Colonial Radio Theater’s most successful radio series has been Powder River, which just concluded its six season. This remains an improbable series: A successful western produced at a time when the western genre is practically moribund and the series is produced Boston of all places.
The first fifteen episode season was originally released in 2004. It follows Britt McMasters (Jerry Robbins) and his son Chad (Derek Aalerud) as he starts a new life for himself as a rancher in Claremont, Wyoming near the Powder River in Wyoming. McMasters had been a U.S. Marshal but had retired after an incident he’d rather not discuss.
However, his past will not leave him alone. The series begins with the Ryan gang attempting to kill McMasters, and it becomes clear that it’s either McMasters or the gang.
There is much to like about this first season. Robbins is great as McMasters. In addition the character of Doc (Lincoln Edwards), the town doctor who is even more handy with a gun than he is a doctor’s bag is well-developed and fun. In addition, the show has a great sense and feel of Old West life with a dedication to realism without becoming hopelessly dark. At its best, it feels ike Have Gun Will Travel or Gunsmoke.
At times, this first season does stumble, mainly with stories that just don’t feel right. Episodes that found Chad trying to help a disabled girl with an overprotective mother through riding horses, or where the McMasters helped a war deserter, or the one where Mark Twain shows up and spouts famous quotes the whole episode were ones I bore more than enjoyed.
However, the show’s inconsistent quality took a decided turn for the best that moved it from 3 stars to 4 stars with the last few episodes that dealt with the resolution of the Ryan gang story line. The last episode had an absolutely stunning plot twist that has to be heard to be believed. It’s an incredible finale.
The series wasn’t originally intended to become the multi-season success it has been. As such, the writers felt free to kill off some significant characters. The old west was a harsh place and that’s definitely reflected in these stories.
Overall, I give it a solid 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.
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