Left to right: Fred Johnson (aka the One-Armed Man), Richard Kimble and Lt. Gerard.
"The name: Dr. Richard Kimble. The destination: Death Row, State Prison. The irony: Richard Kimble is innocent."
The Fugitive was a ground-breaking TV drama series that aired on ABC from 1963-67.Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen), a pediatrician from Stafford, Indiana, is wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife. However, while he is being transported to Death Row by train, there is an accident that enables him to escape.Now Kimble must continually travel throughout the country, looking to find the true murderer (a man with one arm who Kimble saw running from his house before finding his wife's body) and clear his name.Meanwhile, Kimble is pursued by Lt. Philip Gerard (Barry Morse), a Stafford police detective who is determined to re-capture him, thus precluding the fugitive from simply settling down in a remote area with an assumed identity. In the meantime, Kimble takes small jobs and inevitably gets involved in the personal lives and problems of the strangers he encounters.The Fugitive was adapted as a feature film in 1993, and a short-lived remake series in 2000 which starred Tim Daly as Kimble.This premise has since become a subgenre of action and drama shows.
In "Nightmare at Northhoak", Kimble suggests that this is what Gerard has nightmares about (i.e. finding the One-Armed Man after Kimble has been executed). Gerard's reaction indicates that he might be right.
In "Scapegoat", Kimble returns to a town he has been in before to prove the innocence of a former employer who has been convicted for murdering him. When he arrives, the man has been killed trying to escape.
Amnesiacs Are Innocent: In "Escape Into Black", a doctor finds out about Kimble's identity after a gas explosion has left Kimble amnesiac. He persuades Kimble to turn himself in on the basis of this trope. A friendly social worker manages to warn Kimble in time, though.
And This Is for...: In the final episode, during the show-down, Kimble hits Johnson in the face, shouting: "You killed her! You killed my wife! Didn't you! Didn't you!
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The supposedly Hungarian Karac-family from the episode "The Blessings of Liberty". Not only is "Karac" not a Hungarian family name ("Karacs" exists, though), but to add to it, the children are named Jan, Magda and Karla, all non-Hungarian names (János, Magdolna and Klara would have been the right choice).
Bilingual Bonus: There's quite a bit of Spanish spoken in some of the episodes set in the Southwestern U.S. or even Mexico.
Bittersweet Ending: As Kimble leaves the courthouse, finally cleared, at the end of the final episode, a police cruiser drives up and Kimble stops dead before being remembering that he doesn't have to fear them anymore. It's just a little hint to show how long it will probably take for him to recover from the last five years. And, of course, his wife is still dead (although their marriage was apparently on the rocks already, and he's conveniently been provided a new love interest).
Cassandra Truth: If Kimble had gotten anybody to believe his story of the One-Armed Man, there wouldn't have been a TV series. Gerard even believes that Kimble's clinging to the story is a psychological defense mechanism.
Character Development: Gerard. While he stays a By-the-Book Cop, he goes from firmly believing Kimble to be guilty to chasing Kimble because it's his job to openly doubting that Kimble is a dangerous man. In the final episode, his conviction that Kimble is innocent is strong enough to make him put a gun in Kimble's hand to send him after Johnson.
Kimble himself, to a lesser extent.
Chekhov's Gun: Or rather, the bullet to go with it: Donna finds a bullet in the drawer of her son Billy which puts Gerard on the trail of the witness to the murder.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: After appearing on a recurring basis in the first two seasons, Gerard's boss at the Stafford PD, Captain Carpenter, was written out of the series without explanation.
Richard's younger brother Ray Kimble plays an important role in the episode "Home Is the Hunted", but is never seen or mentioned again afterwards.
Continuity Snarl: The relatively minor detail of how Helen Kimble was murdered. There are several episodes in the second season where it's mentioned that she was strangled. In one of these episodes (where a neighbor of the Kimbles gives a false, but accurately detailed confession to the murder) it was even specified that she was strangled with her own belt. But by the fourth season (possibly because the writers realized this method of murder would be an awfully hard thing for a one-armed man to accomplish), it was changed. In one fourth season episode the One-Armed Man confesses, and in the Grand Finale is shown in flashback, to have killed her by hitting her over the head with a lamp in the house.
Dye or Die: After his escape, Kimble dyed his gray hair (although it's hard to tell the hair color in the black and white of the first three seasons, Kimble's younger brother states in the episode "Home is the hunted" that Richard's hair is gray) to the black it remains throughout the show.
Embarrassing Rescue: Kimble is put in the odd position of having to save Gerard's life in several episodes. Other episodes had Kimble saving Gerard's son and wife.
This ends up paying off in the finale, when Gerard captures Kimble, but in return for all the times Kimble saved him he agrees to give him 24 hours to try and find the One-Armed Man and exonerate himself before being brought in.
It's not just that. By this point Gerard is also convinced that Kimble is innocent, to the point where they go together to the final confrontation even past the deadline. He is also influential in convincing the witness to Helen's murder to testify, which is ironic because the one person chasing after Kimble for over four years ultimately is the one who helps set him free.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Although the One-Armed Man had a real name (Fred Johnson) and several aliases, most everyone just remembers him as, well, the One-Armed Man.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Some of the bad guys Kimble meets can't fathom his frequent attempts to help others, even when the smart move is to run for his life before the cops show. Conversely:
Subverted with, of all people, Gerard. As he pursues Dr. Kimble across the country, Gerard comes to learn how Kimble thinks and acts, and comes to realize that Kimble can be trusted to behave in certain ways. Gerard especially knows that Kimble would never hurt a child... which is why Gerard isn't upset when Gerard's own son is stuck with Kimble during a dire crisis. It's just that pesky murder of Mrs. Kimble, you see.
It's actually not a subversion, since Gerard's not really evil to begin with. He's an honest cop who's pursuing Kimble because it's his job.
Exact Words: In "The Breaking of the Habit", Sister Veronica never actually lies to the traffic cop. She just states that Father Taylor has a toothache and that his dentist is in the town in question. She never claimed that Father Taylor was the man sitting next to her...
Lampshaded in the MAD parody, "The Phew-gitive". Both Kimble and Gerard realize that if they ever actually catch the One-Armed Man and Kimble, repsectively, the series will be over, so when each narrowly misses his quarry the response is actually one of relief ("Phew!") rather than disappointment.
Gerard. He may be obsessed with capturing Kimble, but he's incorruptible, honest, and will aid the local law enforcement in arresting the other criminals who happen to be guest-starring that episode. Also By-the-Book Cop: Gerard may be obsessed with capturing Kimble, but he'll bend the law only so far. The only time Gerard comes close to breaking the law is in the final episode, when he gives Kimble 24 hours to find out who helped the One-Armed Man jump bail.
Kimble does get caught by other incorruptible cops during his ordeals, but is able to escape thanks to some moral dilemma that forces the cop to look the other way, or in some cases through sheer good fortune.
Going by the Matchbook: Averted and possibly lampshaded in the first part of the Grand Finale: Gerard finds a matchbook from an art supply store at the place where he and Kimble assume someone met with the one-armed man. It gives them no clues and never shows up again.
Grand Finale: One of the first shows to have a final episode to wrap up the whole series. It was at the time one of the most-watched episodes ever.
He Knows Too Much: Happens to Kimble regularly, a few times to Gerard and to the one-armed man courtesy of Lloyd Chandler, the witness to the murder.
Hidden in Plain Sight: In "Come Watch Me Die", Kimble gets deputized to help transport a suspected killer.
Hollywood Law: Kimble's motive for killing Helen is supposed to be... that they disagreed over adopting a child?!? Apart from that, the only evidence is his lack of an alibi. It's discussed several times during the show, most notably in "Man in a chariot" and "Dossier on a diplomat" that Kimble, whether or not he's guilty, should never have been sentenced on the evidence presented by the prosecution.
I Am Spartacus: "Nightmare at Northoak" ends with a variation of this: Gerard accuses a small-town sheriff of having helped Kimble (who'd rescued several of the town's children from a burning school bus) to escape from the local jail while awaiting extradition, and threatens to bring him before a grand jury for aiding and abetting a fugitive. The sheriff's wife then steps forward to confess to it, and Gerard tells her she'll have to be arrested... which leads to a whole roomful of townspeople standing up one by one and "confessing" to him.
I Owe You My Life: In "The Evil Men Do", Kimble is working as a stable hand when he rescues the stable's owner from an out-of-control horse. When the owner, a former Mob hitman, discovers Kimble's identity and plight, he attempts to repay his debt by killing Gerard.
If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: in "See Hollywood and Die," Kimble is forced to pretend he's a hardened criminal to keep two hoodlums from killing him and a female hostage. When the hoodlums find out he's really the famous doctor "who killed his wife," it makes it easier to deal with the hoodlums but harder to deal with the woman who's now terrified for her life.
Inconvenient Hippocratic Oath: In that it forces Kimble to risk his own safety when helping others. On the other hand, it convinces those he helps that he's really a good guy and they repay his kindness by helping Kimble escape. Even discussed in the opening narration to "Nobody Loses All the Time".
In "Corner of Hell", Kimble is befriended by a group of moonshiners, who subsequently capture Gerard and plan to lynch him after the daughter of one moonshiner is beaten unconscious and Gerard is found next to her. As it happens, Gerard saw another man running from the scene of the crime just as he arrived... but he can't prove it.
In "Come Watch Me Die", Kimble gets deputized to help transport a suspected killer. The young man claims to be innocent, so Kimble treats him well only to learn that he did actually do the murder he was accused of and Kimble's sympathetic treatment nearly allowed him to escape.
In "The Judgment: Part II", When Kimble finally corners the One-Armed Man he angrily asks him why he killed Kimble's wife. Johnson answers back "'Cause she wouldn't let me go!" This stuns Kimble, because he had been arguing with his wife about getting a divorce because she refused to adopt.
Karmic Death: Although Fred Johnson doesn't get legally executed, it's still a representative of the law who kills him.
The Killer Becomes the Killed: Fred Johnson, murderer of Helen Kimble, is in the showdown killed by Gerard, just as he was about to shoot Kimble.
Large Ham: Typically from the guest stars of the week, such as Harry Townes or William Shatner.
Law of Inverse Fertility: Helen Kimble had a miscarriage before the plot proper begins. It left her incapable of bearing future kids, and the issue becomes a strain on her and Richard's marriage. Their arguments over the merits of adopting becomes the "motive" in the prosecutor's argument that Richard killed her.
Like Father, Like Son: Gerard's son Philip Junior in the episode "Nemesis". Despite being frightened of Kimble, he keeps doing his best to slow him down and leave clues for his father. Let's all hope Gerard is damn proud of him.
Mad Doctor: Howell in "Death of a Very Small Killer". He doesn't care how many people die if it enables him to find a cure for a particularly resistant strain of meningitis. Kimble disagrees.
Not Me This Time: Kimble in "Stroke of Genius" and "The Evil Men Do". Gerard believes him immediately and acknowledges that he'd never really suspected him in the first place.
Not So Imaginary Foe: Gerard doubts the existence of the One-Armed Man, believing him to be a figment of Kimble's guilty imagination. However, by the final season, Gerald has caught glimpses of the One-Armed Man, and by the finale he even interrogates him and openly doubts his alibis.
Novelisation: The pilot episode was novelised, much to series creator Roy Huggins' disgust - he held the rights to all merchandising and the book had been written without his knowledge or consent. There were, unsurprisingly, no further novelisations (and not much merchandising).
Paper-Thin Disguise: Kimble usually takes jobs as a laborer, handyman or factotum of some kind (probably because that's the kind of jobs where nobody will look too closely into your past life), but most people immediately know something is up with him because of his obvious education and middle-class background.
Plot Armor: Kimble, Gerard and the One-Armed Man. Until the last episode.
Police Are Useless: Apart from Gerard and a few exceptions throughout the series, most of the cops come across as rather incompetent, especially if they're attached to the police of some small backwater town.
Police Brutality: Kimble becomes the victim in "A clean and quiet town". Turns out the one-armed man is behind the attack and the city's entire police force is corrupt.
Prison Episode: "Wing of an angel", although Kimble just ends up in a prison hospital without having actually been arrested.
Recycled Soundtrack: Unlike many series of its time in the '60s (and subsequently), the series relied on a specially composed library of music by Pete Rugolo and licensed music written for CBS shows rather than have any episodes (even the Series Finale) receive an original score.
Which led to problems for the show's DVD release; specifically, the season 2 set was initially released with an entirely new score of synthesized music (in order to get around licensing issues), leading to an uproar from fans angered by the change.
Much of the music in season 4 is taken from Dominic Frontiere's scores for The Outer Limits.
Recurring Character: The One-Armed Man, Captain Carpenter, Donna Taft, Leonard Taft, Mrs. Gerard, Phil Junior.
And technically Mr. Gerard, since he appears (outside of the opening) in only 37 of the show's 120 episodes.
Helen Kimble, also. She first appears in flashback mid-Season 1, her body is seen in the opening credits of Seasons 2-4, has a voiceover in another episode, and one final flashback in the Grand Finale, revealing the one clue that finally clears Kimble: There was a third person in the Kimble house the night of the murder, who witnessed the One-Armed Man murder her, and kept silent solely because he didn't want to be exposed as a Dirty Coward.
Finally, there's Sister Veronica, a nun Kimble encounters in a rare two-part episode in Season 1. She turns up again in Season 4, becoming the only recurring character who's neither a Kimble family member, nor directly connected to Helen's murder.
Red Herring: Mentioned in "Running Scared" when Gerard says that Mrs. Ballinger (Kimble's ally of the week) specialises in red herrings.
Rooting for the Empire: You get enough in-universe examples no matter which side you actually consider to be "the empire"...
Rousseau Was Right: Most characters that Kimble meet along the way are willing to help him escape the police when they get close to catching him. Often because Kimble's already done them favors and they realize he's not really a killer.
In the few instances people don't help, it's because they're either bad guys or because they're helping the One-Armed Man. One episode had Gerard surprised by a woman who was actively trying to get Kimble captured because she was secretly the One-Armed Man's girlfriend.
In the episode "Landscape with Running Figures", this happens to Gerard's wife... while she happens to be with Kimble.
Kimble himself experiences this in "Second Sight".
That One Case: What Kimble is to Gerard until the final two episodes.
Token Romance: As the series progresses, these happen more and more often (while there are still a few women in love with Kimble in the earlier series, he tended to reject them faster and more decidedly).
Translation Convention: In "Death of a Very Small Killer", if it's plot-important, even the Mexican locals speak English to each other.
Trunk Shot: Kimble hides in a few of them (f. ex. "The Other Side of the Coin" or "The Breaking of the Habit").
Turn in Your Badge: Two cops who let Kimble go try to do this in "Echo of a Nightmare" and "Passage to Helena". Both get refused. The sheriff's resignation in "Other Side of the Coin" gets accepted, but he broke a lot more laws than just harboring Kimble.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Urban folklore states that the show was inspired by Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was falsely convicted of murdering his wife in an extremely high-profile 1954 court case, and served nearly 11 years of a life sentence before the Supreme Court declared the original trial a mis-trial. He was subsequently re-tried, acquitted, and released from jail. The creators have denied the inspiration, but the similarities in Kimble's and Sheppard's cases do lead one to wonder...
A more likely proximate inspiration was the 1946 David Goodis novel Dark Passage (better known for its 1947 film adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart), which also involves a man taking it on the lam after being falsely convicted of his wife's murder and then escaping. In fact, Goodis sued United Artists Television (which distributed The Fugitive) for copyright infringement; the case was eventually settled out of court following his death.
Some inspiration also came from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. According to his biography, Barry Morse spotted the similarities and, after creator Roy Huggins confirmed this, re-read the novel to play his character closer to Inspector Javert. In addition to Gerard's character, obsession and name, the similarities include the protagonist saving his pursuer's life, the chase being ultimately unjust (although for different reasons) and Javert/Gerard finally agreeing to give Valjean/Kimble time to do one last thing before their respective arrests after having refused to do so before.
Viewers Are Goldfish: One of three opening narrations explaining the backstory happens every single episode. You'll know at least the last version by heart at the end.
Walking the Earth: what Kimble does during his chase for the One-Armed Man. The plot that he was wrongly accused helped solve a problem with earlier TV shows that had wandering characters getting involved with other people's problems: "Why won't the heroes take the problem to the local authorities?" In Kimble's case, he couldn't.
Wanted Poster: Appears in every episode. Gerard is once seen carrying an entire envelope full of copies when questioning the local populace one whether they've seen Kimble.
Where It All Began: Kimble returns to Stafford in "Home is the Hunted" and "The Judgment".
Worthy Opponent: Kimble and Gerard have a great deal of respect for each other. Kimble calls Gerard a "brilliant" detective on several occasions (and Gerard often demonstrates this). While Gerard thinks Kimble is guilty, he's aware of the number of people Kimble's helped and believes Kimble will never kill again.
Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Kimble does actually steal a fair amount of cars and often agrees to people claiming that he forced them to help him when they did so out of their own free will. It could probably have been enough for quite a case, but if the last scene is any indication, nobody ever bothered to look into it.
You Have 24 Hours: In Part 2 of the finale, Gerard gives Kimble 24 hours to prove his innocence and even helps him along. And when new evidence turns up just before the deadline, he doesn't insist on keeping to it.
The 2000-2001 remake provides examples of:
Abuse Mistake: The already suspicious Gerard becomes convinced that Kimble is his wife's killer when people who saw them jogging in the park the day of the murder claim to have seen him grab her and throw her to the ground, never realizing that the two were merely goofing off and playing.
Chekhov's Gunman: Kimble's medical training forces him to come to the rescue on numerous occasions, even if doing so might reveal his identity.
Freudian Excuse: Gerard's first wife was killed in a car accident. It's obvious that his lingering grief and guilt is the reason he's so determined to capture Kimble.
Happily Married: The Kimbles. A notable change from the original series. The remake is based more on the film rather than on the original series.
How We Got Here: The pilot episode starts out with Kimble escaping from the wrecked prison transport van. As he runs through the woods, pursued by Gerard, numerous flashbacks take us through his marriage, the day of his wife's murder, the investigation, arrest, trial, right up until the van crashes, all within the first 15 minutes, before we even get the credits sequence.
Setting Update: Much was made of the technological advances—computers, the internet, television—that would now hinder Kimble's ability to stay on the run, or even help him—one episode, titled "drrichardkimble.com" had him being aided by the founder of a website dedicated to proving his innocence.
Theme Tune Cameo: Whereas the 1993 movie didn't use the theme from the original TV show, the new series used the theme from... the 1993 movie.
Too Happy to Live: The prologue of the premier episode established that Dr. Kimble had an ideal life—a beautiful wife who he adored, plans to have children and buy a new house, and a stellar career as a surgeon—before it was blown apart by his wife's murder.