Here's my final blog post about 'The Rifleman' - at least for this year!
And as many of you might have suspected by now, it's related to 'Doctor Who'......
At Christmas time in 1869 (according to the 'Doctor Who' episode "The Unquiet Dead"), the Doctor and Rose Tyler - along with Charles Dickens - encountered a gaseous alien species known as the Gelth. They traveled through the Cardiff rift from their home-world, which had been devastated by the Time War.
The Gelth needed gaseous surroundings in which to survive. In 1869 Cardiff, that meant in the gas lamps and the dead bodies of humans which were filled with the gases built up from decomposition.
Thanks to the sacrifice of a young maid named Gwyneth, the Doctor was able to stop their take-over of Earth Prime-Time. But he apparently was only able to destroy a few of the Gelth, along with their access to the planet - at least via the Cardiff rift.
But there are other rifts throughout the world, as seen in 'Lost'. Some are temporal in nature, others spatial. Many of these rifts can be found in the American West, as seen in the TV shows like 'Wildside', 'The Twilight Zone' (especially in the episodes "The Seventh Is Made Up Of Phantoms" and "One Hundred Yards Over The Rim", as far as the Western location is concerned), and even in 'F Troop'. (Why? Because I think the musical group "The Bedbugs" fell back to the late 1860's from the 1960's through such a rift.)
Some of these Western rifts were transient; others were roaming, but most of them were probably caused by back wash from the 'Quantum Leap' project facility in New Mexico. And that's where they probably remained situated, locked in place.
So if there were rifts in the New Mexico territory, through which the Gelth could gain new access to Earth Prime-Time, then a permanent one may be situated in North Fork, the town closest to the ranch owned by Lucas McCain.
This would make for a great Toobworld splainin as to why so many characters who visited North Fork looked similar - they were human corpses constantly being inhabited and re-animated by the Gelth.
'The Rifleman' begins in late summer of 1881, so there's no way of knowing if the Gelth had re-animated corpses elsewhere (or even in North Fork) before that. So it seems okay to claim that their experiments began shortly after the arrival of Lucas and Mark McCain in North Fork.
Among the actors who appeared in multiple roles over and over again would be John Anderson, Dabbs Greer, John Dehner, Richard Devon, Chris Alcaide, Peter Whitney, Richard Anderson, Jack Elam, Robert H. Harris, Ian Murray, and Royal Dano. Many of them didn't fit the requirements for this theory about the Gelth. With others, - as with John Anderson, Jack Elam, and Dabbs Greer - I have alternate theories for why so many visitors to North Fork looked the same. As for most of the others, I just have to figure there was something unseen by the TV audience that made them different from each other. (Except for the characters played by Peter Whitney - he was so extreme in his make-up choices that, like Patrick McGoohan in his four 'Columbo' roles, there doesn't have to be any resemblance considered between the characters.)
But there is one actor who notched more guest appearances on 'The Rifleman' than those others (although still far short of the record holder) - and each time he played a different role. And for the most part, they were all killed off by Lucas McCain.
The actor I have in mind to be the vessel for the Gelth experiment is John Milford. Here's a list of the episodes he appeared in (through the third season):
"The Horse Traders"
"A Time For Singing"
"Meeting At Midnight"
"Dark Day At North Fork"
"The Clarence Bibbs Story"
And as I said, that's just through the first three seasons!
If all of these gunslingers were the same corpse re-animated again and again by the Gelth, then the aliens had spent the previous dozen years perfecting the process to re-animate the corpse and possess it.
Gone was the blue aura and glowing eyes as seen in Cardiff back in 1869. Perhaps some sort of image alteration device was in use, which might also splain away the fact that nobody in North Fork recognized his face from previous visitations.
What they didn't seem to correct was the residual memories of the deceased. As seen in "The Unquiet Dead", the old grandmother was supposed to see Charles Dickens give his talk at the hall and that's what her corpse did as well.
It would appear that with each Gelth who possessed this corpse played by John Milford, there was one over-riding primal desire - criminal activities in North Fork. They may not have started out remembering that Lucas McCain was responsible for their previous deaths, but the universe would "course-correct" itself (as mentioned in 'Lost') and Fate would play out the same way again. And then a new Gelth explorer would possess that corpse (if the current occupant also perished with the body).
Because of the temporal rift outside of town, North Fork must have served as a testing ground for this experiment by the Gelth as they refined the process for an eventual second attempt to take over Earth Prime-Time. But ultimately they must have been unsuccessful - otherwise the Old West and all of Earth Prime-Time since then would have been taken over by the Gelth.
Of course, I "blame" the Doctor in some follow-up adventure unseen by the TV audience for having stopped them.......