LUCAN's Pilot Movie first aired on the ABC Network as a mid-season replacement on May 22nd, 1977. This Pilot film was successful and was picked for the line-up. The first episode aired on Monday, December 26th, 1977 during the prime-time hour of 8:00-9:00pm. (EST)
Unfortunately, LUCAN was constantly put on hiatus and bounced between Monday and Tuesday nights. This sadly never allowed the series to develop a solid audience or fan following. Although initial Press releases touted it as a "mini-series" the show kept being retooled and the final episode doesn’t offer closure.
In mid-season, LUCAN added a fugitive spin to the plot and Lucan was hunted for a crime and death on his campus that he didn’t commit. The series took even more cues from The Incredible Hulk, and both shows were inspired by two other TV classics –The Fugitive (1963) and Kung Fu. (1972)
LUCAN was a semi-anthology series since the titular character didn’t stay in the same place for long. LUCAN boasted an impressive array of guest-stars – Stockard Channing and Ned Beatty played a father and daughter in the Pilot, and familiar TV actors such as Don Gordon (Prentiss), John Randolph (Dr. Hoagland), Robert Reed, Regis Philbin, Leslie Nielsen, Celeste Holm, and Stephanie Zimbalist appeared.
LUCAN aired during the burgeoning superhero genre of television – The Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Man From Atlantis, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Spiderman, Isis, Shaazam etc…all competed on the airwaves with varying degrees of success during the 1970’s. In 1978, Superman: The Movie turned the superhero genre on its ear and everything since has attempted to live up to and surpass its greatness in both special effects and storytelling.
Lucan, the character, isn’t Superman, he doesn’t wear a red cape or super suit. He prefers moccasins, jeans, and a brown leather jacket. He’s fairly honest about his identity. He sees no reason to lie. Lucan is reminiscent of Tarzan for his “wild child” ways, David/Bruce Banner from The Incredible Hulk for his good Samaritan nature, and Mark Harris from Man From Atlantis for his simple but wise worldview based off nature. There's shades of Spiderman in his character – A young college student that gets a “spider” sense when there’s trouble. Lucan gets a "wolf" sense. And just a pinch of X-Men's Wolverine – he reverts to animalistic behavior when cornered or protecting someone.
Perhaps above all inspirations, Lucan is like a twentieth Century, American version of Mowgli – from Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel, The Jungle Book. Mowgli is a bright-eyed and perceptive Indian boy raised by animals in the wild.
LUCAN is based on the true story of Victor of Aveyron – A wild boy was found by a French huntsmen sometime between 1797 and 1800. He was brought to a research institute for the deaf and Dumb and taught by Dr. Jean Itard. However, unlike the intelligent Lucan, his cognitive functioning was too impaired to make substantial development. It was later believed he had moderate autism and schizophrenia, unknown mental disorders at the time which lead to his abandonment.
In 1969, filmmaker Francois Truffant used Victor’s story for his movie, L’Enfant sauvage (The Wild Child) starring Jean-Pierre Cargol as wolf-boy Victor with Truffant playing Dr. Itard.
LUCAN's basic plot a baby boy was abandoned and raised by wolves in the deep forests of Northern Minnesota. In 1967, when he’s ten-years-old, the boy's discovered by hunters and promptly shipped off to a University in California. The terrified boy is left under the tutelage of reputable Anthropologist Dr. Don Hoagland. The boy is aggressive, untamed, and lashes ferociously at anyone within a few feet of him.
Dr. Hoagland is patient, firm, and kind, and spends countless hours teaching him the ways of civilization. The boy is given his name three years later – Lucan has a tantrum when he’s unable to fit the blocks into their proper shapes, but with Dr. Hoagland's prodding, he doesn't give up.
“See, you can! You can!” Dr. Hoagland repeats to the ecstatic little wolf-boy. The child smiles and points to himself and the blocks. “Lu…can, Lu…can!” and thus inspires his name.
The name "Lucan" is also a play on the words “Lycanthrope” or “Lykos” which loosely translates to “wolf” or “wolf-man.”
Dr. Hoagland’s training spirals into years. When Lucan is twenty-year old, he ventures into the world off-campus to find his real parents and discover the truth of his identity. It’s a desire he’d nurtured his whole life. Dr. Hoagland supports him every step of the way. He fought the strict University Board for Lucan’s right to freedom. Just before Lucan's departure, Dr. Hoagland's mysteriously struck down in a hit-and-run. In the Pilot film, he dies from his injuries, leaving Lucan truly alone. But Lucan’s mentor returned in good health when the TV Movie was picked up for a regular series.
Lucan perplexes the University staff and some fear he’ll become a menace to society if he reverts back to wolfish behavior. But Lucan is the first case of a “Feral child” successfully treated and “restored to human behaviour.”
Lucan lives with Doctor Hoagland. But they’d rather have him institutionalized than continue to provide grants for his training.
The Board neglects the fact that Lucan grew up to be a wise, intelligent, and mild-mannered man and some rudely dismiss him as no better than a circus animal that can perform tricks. They’d never even met him in person before passing judgements.
Dr. Hoagland trusts that Lucan can go out on his own, but Lucan must keep his feral instincts in control and always remember where he came from. In the touching opening scenes of the Pilot, Dr. Hoagland and Lucan watch video footage of all the training he'd endured in the early years at the University.
Lucan doesn’t enjoy fighting for sport or evil, nor does he cause trouble for the heck of it like many “civilized” people do. Trouble usually finds him and he’ll defend himself or others. He fears being caged since being captured to the University. When he meets others he offers pearls of wisdom and makes comparisons between animal and human nature. His manners are gentle and civil toward all.
Lucan possesses a near supernatural agility – He scales walls, ropes, trees, cliffs, and bridges with relative ease. How fast can he climb?
“It depends what’s chasing me.”
When the gym coach is shocked at his speed, Lucan replies, “I used to play with the bears.” Despite his amazing feats of dexterity, Lucan declines to show off or join any sports teams.
Lucan can howl, growl, and fight like a wolf. He runs like an Olympian. Lucan possesses an uncanny rapport with animals. He manifests a deep instinct for danger. Like a tingling “spider sense,” Lucan knows when he’s being stalked, and if a human or animal predator is about to confront him or attack.
Lucan’s core body temperature is similar to a wolf, which by some estimates is 37-40 degrees Fahrenheit. This amazing discovery prompts a confused doctor to jokingly ask a colleague if he should “call a Veterinarian.” Lucan prefers to rest in the daytime, and prowls around restlessly at night. He’d rather sleep on the floor or even in the trees than on a cushy bed.
When he left Dr. Hoagland’s care he had to be reminded to “Keep your hand on your wallet.” and “Wear your shoes!"
LUCAN skirted fantasy themes. Like Dr. David Banner when enraged, or the Man From Atlantis when he hits the water, Lucan’s eyes change color when his wolf senses are riled. It freaks people out and serves him well. But don’t confuse Lucan with a werewolf. Lucan doesn’t literally turn into a wolf or even a half-wolf. His teeth don’t grow fangs and he doesn't sprout coarse fur. He is still a human being with keen, wolf-like traits.
These physical facets of Lucan’s character are a mystery which the writers didn’t explore before the show’s cancellation. Dr. Hoagland concluded in his reports that
“Metabolically, he is more wolf than man.”
The key lies with his parents. Perhaps Lucan was Native American and left behind in the woods, or maybe his parents were involved in ritualistic practices and he was sacrificed to wolves? Was his family "accursed" by the Gypsies? Or maybe they were Gypsies. (All in the fabled sense) These theories about Lucan’s heritage actually come up in the show.
At one point he’s thought to be Romanian, and later called a Gypsy. After successfully knocking down a champion in a boxing match, the announcer called out that he’s “running around like a triumphant Indian!” Lucan is bullied by vicious farmhands who think he’s Mexican. When Lucan proved his tracking prowess in the mountains he’s again asked if he’s Native American.
The answer is always the same for Lucan. He doesn’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did turn out to be Native American. But more fascinating to ponder than his ethnic roots, where does Lucan get his wolf-like senses? Was his mother bitten by a mystical wolf? Was his father a werewolf? No supernatural theories were presented on the series.
What if Lucan’s abilities were the result of scientific and genetic tampering? Maybe the experiment went awry and he was left in the woods? There’s many “What ifs?” to ponder should they decide to reboot this series. Regardless of the answer, Lucan’s missing parents were the driving force of his quest out into the world and the longer they stayed missing, the more adventures he encountered.
When Lucan escaped the University, they still "owned" him by court order and claimed he was a danger to society. The University sends a Bounty Hunter named Prentiss to bring him back for caged observation. Prentiss was introduced in the 5th episode, "How do you run forever?"
Prentiss is tenacious with just enough sympathy for viewers not to hate him. He's much like his television predecessors Lieutenant Gerard chasing Dr. Richard Kimball on The Fugitive, and the abrasive Journalist Mr. Jack McGee looking for "John Doe" (Dr. David Banner) on The Incredible Hulk.
From an MGM Feature Photo Blurb:
With a Bench warrant for Lucan's arrest, Detective Arnold Prentiss (Don Gordon) briefly confronts his prey in an up-coming episode of LUCAN, MGM Television's adventure series for ABC exploring the plight of a young man with animalistic instincts who was raised by wolves. Kevin Brophy stars as the wolf boy, who is not only running from the law, but who is searching for his real parents and the reason he was abandoned in the wilderness as an infant.
Lew Gallo produces LUCAN for MGM Television.
The plot shifted dramatically when Lucan became a fugitive after a tragic incident at the University. One night while visiting Doctor Hoagland he catches two doctors breaking into a science lab to steal drugs. A fight ensues and a chemical fire erupts. One of the doctors escapes with a badly burned arm and the other dies at the scene, but not before he blames Lucan for the fire and theft. Flashbacks to that night are revealed in an excellent episode called “Nightmare.”
The plot is slightly derivative of the lab scene in The Incredible Hulk Pilot. A chemical spill in Banner's lab, inadvertently caused by Magee, nearly blows up the entire Institute. David turns into the Hulk and saves his partner, Doctor Elaina Marks, but she dies in Hulk's arms. Magee starts his hunt and blames the Hulk for the death of Banner and Elaina.
The Network clearly couldn’t decide on an official backstory to use and rather than organically let events flow, they used three story versions that are alluded to in the Title credits. Rolled into one they're all plausible. The “Fugitive” angle was by then, an overused TV Trope, though I personally never get tired of it. My guess is the Showrunners or Producers felt that the endearing story of Lucan, a young man simply trying to find his parents and place in the world, needed a jolt. So Prentiss became the predator and Lucan his prey.
In conclusion, LUCAN was a gritty, folksy, introspective Adventure drama. The tone and themes were best suited in the charming, breezy 1970's Television era. Lucan tells a simple tale of a humble and kind young man with remarkable abilities. A man coming-of-age, on a serious quest to find his parents and himself. But as the show was retooled, he became like many other kind-hearted fugitives and fought for justice to protect the innocent and underdogs.
Actor Kevin Brophy was not your typical sleek and shiny hunk of the month. But the image of guys in the 1970’s were never as glossy and polished as today. Brophy was fit, athletic and tan, with thick, shoulder-length hair (A must-have in the 70’s!) and friendly doe eyes. He sported a slight uni-brow and an adorable thousand watt smile – He wasn’t the conventionally handsome Hollywood male, He was rugged, with a gentle voice, which made him the perfect choice for the role of Lucan. Brophy had admirers and was featured in many Teen Magazine articles.
After starring in LUCAN, his acting career petered out to supporting roles in many popular Television show episodes and movies. Look over his IMDB Page. He co-starred in two now Cult Classic films from the early eighties, Hell Night and Time Walker.
LUCAN was a breakout role for Kevin Brophy, and his best. Fans fondly remember his performance as the sensitive Lucan and identify with him and the show’s resonant themes.
Brophy imbued his character with virtue and humility. Lucan spoke proper English, revealing the fact that he’d been taught the language. Brophy characterized Lucan with a little shyness, but Lucan was not naive, nor afraid to confront his fears or call out wrongdoing. Lucan was a pure soul at heart. Having a kind and wise mentor to train him over the years helped shape his adult personality.
Lucan’s core personality was due to his upbringing with wild forest animals for the first ten years of his life. He didn't have direct human contact, but he knew the dangers the hunters posed. His personality betrays his past – a boy is ripped from his wild existence into a cloistered University.
But for ten more years, he’s mostly surrounded by Professors, Doctors, and Scientists and he didn't interact much with the student body. In both instances, Lucan was isolated from society.
Lucan often acts on his animal instinct. Animals, particularly dogs, are known to sense danger, people with bad intent, and even illnesses. These instincts make him bold and brave when he needs to be. Kevin Brophy added wolf-like idiosyncrasies to Lucan with his facial and body language, such as his hand motions in scenes where he was angry, sad, and afraid. And especially when being hunted or chased.
Kevin Brophy claimed in a Teen Magazine interview that he most-likely performed 80% of his own stunts. You’ll believe it when you watch the series and you'll notice it’s definitely him tumbling, jumping, and climbing. Kevin Brophy had major talent, but he was severely over-looked by Hollywood.