THE FAN­TAS­TIC JOUR­NEY

The weird and trou­bled ’ 70s fan­tasy TV show.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

The fate of The Fan­tas­tic Jour­ney re­flected its own premise, iron­i­cally. An in­trigu­ing TV drama about a group of trav­ellers who dis­ap­peared into a mys­te­ri­ous vor­tex, it fleet­ingly en­ter­tained ’ 70s au­di­ences be­fore van­ish­ing as surely as had its pro­tag­o­nists, slip­ping from the public con­scious­ness af­ter its brief run and re­main­ing unis­sued on video or DVD.

The Fan­tas­tic Jour­ney was cre­ated for NBC by Bruce Lans­bury, a writer and pro­ducer who had pre­vi­ously de­vised The Bar­bary Coast and

The Ma­gi­cian. Its jump­ing- off point was the Ber­muda Tri­an­gle, in­ter­est in which was then at a peak. The show’s two- part pi­lot – first aired on 3 and 10 Fe­bru­ary 1977 – de­picted a plea­sure boat sail­ing into a green mist in that area of ocean no­table for swal­low­ing ships and planes. The party aboard are ship­wrecked in an un­charted and bizarre land where they re­peat­edly find them­selves step­ping – with a blue flash – through in­vis­i­ble por­tals that take them into wildly con­trast­ing worlds. Or as one of them, Pro­fes­sor Paul Jor­dan, ob­served, “We’re in some kind of time- lock. A space­time con­tin­uum: past, present and fu­ture ex­ist to­gether, each on its own terms.”

Ex­plains Ike Eisen­mann, who played Jor­dan’s 13- year- old son Scotty, “The na­ture of the arc of the se­ries was that they were want­ing to find this mythic place within the story called Evoland where we can go back to where we first came from.”

The stranded party hook up with one of the many other peo­ple also trapped on the is­land. Var­ian ( Jared Martin) is a twin­kle- eyed, preter­nat­u­rally calm mu­si­cian- healer from 2230. He wields a gizmo that can heal peo­ple, but which – like Thor’s ham­mer – only re­sponds to his touch.

The pi­lot jux­ta­posed a fu­tur­is­tic- look­ing dystopia called At­lantium run by a grotesque brain in a jar with the es­capades of a group of El­iz­a­bethan pri­va­teers led by the brood­ing Sir James Cam­den ( a young Ian McShane). Sir James is anx­ious for news of the Ar­mada threat­en­ing Eng­land and mis­takes Fred Wal­ters – a black med­i­cal school grad­u­ate played by Carl Franklin – for Jor­dan’s slave.

De­spite dis­play­ing such clev­er­ness, the his­tor­i­cal con­tent was im­me­di­ately aban­doned due to ad­vance feed­back. Re­calls Eisen­mann, “Orig­i­nally, the idea was to make it more of a fan­tasy which could go at any time in his­tory, back­wards or for­wards. The skew as far as the screen­ings were con­cerned found that peo­ple were more in­ter­ested in the science fic­tion as­pect of the show than they were the his­tor­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties. The fu­tur­is­tic parts that were in­cor­po­rated into the pi­lot were brought into play af­ter we shot the pi­lot it­self. They restruc­tured it and re- cut those things into it.”

The pro­duc­ers also ruth­lessly axed three of the orig­i­nal six char­ac­ters who hadn’t rated well on the screen­ings, one of whom was no less than Scotty’s dad. “It was shock­ing to see that they had taken the fa­ther out of the story

Liana was played by Katie Say­lor – be­fore her mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance. Flick the switch! Dodgy ex­per­i­ments in “A Dream Of Con­quest”.

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