Immortality is mankind’s oldest dream. To stay young, healthy and live forever is the still the stuff of science fiction, but who knows what groundbreaking scientific and medical advances loom in the future?
The immortality theme has been the subject of an array of television shows and TV episodes. Here are the top ten immortality TV shows and episodes from the dusty vaults of video history…
The Immortal, 1970-71, ABC-TV
The late Christopher George plays race car driver Ben Richards in this short-lived science fiction series which debuted on September 24, 1970. Ben is apparently one-of-a-kind, a freak of nature endowed with special bloodwhose miraculous antibodies could theoretically enable him to live forever. On the trail of the fleeing Richards is multimillionaire Arthur Maitland (David Brian), who wishes to tap into his quarry’s blood supply so he too can enjoy the fruits of immortality. Based on the James Gunn novel The Immortals, ABC-TV’s The Immortal proved anything but, exiting the airwaves after only 15 episodes. The Immortal was first telecast as a pilot movie on September 30, 1969.
Star Trek, "Requiem for Methuselah," February 14, 1969, NBC-TV
James Daly appears as the mysterious Flint, an Earthling who inhabits his own little planet in the cosmos. When Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) beam down to the planet, they meet the hostile Flint, only to learn later that he is an immortal whose many names through the ages have included Methuselah, Johannes Brahms and Leonardo da Vinci. Flint was born in that area of early civilization known as Mesopotamia. When speared during battle, Flint discovered that he possessed instant tissue regeneration, enabling his body to repair itself. The Enterprise crew have come to Flint’s planet in order to gather ryetalyn, a rare mineral needed to combat Rigelian Fever. Upon mention of the disease, Flint briefly recounts another scourge – the Black Death during the Middle Ages – which wiped out a third of Europe’s population. Dr. McCoy’s readings on Flint prove to be bad news for the immortal, as the tired, bored Flint is now dying like everyone else, a consequence of having departed Earth’s peculiar magnetic field centuries ago.
The Twilight Zone, "Long Live Walter Jameson," March 18, 1960, CBS-TV
Kevin McCarthy guest stars as Walter Jameson, a college history professor who is set to marry a younger woman (Dodie Heath). The girl’s father, Professor Sam Kittridge (Edgar Stehli), suspects that Jameson is much older that he says, eventually discovering that his colleague has been walking the earth for thousands of years. Jameson – who appears as a Union Army officer in old Mathew Brady photos from the American Civil War – had acquired his immortality from an ancient alchemist, but his long life may soon be coming to an end.
Mission: Impossible, "The Fountain," January 26, 1973, CBS-TV
George Maharis plays Thomas Bachman, a syndicate member who pilfers two computer reels from the mob and flees in a private plane. Following a staged air crash, Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) and his Impossible Missions Force trick Bachman into believing that he has stumbled upon the fountain of youth at a secluded mansion in Mexico. Bachman wants what the inhabitants supposedly have – eternal youth – while the IMF schemes to deceive him in coughing up the secret mob files. Meanwhile, Bachman’s rival Matthew Drake (Cameron Mitchell) is hot on his trail, still smarting from Bachman’s near-fatal assassination attempt. "The Fountain" is a classic Mission: Impossible episode, employing an elaborate "sting" operation coupled with the alluring promise of immortality.
Highlander, 1992-96, Syndicated
Based on the 1986 movie of the same name, Highlander stars Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod, an immortal Scottish warrior who is lured back into The Game. During the show’s 119 episodes, MacLeod interacts with both mortals and immortals, with a fair amount of action and sword play thrown in for good measure. "I am Duncan MacLeod, born four hundred years ago in the Highlands of Scotland. I am Immortal and I am not alone. For centuries we have waited for the time of the Gathering, when the stroke of a sword and the fall of a head will release the power of the Quickening. In the end, there can be only one," so goes the first season opening narrative. Highlander is more on the order of gods and sword and sorcery, with more than one immortal occupying the stage.
The Outer Limits, "Last Supper," January 31, 1997, Showtime
Sandrine Holt guest stars as Jade/Laura, an ageless, immortal girl who survived the Black Plague ofthe Middle Ages. Jade/Laura is brought home by young Danny Martin (Fred Savage) as his betrothed, but Danny’s father Frank (Peter Onorati) recognizes her from his days as a military policeman some 20 years ago where he acted as security for a top-secret Army lab. A Dr. Lawrence Sinclair (Michael Hogan) was conducting cruel experiments on the lass, trying to discover her secret of immortality, with Frank finally succumbing to the girl’s pleas and setting her free. A horribly disfigured Sinclair shows up at the Martin home, injecting himself with Laura’s immortal blood, only to grow younger and younger until he’s nothing but disappearing cells on the floor.
The Twilight Zone, "Escape Clause," November 6, 1959, CBS-TV
David Wayne plays Walter Bedeker, a hypochondriac who makes a pact with the devil (Thomas Gomez), selling his soul for immortality. Bedeker enjoys his new freedom, leaping from buildings and jumping in front of subway trains, but soon becomes bored with his condition. When Bedeker is found guilty of murdering his wife Ethel (Virginia Christine), he hopes for the death penalty – heh, heh – but instead is given life in prison. Unable to face what would be an eternal life behind bars, Bedeker exercises his escape clause with the devil, dying of a heart attack in his prison cell.
Mission: Impossible, "The Visitors," November 27, 1971, CBS-TV
Steve Forrest plays media magnate Edward Granger, who plans to use his influence in order to elect handpicked candidates chosen by the syndicate. Granger has an abiding interest in UFOs and immortality, with the Impossible Missions Force zeroing in on that opening. Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) and his IMF convince Granger that aliens have landed and possess the knowledge of eternal life, tricking him into revealing the names of the mob’s chosen candidates. Steve Forrest is absolutely grand as the rich, arrogant, Donald Trump-like Granger, who pathetically crawls to the IMF’s phony fountain of youth regenerator in the last scenes, thinking it will save him from his mortal bullet wound.
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "The Monkey’s Paw," April 19, 1965, NBC-TV
Based on the classic horror story by W.W. Jacobs, "The Monkey’s Paw" features Leif Erickson as Paul White, a desperate businessman who puts a Gypsy woman’s magical monkey’s paw to the test. Granted three wishes, the financially-strapped White first wishes for money – $150,000 to be exact – and is soon visited by an insurance agent who brings him a life insurance check following the tragic death of Paul’s beloved son Howard (Lee Majors) in a terrible racetrack crash. A grieving Paul and his wife Anne (Jane Wyatt) now wish for their son back, and sure enough the kid shows up at their door, a hideous, disfigured creature fresh from his bloody accident. One final wish remains as Anne tries to unbolt the door to glimpse her reincarnated son. Hurriedly, Paul makes that wish – that their son Howard remain dead – with a torn, good-luck scarf from crash day the only thing greeting the Whites on the stoop. Not exactly an immortality episode per se, but one that deftly explores the nature of death coupled with the old saying: Be careful what you wish for..
Star Trek, "Miri," October 27, 1966, NBC-TV
Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and company beam down to a decrepit planet which is an exact replica of Earth. According to a young girl name Miri (Kim Darby), a plague wiped out all of the adults, leaving behind a band of scruffy kids as the lone survivors. The plague was the result of a scientific experiment into prolonging life, something which it apparently achieved in Miri and her cohorts, the former of whom Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) estimates to be over 300-years-old.