Q & A: The Immortal; Fantastic Journey

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or even decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to pull out a few e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to enjoy. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

Was there a TV show about a man with special blood properties (allowing him to live forever) who was being chased by government or syndicate authorities? Circa late 1960s or early 1970s.

The Immortal was sort of The Fugitive with a sci fi twist. Christopher George starred as Ben Richards, a man who discovers he’s immune to all diseases and the effects of aging after donating blood. Despite the title of the show, Ben wasn’t totally immortal. Although he didn’t get sick, healed almost instantaneously, and aged at a very slow rate, he could be injured physically–in a car crash or a fall from a great height, for example.

A pilot telefilm aired on ABC on September 30th, 1969. In it, an elderly billionaire named Jordan Braddock (played by Barry Sullivan) received a transfusion of Ben’s blood and was temporarily rejuvenated. He then became obsessed with Ben and his miracle blood. Braddock tried to keep Ben a prisoner so he could continue to receive regular transfusions. Ben escaped but was forced to go on the run, leaving his fiancee and life behind.

The weekly series premiered in September 1970. Braddock was no longer in the picture but another billionaire wanted to use Ben’s blood to stay young and healthy. He sent a hired gun named Fletcher (played by Don Knight) to chase Ben. Fletcher cared only about money and capturing Ben was his only goal. Ben, in addition to staying one step ahead of Fletcher, was also trying to find his long-lost brother Jason, who might have the same incredible blood.

Christopher George as Ben Richards – September 12th, 1970
Copyright © TV Guide, 1970

The Immortal ran for just 15 episodes before ABC cancelled it due to low ratings. It couldn’t compete with The CBS Thursday Night Movies and NBC’s The Dean Martin Show. The network aired repeats during the summer of 1971.

The series was loosely based on a novelette titled “New Blood” by James E. Gunn, originally published in 1955. In 1962, it was collected in an anthology titled The Immortals. Gunn later wrote a novelization of the pilot telefilm for Bantam Books that was published in October 1970.

Sci Fi Channel aired episodes of The Immortal sporadically in 1995 and 1996 as part of its Sci-Fi Series Collection. Earlier this month, Visual Entertainment, Inc. (VEI) announced plans to release The Immortal on DVD at some point.

This show is from the late 70’s or early 80’s. I can’t remember much about it except that it deals with some who were lost in the Bermuda Triangle. They met a man who had a hand held device that could do different tasks.

Despite lasting just ten episodes, The Fantastic Journey saw more than its fair share of cast turnover. The pilot episode saw a group of scientists on a boat encountering a strange cloud in the Bermuda Triangle and being shipwrecked on a strange island. They’re soon captured by a group of pirates and later meet a man who claims to be from the 23rd century.

Three members of the main cast from the pilot episode were dropped before the second episode, leaving Jared Martin as Varian, the man from the 23rd century, Carl Franklin as Fred Walters, a young doctor, and Ike Eisenmann as teenager Scott Jordan. Katie Saylor joined the show in the second episode as Liana, a half-Atlantean, half-alien woman with incredible strength and telepathic abilities. In the third episode, Roddy McDowall was introduced as the enigmatic scientist Willoway, who wasn’t entirely trustworthy.

NBC debuted The Fantastic Journey on February 3rd, 1977. It aired weekly for about a month, was pre-empted twice in March and April, and went off the air for all of May, returning after seven weeks off the air. The group searched the island for a way to return to their own time, visiting different time spheres each week where they encountered new and unusual groups of people. The tenth and final episode aired on June 16th.

The Sci-Fi Channel aired repeats of The Fantastic Journey occasionally between 1994 and 1996 as part of its Sci-Fi Series Collection.

5 Replies to “Q & A: The Immortal; Fantastic Journey”

  1. I tried, but never managed to really get into The Fantastic Journey when it aired on The Sci-Fi Channel. But I thought it was an interesting coincidence that Jared Martin was playing a new-agey weirdo who used a device that looked like a tuning fork (If memory serves, the device was actually a futuristic musical instrument or sculpting tool or something, and its amazing powers were basically an off-label use), given that I knew him much better from another show from the Sci-Fi Channel rotation, the 1988 “War of the Worlds” series, where he played a new-agey weirdo (This time a college professor) among whose quirks was that he would use a tuning fork to help him meditate.

  2. In the last episode of The Immortal, he finds his brother Jason. Who will let his blood be tested, so that Ben can have time to get away. So it looks like during the making of the show, they knew, that the show was done.

  3. Don’t think that was meant as a last episode, rather a false climax. It was left open whether it really was Jason. Networks ordered in 13wk blocks, and it was possible it could’ve moved to a better timeslot.Barry Sullivan did make a guest shot, wrapping up his character.

  4. Fantastic Journey is a show that should be remade. The cast changes were ridiculous and, at least in the first few episodes, changed from one episode to the next. It even resulted in the boy’s family abandoning him. I remembered it from it’s original airing and was glad to see it again a some years back when I never expected to see it again.

    I think if they had worked out their casting problems beforehand and managed to stick with the same group the show would have been successful. Instead it left viewers feeling lost.

  5. Sorry to pull you up Patrick, but if you get chance to watch The Fantastic Journey again, you will notice the boy Scott’s family don’t abandon him. His mother never gets to set off on the boat at the start, she remains behind to look after her father just out of hospital. At the end of the pilot film, the group is deliberately separated in Atlantium and Scott’s father is sent home, only the knowledge that Scott will be safe with trusted Fred and Varian, and presumably false assurances from the devious smooth talking Atlanteans that the others will follow shortly, allows him to leave Scott. The potential the group can be separated adds a sense of jeopardy. There were no further such cast changes, Liana and Willaway were introduced and added to the group as the series progressed. The final disparate group was an interesting balance. Apparently the cast changes were imposed by the TV powers that be. Despite these issues it’s a good show helped by concentration on story and character not so much on showy effects. Well, I like it …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.