The Force in the North

TV Time Capsule

Two of the most well-known big screen Mounties transferred successfully to television. Sergeant Renfrew and Sergeant Preston were both highly active, highly energetic characters that always got their man without breaking a sweat.

The Renfrew series was based on books written by England-born Laurie York Erskine in the 1920s and 1930s. The valiant and mythical RCMP officer went on to ignoble fame when a series of skits were produced by the Royal Canadian Air Farce comedy troupe for the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

Sergeant Preston was a radio serial first and became a 1950s television program featuring Richard Simmons as Sergeant Preston. The program was set in the Yukon just after the Klondike Gold Rush. The snow was real, as the series was filmed outdoors, but the scenery was California and Colorado. Frank Stryker wrote the radio program and the television series was a direct translation.  It was common for the plot to remain fiction while presenting a fairly realistic Yukon. In “Girl from Vancouver,” for example, Preston travels to Fort Selkirk on the steamer Yukon Belle. While there was a town called Fort Selkirk in the Yukon, it was neither large nor important in the early 1900s. There was also a steamer Yukon and a steamer Bella on the Yukon River, but never a Yukon Belle.

A cartoon Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, Dudley Do-Right, was part of an early 1948 pilot called The Film Strips of Television. The character made many mistakes as an RCMP officer with just ninety minutes of training. Dudley Do-Right sometimes appeared in ABC’s Rocky and his Friends from 1959-1961 and in The Bullwinkle Show, syndicated on NBC from 1961 to 1964 and on ABC from 1964 to 1970. Do-Right had his own show on ABC in 1969-70. Do-Right and his horse Steed spent many episodes defending Nell Fenwick from the evil Snidely Whiplash.

The CBC program Caribou Country first aired in 1958 and ran until 1966 with actual RCMP officers among its large cast of characters. In a 1963 episode, the constable has a difficult time raising a posse to apprehend a neighbour.

The long-running Canadian series Beachcombers was set on the Vancouver coast. The resident Mountie, Constable John, was at home in the fictional community. The CBC British Columbia Film Production was syndicated in the United States in the 1980s.

The more recent television series Due South was not the first television drama about Canadian and American law officials working together to solve crime. The CBN Family cable network produced Bordertown, set in the 1880s on the northwest frontier, which paired North-West Mounted Police Corporal Clive Bennett (John Brennan) with Texas Ranger Marshall Jack Craddock (Richard Cormar). Corporal Bennett believed there is a little good in every man and Marshall Craddock had his own way of dealing with desperadoes.