Or, the screenplay in which Gene L. Coon and Henry Sharp played oblique homage to Lovecraft.
In Robert Conrad’s comment (40th Anniversary Set) before the Night of the Druid’s Blood, he could not do it without a snicker. One suspects it was not due to Don Rickle’s frequent comic antics that stopped filming, but the ludicrousness of his character making an impassioned speech to beakers of boiling brains.
The shows in the first season of The Wild Wild West hold up reasonably well as long as one realizes it is an early sendoff of James Bond, itself played for camp by Sean Connery in the early 60′s. The other startling perspective is the amazing resemblance a young Robert Conrad had to other actors of the period, notably William Shatner.
In Lovecraft’s Whisperer in the Dark, the word “brain” is used 18 times. It is impossible to miss, as is the part, “It seemed that complete human bodies did not indeed make the trip, but that the prodigious surgical, biological, chemical, and mechanical skill of the Outer Ones had found a way to convey human brains without their concomitant physical structure. There was a harmless way to extract a brain, and a way to keep the organic residue alive during its absence. The bare, compact cerebral matter was then immersed in an occasionally replenished fluid within an ether-tight cylinder of a metal mined in Yuggoth, certain electrodes reaching through and connecting at will with elaborate instruments capable of duplicating the three vital faculties of sight, hearing, and speech.“
So who is responsible for this insertion of Lovecraftian weird horror into a Wild Wild West screenplay. Of the original story writer, Kevin De Courcey, I can find nothing. The teleplay was written by Henry Sharp. His list of teleplays often features elements of the horrific, or the bizarre, but was he the one that inserted Lovecraft?
The title The Night of the Druid’s Blood features no druids, and minimal blood, as TWWW was being heavily censored by CBS to downplay violence. So the original story must have been very supernatural, especially as the female (always beautiful) lead was originally Lilith (of the vampire fame) and then Astarte, a goddess. In television, things move in 6 or 7 day cycles, so the entire show is a cobbled together mess with very little coherence and botched B-stories and subplots. But, while television is art, it is also television, and it does not have to be logically progressive for it to work as long as the weekly characters get their face time and usual schtick to please the regular viewers.
However, with a little deconstruction, this seems to have been a show about satanic rituals, graveyard desecration (bodies are unburied at midnight), Drudic characters in the Washington inner circle, and real witchcraft – which would later be uncovered to be super-advanced science even beyond our 21st century capabilities.
That Coon must have had a hand in this somehow seems clear from later Star Trek episodes that featured straight out magic, and the infamously botched “Spock’s Brain”.
In a Crag Reed Cinefantastique interview with Henry Sharp, he barely mentions the episode, “After writing “TNot Druid’s Blood” for Gene Coon, a story that spoke of spontaneous combustion and an evil scientist’s method of keeping brains alive in an aqueous solution and using that brain’s intelligence for his own purposes ..”. He seems to take credit for introducing the brains into the script. However. elsewhere, in director Ralph Senesky’s blog he reminisces directing the episode, but never proceeds to the brain issue or mentions Lovecraft.
Senesky stated, “It was on this series that Gene told me that because of the uniqueness of the series, he rewrote most of the scripts; that he used the writer’s first draft submission as a frame for him to build on. So let’s take a gander at his work; let’s take off on this bizarre adventure. “. he then stated, “The first day of filming went swimmingly. Almost ten pages completed right on schedule. “.
That is lightning fast even for television.
He mentions Rickles, “The excitement and fun began halfway through the second day with the arrival of Don Rickles to play our mad magician. Those final four and a half days seemed more like a session in a Las Vegas showroom than a film set. Don was always on, with his incredibly sharp wit and acute skills of observation. It seemed almost no one was safe. Robert Conrad was not the tallest creature on the planet, but according to Rickles he barely reached the height of Billy Barty. Rickles was merciless. — but funny. He had us all in stitches except when the cameras were rolling. … when it came time to perform for the camera, he was fanatically serious about his work. “
As to Coon’s influence, Senesky stated, “Have you noticed how literate this script is? So far there has been very little action — a lot of dialogue, but good dialogue. Thank you, Gene Coon.”
The next episode, a complete Geen Coon script The Night of the Freebooters, is a case in point – classic dialogue until the end where gadgets, girls, and action take the main stage.
Most of these anecdotes do not explain the macabre aspect of the episode …Druid’s Blood, so some early iteration must have been a mild homage to H. P. Lovecraft – at that time (early 1966) a mostly unknown name except to fans of the old Weird Tales of over three decades earlier, or readers of Arkham House books. Perhaps it used goddesses, druids, satanism, and magicians toward a plot where aliens with advanced science would be exposed?