THE QUEST - Guide To 1970s Western Series Starring Kurt Russell And Tim Matheson
TV Westerns were an endangered species in the mid-1970s, so producers were increasingly forced to get creative with concepts. The Quest put a youthful spin on John Ford’s The Searchers, with two handsome young brothers on the hunt for a sister abducted by the Cheyenne tribe. Based on a well-received 1976 made-for-TV movie, The Quest series has been largely unseen since it first aired. Until now!
Starting April 6, The Quest begins again — every Saturday morning at 7:45a ET on getTV!
Tim Matheson is Dr. Quentin Beaudine, the brother who escaped the Indian raid that killed their parents. Kurt Russell is Morgan Beaudine, the one who didn’t. Now known as “Two Persons,” Morgan has spent nearly half his life learning the ways of the Cheyenne. This makes him uniquely qualified to track the now-12-year-old sister they both believe is still alive.
Despite its Post-Civil War setting, Russell and Matheson give the series a contemporary vibe with their low-key chemistry. In one his early adult roles, Russell is understated and believable as a young man balancing two identities. Matheson plays the straight-laced Quentin with a light touch, demonstrating the comedy talents that would serve him well in Animal House two years later. And Two Persons’ so-called “white Indian” Cheyenne heritage is depicted with dignity, shining a light on stereotypes that were increasingly distasteful to mid-1970s audiences.
Filmed on location in Arizona (and elsewhere), The Quest brought feature film production values and nuanced, historically accurate storytelling to the primetime Western. Creator Tracy Keenan Wynn (son of actor and guest star Keenan Wynn) gives the series a unique format, with the Beaudines’ titular search leading them on a different adventure every week. Each episode featured a different supporting cast of familiar faces, like Erik Estrada, Susan Dey, George Lazenby, Pernell Roberts, and Howard Keel.
Here are some of the great episodes to look for in the coming months on getTV.
1. The Captive (Episode 1 — Original Airdate: September 22, 1976)
The first regular-season episode picks up where the TV movie left off, with the origin story reiterated in narration and an expository opening scene. Morgan and Quentin ride with an Army troop in search of a white woman (Susan Dey) living with the Cheyenne. Is she Patricia? The powerful premiere features Russ Tamblyn, Christopher Connelly, Royal Dano, Bibi Besch, Dennis Cole, and Richard Egan.
2. The Buffalo Hunters (Episode 2 — September 29, 1976)
The boys attempt to rescue a native women (Linda Redfearn) from buffalo hunters (John Quade and Alex Cord of Airwolf), only to become captives themselves.
3. Shanklin (Episode 3 — October 16, 1976)
Retired quarterback, Monday Night Football host, and Texas native Don Meredith guest stars as a prickly Texas Ranger who enlists the Beaudines in the hunt for Mexican outlaws. Mariette Hartley plays Meredith’s wife. This episode dispenses with the search storyline in favor of straight-up, Spaghetti Western-style action.
4. Day Of Outrage (Episode 4 — October 27, 1976)
When Two Persons is injured on the trail, the boys take refuge at a “house of ill repute” run by a salty madam (Amanda Blake) and go up against a corrupt cattle rancher (George Gaines). Guest stars also include Severn Darden (Planet of the Apes movies); Lance Kerwin (James at 15), Steve Kanaly (Dallas), Don Matheson (Land of the Giants), and Western icon Don “Red” Barry. We also get some backstory, as Two Persons reveals to one of the girls (Pamela Sue Martin) that the Army scouts who rescued him also killed his Cheyenne wife.
5. Seventy-Two Hours (Episode 5 — November 3, 1976)
The boys ride into a cow town and are befriended by a marshal (Cameron Mitchell) who has also taken a Cheyenne bride (Maria Elena Cordero). When tragedy strikes at the hand of a drunken young drover (Mitch Vogel), Quentin and Two Persons must become peacemakers. This episode is a great example of how The Quest balances the light and dark aspects of the traditional Western narrative. It also features Aldo Ray as an undertaker and Howard Keel as a cattleman.
6. Prairie Woman (Episode 6 — November 10, 1976))
Two Persons pursues an escaped killer with knowledge of their sister’s whereabouts, while Quentin tends to a desperate woman’s sick infant. Ty Hardin, hero of the 1958–62 Western series Bronco, guest stars along with Jim Davis (Dallas) and Laraine Stephens (wife of The Quest executive producer David Gerber).
7. Welcome to America, Jade Snow (Episode 7 — November 24, 1976)
Two Persons is reunited with China (Irene Yah-Ling Sun), a prostitute he fell in love with shortly after he was “rescued” by the Army. (Depicted in the original TV movie.) Sadly for Morgan, she’s married with a newborn baby, and her husband is in the middle of a dispute with local miners. This action-packed episode also features one-time James Bond George Lazenby, Gary Collins, and Jason Wingreen (Harry Snowden from All in the Family).
8 and 9. The Longest Drive (Episodes 8-9 — December 1 and 8, 1976)
Dan Herlihy guest stars as an aging cattleman running 1,500 head up to Pueblo, Colorado through the Badlands. He enlists the Beaudines, along with Erik Estrada, John Rubinstein, Gary Lockwood, Woody Strode, and Keenan Wynn. This two-parter reunites Russell with Herlihy, who played his father in the similarly themed 1963-64 series The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. Every episode of The Quest is feature film quality, but The Longest Drive is so good it was released as a movie after the series ended.
10. Portrait of a Gunfighter (Episode 10 — December 22, 1976)
Andrew Stevens plays as a teenager whose parents are killed on the trail by prairie wolfers (including Jack Colvin from The Incredible Hulk). He meets up with the Beaudines, a beautiful shopkeeper’s daughter (Morgan Brittany), and a hired killer (John Ireland). And he learns the intoxicating power of revenge.
11. The Freight Train Rescue (Episode 11 — December 29, 1976)
A party of government surveyors is stranded without supplies following a robbery by highwaymen, and a traveling trader (Monte Markham) joins forces with the Beaudines to save them. This was the final episode of The Quest broadcast by NBC. The remaining four did not air until years later in reruns.
12. The Last Of The Mountain Men (Episode 12 — Never Aired)
The Beaudines connect with a pair of old trappers (Leif Erickson and Douglas Fowley) and go up against a murderous mountain man (Pernell Roberts). This was the first episode completed but unaired, and it’s another example of how The Quest balances highly emotional storytelling with lighthearted humor.
13. Dynasty of Evil (Episode 13 — Never Aired)
Quentin and Two Persons get caught between homesteaders and a cattle baron. Howard Duff and Robert J. Wilkie are the feuding fathers. And David Ladd and Gary Graham are the sons who continue the fight. This variation on the Hatfields and McCoys is the soapiest episode so far, thanks in part to Joan Prather’s performance as a temptress who puts the moves on a shirtless Two Persons.
14. The Seminole Negro Indian Scouts (Episode 14 — Never Aired)
This time around, the Beaudines stumble into a raid on Comancheros by the U.S. Army. The soldiers are Seminole Indian scouts of African descent (Stack Pierce, Henry Brown, Bill Overton, and Hal Miller) who are awarded the nation’s highest military honor — then forced to go on the run by a racist sheriff (Bill Williams). This is a groundbreaking episode addressing an important chapter in American history.
15. Incident at Drucker’s Tavern (Episode 15 — Never Aired)
Two Persons’ injured horse strands the brothers in a small town where a gambler (Scott Hylands) and his pregnant wife (Julie Cobb) take refuge from the father (Morgan Woodward) of a man he killed. This is an excellent, tense finale, with the Beaudine brothers riding off at the end to continue the search for their sister. While there was no resolution to The Quest’s quest, both actors are still working today. And it’s never too late for a sequel!
The Quest airs Saturday mornings at 7:45a ET — starting April 6 on getTV!