Fantastic Journey, The

Friday, 22 February 2008 07:42

Holiday makers get the Bermuda Triangle Blues ...


USA - 1977 - 10 episodes (one 90 min pilot, 9 x 60 mins) - colour

Playing in the UK on BBC1 between March and May 1977, just weeks after it had screened for the first time in America, The Fantastic Journey was a mid-season replacement, brought in to pick up viewers where a cancelled series had failed. In fact, the pilot movie had been made the previous Summer, and the delay getting the green light to go into production meant massive cast changes for the nine episodes that followed.

The Bermuda Triangle has for decades been the source of conjecture. Dozens of ships and planes have vanished in the area since World War Two, a 100,000 square mile body of water in the South-Western quadrant of the North Atlantic. Its apexes join Bermuda on the North, Puerto Rico on the South-East, and a point in the Gulf of Mexico west of Florida. Unimposing coral islands, sun-soaked beaches and clear-blue waters do not calm the nerves of visitors to the area. Naturally, the believers in the phenomenon have their theories as to what may be hidden in the area. Is it inhabited by extra-terrestrial visitors? Could there be the remains of a giant prism left by a past civilisation that sends out focussed beams when particular lunar and astral conditions re-activate it? A great void that leads to the centre of the earth? Or is it, just possibly, as "The Fantastic Journey" leads us to believe, a space-time warp that traps its victims in another dimension?

The original premise involved a Professor Jordan (Scott Thomas), leading an archaeological expedition by boat into The Devil's Triangle (an alternative name for The Bermuda Triangle). He is accompanied by his son Scott, Eve (Susan Howard - before she went on to play Donna Krebbs in Dallas), medic Jill (Karen Somerville), and Doctor Fred Walters (Carl Franklin). They borrow Ben Wallace's boat for the trip (Leif Erickson - famous from starring as Big John Cannon in The High Chaparral), but all does not go to plan. Soon, they find themselves engulfed in an unexplained green cloud, a bell tolling in the distance, and they lose consciousness.

They awaken on a beach, some of them injured, but at least most of them are alive. It's not long before a figure dressed in a loincloth appears, armed with a magic crystal tuning fork which can miraculously heal the travellers' injuries. They have encountered Varian, an earthman stranded in this dimensional paradox too, having originated from the year 2230 AD.

Their first adventure sees them battle Ian McShane as a 16th Century villain called Sir James Camden. Desi Arnaz Jr is also on hand as a Second World War Navy pilot who's lost his marbles. With characters being killed off, and the party of survivors splitting up into two, we are left with just Varian, Fred and Scott to continue onwards into series television.

They are joined by Liana (Katie Saylor), a descendent from the civilisation that was Atlantis, whose mother was apparently from another solar system. She has a constant companion in the shape of a skilled and intelligent cat called Sil-L, with whom she can communicate telepathically (Sil-L was played by a trio of cats, collectively known as "The Felix Team"). Liana's reason for joining the travellers is to get back to her mother's home planet.

The ace up the producers' sleeves came in the form of the actor they brought in to join the ensemble in the third story, "Beyond The Mountain". Genre heavyweight Roddy McDowall played Dr Jonathan Willoway, a rebel scientist from the 1960s, who has created a hideaway where androids serve his every need.

Jared Martin as Varian
Ike Eisenmann as Scott Jordan
Carl Franklin as Fred Walters
Katie Saylor as Liana
Roddy McDowall as Jonathan Willoway

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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