Director: Richard L. Bare
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Cast: Susan Gordon, J. Pat O’Malley, Nancy Kulp, Wesley Lau, Paul Tripp, Russ Bender, Stephen Talbot, and Johnny Eiman
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 3/9/1962
Production Code: 4816
Old Ben (J. Pat O’Malley)—a magical, intergalactic fugitive adored by a group of neighborhood children—explains his predicament to young Jenny (Susan Gordon), who lives with a mean-spirited aunt named Agnes (Nancy Kulp). Trouble occurs when two men (Wesley Lau and Paul Tripp) arrive at Aunt Agnes’ apartment in search of Old Ben, placing Jenny in grave danger.
A cute and heartwarming episode, this entry may appeal to those who enjoy The Twilight Zone for its fantasy-themed installments. Others may, however, wish to avoid “The Fugitive” for its hackneyed execution.
Though potentially taboo in today’s society, the concept of an elderly man befriending a sweet, innocent young girl is made innocuous by the performance of J. Pat O’Malley—a character actor whom series enthusiasts will recognize from “The Chaser,” “Mr. Garrity and the Graves,” and “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross.” Specifically, the kind and gentle manner of O’Malley’s character—later revealed to be an alien from another planet—precludes any possibility of predatory intentions on his part, prompting viewers to accept Old Ben in spite of his quirky and suspicious behavior.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
The twist ending of “The Fugitive” deserves criticism for two reasons. First, Old Ben and his fellow aliens resort to kidnapping Jenny in the final scene—a morally dubious act, even when considering the abusive nature of Aunt Agnes. Also problematic is the fact that, according to the closing monologue of Rod Serling, Old Ben eventually takes the adult version of Jenny to be his queen, implying a romance between both main characters—a bizarre and unnecessary extension of Jenny’s friendship with Old Ben.
Despite featuring a number of clichéd story aspects, “The Fugitive” accurately depicts the phantasmagorical thinking of a typical child. Those who possess a youthful spirit may therefore appreciate this offering, which allows the audience to empathize with the wondrous, carefree perspective of Jenny.
“The Fugitive” benefits from the poignant chemistry of O’Malley and child actress Susan Gordon. Nevertheless, this episode is marred by a superfluous, poorly written conclusion.
Overall Quality: 6/10
If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.