Unlike most episodic television, Maverick was largely an "anthology" series. Having no real fixed cast from episode to episode, the Mavericks moved from place to place seemingly every week. This allowed a wide variety of stories to be told. The principle characters could change with every episode. Good guys and bad, sweethearts and femmes fatale... could come or go, live or die. It never mattered the following week, when the events of the last story were left far behind us.


Or were they far ahead of us? Maverick didn't do something else that most other episodic series did... follow a continuous timeline. Although often unmentioned in most series, it was generally assumed that one week's story followed the last, in a more-or-less linear chronology. Not so with Maverick. Not by a longshot.


This rarely mattered to the Chroniclers of Maverick. They were simply telling "western" stories. Placing any script in the 1870s or '80s was close enough. In the days before ubiquitous series syndication or home video recorders, it didn't matter much to the viewer. Details of last week's episode were quickly and easily forgotten, so chronological continuity seemed unimportant.


For instance, the pilot episode of Maverick, "War of the Silver Kings," was set in 1870, the year clearly shown on a telegram. Two episodes later, "According to Hoyle" is set no earlier than 1876, based on the publishing date of "Hoyle's Book of Games," which figures prominently in the story. In the very next episode, "Ghost Rider," Bret discovers a week-old grave marker dated 1872. Yet, supposedly twenty years after the original series, Bret and Bart reunite later in life, this time with Cousin Ben, in "The New Maverick." One would logically assume it must be nearly the turn of the century for them, yet the story is clearly set only in 1880. Other episodes aren't as precise with actual dates, but may have specific historic references, such as a young Billy the Kid (notoriously active from 1877 until his death in 1881) showing up in "Full House" (Maverick, 1959) and again during Bret's retirement years in "Anything for a Friend" (Bret Maverick, 1981). We won't even get into Doc Holliday at this point.


Maverick's timeline is a convoluted belt game of events, making sense only on how one chooses to unravel it. However, if we stick strictly to the dates and historic references in the individual stories as presented, regardless of production order or the apparent ages of the actors, a solid Chronology develops. In combination with informed conjectural dates for the more ambiguous stories, a compelling timeline can be established. In so doing, we cut a wide swath through American history and culture, encountering some fascinating side stories along the way. When finally put together into this bigger picture, "the Legend of the West" becomes a much richer Saga than first imagined.


So, enjoy a trip through history in Maverick Trails' chronological order, or leap back and forth across the Mavericks' lifetimes, like a certain Dr. Beckett did during his own. But that's another story.



Bret Maverick's grave marker (Maverick: Season 2 — The Day They Hanged Bret Maverick)

1800s     1800     1801     1802      1803     1804     1805     1806     1807     1808     1809

1810s     1810     1811     1812      1813     1814     1815     1816     1817     1818     1819

1820s     1820     1821     1822      1823     1824     1825     1826     1827     1828     1829

1830s     1830     1831     1832      1833     1834     1835     1836     1837     1838     1839

1840s     1840     1841     1842      1843     1844     1845     1846     1847     1848     1849

1850s     1850     1851     1852      1853     1854     1855     1856     1857     1858     1859

1860s     1860     1861     1862      1863     1864     1865     1866     1867     1868     1869

1870s     1870     1871     1872      1873     1874     1875     1876     1877     1878     1879

1880s     1880     1881     1882      1883     1884     1885     1886     1887     1888     1889

1890s     1890     1891     1892      1893     1894     1895     1896     1897     1898     1899

1900s     1900     1901     1902      1903     1904     1905     1906     1907     1908     1909



For consistency and credibility, the following system is used by Maverick Trails in ordering the individual stories into its Chronology:


1. Given date. Many stories do us the great favor in providing an exact date. The timeline for the story is then built solidly around it, and may be placed into the Chronology with confidence. This is the prime factor in dating the entire Chronology and, except in very rare cases, trumps all other dating criteria.


2. Historical reference. A story may not give a specific date, but something in context may relate to an actual historic event around which the date may be deduced. Only a given date trumps an historical reference in ordering the Chronology. If real history is referenced, it is not ignored for the convenience of a given story. Any apparent anachronisms must be explained. However, other than a specific historic moment, historic events may cover a broader scope of time, and may therefore be more forgiving to interpretation.


3. Relation to other stories. Occasionally, it is clear that an individual story must take place before or after more reliable events firmly established in other tales. This may lead to apparent conflicts, but is always resolved logically.


4. Geographic reference. Very often, other than there being no motor cars or electrical appliances in a story, there is absolutely no reference to the time of an undefined story's placement into the Chronology. But in most cases, there is a given place. In these cases, if there are no other conflicts, they are placed into a logical sequence in relation to the vicinities of better established story settings. So, if a well-established story takes place in or near Denver, for instance, and another undefined story takes place in or near Denver, it may be assumed that the two might happen within a similar timeframe. For instance, given the time required to travel overland in those days, it would be impractical to be in Denver one week, New Orleans the next, and back in Denver again a month later. Not that the Mavericks didn't make those kinds of trips. They often did. But it is also reasonable to assume an otherwise undefined story, set perhaps in St. Louis, might unfold along that trail.


5. Production order. When all other factors are so general that a story may be considered random, the order in which the studio or publisher produced the stories is used.


6. Age of actors. In general, the age of an actor may be used to judge the apparent age of the character he or she is portraying. Sometimes it may be helpful in gauging when a story might take place. But with the Mavericks in particular, this is often difficult. The most obvious example is the age of James Garner himself as Bret Maverick. We see him as in his thirties in Maverick, and in his fifties in Bret Maverick, a general age difference of about twenty years. Yet, the stories of the original series touch on historical events of the 1870s, well into the 1880s, and sometimes into the 1890s. There are even a very few that most likely happen after the turn of the century. Yet, the entire series Bret Maverick, supposedly set in Bret's later years, takes place in the very early 1880s, and ends there. Clearly, we must assume the age of an actor, even a key one, is not an absolute indication of when a story might take place. An extreme example is that of Doc Holliday, and the three actors that portrayed him throughout the Saga. Gerald Mohr was 43, Peter Breck was 32 and John McLiam was a whopping 63, while Doc Holliday himself died of tuberculosis at age 36. So, Maverick Trails relies first on story content to establish a time setting, and the ages of actors only as a guide when it doesn't conflict with other more reliable factors.


7. Commemorative dates. In order to affix a specific date to an otherwise fictional event, in lieu of other information in a story, the use of an actor's birthday, the original airdate of an episode, or other similar factors may be used to commemorate the day. Such dates are purely conjectural, but important to lend context to the full Chronology.


The use of these criteria in the above order is how Maverick Trails establishes its Chronology. Granted, some of the undefined stories may arguably go in any order, and may be considered interchangeable. But we choose to adhere to a single system for consistency. When applied carefully, and using real history and geography as our guiding rule, the resulting Chronology is solid, and truly reveals Maverick as a Legend of the West.

Maverick Trails is not endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. or the Maverick franchise.
Maverick™ and its various marks are trademarks of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., © 1957, 1994

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