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'Gene Roddenberry’s The Lieutenant - The Series'
(Gary Lockwood, Robert Vaughn, James Gregory, Richard Anderson, et al / 8-Disc DVD / NR / 2012 / Warner Archive)

Overview: 'The Lieutenant' is an American television series, the first created by Gene Roddenberry. Situated at Camp Pendleton, the West Coast base of the U.S. Marine Corps, 'The Lieutenant' focuses on the men of the Corps in peace time with a Cold War backdrop.

DVD Verdict: What an incredible TV series this was and what a find it is today to locate it, and watch it on DVD in my own front room! 'Gene Roddenberry’s The Lieutenant' aired on NBC on Saturday evenings in the 1963-1964 television schedule. It was produced by Arena Productions, one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's most successful in-house production companies of the 1960s.

Gene Roddenberry’s work for 'Star Trek' was second to none, a work of continual art, but this wonderful series should not be overlooked or treated any differently. Sure it's not sci-fi at its '60s and '70s finest, but this complete series of 'The Lieutenant' (split into a Part 1 and Part 2 DVD sets) is truly a riveting TV series to behold today.

The title character is Second Lieutenant William Tiberius Rice, a rifle platoon leader and one of the training instructors at Camp Pendleton. An hour-long drama, 'The Lieutenant' explores the lives of enlisted Marines and general officers alike.

'Gene Roddenberry’s The Lieutenant' follows the young Marine Corp Lieutenant (Gary Lockwood) as he struggles to carry out his duties while under the guidance of a by-the-book captain (Robert Vaughn) during cold war peacetime. Sure the show only lasted 29 episodes airing between 1963-1963, but now on DVD it looks sharp in black and white 4x3 full frame presentation and its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

As noted above, Vaughn played Captain Raymond Rambridge, Rice's company commander, an up-from-the-ranks officer. Richard Anderson, better known to 1970s television audiences as Oscar Goldman in 'The Six Million Dollar Man' and 'The Bionic Woman,' had a recurring role as battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Steve Hiland, and Linda Evans, better known to 1980s audiences as Krystle Grant-Jennings-Carrington in 'Dynasty,' appeared in several early episodes as Colonel Hiland's daughter Nan, who flirted with Rice.

One of the behind-the-scenes controversies surrounded Robert Vaughn. Thirty years of age at the time, he received the same compensation for each installment as Lockwood did, even though he was usually in only one scene per installment. Vaughn had already been one of 'The Magnificent Seven,' and he had even received an Oscar nomination for 'The Young Philadelphians.' This meant that he might have considered being second to Lockwood in the cast something of a climb-down.

Sadly, although for all the right reasons, one episode of 'The Lieutenant' was never even transmitted, nor would the network pay for it! That installment, entitled 'To Set It Right' was about race prejudice, and featured Nichelle Nichols as the fiancee of a black Marine. The subject of race was considered taboo in entertainment television in 1964, and because the network refused to transmit or even pay for 'To Set It Right,' MGM had to eat the entire cost of production!

Well, now thanx to WB Archive, who have beautifully restored this series; and although that particular episode is (still) not to be found here in this complete series, there IS a great bonus episode 'To Kill a Man.' The feature film version of the series’ final episode, unseen since its original international theatrical release in 1964, it is a blessing to have it included in this set. (FYI - Included in many of the episodes are such future 'Star Trek' alums as Leonard Nimoy, Majel Barrett, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and even Ricardo Montalban! These are all 4x3 Full Screen Presentations (1.37:1).

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