be allowed - for precedence, there's Jules Verne who was twenty years younger than he should have been in 'The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne'. So maybe the Toobworld Mark Twain did get out to Virginia City a few years earlier than he did in real life and tried his luck at mining before coming to work at the newspaper. Still there's the matter of him being nearly twice as old as he should have been....

Clemens had moved to San Francisco by 1864, so that would be consistent with him coming from Frisco in 1866 to testify on behalf of Emperor Norton. But there's no getting around the fact that the man who showed up in that courtroom in Carson City looked thirty years older than he should have been.

So what could be the reason, er, splainin? I think that first Samuel Clemens who showed up in Nevada circa 1859 had to be someone who needed to disguise who he really was; and he may have stolen Clemens' identity at some point while cruising along the Mississippi. It certainly wasn't a case of Famous Impostors Syndrome, because Clemens wouldn't become nationally known until about 1865.

Then again, he may have been a time traveler, someone with knowledge about Sam Clemens from the Future who had come back in Time to "re-enact" the life of Samuel Clemens - but a few years earlier than Clemens did so as not to disrupt the timeline. We just never got the chance to see in any TV series the confusion caused when the real Sam Clemens showed up two years later... at least in the original timeline.

The idea of a time traveler is intriguing for the Mark Twain played by William Challee. But it would be one who used an advanced upgrade to the quantum accelerator to let him take a 'Quantum Leap' beyond his own lifetime and into the space occupied by the real Mark Twain (who would spend the time in the facility's "waiting room".) For some reason, this temporal interloper thought he should look the way Mark Twain would famously look later in his career. Not that it mattered, since he was inhabiting the aura of the original Clemens. That's what the Cartwrights and Emperor Norton would see. We in the Trueniverse would be the only ones who could see the difference.

We could also cite Occam's Razor and look for a simpler splainin - such as William Challee playing a man with Famous Impostor's Syndrome who intercepted the plea for help from Ben Cartwright. With forged letters from Brett Harte and Robert Louis Stevenson to present at the sanity hearing for Emperor Norton, this unidentified man made himself up to look like Samuel Clemens - even though there was a thirty year gap in their ages.

Nevertheless, Ben Cartwright and his son Joe were fooled by the impostor. It had been about six years since they last saw a man who claimed to be Samuel Clemens and for all they knew, maybe the years of living the high life in San Francisco took its toll on the writer.

So let's take a look finally at the last portrayal of Samuel Clemens in the 'Bonanza' episode "The Twenty-Sixth Grave"......

It was as if a massive reboot had taken place in Virginia City. Six years after the last time he was allegedly there in town, and then as an old man, Clemens arrived in town as a young man. He was brought in to take over the Territorial Enterprise for a month or so and there was no mention or indication that Ben Cartwright knew the "reporter" from those earlier encounters. And nobody at the Enterpirse had any memory of his last time there when he returned.

When "Samuel Clemens" was last in Virginia City, Hoss was still alive and Adam was still on the ranch. But by 1872, Hoss had died and Adam had gone to sea (although he was back out West by the 1880s, as seen in an episode of 'Alias Smith & Jones'.) Little Joe was still alive and Ben had adopted Jaimie. Candy Canady was now the ranch foreman and Griff King (who may have been Buckskin Charlie King's brother) also worked on the Ponderosa. So there was no way to make any kind of claim that this episode had to take place before the other two. The only way to make sense of it all is if there had been that giant reboot. And thanks to events in both 'Primeval' and 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy', the Earth was supplied with such a revision. In both shows, characters went back in Time and caused massive alterations to the pre-established timeline - events that once took place no longer happened. For the example I usually offer, Henry Talbot McNeil was no longer the President of the United States during the late 1960's to the early 1970's, as seen in 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea'; as established in the real world, it was now a succession of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford.

So with these massive reboots, that Samuel Clemens imposter played by Howard Duff never showed up at the newspaper office in Virginia City. The young man who would become Mark Twain, as played by Ken Howard, showed up as the only Mark Twain to work at the newspaper. And although the real Mark Twain worked at the Territorial Enterprise until 1864, his arrival there in 1872 must be attributed to the revised timeline, one of the many trivial differences between Toobworld and the real world.
And this time, Twain was played by an actor who was six years younger than Twain at the time. But that kind of age difference wasn't noticeable, unlike the case with Howard Duff in the role.....


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