Peter Breck starred in two Western episodes with the same unique title
The Big Valley and Gunsmoke both told “The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner” and a behind-the-scenes connection may be the reason why.
It wasn’t uncommon for TV Westerns to cover the same ground, both figuratively and literally in terms of filming locations in the mountains outside Los Angeles. We even made a quiz about the storylines used in both Gunsmoke and The Rifleman.
Naturally, many Western episodes from different shows share titles like “The Hunter,” “The Marshal” and even “The Photographer.” One highly specific episode in both the long-running classic Gunsmoke and the Sixties family ranch drama The Big Valley is “The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner.” To add to the coincidence, actor Peter Breck appears in both!
Breck played Barbara Stanwyck’s son Nick in all 112 Big Valley episodes, and “The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner” is no exception. But it must have felt strange to him to read a script with that name given that just two years earlier he had played the title character in the Gunsmoke episode... “The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner.”
If Breck had kept a sharp eye on both scripts, he may have deduced the reason for the coincidence. Writer Paul Savage was the mind behind both.
It’s important to note that these episodes have very different plotlines. Savage didn’t try to recycle a Gunsmoke script and sell it to a different show. It seems he just had a particular affinity for a certain name and thought it could fit guest characters on both series. And we can’t blame him. Jubal Tanner is a great Western name!
In Gunsmoke, Peter Breck played resentful drifter Jubal Tanner who is attacked by a buffalo hunter outside Dodge City. While recuperating in town, Jubal meets a saloon girl named Leah (Beverly Garland) who has her own reasons to be angry at the world. The two form an unlikely bond in this great season eight episode.
In The Big Valley’s first season two years later, “The Odyssey of Jubal Tanner” centered around an old friend of the Barkley family, who returns to the ranch to buy a piece of land he was promised years before. In this story, the Jubal character is quite a bit older, played by veteran TV actor Arthur O’Connell. The episode also features Sheldon Collins, most famous for playing Opie Taylor’s friend Arnold on The Andy Griffith Show, as Jubal’s grandson.
Whether he was inspired by the 1956 Glenn Ford film Jubal, or he just liked the name, we can’t blame writer Paul Savage for reusing such a distinctive moniker. Who knows, with all the unique baby names nowadays, we could see Jubal making a comeback!