Thursday, August 26, 2010

THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY (1977)


Lost in the Devil's Triangle, trapped in a dimension with beings from the future and other worlds, a party of adventurers journey through zones of time back to their own time. Varian, a man from the 23rd century, possessing awesome powers; from 1977; Fred, a young doctor just out of medical school; Scott Jordan, the thirteen-year-old son of a famous scientist; Liana, daughter of an Atlantean father and an extraterrestrial mother; and Jonathan Willaway, a rebel scientist from the 1960s. Together they face the frightening unknown on...
The Fantastic Journey.

When I was thirteen, NBC aired ten episodes of this oh-so-70s science fiction fantasy series. Starring Ike Eisenmann between Disney's Witch Mountain flicks, and the always-welcome Roddy McDowell, The Fantastic Journey was tailor-made for kids like me. Hell, just the words "Bermuda Triangle," were enough to get my pulse racing back in '77, and when this show came on, I was glued to the set.

My memories of it were vague through most of my life, as I never saw an episode after the last show aired on June 16, 1977. If it was ever rerun, I never saw it. In fact, no one I ever mentioned it to even remembered it at all, and if not for a few articles in Starlog magazine, I might have convinced myself that I'd dreamed the whole thing. But, in the mid-90s, I was working for Tekno*Comix in Florida as an editor and writer. Tekno was run by the same lawyers who'd created the Sci-Fi Channel, and was actually financed, in part, by having sold the cable channel concept to MCA/Universal a year or two before. Well, one afternoon, I happened to see a VHS tape in a big pile of junk that was being carried down to the dumpster. As I always had to check out any video I came across, I snagged it and discovered that it was a complete episode of The Fantastic Journey!

Not a great episode, and not the pilot, which I was particularly eager to see again, but still.

Anyway, last night I found the tape again, and transferred it to a DVD-R disc. As it burned, I watched it again, and was fascinated by some of the names in the credits. Producers William Cairncross and Leonard Katzman, along with story editor (and Star Trek vet) D. C. Fontana went directly from this show to manage Logan's Run the following season, and creator/executive producer Bruce Lansbury moved on to Wonder Woman, and then, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

The cast of The Fantastic Journey was interesting, too. Aside from sci-fi faces Eisenmann and McDowell (whose character was sort of a more restrained - and thus, tolerable - version of Jonathan Harris' "Dr. Smith" from Lost In Space), there was the legitimately otherworldly Jared Martin (who later starred in the late-80s War of the Worlds syndicated series) as futureman Varian, who carried a small sonic device (looked like a glowing tuning fork) that was nearly as versatile as a certain Timelord's screwdriver, and the lovely and mysterious (seriously, I can't find anything about her on the web) Katie Saylor as the half-Atlantean/half-alien Liana. Carl Franklin is also quite good as the young doctor, Fred.

As to the show itself, it was pretty typical 70s TV fare. The episode I have a copy of, "Children of the Gods," is the obligatory "Lord of the Flies" knock-off plot that appeared on Star Trek, The Starlost, etc. and not particularly good. In fact it looks a lot like - and I guess that it's no surprise - the Logan's Run series, with lots of roaming around Griffith Park, running up and down corridors, and very limited effects (a single matte painting of a ruined city over a concrete culvert and one animated raygun blast). But it is professionally crafted and entertaining.

I would love to get my hands on the rest of the series one day. Maybe Columbia will initiate its own "manufacture-on-demand" program like Warners Archive one of these days and make the series available...

26 comments:

  1. I saw this too! I had completely forgotten. I was nine in 1977, and this show partially explains my fond memories for McDowell

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  2. Very fond of this show. Pity it had such a short life. Jared Martin's 'Varian' was such a cool character. No-one seems to know what happened to Katie Saylor. Very strange!

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    1. Although many rumours online say she passed away in 1991, I could find no truly credible evidence of this . The truth is less dramatic!! Katie saylor who portrayed LIANNA Now goes by the name KATIE A. STRASSMAN. she has been married for many years to one of the lawyers that was involved in HOWARD Hughes estate.she did indeed leave TFJ. due to an undisclosed illness , but she recovered from it within a year. She then retired from the business . She lives in studio city , and is now 68 years old

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  3. I'm with you guys--I'd forgotten about this show, but now that you've brought it up, I never missed an episode!

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  4. I was thirteen too when Fantastic Journey aired, I was attracted by the Bermuda Triangle story. NBC did not give it a chance, episodes ended up airing during the weekend afternoon instead of the prime time spots during its 1977 airing in either the Boston or R.I. tv NBC affiliates.

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  5. I never saw this show, but it looks like the kind of program that I would enjoyed very much. When you compare it to the Logan's Run TV series, that's a compliment in my book since I loved that series.

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  6. Christopher Mills, your SPACE:1970 blog site is pure genius, all you discuss is 100% relevant to me as I am too of your generation. I had to give you a nod to this sites extensive content, others seem to try to attempt, what you have successfully done here at SPACE:1970.

    As I said, on the previous anonymous, "Fantastic Journey" was a potentially great series that NBC did not give time to establish.

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  7. I watched this one as well! As I recall, Roddy McDowell showed up several episodes into the series. And weren't there several family members who weren't carried over from the pilot?

    Basically, "Fantastic Journey" was another one of those "culture of the week" shows that were endemic to '70s sci-fi TV (and even a bit of the '80s; "Otherworld" was pretty much the same premise as "Fantastic Journey," "Planet of the Apes" and "Logan's Run.").

    I will echo the above poster's comments. I really, really enjoy what you're doing here. I'm 46, so I came of age during the '70s. With rare exceptions (e.g. "The Shape of Things to Come"), I've seen most of the movies and shows you've covered, and have a great deal of affection for them as well. I hope that you'll keep this coming far into the future!

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  8. This was definitely shown here in the UK, and repeated as I recall seeing several episodes more than once. Discussions of it probably turned up in various magazines as well.

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  9. Holy moly, I had completely forgotten about this show until just now! Thanks!

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  10. Wow. I just discovered that Carl Franklin, who played Fred on THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY, is the same Carl Franklin who directed ONE FALSE MOVE and DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, two of my favorite movies of the 90s.

    I just got all ten episodes of THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY in the mail from a Space: 1970 reader, so I'll be reviewing some of the other episodes here eventually.

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  11. I remember back in '77 this show came on Sunday nights and I missed it because of church (the same reason I missed "Project UFO" and BSG). It wasn't until the 90's that I saw the entire series rerun on the Sci-Fi Channel -- back when they actually showed great stuff and old series.

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    1. Steve,

      So glad you mentioned that church was the reason you didn't get to see this show. I was 10 in 1977 and seem to remember this show on Thursday nights on the Buffalo, N.Y NBC affliate. Then as now, Thursday was a major television night and if I remember correctly, many of the shows I liked were aired on Thursday, Buck Rodgers, Logan's Run, Man from Atlantis, possibly Project UFO and The Fantastic Journey. My mother enrolled me in the local Baptist church's youth program called AWANA and all during my elementary school years and into Middle school I was basically forced to go to this god damned boy scouts rip off where we had to memorize bible verses. At 46 years old I swear that AWANA did me no good and I have mostly memories of getting home and seeing maybe the last 10 minutes of shows like this that my dad had watched with no great interest because he really isn't into science fiction. Well such is life I guess. I have tried not to force religion on my kids. I hope this show makes it onto on demand DVD before I die. Being deprived of these shows as a kid has only made me want to see them more. Logan's Run on DVD was quite good. Man from Atlantis on DVD not so much.

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  12. Katie Saylor............HOT

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  13. I remember this series well(it was a favorite a the time). The other actors seemed to turn up here and there through the years, but not Katie Saylor, so I also wondered whatever happened. I haven't seen anything on her since a very short "blog" in some movie magazine back in the late 70's or early 80's. I too was very sorry to see the show canceled. I was very into the whole Bermuda triangle thing (wasn't everybody) I think I also had a crush on Ike Eisenmann at the time, which was my original reason for watching, but after episode one I was totally hooked.

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  14. I have created a Katie Saylor wikipedia entry here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katie_Saylor if anyone has any more information about her please let me know

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    1. Thank you for posting that entry !! I saw it and u did a good job with it . There is a huge misconception that ms saylor had died, but I'm so happy you cleared the air on this subject. I looked up KATIE A. STRASSMAN . there is a listing . An inlaw of hers verified that she is alive and well !!!!

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  15. this is a new one for me, i dont think this made it across the pond or i just dont remember, im watching it at the moment over at youtube, its a fantastic show i cant beleave it got cancled so quick, it should get a dvd release

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  16. Wow! I saw the series too, in Spain! It is incredible what the memories can do: I was convinced the series was longer than 10 episodes and I was wondering how it finished. I had clear in my mind the boy character, as well as the far future guy, and of course Rody McDowell (who I never believed he was evil -he starred in Disney movies!). A nice flashback and an excellent blog. Thank you very much. Now I have to look for other treasures you may have here!

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  17. I ended up doing a blog post on this show, not because it was good, but because I too watched it in my youth, and every six months or so I would find myself trying to remember the name of the show.

    I think most if not all of the episodes are up on YouTube now. I remember thinking t wasn't very good when it first aired, and the bits I've seen off YouTube pretty much confirm that. Unlike Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which holds up really well.

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  18. This is one of the greatest sci-fi series of all time. Great stories, great cast. Shall always remember it, because it should never be forgotten.

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  19. I remember watching this show way back in my now distant youth, and it would have been cool if it had a chance to continue on after finally finding its feet.
    I would love to seen what its take would have been on such seventies sci-fi subjects as cloning, the pyramids (although those did show up in the later and surprisingly similar "Otherworld"), and of course Bigfoot.
    Yeah, I know they had the shaggy little Wolfman-faced proto-Ewok the Neffring who beat the crap out of John Saxon at the end of "A Dream of Conquest" and it would have meant going into "Six Million Dollar Man" territory, but I would have loved to have seen their take on the subject (especially since some of the more out there Sasquatch sightings in cryptozoological lore have the huge and hairy hominid appearing and disappearing in a flash of light!).
    Oh well, I guess we can always dream about the episodes we'll never see and write mental scripts out for them in our minds... then again, that was was usually the best part about watching seventies sci-fi shows anyway!

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  20. Remember this from 1977 on the BBC and it's repeat run in the mornings of the Christmas holiday in 78 when i had to rush home and catch the end during dinner time!

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  21. I loved this show, I remember using a catapult as a sonic disrupter. I demand its release on DVD

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  22. It's about time it came out on DVD and we can all enjoy that great theme music again like the old days!

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  23. Like the OP I similarly couldn't shake the memory of watching this show and loving it, but also began doubting it was a true memory or that I was confusing it with some other show because of the almost complete "blackout" of any info about the show. The amount of blank looks received whenever I asked if anyone remembered an old 70s show called FANTASTIC JOURNEY (or similar sounding variation) felt like my own "Mandela-Effect". Thanks for the great write-up about this "forgotten" show. I remember it was the sense of "family" and the diversity of the group effort to overcome and continue their journey that drew me to this show. As a boy, I definitely felt the loss when the show pretty much just disappeared from existence.

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