Thursday, February 15, 2018
Cult-TV Blogging: The Immortal: "White Horse, Steel Horse" (November 5, 1970)
Working at a potato ranch, Ben Richards (Christopher George) ends up in an armed dispute between motorcycle riding workers, and nefarious ranch owner, George Allison (John Dehner). Allison refuses to pay his workers, and they protest, violently.
When a scuffle between factions ends with the death of a local sheriff, Ben flees to the mountains, but George Allison organizes a vigilante posse to bring him, and the others, to justice. The “Honor Posse,” as it is called, captures Ben and another cyclist.
Soon, Fletcher (Don Knight) shows up with a (fake) warrant, and attempts to make a deal for possession of the captured Richards.
Written by Star Trek (1966-1969) veterans Gene L. Coon and Stephen Kandel, “White Horse, Steel Horse” is all about the generation gap of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s; the war between the Greatest Generation and young anti-establishment, counter-culture.
What may be surprising is that this episode of The Immortal views the young generation sympathetically, and the older generation as corrupt.
In this case, George Allison, the antagonist, is a white man who holds all the power in his particular situation. He is rich. He owns land. He runs a business. He has powerful friends in law enforcement and the judicial system.
And then, on a dime, this well-connected, wealthy man decides he doesn’t want to pay his workers what he owes them.
They get angry.
After acting capriciously, George blames the young workers. He laments children who have been allowed to grow up and “run wild.” He calls the youth “rotten, long-haired scum.” He sees them as a threat to his country too. “It’s like they’re trying to destroy everything,” he says.
Of course, Allison has the right to his viewpoint. The scary thing about his character is how he then manipulates the law (and his connections) to hunt those he cheated. “The courts don’t do their jobs, so we have to,” he tells the members of his vigilante posse.
In other words, he substitutes his rules for society’s rules. And because of his wealth and power, he can do that.
Ben Richards, in “White Horse, Steel Horse,” stands up for the persecuted ones. He tells Allison that people “have the right to be different, and not be killed for it.”
This was a truth apparent to our society in 1970, but which some Americans seem to have forgotten today, in 2018. This fact makes this particular episode of The Immortal quite timely, but also quite sad. It seems we have gone backwards in the last forty years, at least in terms of how we treat one another.
The episode also finds Allison’s grown son turning against him, another sign of the generation gap. The inference is that with the passing of the generations, a new, better morality will take hold. Alas, that hasn't really happened either.
The only problem that I see with the episode is that it basically conflates young people, motorcycle gangs and hippies as one demographic. Perhaps at the time, that is how they were all viewed by men like Allison. All made-up, collectively, the counter-culture.
In terms of series continuity, this is another story in which Ben Richards falls in with strangers who need help, but we learn virtually nothing about him. Even the details about Fletcher’s warrant for Richards’ arrest are maddeningly vague. It must be a forged document, but we don’t even know the details of what the fugitive is being charged with.
Despite the lack of character development, not to mention science fiction concepts, we’re still at a point in The Immortal’s canon where the stories are compelling and interesting. This episode serves as a time capsule of a very turbulent time in our culture, if nothing else.
Next week: An Immortal classic: “The Queen’s Gambit.”