A great hero needs a great nemesis. In the case of The Wild Wild West and its two heroes Jim West and Artemus Gordon, only a true diabolical genius could do.
Enter Dr. Miguelito Loveless.
Played by Mr. Michael Dunn, Dr. Loveless is quite the foe. His evil schemes are so clever that West and Gordon only narrowly avoid utter doom time and time again. Choosing a little person to play the main characters’ biggest arch rival might seem like an odd choice. When one thinks of an evil villain, they think of someone imposing, particularly in the physical sense. However, Mr. Michael Dunn has enough presence that his personality looms threateningly even though he physically can’t.
The result is a truly unique adversary.
Like any good villain, Dr. Loveless typically had a right hand woman and sometimes a left hand man. For six for the ten episodes he appeared in, his lethal lady was Antoinette, played by Phoebe Dorin, who worked with Mr. Dunn as a singing act. In three episodes, he had a towering assistant named Voltaire, played by Richard Kiel. One additional task that Voltaire had that other henchman might not, would be to help elevate Dr. Loveless when necessary.
Dr. Loveless’s height wasn’t ignored. It sometimes even factored into his plans, and his treatment by the rest of the world due to his height did factor into his hatred of humanity. But everything Dr. Loveless did, a six foot tall man with a hatred of humanity would be just as likely to do. He was a diabolical genius who wanted to take over the world. It’s good to have goals.
Likewise, Jim West and Artemus Gordon took Dr. Loveless seriously. They treated Dr. Loveless like the brilliant and dangerous man that he was.
His first appearance in “The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth”, the third episode of the series, established Dr. Loveless as a cultured, brilliant man who treats his underlings with an odd sort of courtesy and respect even when he loses his temper, and who loves his saintly mother for many reasons, but mostly for instilling in him a love of music. A nice juxtaposition, given that he’s lying in wait to kill a man. Which he does, of course, right under Jim West’s nose. When Jim finally meets Dr. Loveless in person, he finds the genius inventor in his game room besting three big men in physical combat with the help of his walking stick. A marvelous first impression. He doesn’t greet West as an adversary, but as a guest, serving him tea and chatting about the man he murdered and the explosives he invented before rescuing a fly from his tea. He even sings a song, accompanied by Antoinette. It’s all very gentlemanly. Jim poses as a turncoat and Dr. Loveless tests him by having him deliver a message to the governor of California. You see, the state has taken his family’s land and he wants it back. It’s not much. Just half the state. And he’ll periodically blow up 5,000 people with his powerful explosives until he gets it. A very reasonable request, especially since he does make a few good points about politicians. Anyway, even though Jim West bests him in the end, Dr. Loveless proves himself to be a formidable adversary, a role he takes quite seriously throughout the run of the series.
In his quest to gain control of California and the world, Dr. Loveless employs murderous toys, hallucinogens, Jim West dopplegangers, shrinking powder, starvation powder, practice robberies, and even fakes his own death.
In his last appearance, the Season 4 episode “The Night of Miguelito’s Revenge”, Jim West is lured to a barber shop under the pretense of meeting Artemus Gordon, but his shave turns out to be a close one. The other customer is none other than Dr. Loveless, his face concealed by a towel and using fake legs to give the impression he’s much taller. With West under a towel of his own, Dr. Loveless proceeds to drug him and then deposit him in a funhouse that’s not so fun. At least for Jim. When he comes to after being beaten by the thugs hiding there, he finds himself back in the barber shop and chasing Dr. Loveless as he executes his latest plan: a kidnapping scheme according to an old nursery rhyme. While Dr. Loveless seems to be living his best life in his circus with his captives, Jeremy Pike (this was one of the episodes Charles Aidman stepped in as sidekick while Ross Martin recovered from his heart attack) manages to figure out who the next victim is and takes his place. Dr. Loveless taunting West on stage as the “dummy” in a ventriloquist act leads to Jim being buried at sea, which fails of course, but we all had fun trying. As it turns out, Dr. Loveless is seeking vengeance on those who’d wronged him and his friends and holds a mock trial at his circus with a clowns for his jury and Jim West being the final defendant. West and Pike spoil his plans, but Dr. Loveless naturally escapes.
Such was the legacy of Dr. Loveless that his son Dr. Miguelito Loveless Jr, played by Paul Williams, plagued Jim and Artie in the 1979 TV movie The Wild Wild West Revisited. Sadly, this legacy was in part because Mr. Michael Dunn had passed away in 1973.
As villains go, Dr. Miguelito Loveless was perhaps one of the most eloquent and clever, his malice carried out by brilliance and even though you never want to see him win, you’re always glad to see his charming face.