The Fugitive (1963)

Season 1 Episode 1

Fear in a Desert City

Aired Unknown Sep 17, 1963 on ABC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Fear in a Desert City
Richard Kimble rides into Tucson, Arizona under the name James Lincoln. He checks into a hotel and finds a job as a bartender at the Branding Iron. He meets Monica Welles, the piano player who escaped from her stalking jealous husband Ed Welles.

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  • Seminal Elements for the Entire Series

    A soothing voice introduces the viewers to the main character of the series with these words: "Now six months a fugitive, this is Richard Kimble with a new identity, and for as long as it is safe, a new name: James Lincoln." Dr. Richard Kimble is a man on the run. His running will continue for the next 4 years. This pilot episode introduces us to the major players of the series: the fugitive (Richard Kimble) and the relentless police lieutenant obsessed with his capture (Philip Gerard). We learn that Kimble takes odd jobs to meet his meager financial needs and lives in cheap motels when he's not working. In order to conceal his true identity, he dyes his hair and keeps out of view when officers of the law are present. He has a likeable personality. He's considerate and caring with most people and can be tough when needed with those who oppose him. In his travels, he's looking for a one-armed man. A man he saw running from his house the night Kimble's wife was murdered.

    Philip Gerard is a man possessed. He was accompanying Kimble to his execution when a train wreck freed him. Gerard somehow feels responsible for his escape and will stop at nothing to see him behind bars again. Gerard is a cool, calculating man with a single-minded mission: to uphold the law (with all its weaknesses).

    A recurring theme of the series is also introduced in this episode. Dr. Kimble befriends and helps someone in need. When they discover his true identity, (believing his innocence) they help him escape from the police. It makes for compassion and high drama.

    The episode ends with Kimble quickly leaving before the authorities come to investigate a shooting. Not long afterward, Gerard is on the scene asking questions. But he's too late. Kimble has escaped to continue his search for the true murderer of his wife. This is the life of an innocent man on the run. This is the fugitive.moreless
  • The beginning of a classic episode and tv show!

    This is a great start of the beginning of a

    Classic show to a pilot great episode. As we get the

    First glance of Richard Kimble. Who escaped from the death

    Train to go to death row. As he's been a fugitive for

    Six months. He gets work as a bartender under the

    Username of James Lincoln. He befriends an abused young wife who is being stalked by her jealous husband, played by Brian Keith.

    The show is really getting off to a great start as this will happen as before Kimble's identitiy is revealed, he must move on before he gets caught by the law while trying to find the killer of his wife!moreless
  • This is how it is with him...

    It starts here, the odyssey of Richard Kimble's flight from the law and his hunt for his wife's killer. Writer Stanford Whitmore pens an episode that is haunting, engrossing and lays the groundwork for the four seasons to follow.

    All of the basics are here - Kimble arrives in a new town, finds a job, and inevitably winds up immersed in somebody's personal trouble. Here, it is saloon pianist Vera Miles (who is a dead ringer for Melora Hardin, IMO), who is being terrorized by her unhinged ex, Brian Keith. Problem is, Keith is a big wheel in town, and he turns to the local law to get Kimble to lay off. Oh, and Lt. Gerard is dogging Kimble's track.

    David Janssen is brilliant, simply brilliant, and nails it every minute he is on screen. His Irving the Explainer scene with Miles in Act II, where he basically has to spell out the gist of the series, could have been corny, but darn it if he doesn't sell every word. The pain and conflict he conveys, sometimes with just his eyes, puts some modern actors to shame.

    Then there's Barry Morse. I love Gerard's soliloquy about being an agent of the law - the law says Kimble is guilty, so it doesn't matter what Gerard thinks. Kimble needs to be caught. It's deceptively simple to think of Gerard as the cliche "cop who won't quit," but there's more to it than that. If that's all that he was, "The Fugitive" wouldn't be as compelling as it is. Both Kimble and Gerard are real men, each with their own obsession, their own quest. It's great, because Gerard isn't "the bad guy," even though he's chasing Kimble.

    It's a great pilot, and a terrific start to the series. On a slightly related note, I am watching the recent DVD release, and the picture quality is amazing. A great way to watch and discover this classic show.moreless
Harry Townes

Harry Townes

Sgt. Burden

Guest Star

Dabbs Greer

Dabbs Greer

Sgt. Fairfield (uncredited)

Guest Star

Donald Losby

Donald Losby

Mark Welles (uncredited)

Guest Star

Paul Birch

Paul Birch

Capt. Carpenter (uncredited)

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • During the fight scene in Act IV, Brian Keith threw David Janssen against the bus so hard that Janssen broke three ribs.

    • In the epilog, there's a slight goof. It's a sunny day, but when there are close-ups of Gerard as he talks to Monica Welles, you can see that it is raining behind him and that his hat has some rain moisture on it.

    • The location of this premiere episode is Tucson. The show would return to Tucson for its two-part finale, "The Judgment". That episode begins with Kimble working as a truck driver in that Arizona city.

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Opening Narration: Now six months a fugitive, this is Richard Kimble with a new identity, and for as long as it is safe, a new name: James Lincoln. He thinks of the day when he might find the man with one arm, but now is now. And this is how it is with him. ... Another journey, another place. Walk neither too fast, nor too slow. Beware the eyes of strangers. Keep moving. ... (Kimble chooses a hotel.) The right one? Or will it be a mistake? Is this the trap where it will end? ... Safe. For now. ... Another room. Windows look out -- and look in. Get busy. ... (Kimble stares at his reflection in the mirror and applies black dye to his hair.) Look closely. Be sure of this: they'll never stop looking. He'll never stop. Not Lieutenant Gerard.... Ready? A job. What will it be? Make no mistakes. Be ready for the questions and hope there won't be too many.

    • Closing Narration: Now six months, two weeks, and another thousand miles a fugitive, this is Richard Kimble. And this is how it is with him.

  • NOTES (2)

    • Stanford Whitmore rewrote the scene between Gerard and Captain Carpenter after Barry Morse played the scene "considerably 'over the top'." Whitmore had described Gerard as "a man whose dedication borders on fanaticism," but that aspect was toned down.

    • Location: Tucson, Arizona
      Kimble's Alias: James Lincoln