In Search Of… S02E02 The Man Who Would Not Die

Last week I promised not to do any fact checking on this episode. I have a feeling I'm going to regret that.

Hi, I'm Casanova. No, really, I am.
Hi, I'm Casanova.
No, really, I am.

So, open on a man in a tricorn hat rushing into a coach. Nice. Sets period, gives a sense of urgency. There's a slightly blurry effect on the screen as the coach speeds away. Nimoy tells us that its France, 1760, and 'the wonder man of Europe runs for his life.

(Hmmm… Marvel Wonder Man joke, or Danny Kaye Wonder Man joke? Eh, the Danny Kaye movie is pretty obscure… Then again, Wonder Man isn't exactly a first-string Marvel character either… Eh, skip it.)

Nimoy assures us that this man is a man of mystery, a genius in many subjects including alchemy. Though he looked forty, he may have been much older. Who says so? 'Many', that's who. We're talking about the Count of Saint Germaine, though he was called 'the man who would not die'. Who called him that? 'Others', that's who. What, exactly, is the relationship between 'many' and 'others'? That, no one knows.

What do I know about Saint Germaine? He was an eighteenth century upper-class mystic. That's about it. I've seen his name pulled up now and then in fantasy novels when everyone gets tired of talking about Cagliostro. Beyond that I know nothing other than what I will hear in the episode I'm currently watching. I will resist the urge to Google. I will resist it.

Some lovely shots of Versailles, backed by period-appropriate violin music. Nimoy talks about the brilliance of Louis XV's court. Into this court comes Saint Germain. Nimoy introduces his genius by saying that he was a great violinist and painter and such a good historian that people thought he must have experienced antiquity personally.

The re-enactment is nice. They have really sweet looking costumes, and while I'm sure they're not really filming in Versailles, they have managed to find an appropriate set. Glad I like this, because it just keeps going. Next up is an actor playing Louis XV, reading his thoughts on Saint Germain. The actor looks the part, but I'm not sure what accent he's going for. The King (assuming that these are actually his words) claims that Saint Germain removed a flaw from a large diamond.

The diamond prop was as big as an egg. If the French kings had possessed a flawless diamond that size, the issue of the national debt could have been solved and the Revolution possibly averted. Just saying. The King praises Saint Germain's scientific skills and claims to have taken chemistry lessons from the man.

Now Nimoy is telling us that Saint Germaine learned to de-flaw diamonds and transform base metals into gold in India, proving his point with a shot of a Hindu idol. He also supposedly possessed the elixir of life. Nimoy asks how old Saint Germain was, claiming that the count avoided answering. Nimoy suggests that Saint Germain could have been two thousand.

Uh, so if you don't admit to your age… No, never mind, we're in the Carpathian Mountains now for some reason. Okay, some Prince was overthrown by the Hungarians and his sons were arrested. But he might have had another son (Saint Germain) who fled to Florence, and the protection of the Medicis.

Still, there's some beautiful footage of Florence. Never been, always wanted to go. [UPDATE: Have been, it's nice.]

Now a physical description of the count. Apparently he was a handsome and charming guy. Now an actress playing Madame Pompadour is talking about him. Her accent isn't good, but at least it sounds kind of French. She basically says that he was a man of mystery and some people think he looked younger than he was, but scoffs at the elixir of youth bit.

Next up an actor playing Casanova. He walks super awkwardly. It's a little thing, but I kind of expect Casanova to strut, you know? His accent is amazing, running through French, German and Italian and back again. Casanova dismisses Saint Germain as a charlatan. Takes one to know one, I guess. But he also adds to the strangeness surrounding the count, claiming that he never ate in public. Nimoy asks whether 'small, balanced meals' were the secret of Saint Germain's longevity. Dude, you said he was two thousand! If a ninety year old credited 'small balanced meals' for their health, I'd listen, but two thousand?

An actor playing Voltaire manages to hide his shakey accent under a wheezy 'old man' voice. Good choice! He claims that the count's knowledge of history is too perfect for someone who wasn't there and thus he must be immortal.

Urge to check veracity of quote very strong. Resisting! Resisting!

Now the king is saying that Saint Germaine was his agent against the English. The way he's wording it makes it sound very unlike a journal entry. He says that his foreign minister tried to arrest Saint Germaine but the count escaped.

Re-enactment of Count Saint Germain escaping. Nimoy tells us Louis' foreign minister had Saint Germaine driven from France and spread awful rumours about him. Saint Germaine fled to England and then Russia, where Nimoy tells us that he was instrumental in Catherine the Great's coup against her husband. She supposedly gave him the title 'General Well-Done.'

After this, the count traveled the capitals of Europe where his reputation as a scholar and scientist assured him of a warm welcome. Really? So everyone just forgot all that other stuff? Okay. Footage of coaches and old buildings. Nimoy says that Saint Germain warned everyone about the approaching collapse of the French monarchy and I don't even. He wrote one known work, supposedly an occult classic. He ended up in Hesse, where Nimoy tells us he spent his time in alchemical research and organising secret societies.

Now we get to Saint Germain's death. We see him in bed, dying. Reenactor playing Prince Charles of Hesse (best accent so far, Middle European but only slight). This actor basically rehashes the Transylvania/Medici story we heard earlier. He says that Saint Germain died as a guest in his castle but, at Nimoy's question, confides that he did not attend the funeral. Pan right to the death bed – empty.

It is several minutes before I can stop laughing.

Nimoy tells us that there were sightings of Saint Germain after his death, then introduces us to the leader of a strange Californian church. As she walks through a park, this leader claims that Saint Germain reincarnated throughout history, beginning at Atlantis. This woman has the most wonderful white Afro. Her spiel is new agery but also very American – capital 'F' freedom and Eurocentric history that suddenly goes America-centric in the 1770s. Anyway, apparently there was a magical flame of Freedom in Atlantis, and Saint Germain took it to Transylvania (footage of Transylvania – pretty!)

And ad break. We come back to this strange woman, who's now claiming that Saint Germain was Merlin. Somehow this allows him to 'bring the teachings of Christ to the New World'. My head hurts. Saint Germain reincarnates as Columbus (!) who touches down in the Americas at the point Atlantis sank. Then he became the immortal Saint Germain. We're back to the old time violin recital which relaxes me a little before we're talking about Napoleon. The count supposedly lent his power to Napoleon to bring about a peaceful, unified Europe but… well, you know how that worked out.

UCLA, and Dr Peter Ryal who describes Saint Germain as a typical 18th century adventurer and opportunist, after money and influence.

That thirty second clip of rationality over, we're taking to a theosophist. He claims that Saint Germain was one of an elite cadre of mystical people bringing universal ethical ideals to humanity.

Back to UCLA. Sorry for suggesting that that first clip was a one-off. Wrong of me. Ryal suggests that the tricky thing about people like Cagliostro and Saint Germain was that they were not complete phonies, but well educated dilettantes who were able to use their eclectic educations to appear more knowledgeable than they actually were.

As a blogger, I think I see where he's coming from -- except that people like that made a lot more money.

Back to the strange cult woman, who claims that Saint Germain worked with the US founding fathers, helping to write the US Constitution, and used his mystical energy to make John Hancock and his buddies sign the Declaration of Independence.

Ryal, (whose voice, tone and body language all seem to indicate impatience) argues that Saint Germain's longevity was a ploy common to visionaries and alchemists. The 'not eating in public' shtick he describes as clever.

The theosophist guy suggests that St G-Dawg was alive after 1784, but doesn't clarify as to whether this was meant to be mystical or that the date of his death was in error.

Now the strange woman's church, where a lot of white 1970s people with bad hair sing a Saint Germain hymn. Honestly, I was starting to wonder if her church had a membership of one, but turns out I was wrong again. She had an actual congregation. Man, the freakin' '70s! The strange woman claims Saint Germain speaks through her. She gives a very spirited sermon that sounds like something between an American preacher and a Republican Congressman, ending in a decidedly creepy response from her congregation, who chant 'Hail Saint Germain'.

Nimoy sums up, stating that there has been some evidence that Saint Germain was the missing Carpathian prince. If so, he died at the age of ninety, which was quite old by standards of the day. Nimoy then says that Saint Germain was a man of mystery, the end.

Well, I'm nearly done. I guess I'll go hit the books afterwards to see what the real story is. Going out on a limb and guessing that Atlantis doesn't get much of a look in. But looking at this story with nothing to go on but this episode, all I'm getting is there was this guy who created a mystery surrounding his life and some people who have filled in the blanks he deliberately created. Some have really gone overboard with the filling in of said blanks.

That and 'forth string actors can't do accents' is my takeaway from this episode.

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