Third incarnation of venerable cowboy franchise is syndicated series filmed in glorious Alberta, Canada, countryside. Cast of attractive, all-but-unknown Canadian principals is joined by numerous big names in cameo roles.
Newt Call, scion of the Call family introduced in “Return to Lonesome Dove” miniseries, is the only one of the “original” characters to appear here, with Scott Bairstow filling the boots of original’s Rick Schroder. When he hits Montana territory town of Curtis Wells, he meets Hannah Peale (Christianne Hirt) , toothsome daughter of local newspaper publisher Josiah Peale (Paul Le Mat) and decides to hang on, rather than, um, returning to Lonesome Dove, which is in Texas. Before long, Newt finds himself in a fistfight, rescued by tall, dark stranger Col. Francis Clay Mosby (Eric McCormack).
Newt is blondish and wears light clothing; Mosby is black-haired and dresses like Johnny Cash: even before Mosby’s identity is revealed in second hour of three-part opener, it’s clear that lines will be drawn. Equally clear is that the two will be fighting over Hannah.
Main subplots, all initiated in the first episode, deal with Ida Grayson (Diahann Carroll), in town waiting for the return of her husband, Indian scout Aaron Grayson (Billy Dee Williams) and greeted with prejudice by locals; arrival of Buffalo Bill Cody (Dennis Weaver), hired by a railroad promoter (Robert Culp) to help impress potential investor from Germany (John Gilbert); a band of outlaws who attack Ida and are thwarted by Cody and Call; and raids by renegade Native American Spotted Elk (Lorne Cardinal).
Presence of marauding aboriginals is refreshing throwback to non-politically correct times, though Spotted Elk is countered by friendly, educated Red Hawk (Graham Greene).
Script by Stephen Zito and Tom Towler keeps storylines remarkably clear and introduces characters in an unforced, natural manner. Director Sidney J. Furie has a strong hand with material and paces episodes to keep characters interesting.