Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 1 Episode 35

The Return of Dr. Thackeray

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM May 17, 1958 on CBS
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Episode Summary

The Return of Dr. Thackeray

Dr. Phyllis Thackeray diagnoses the cook at the Barton Ranch with smallpox. All the cowhands may be infected and need to be vaccinated. Dr. Thackeray sends for the one man she thinks can help.

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  • Paladin meets up again with the remarkable Phyllis Thackeray...and then lets her go.

    As with the previous encounter with Dr. Thackeray, the plot hinges on a possible epidemic, although in this case, the men's fear seems exaggerated, given that there is, in fact, a vaccine to protect them.

    One has to wonder if Sam Barton would have tried throwing the ill and helpless cook off his ranch if the local (male) doctor had been in the vicinity. Dr. Thackeray fends him off at gunpoint, but it's a weak bluff; clearly Barton is more frightened at the idea that manhandling the cook will increase his own danger. Realizing that the other ranchhands will be equally frightened (and equally self-centered), Dr. Thackeray sends for our hero in black, who promptly shrugs off a very lucrative commission to rush to her side.

    Although this is only the second (and final, apparently) appearance of Dr. Thackeray, Paladin gives the distinct impression that they know each other quite well. (Perhaps he stayed on a while after that bout of three day measles.) Their feelings are obviously very warm (hampered a bit by the small matter of a sick man a few feet away). Paladin, who easily charms and flatters other women, finds it hard to talk with Phyllis, who, like him, has given up a great deal in order to lead the life she has chosen for herself. He recognizes that neether of them is prepared to give up that life--at least, not yet. Dr. Thackeray, oddly, asks him if he is proposing to her--when it was rather clear that he was doing nothing of the kind. (Perhaps she was listening to the feelings, rather than the words.)

    Not wanting to spread panic, they have a hard time convincing the ranchhands to stick around when their work is done; they want to collect their pay and go whoop it up in town. Sam Barton seems unconcerned that letting them go will surely cause an epidemic; it's his gentle, repressed son who makes the effort. The men pack up to go and then show up at the house to collect their pay--by force, if necessary. Paladin is off washing up, and does not seem to hear the intrusion. The cook is being kept in the room with the strongbox. Seeing the clear signs of the dreaded smallpox, Fred Cooley, the ringleader, instantly panics, striking Dr. Thackeray down in the process. Paladin hears this, and, more importantly, he hears Phyllis sobbing. (Her crying, in fact, seems a little out of character for the good doctor.) She also has an ugly mark on her cheek. We're treated to the sight of the gentle, cultured Paladin, the man who always thinks first, transformed into a raging beast, who quite likely would have beaten Fred Cooley to death had Tom Barton not intervened with a gun butt. (One gets the impression that nothing less would have served.)

    The vaccine arrives, implying that all will be well. Apparently they decided that they had put sufficient romance into the episode; rather than showing Paladin and Phyllis taking their farewells, they chose to focus on the humor of seeing the rough, tough ranchers screwing themselves up to endure a shot.moreless
Charles Aidman

Charles Aidman

Tom Barton

Guest Star

John Anderson (I)

John Anderson (I)

Fred Cooley

Guest Star

Johnny Western

Johnny Western


Guest Star

June Lockhart

June Lockhart

Dr. Phyllis Thackeray

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Laird: I'll give you $1,000 now if you promise to accept this job. $1,000 later when you complete it.
      Paladin: I spent $2,000 a year on cigars, Mr. Laird.

    • Paladin: All right, I want to see Dr. Thackeray and I want to see her right now. If there's anything, wrong, if she's been harmed or impeded in any way, you two men can toss coins to see which one I take apart first!

    • Sam Barton: ...If he wasn't such a weakling.
      Paladin: Is he such a weakling?
      Sam Barton: You've seen him. He'll take it from anybody. He's always been that way and always will be. He gets it from his mother, rest her soul.
      Paladin: No, I'd say he gets it from you. You're a loud-mouthed bully. Yes, you are. It's all talk. Vicious, cutting kind of talk that probably held that boy down. Gave him the idea that he never could win, so he never tried.
      Sam Barton: All I ever tried to do was make a man out of him.
      Paladin: No, you're scared to death he might really become a man. Then you'd become the little man around here.
      Sam Barton: That's enough! I don't have to explain to you how I feel about my son.
      Paladin: Oh, am I mistaken? Would you really like that boy to kick your teeth in?
      Sam Barton: I'd crack his skull if he did. And I'd love him if he tried.

    • Cooley: Uh, you, uh, you work here, Mr.--?
      Paladin: Paladin. I'm just helping a friend.
      Cooley: Got a specialty?
      Paladin: I use a little of everything.
      Cooley: (Looking at Paladin's holster) But in the end, it comes down to that.
      Paladin: If there are no alternatives.

    • Phyllis: Talk to me, keep me awake.
      Paladin: Talk to you? Just like that? It's not that easy.
      Phyllis: Well, you've never had any trouble finding the right words.
      Paladin: Oh, it's easy enough to talk. To find the "right" words, the common words that men exchange with women. But you and I have grown too close for that.
      Phyllis: That's a frightening thought.
      Paladin: It is. Because we're the kind of people we are. We're neither of us ready for marriage, are we?
      Phyllis: Well, you're certainly keeping me awake.
      Paladin: You have to go on with your work, it's important to you. And it's important to the people who need you.
      Phyllis: And you have to go on with your work, because, you're the kind of a man you are.
      Paladin: I did hear a rumor once that people can change.
      Phyllis: You believe that?
      Paladin: Yes, if they're ready to change. And we're not ready to change.
      Phyllis: I'm confused. Have you been proposing to me?
      Paladin: No. No, I've been explaining why I haven't proposed.

  • NOTES (2)

    • Johnny Western was fascinated with the character of Paladin, and thrilled to get a role in this episode as a hot-headed young gunslinger. When inspiration struck for the song, he wrote it down, and quickly arranged for a cheap recording of it. He gave copies to Richard Boone and Sam Rolfe as a way of saying "Thank you". He was stunned to find a couple days later that they wanted to use it as the theme song.

      Richard Boone suggested that he skip the slow, "narrative" melody at the beginning and just use the catchy, "hoofbeats" rhythm all the way through. Sam Rolfe changed one of the lines. His fast gun for hire hears the call of the wind became Heeds the calling wind. This not only scanned better, but "heeds" was an old-fashioned term, reminiscent of Shakespeare, which was in keeping with Paladin's character. Johnny Western made sure that Boone and Rolfe both got co-credit for the song.

      Richard Boone also used his considerable clout to ensure that Johnny Western sang the official version--there had been an idea to have the singer Jerry Vale do the song, partly as a means of revitalizing his career.

    • We find out what sort of woman Paladin considers potential wife material for himself.