Lucan first aired as an ABC mid-season replacement on May 22nd, 1977 with a successful Pilot film. In a strange move, Lucan was constantly on hiatus and bounced between Monday and Tuesday nights. This sadly never allowed the series to develop a true audience or fan following. According to one magazine source, the show was only meant to be a mini-series. That would've been fine, but the final episode doesn't offer closure, so it's a sure thing "Lucan" was meant to continue.
In mid-season the series added a fugitive spin to the plot and Lucan was hunted for a crime and death he didn't commit. Thus, the series took even more cues from The Incredible Hulk, and both shows were inspired by two other classic and wildly popular shows – The Fugitive (1963) and Kung Fu.
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 as a love interest appeared.
"Lucan's Theme" was used in the Pilot Movie. It was arranged by Fred Karlin.
Lucan aired during the bourgeoning 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 afterward in movies and television had to live up to its greatness in both special effects and storytelling.
Lucan is not Superman, he doesn't wear a red cape and red underwear, he prefers moccasins and a brown leather jacket. He is fairly honest about his identity. Lucan is reminiscent of Tarzan, David/Bruce Banner from The Incredible Hulk, and Mark Harris from Man From Atlantis, with shades of Spiderman and Wolverine tossed in.
Perhaps above all inspirations, Lucan resembles a twentieth Century, American version of Mowgli, a young Indian boy raised by animals in the wild from Rudyard Kipling's novel, The Jungle Book.
A baby boy is abandoned and raised by wolves in the deep forests of Northern Minnesota. In 1967, when he's ten-years-old, he's discovered by hunters and promptly shipped off to a University in California. The terrified boy is left under the tutelage of a reputable Anthropologist named Dr. Don Hoagland. The boy is aggressive, untamed, and lashes ferociously at anyone within a few feet of him.
Were it not for his human body, he may as well been a full-blooded wolf. Dr. Hoagland is patient, firm, and kind, and spent countless hours teaching him the ways of civilization. The boy is given his name 3 years later - after having a tantrum when he's unable to fit the blocks into their proper shapes.
“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 no doubt 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 a hale and hearty 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. Not long after, Dr. Hoagland is struck down by a car. In the Pilot film, it seemed as if he'd died from his injuries, leaving Lucan truly alone. But Lucan's mentor returns in good health during the rest of the series run.
Lucan is based on the true story of Victor of Aveyron – A wild boy 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. In 1969, filmmaker Francois Truffant used Victor's story for his movie, L'Enfant sauvage (The Wild Child) starring Jean-Pierre Cargol as Victor with Truffant playing Dr. Itard.
Lucan perplexes the staff at the University and some fear he'll become a menace to society if he reverts back to his 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 before making judgements.
Dr. Hoagland trusts Lucan to go out on his own. 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 endured in the first years at 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.
Lucan can howl, growl, and fight like a wolf. He runs like an Olympian. Lucan also displays an uncanny rapport with animals. Lucan manifests a deep instinct for danger. Like a tingling "spider sense," Lucan knows when he's being stalked, and if a predator – human or animal – 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."
The show 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 basically 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 into fangs and his face and knuckles don't suddenly sprout coarse hair. He is a human being with keen wolf-like traits.
These physical facets of Lucan's character are a mystery which the writers didn't have time to 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 as a sacrifice to the wolves, or maybe his parents were involved in ritualistic practices? Was his family accursed by Gypsies? Or maybe they were Gypsies. These guesses 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 the champion in a boxing match, the announcer called out that he's "running around like a triumphant Indian!" When Lucan proved his tracking prowess in the mountains he's 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 important than his cultural roots, where does he get his wolfen powers? Was his mother bitten by a mystical wolf? Was his father a werewolf? No such supernatural theories were presented on the series.
What if Lucan's abilities were the result of scientific and genetic tampering and his parents were pawns? Maybe the experiment went awry and he was left in the woods? Regardless of the answer, Lucan's missing parents were the driving force of Lucan's quest and the longer they stayed missing, the more adventures he encountered.
Lucan becomes a fugitive after a tragic incident at the University. One night he catches two doctors breaking into a lab to steal drugs. A fight ensues and a chemical fire erupts. One of the doctors escapes with a badly burned arm. The other suspect died on the scene, but not before he blamed Lucan for the fire and theft. The perpetrator and flashbacks to that night are revealed in an excellent episode called "Nightmare."
Lucan escapes the University before he goes to trial, so a Bounty Hunter named Prentiss hunts Lucan wherever he goes – just like his television predecessor Lieutenant Gerard from The Fugitive, and similar to the abrasive Journalist Mr. Jack McGee on The Incredible Hulk.
The fugitive storyline was incorporated toward the end of the series. Before that, Lucan was simply trying to find his parents and experience the outside world. The plot change is that Lucan escaped the University and they still own him by court order and claim he's a danger to society. They sent Prentiss to bring him back for caged observation.
The writers clearly couldn't decide which backstory to use and the show had three versions of opening credits. Rolled into one they are all plausible, but the "Fugitive" angle is an unfortunately over-used TV Trope. (I personally never get tired of it though. Read my blog post on the subject.)
My guess is the Showrunners or Producers felt that the endearing story of Lucan, a young man trying to find his place in the world, needed a jolt. So Prentiss is the predator and Lucan his prey.
Actor Kevin Brophy was not your typical sleek and shiny hunk of the month. But then, the guys in the 1970's were never as glossy and polished as today. Brophy was fit, athletic and tan, with thick, longish hair (A must-have in the 70's!) and kind doe eyes. He sported a slight uni-brow and an adorable snaggletoothed, thousand watt smile – He wasn't the conventionally handsome Hollywood male, He was rugged, but had a gentle voice, which made him the perfect choice for the role of Lucan. Brophy had his admirers and was featured in many Teen Magazine articles. Check out my collection here.
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 perhaps his best. Fans fondly remember his performance as the sensitive character and identify with the show's resonant themes.
Brophy imbued the character with sensitivity and humility. Lucan spoke proper English, revealing the fact that he'd been taught the language. Brophy characterized Lucan with a little shyness, perhaps borderline socially awkward, but Lucan was not naive and never afraid to confront his fears or call out wrongdoing. Lucan was a pure soul at heart.
Lucan's personality was undoubtedly due to his survival in the forest amongst wild animals for the first ten years of his life. He had no direct human contact, but he knew the dangers that hunters posed. His personality also betrays his being ripped from that wild existence into a cloistered University. For Ten more years, he's surrounded by professors, doctors, and scientists. In both instances, Lucan was isolated from society.
Lucan often acts on instinct, which makes him bold and brave when he needs to be. 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 notice it's definitely him tumbling, jumping, and climbing. Kevin Brophy had major talent, but he was severely over-looked by Hollywood.
In conclusion, Lucan was a gritty, somewhat folksy, introspective Adventure drama. The tone and themes were best for that charming, breezy seventies Television era. Lucan tells a simple tale of a humble and kind young man with remarkable abilities. A man coming-of-age and on a quest to find his parents and himself. But like many other kind-hearted TV fugitives, Lucan fights for justice and protects the innocents and underdogs.