The Fantastic Journey
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|The Fantastic Journey|
The cast from left: Katie Saylor, Roddy McDowall, and Carl Franklin. At front: Ike Eisenmann and Jared Martin
|Written by||D. C. Fontana
|Directed by||Barry Crane
Andrew V. McLaglen
Irving J. Moore
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Executive producer(s)||Bruce Lansbury|
|Running time||45–48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Bruce Lansbury Productions
Columbia Pictures Television
|Distributor||Columbia TriStar Domestic Television
Sony Pictures Television
|Original release||February 3 – June 17, 1977|
The series concerns a family and their associates who charter a boat out into the Caribbean for a scientific expedition. After an encounter in the area of the Bermuda Triangle with an unnatural green cloud, the group find themselves shipwrecked on a mysterious uncharted island from which they are unable to escape.
They encounter Varian (Jared Martin), initially disguised as an Arawak native, who is later revealed to be from the year 2230. A 23rd-century pacifist, musician and healer, Varian explains to the travelers that, like he and many before them, they have been caught in a space/time continuum where people from the past, present, future and from other worlds are trapped, co-existing on the island in a series of timezones. The only way home can be found in a place called "Evoland", which lies "far to the rising sun". (It was indicated in interviews of the time that Evoland was also the name of the island.) The only way to travel between timezones is via invisible gateways that instantaneously transport individuals or groups from one zone to another. In one episode "Beyond The Mountain" the group also encounters a second cloud, which has much the same effect, but which also splits up the group.
After the initial pilot story, a steady group of travelers forms around Varian as de facto leader, and the series then follows this group as they travel across the many timezones of the island to find Evoland. On their way, they encounter people from different planets and times who are also trapped on the island and who have adapted to their plight in different ways. The pilot initially suggested the historical past would be explored; however, the producers of the show rapidly adopted a consistently futuristic tone during the series following pressure from the network. They also dropped three characters after the pilot as they wanted a more exotic group of travellers, hence the arrival of Liana and Willoway. Liana disappears from the last two episodes when Katie Saylor fell ill.
DC Fontana recalled that once the show had been commissioned, she and the producers had a very short period of time to develop and produce the show before filming commenced in January 1977. Additional scenes were filmed and inserted into the pilot which introduces the Atlanteans who are the focus of Episode 2, but this new material also quickly moves offscreen the characters Paul, Eve and Jill (who were originally intended to be regulars), as the network wanted a more diverse group of travellers. Also, a subplot involving the travellers finding a 1940s Air Force pilot held prisoner by 16th century pirates was removed from the first episode.
The show benefited from a larger than normal amount of location filming, with familiar sites such as the Hollywood Hills, Zuma Beach, the Bonaventure Hotel in LA and Griffith Park Observatory all appearing in various episodes. The character Willaway was written specifically with Roddy McDowell in mind. Fortunately the actor was interested and took the role when approached.
Although airing in a time when the nation's interest in the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs and fantasy was at a height, the show failed to last beyond the ten episodes, having been scheduled as a mid-season replacement (following the failure of another fantasy series, Gemini Man) against The Waltons and Welcome Back, Kotter, both very popular family shows. NBC ordered 12 episodes to follow the revised pilot, but production ended early when it was apparent that the ratings were low. The show was either pre-empted or its time-slot changed several times during its short run. By its tenth episode, its ratings had dropped, and it was cancelled. The script for an unproduced eleventh episode, "Romulus", circulates on the Internet.
The show has never been released commercially on any home video format. Within a few months of its abrupt ending, several of the production team would be producing the thematically similar Logan's Run for the Fall 1977 season.
- Varian (Jared Martin)
- "A man from the 23rd century possessing awesome powers". Varian generally uses a kind of crystalline "tuning fork" device called the Sonic Energizer through which he focuses his thoughts into what is described as a sonic manipulation of matter. The device is completely useless in anyone else's hands, and seems capable of a huge variety of tasks, from opening doors to disrupting electrical systems to large scale acts of destruction, as well as its apparently intended function as a diagnostic and healing device. Following the departure of Professor Paul Jordan at the end of the pilot film, Varian takes over as de facto leader to the travelers and adopts a parental role over Paul's teenage son, Scott (most notable in episodes such as "An Act of Love" and "Turnabout").
- Scott Jordan (Ike Eisenmann)
- "The 13-year-old son of a famous scientist". Scott has an excellent knowledge of Earth history and events, but is still young and has much to learn.
- Dr. Fred Walters (Carl Franklin)
- "A young doctor just out of medical school"
- Liana (Katie Saylor)
- "Daughter of an Atlantean father and an extraterrestrial mother", Liana possessed greater than human physical strength (due to her being born on a higher gravity planet than Earth) and telepathic/psionic skills, presumably due to her mixed heritage. Saylor left the show after the episode "Turnabout" due to illness. In the next episode "Riddles" the reason for her not being present with the group was given that she opted to stay a few days at Coriel to help the inhabitants work out their new government and would catch up with the group later.
- Dr. Jonathan Willoway (Roddy McDowall)
- "Rebel scientist from the 1960s", who has a mastery of computers, robotics and scientific knowledge which is quite useful to the group. He is something of a black sheep, reminiscent of Dr Smith in Lost in Space. However over the course of the episodes, Willoway becomes more integrated into the group.
- Sil-El (The Felix Team)
- Liana's companion and pet, a cat with which she can communicate telepathically, sometimes scouts for Liana, acting as an extra set of eyes and ears.
|Episode #||Title||Air date|
|1||"Vortex"||February 3, 1977|
|A party of scientists disappears into the Bermuda Triangle and becomes trapped on an island where past, present and future co-exist. After meeting 23rd century healer Varian and encountering 16th century privateers, the survivors begin their quest to return to their own time. All the while, they are being observed by a mysterious man from a futuristic city in the desert.|
|2||"Atlantium"||February 10, 1977|
|With many of the original party returned to their own time, Varian, Scott and Fred find themselves caught up in the machinations of a megalomaniacal "brain in a box" called The Source, which has enslaved the inhabitants of the city of Atlantium (actually the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles), built by the survivors of the original Atlantis and intends to use Scott's life force to regenerate itself. The trio are aided by dissident Atlantean, Liana, who reveals that she is half alien.|
|3||"Beyond the Mountain"||February 17, 1977|
|The travelers are separated by a red cloud which leaves Liana as the 'guest' of Jonathan Willoway, who is the master of a community of robots, and the others trapped in a dark swamp surrounded by green skinned humanoids. However, Willoway's intentions are less than honourable and he has no intention of letting Liana leave, while Fred's medical skills prove invaluable in discovering the truth.|
|4||"Children of the Gods"||February 24, 1977|
|The travelers arrive in a new timezone and meet a young boy who has escaped from a community run solely by children. They are led by bullying teenager, Alpha.|
|5||"A Dream of Conquest"||March 10, 1977|
|An alien dictator, Tarant, is planning to invade other timezones and conquer the island. Willoway pretends to agree with him so that he can learn Tarant's secrets, especially as the true leader of this alien community is being slowly poisoned by the would be dictator. Liana takes pity on an abused alien creature called a Nefring. Guest starring John Saxon.|
|6||"An Act of Love"||March 24, 1977|
|Varian, under the influence of a love drug, meets a woman named Gwenith from a religious community in a geologically unstable timezone. His judgment impaired, Varian decides to leave the travellers to stay and marry her. He soon discovers that the community fanatically worships a volcano god called Vatticus, who demands human sacrifices.|
|7||"Funhouse"||March 31, 1977|
|Arriving at a strange 20th century funfair, the travelers become part of a game played by an ancient Greek sorcerer named Apollonius, who also possesses Willoway.|
|8||"Turnabout"||April 7, 1977|
|The travelers encounter a city where the women are subservient to brutish male authority. The women mutiny and imprison the male travelers in a strange black void, and Liana appears to join their cause. Guest appearance by Joan Collins.|
|9||"Riddles"||April 21, 1977|
|Guided to an old house by a mounted messenger, the travelers – minus Liana – quest for an object that will assist their search for Evoland, and a strange couple conjures illusions drawn from their deepest fears. The interior of the old house is the famous set of the Stephens' house in the sitcom Bewitched, with Elizabeth Montgomery.|
|10||"The Innocent Prey"||June 6, 1977|
|A prison craft from Earth's future crash lands in the time zone where the travelers are resting, releasing dangerous killers into a community that does not comprehend violence. With a killer on the loose, Varian and the others must deal with him and protect the pacifists. Cheryl Ladd guest-starred only a few months before she joined the cast of Charlie's Angels.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Fantastic Journey.|
- The Fantastic Journey at the Internet Movie Database
- The Fantastic Journey at TV.com
- John Kenneth Muir's Retro TV Files - Retrospective
- Cult TV Flashback # 35: The Fantastic Journey: "Beyond the Mountain" by John Kenneth Muir
- Episode guide with links to screen caps and images, plus a 1977 article
- A clip of the show on youtube