There was a new cowboy in Dallas, and he wasn’t throwing touchdown passes. But Walker was almost gone before he could really get started. After just four episodes, the show’s production company suffered financial collapse, and the show was rescued at the last minute by CBS Productions, who would continue to run the show for its nearly decade-long run. For nine years Norris brought us the ultimate Texas Ranger in a formula cops-and-robbers show. The show often became a parody of itself but maintained a solid viewership throughout. Hell, Norris even sings the theme song. Truthfully, what started as a one-man show (it was originally called Chuck Norris Is Walker, Texas Ranger) had become a good working ensemble that probably kept the train going for so long. Walker (Norris) is a tough-guy Texas Ranger. He is partnered with Sydney Cooke (Peebles) and Jimmy Trivette (Gilyard), who’s an ex-jock with a brain. Walker had a love interest and eventual wife in the local assistant district attorney Alex Cahill (later Walker). Together they fight the evils that come to the high plains of Texas armed with their fists, six-shooters, and Stetsons.
Fans of Norris were never disappointed in what they got here. The requisite martial arts and tough-guy talk are present pretty much in every episode. There’s a popular T-shirt design that lauds their hero in epic fashion. One of my favorites is : “McGyver can build a plane out of gum and paper clips, but Chuck Norris can kill him and take the plane.” Another brags: “Some people wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas”. And there’s the humorous: “Chuck Norris knows what Willis is talkin’ about”.
With all of the show’s episodes on DVD, CBS has been putting together DVD versions of two-part episodes and releasing them as television movies. Here’s a collection of four:
Flashback (Season 3)
An old amateur geologist uncovers a prize he’s been looking for his entire life. It’s the legendary Cooper’s Gold, and it’s worth a rather large fortune. Unfortunately, when he takes samples of his find and a map to the local coin dealer, he walks right into the middle of a vicious holdup. The old man gets killed, and the bad guys are now on the trail of Cooper’s Gold.
Walker knows the tale of Cooper well. Hayes Cooper was a Ranger 130 years earlier and was on the trail of gold thieves. The rumor was that he caught the bad guys and kept the gold for himself. The legend was that he buried it somewhere but never came back for it. The gold was missing all that time. Walker wants to catch these murderous bad guys, but he also wants to clear Cooper’s name if he can.
This is one of those episodes that are told in flashbacks, hence the title, to the days of Hays Cooper. Most of that comes in a dream/vision that Walker has after being bitten by a rattlesnake. He also “appears” to be helped by the spirit of Hayes Cooper riding a glowing white horse. In fact, Cooper saves his life. Of course, the flashbacks feature the regular cast in other personas. Obviously, Norris is going to play Cooper himself.
War Zone (Season 3)
Logan Reno (Bohen) was once Walker’s partner and a legend in the Texas Rangers. His father and grandfather were Rangers. His grandfather was part of the crew that brought down Bonnie & Clyde back in the day. His daughter carries on the tradition of a State Trooper. Now he’s one of the governor’s bodyguards thanks to a recommendation from Walker. But he misses the action. He longs to be back out in the field. It’s that desire that ends up getting him killed. Now Walker must look after his troubled son and find the violent criminal crew that killed his friend.
This episode actually follows a lot of the Norris film plots. Usually someone would kill a member of his family or a close friend, and Norris would go looking for payback. It’s Norris in his deepest comfort zone, to be sure.
The episode/film stars Wilford Brimley as the owner of the security firm that provided the guards to the places that get hit. Susan Diol stars as Dana, his daughter who wants in on the case. All of the other regulars are here.
Standoff (Season 3)
The episode begins with a Mexican presidential candidate in Dallas to give a speech. He mentions that the border between our countries is more symbolic than real. If only he’d known what it would be like now. But that’s not what gets Mendoza (Sierra) in trouble. He vows to fight corruption and crime, and that’s going to put a target on his head. That’s where Walker and the gang come in. It’s Walker’s job to protect the diplomat even when Agent Teckler (Campbell) tries to pull the Rangers from the case. Of course, that’s not going to work out very well.
The second half of this episode becomes a Die Hard copy. Walker gets into the building where the bad guys are holding hostages. The hostages include Alex and a stabbed CD. All of the Willis trappings show up, from the banter with the bad guy on one of his walkie talkies to picking the bad guys off one at a time. The last 20 minutes is an extended chase scene through tunnels, woods, and finally an old folks’ home.
This one gets really weird when Walker needs to get into the building. He goes to the Doc Brown-like character of Russell Stanley, played by Buck Rogers In The 20th Century’s Professor Huer, Tim O’Connor. With no training on an untested jet pack, Walker flies up to the roof of the building. This one’s a little silly even for Chuck Norris. There’s even a Ross Perot impersonator in the mix, which was quite relevant in 1995 when the episode was filmed.
Whitewater (Season 4)
The episode begins with a routine take-down that goes bad for Walker. He gets stabbed, but that doesn’t stop him from beating up more bad guys. It does put him off the job while he recovers. It’s making him go stir crazy, so Alex shanghais him to take him on a whitewater rafting excursion. Just the thing when you’re not even strong enough for duty yet. Of course, vacations don’t go well for television lawmen. A prison break puts CD and Jimmy on the trail of a dangerous criminal, and, of course, that’s going to lead to Walker’s rafting party.
The episode padding comes in two types here. The first is a lot of footage of rafting over the rapids. The second has Walker climbing a sheer cliff to get out of the river area. Of course, it’s not really necessary. Not only does he end up right back down on the river… and in the knick of time. But the cliff is surrounded by better ways to walk out of the area. I guess that just doesn’t provide as much dramatic footage, does it?
Walker was a staple on television for almost ten years without ever really changing that much. Norris isn’t the most compelling actor around, and he delivered his lines most of the time like he was reading them. Still, he developed a charismatic charm that enabled him and the series to endure. The show never wants for action. So it’s shoot first and ask questions later as we watch another Walker combination episode/movie. “Lock n’ load.”