THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY
Dr Fred Walters -
Johnathan Willaway -
Scott Jordan -
OTHER TRIPS TO THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE
OTHER PEOPLE TRYING TO GET HOME SHOWS
Planet of the Apes
In the heart of the Bermuda Triangle there are storms that transport ships and planes and all manner of craft to a strange island. This island is partitioned between neighbouring 'zones' - different areas of time and space, each containing an adventure for a small band of friends travelling in search of a doorway back to their own times.
The set up for this series is strongly reminiscent of LOGAN'S RUN of which it is a contemporary and with which it shared a similar swift cancellation. It provides for a new and different locale each week that is easily (and cheaply) reached and an excuse for a mixed bag of companions including a future healer and a woman telepathically linked to her cat (although Katie Saylor was forced to bow out of the last two episodes when she became ill).
The show only lasted ten episodes and the reason was simply that it wasn't very good. The action wasn't very exciting, the plots were thin and made little sense and there were no special effects to speak of. The cast, headed by Jared Martin and Roddy MacDowell failed to impress and THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY proved to be less than fantastic.Top
A group of marine archaeologists on a summer research expedition fall foul of a strange glowing storm in the heart of the Bermuda Triangle and find themselves washed up on a strange island. Things get stranger as they learn that they are sharing the island with a musician/healer from the 23rd century and English privateers from the 16th. As their group is whittled down in numbers, they realise that the search for a way home will take them through many 'zones' in time.
This is an intriguing set up for a new television series, taking a small group of travellers to a new adventure each week by simply walking into a new zone. It's also a show that is willing to kill off minor characters with surprising speed. The concept is fine - it's the execution that's a bit off.
The early stages with the build up to and arrival on the island is well done, creating a mystery to be solved, which it then does through the introduction of Varian, the musician/healer. Sadly, the appearance of Ian McShane and his yo-ho-ho pirates sends things into a bit of a downward spiral. The action is hardly believable and these are supposed to be hardened fighters, but panic at the sight of a building on fire.
It also doesn't help that the main characters don't stand out at all. Varian proves to be an adept commando for a musician and Jared Martin's natural screen presence makes up for a limited acting range, but the rest fade into the group and prove totally unmemorable.
The introduction of the futuristic city of Atlantium promises new adventures, but it is to be hoped that they are better than this one.Top
The surviving trio of travellers are taken to Atlantium where they learn that the others, including Scott's Dad, have gone back to their own times through a machine that is currently being repaired. The brain of the city, however, has plans for Scott and ones that don't include freedom, or even keeping his own brain.
Atlantium is impressively realised through the use of modern architectural facades and interiors, but the plot is made up of leftover ideas from STAR TREK (and not in a good way). It never seems likely that a father is going to leave his son in mortal peril merely to console his wife and the arrival of series regular Liana and her telepathic cat don't add much to the mix except for a dash of glamour.
The brain in a jar looks far too much like a fallen souffle for comfort and then rises like a cooked souffle in the big finale with Varian solving all the problems with his sonic tuning fork after a lot of standing around and talking. Cerebral science fiction is all very well, but we want the cerebrum in the writing, not the jar.Top
Beyond the Mountain
Another mysterious storm appears and separates Liana from the men. They ed up in a swamp being hunted whilst she finds herself in a utopia run by Johnathan Willaway and his unnaturally beautiful family. She fiinds that she, too, is being hunted, though in an altogether different family.
To say that not a lot happens in this episode is to overestimate the plot's density. Varian, Fred and Scott spend half their time trying to make the studio swamp seem scary (and do an OK job) whilst Liana falls in love in ultra-quick time. The green men who form the other strand of the plot do precisely nothing, which explains how one man could usurp their supposedly advanced civilisation.
The main problem is Roddy MacDowell, the last of the credited cast to arrive. He isn't bad, but he isn't a credible villain either. He just doesn't have the voice or the face for it. That means no credible threat, which means no tension , little drama and less interest.Top
Children of the Gods
A frightened child runs into the camp of the travellers and proves to come from a group of children who live in fear of 'Elders' and under the rule of the tyrannical Alpha. When they are all taken prisoner, Scott is forced to challenge Alpha as leader, a fight he cannot win.
Taking its lead from the children dominated episodes of STAR TREK, this fails to turn the children into a credible threat so that every time the adults are captured it seems ridiculous. The speed with which the LORD OF THE FLIES is overturned because of a lost challenge and some shouting is equally unconvincing.Top
A Dream of Conquest
The five travellers enter a new zone where small animals are hunted for sport and as training for a hidden army that is to march in war against all the other zones as soon as the main leader is dead and a power hungry underling can take over.
Quite apart from the atrocious man in a furry suit alien being, this is let down by a really poor script in which a few people talk a lot and hunt the aforementioned atrocious man in a furry animal suit not once, but twice. John Saxon appears as the would be tyrant (hardly a stretch for him) and is so easily seduced by the fawning of Roddy MacDowell's Willaway that he quite frankly deserves what comes to him.Top
An Act of Love
Passing into the next zone, Varian is shot with a dart that gives him disturbing dreams of a beautiful woman and a pit of fire. The next day, he finds the woman and falls in love. They decide to be married, but in this zone new husbands are sacrificed to a volcano God.
Volcanic caves apparently look a lot like they are lined with tin foil. The cheapness of the episode also runs to the plot, insofar as they could not afford one and so wrote something on the back of a napkin. There is no examination of how this society evolved nor how the younger women have failed to notice all the first night widows.
Varian's friends don't feed much into events either. Something's clearly up with him, but the first time their investigation meets an obstacle they shrug and wish him the best. Future pacifism also doesn't extend to dead wife situations as Varian lays waste to the whole place.Top
The travellers are surprised to find a disused funfair in the middle of the latest zone. It is run by a magician who invites them to play and, deciding that a little relaxation might stand them in good stead, they enter the funhouse, but soon learn that fun is not on the magician's agenda.
At last THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY comes up with an episode worth watching. There is something inherently creepy about a funhouse without hordes of laughing teenagers and clever use of angles and imagery enhances that to create a surreal sense of danger that promises harm could come to our heroes.
Mel Ferrer is hardly the scariest of villains, but when he takes over Willaway's body it gives Roddy MacDowell a chance to play a more convincing bad guy. Unfortunately, the silly voice that they dub over him undermines a lot of that. The extreme ugliness that drives the mad magician could also be solved with liberal use of a good razor.Top
The travellers arrive in a city ruled by men with the aid of a feminine computer. The women rebel and imprison the men, but fail to control the computer. They poison Varian and Scott in order to force Willaway to shut it down once and for all.
We've had children against their elders and now it's the turn of the battle of the sexes. Except that it isn't really. It's mainly a battle between everyone and a woman-hating computer and some less than impressive robots. Nobody seems able to shoot straight and everyone's supposedly core beliefs change in seconds at the end to ensure a happy ending.
Joan Collins appears in an attempt to up the star wattage, but manages to be little more than mildly decorative and not very convincing.Top
Varian, Fred, Scott and Willaway show up in a zone to be told by a mysterious rider that a whole bunch of nonsense is going to happen. The riddle starts to come true when they find three people in a house that are not what they appear to be and a bunch of caves that contain a 'stone' that is the key to their getting home. Getting hold of this stone is one thing, but keeping hold of it is something else.
The mysterious rider adds a little background detail to the land of the zones, but the rest of the plot is almost perfunctory, aiming only to get the entire cast in a set of tin-foil-painted-blue caves. It then goes and saves itself with a sequence in which the stone takes the heroes into their worst nightmares in order to test them. This is original and clever and better than most of the rest of the series put together.
By the end, though, the bad guys who were willing to kill for the stone ten minutes before have seen the error of their ways and everyone leaves on good terms. It's not exactly the most likely outcome.Top
The Innocent Prey
The travellers come to a land of innocents who cannot conceive of deceit, theft or murder. A spacecrft crashes in their midst with two criminals aboard. The team try to help the innocents in spite of themselves.
There is a host of famliar faces in this final episode. Richard Jaeckel can do the hardened bad guy in his sleep, one time SPIDER-MAN Nicholas Hammond is a not-so-bad guy and Cheryl Ladd makes a very attractive love interest.
The plot is simplicity itself and it benefits from a tense boobytrap moment, but it is otherwise predictable and trite, containing all the reasons why it proved to be the last episode of this deservedly short-lived series.Top
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