Audra is a nasty, snobby, spoiled brat from the get go. First she attacks Heath without reason at Tom Barkley's grave then says her classic line "I'M AUDRA From the get go I have disliked her.
I agree millerm99 about Barbara Stanwyck's make up. It is awful. That lipstick must have been applied with a trowel.
I loved how this episode introduced all of the characters.
I do disagree with millerm99 that Victoria should have filled Heath with lead when he returned to the house. He wasn't stealing anything. Just taking the money Jarrod gave him to buy him off. He filled his hat with apples, that is true. I just find it odd Victoria excepted him so quickly as her husband's sun.
I loved Eugene and wish he could have stayed. Sad he went off to medical school and never came back due to Charles Briles being drafter. He showed he could stand up to Nick.
Nick cracked me up in the last few minutes of the episodes. This established what was to come in regards to his tirades which provided a lot of comedic elements to the show. His family just patiently listened to him until Heath walked in upon which he ran out of steam.
It didn't take long for the family to accept him. I loved the part where both Nick and Heath went for the same steak, wouldn't back down and Jarrod cut it in half.
Heath rescuing Audra from the creeps in town foreshadowed his defense of his family in times to come.
Whoa. What did the make-up artist do to Barbara Stanwyck? Thank goodness she isn't onscreen much in this episode, because she is positively frightening! Her cake-face includes overdone eyes and peach colored stage make-up outlining her lips. Whenever she comes on camera, there's a need to avert my eyes - but like a train wreck, I can't look away.
Now, on to the rest of this episode...For a pilot it is decent. Some of the acting is overwrought as the writers sought to introduce not just the characters, but to exhibit the full aspect of their personalities. So you have Nick ready to shoot up anything with a pulse, whip-wielding Audra (who seems to lose a lot of her spunk after the premiere), and stoic Victoria calmly making grandiose philosophical speeches just after learning her husband was unfaithful and just before all her sons are about to get massacred. The character who seems to stay truest to his original role throughout the series is Jarrod. And of course, there's poor Eugene, soon to do a vanishing act and not be seen again.
Victoria is pretty quick to accept her husband's alleged bastard son. When Heath comes back to take the money and fill his hat with fruit, it was a perfect moment to pump him full of lead on terms of robbery. She seems to take her deceased husband's infidelity in stride and with little emoting. But, had she taken such action, the series would be missing one of its most popular characters.
Highlights of the episode include the train race by Heath, and the opening bridge impasse between Heath and Nick, as well as the fight scene in the barn between the two. Overall, a good episode.
This introduction to the Barkley family broke ground by including a major character, Heath, who was illegitimate. While America had become used to the formulaic western, i.e., Bonanza and Gunsmoke, Big Valley tried to be a bit different, at least at first. Instead of just concentrating on male characters, this show gave us a couple strong female characters, neither of whom were saloon girls. This episode set a high standard for what was to come--a standard episodic TV couldn't quite live up to.
The introductory episode gives us a more realistic view of the entire family, without the anachronistic hairstyles and makeup that would come along later, especially for the ladies. Victoria, the widow and matriarch, is aloof and impressive, albeit less interesting than she becomes later when she starts strutting around in pants, wearing turtlenecks and cropped hair.
The tension between Heath and Nick is the centerpiece of the story. We want them to fight; they do. The daughter, Audra, is established as a feisty younger version of the mother. She struts into Stockton and tests her new half brother by trying to seduce him. The physical resemblance between Heath and Audra is striking; they look more alike than anyone else in the family.
The battle with the railroad is 'ripped from the headlines' of history, although the closest such incident happened later in real life than in the series. The outcome of the action is less important than the acceptance of Heath into the Barkley family.
And, of course, this is one of the few first season episodes with the soon-to-disappear youngest brother, Eugene. Supposedly the actor, Charles Briles, went into the service. On screen he went off to college (and was never mentioned again).
The grateful citizens of Stockton and the surrounding valley are closely aligned with the rich Barkley family in this episode. Tom Barkley, it seems, is some sort of icon. In subsequent episodes this will be fleshed out a bit, then forgotten. Usually the Barkleys' neighbors are nothing but a pain or some sort of impediment.
Peter Breck and Lee Majors were impressive; so much so, in fact, it's hard to believe how much the acting deteriorated later in the series, especially on Majors' part. (The bigger a star he became, the more wooden an actor.) But here they're full of controlled vitality and sweaty, raw emotion. And Barbara Stanwyck's Victoria, as mentioned above, is a remote yet powerful figure, barely hinting at the swath she'll cut through the series later. Here, in the first Big Valley episode, we're introduced to one of TV's great families, the Barkleys. And we can't wait to see more!
great western series...more tightly focused on personal side than Bonanza..No one could surpass the oustanding Barbara Stanwyck.She embodies Victoria Barkley.Show is energetic,well paced and
diversified in character members.
The Big Valley I believe accomplished in 4 years what Bonanza managed over 14..while out of sheer longevity Bonanza has overshadowed Big Valley,one must not overlook the dynamic interplay and episodes with the outstanding principal players..and to have a star of Miss Stanwyck's influence,she seems to place the defining dome.
A very good series opener with strong performances from Peter Breck (Nick) and Lee Majors (Heath). The initial and ongoing antagonism between these characters is strongly written and acted. Acceptance of each other is handled deftly at the close of the episode. The threads of the storyline, the illegimate son, Heath, of Tom Barkely, arriving to claim his birthright and the lawful but unjust taking of settlers land by the railroad keep the story line moving swiftly. Each of the major characters are given the opportunity to display major character attributes which will be developed in future episodes. Performances from the other main players are competent.
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