Talk about a classic TV fan’s dream. “Bonanza” features “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” star Robert Vaughn and “Gilligan’s Island” star Dawn Wells.
Both are in the same episode, dude. Vaughn, who would play agent Napoleon Solo on the popular NBC spy series, and Wells, who played Mary Ann, appear together in “The Way Station.”
This “Bonanza” episode aired during the show’s fourth season on NBC in 1962. It’s just a couple of years before both Vaughn and Wells would go on to feature roles in other TV shows. Ironically, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” would run between 1964-68 on NBC.
‘Bonanza’ Features Future Stars In Different Roles For ‘The Way Station’
OK, so what’s going on in this episode? According to the IMDB description, Adam Cartwright [Pernell Roberts] finds shelter overnight at a stagecoach way station. While he is there, Cartwright meets some interesting people like a beautiful girl [Wells] to a dangerous outlaw on the run [Vaughn]. Wells’ character is Marty Johnson; Vaughn’s character is Luke Martin.
A side note: Roberts is the lone Cartwright to actually appear in this “Bonanza” episode. Lorne Greene [Ben Cartwright], Dan Blocker [Eric “Hoss” Cartwright], and Michael Landon [“Little Joe” Cartwright] only appear in the NBC western’s opening credits.
Obviously, Wells, as we mentioned earlier, appeared on the CBS sitcom “Gilligan’s Island” for all three seasons it was on the network. But the show’s popularity definitely picked up over the decades in reruns. Wells died on Dec. 30, 2020, from COVID-19 complications at 82 years old.
Vaughn Joins Up With Future ‘NCIS’ Star McCallum on Spy Show
When Vaughn started playing Solo on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, he already had a lot of stage, film, and TV credits to his name. Yet teaming up with David McCallum, who played spy Illya Kuryakin, on the Cold War-era 1960s spy show, sent Vaughn into another stratosphere.
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was able to pick up steam thanks to the spy-show craze on television at that time. The show would lead to a spinoff series, “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.”, starring Stefanie Powers. It lasted just one season in the 1966-67 TV season, also airing on NBC. Vaughn died on Nov. 11, 2016, at 83 years old.
If McCallum’s name sounds familiar to modern-day TV viewers, then it’s cool. He plays Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on the long-running CBS crime drama “NCIS.” Yes, it’s the same McCallum who found himself mobbed by fans at the height of the spy show’s success.
Oh, “Bonanza” was humming along on NBC, too. The popular western would run from 1959-73, establishing itself as the second-longest-running TV western in the medium’s history. Roberts would leave the show after the 1964-65 season.
One more connection between Roberts and Vaughn. Both were staunch activists during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.