The Immortal (1969-71) (DVD TV series review).

I bought ‘6 Sci-Fi Series Collection’ as a cheap way to acquire ‘The Immortal’ (1969-71) but as I also like to watch disks this was the second. If you waited for me to watch all 6 series before doing a complete review, it’ll be a long wait. So what I’ve decided to do is report on each series and you can decide how far I go before you try tracking this boxset down. It’s American so you might need to check whether your DVD player can play it or needs a fix. The first season is 8 episodes and the second season is 11 episodes.

There is only one copy left where I bought it from but it is a CBS product so chase them to release more copies as it only came out in 2018. I’m going to be looking at the TV series themselves, based off the SF 1962 novel, ‘The Immortals’ by James Gunn.

All right, it was the second series in and I still wanted to see it. The 80 minute pilot episode introduces all the elements. Business magnet and not very nice man, Jordan Braddock (actor Barry Sullivan) is dying of old age and although he and his wife Janet (actress Jessica Walter) survives their plane’s forced landing, he needs a blood transfusion. Unknowingly, one of the pints of blood comes from one of his workers, a professional racing car driver, Ben Richards (actor Christopher George) and it rejuvenates him. Braddock’s doctor, Matthew Pearce (actor Ralph Bellamy), does work it out and after tests and consulting Richards realises the man has an extended life-span and immune to all infections.

He warns Richards of the dangers of telling anyone of his near immortality and not to trust Braddock. It is assumed that it takes only one transfusion to grant similar properties to other people but it doesn’t last and the vitality drops down. Although Braddock is prepared to offer Pearce a research facility, ultimately he selfishly kidnaps Richards and arranges an accident so it appears he died in a car crash done by his chief henchman, Fletcher (actor Don Knight).

However, Richards is imprisoned beneath Braddock’s house but with the help of Braddock’s wife escapes and is on the run as more people learn of his blood’s vitality. The rest is spoiler. They might want him but they can’t injure him. Richards must keep ahead of his pursuers and, as he was adopted, and find his older brother, Jason, who might also end up being chased.

Of course, elements of this are bound to resemble ‘The Fugitive’, but so, too, was ‘The Incredible Hulk’ TV series 6 years later. Considering it is only his blood and being an ace racing driver that makes Ben Richards stand out, much of it is a man on the run from unscrupulous rich people, but his continual nemesis is Fletcher who now works for another multi-millionaire called Arthur Maitland (actor David Brian). Even so and bearing in mind this is a series of the 1970s, you do have to wonder how he can travel by plane and not be tracked. There is also a little matter of money and how is he getting it, although he is shown working for money when he can. Even his bank funds could be tracked and is probably relying on raw cash to avoid being tracked.

Rather interestingly, over the episodes, its revealed that Richards heals rather quickly from bullet grazes, bullet and even head wounds. In many respects, he is a lighter version of Wolverine’s metabolism. One could also presume that might also apply to any blood he gives but I wouldn’t tell any millionaire that. Later, he survives a full bullet wound and poisoning, with the latter knowing he would be immune. I think these days there would be warning notices not to imitate him but over its only season, it is slowly becoming obvious to the writers that they ought to exploit his genetic protections as they can’t really do his extended life. Incidentally, Richards blood is O-Negative and a universal donor as well.

From a casting point of view, there are a lot of secondary actors from the original ‘Star Trek’ and several who became famous much later. Oh, the Univac computer has the Enterprise’s computer noises, too. Interestingly, actors Manuel Padilla Jr. (he played Jai in the 1960s ‘Tarzan) and Sal Mineo both played against racial type.

Reflectively, I’m surprised no one saw an obvious solution to the blood problem. Richards was willing to get married in the pilot. Although it might have meant a long wait for children, one would imagine they would have had his blood immunity.

Alas, after 16 episodes, ‘The Immortal’ came to an end but no doubt somewhere out there, Ben Richards is still on the run and avoiding multi-millionaires after his blood.

In many respects, ‘The Immortal’ is really a low-key SF show, only occasionally reminding people of Ben Richards’ durability that comes with his unusual blood although I suspect, these days, there also has to be something unusual about his cell structure as well. Probably the next time TV moved towards another ‘Fugitive’ type story in our genre was ‘The Incredible Hulk’ and it could support itself for more seasons. However, ‘The Immortal’ is now ticked off my bottle list.

GF Willmetts

October 2020

(from: 6 Sci-Fi Series Collection: pub: CBS 3 DVDs, minutes, 1 seasons, 1 * 80 minute pilot, 15 * 41 minute episodes. Price: £42.48 (UK). ASIN: VE 8020)

cast: Christopher George and Don Knight

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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