1 9 8 7 – 1 9 9 0 (USA)
58 x 60 minute episodes
A gruellingly realistic drama about a group of young soldiers in an infantry outfit (Bravo Company) who are serving their 12-month tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967.
Terence Knox took the lead role as avuncular Sergeant Zeke Anderson, a veteran serving his third tour of duty in Vietnam, whose duties included protecting his inexperienced charges from their own self-destructiveness and the idiocy of their superiors, as well as from the ‘gooks’ themselves.
His informal approach created conflict with Lt. Goldman (Stephen Caffrey), the platoon’s uptight leader who was fresh out of officer candidate school.
New to the platoon were Horn (Joshua Mauer), a drafted pacifist from Chicago; Percell (Tony Becker), a gung-ho volunteer from Iowa; Ruiz (Ramon Franco), a tough Puerto Rican from the Bronx; and Baker (Eric Bruskotter), a free-spirited surfer from Southern California.
Johnson (Stan Foster) and Taylor (Miguel A. Nunez Jnr) were the two black veterans in the unit, the former, an experienced jungle fighter and the latter, a moody malcontent.
Doc (Steve Akahoshi) was the unit’s medic and Captain Wallace (Kevin Conroy), the company commander.
There was a gritty, depressing look to Tour of Duty and, as part of its attempt to be as realistic as possible, both Captain Wallace and Doc died in action during the first six months the series was on the air.
When Tour of Duty returned for its second season, in January 1989, the platoon had been reassigned to Tan Son Nhut airbase, just outside Saigon.
Added to the cast were Alex Devlin (Kim Delaney), a pretty wire service reporter covering the war; Dr Jennifer Seymour (Betsy Brantley), a psychologist helping the men deal with their emotional problems; and Lt. Johnny McKay (Dan Gauthier), a helicopter pilot who transported members of the platoon on their missions.
The women brought the series a little romance – Anderson having an affair with Dr Seymour while Goldman got involved with Alex. Also new were Colonel Brewster (Carl Weathers) and Doc Hock (John Dye), the company’s new medic – a pacifist who was in Vietnam trying to save lives rather than to take them.
Morale and discipline continued to deteriorate, with the impact on the platoon seen in the growing drug addiction of Percell.
Even getting out didn’t seem to help – when Johnson returned to the states after his tour ended he found people as confused and angry as the soldiers in Vietnam. It was much the same for Percell, Ruiz, and McKay when they returned home in the series’ last original episode.
Tour Of Duty captured the tragedy, the terror and the pure, distilled adrenalin of battle. Not quite the Vietnam-era version of Combat!, but close.
The theme music was Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones.
Sgt Zeke Anderson
Lt Myron Goldman
Pvt Randy ‘Doc’ Matsuda
Cpl Danny Percell
Pvt Alberto Ruiz
Pvt Scott Baker
Pvt Marvin Johnson
PFC Thomas ‘Pop’ Scarlet
Pvt Roger Horn
Capt Rusty Wallace
Pvt Marcus Taylor
Miguel A. Nunez Jnr
Col Carl Brewster
Lt Johnny McKay
Dr Jennifer Seymour
Pvt Francis ‘Doc Hock’ Hockenbury
Pvt William Griner