Fantastic Journey

The Fantastic Journey was a mish-mash of adventure stories tailored for the network restrictions of 1970s television. The series began following a group of scientists on a small boat on the Atlantic Ocean. They were encompassed in a strange green mist, similar to the mist encountered by “The Incredible Shrinking Man”. Rather than being personally altered, the scientific expedition was whisked away to the 16th Century and dumped unceremoniously the beach of a remote island. On the island, the characters encountered pirates and an Indian named Varian, who quickly proved to be a lost traveler from the 23rd century.

He directed the group to the east where they could find a dimensional door that would take them home. Rather than returning them directly, the doorway launched them into a series of loosely connected dimensions where they met and were joined by trapped voyagers from other times, planets, and dimensions. At the end of each episode they stepped through another dimensional doorway hoping that the next one would take them home. This concept, which was itself taken from the Time Tunnel series, was revived for the popular series Quantum Leap and the later Sliders.

During their inter-dimensional adventures, the group faced a variety of dangers, including a race of servant androids who turned against their masters and sought to destroy them, children who sought to kill all adults, and a temptress wife who sought to marry one of the group’s members only to sacrifice him to her god. They encountered cultures who kept female slaves, alien hunters in military garb, and escaped intergalactic convicts.

The characters in this series were interesting as well. My favorite was Liana (seen at left), a very nicely shaped woman from Atlantis, whose parents were part human and part alien, similar in description to the Biblical Nephilim. Her heritage was edited out just before broadcast. Also notable was Varian, the traveler from the future with powerful mental abilities that he never seemed to recall until the end of an episode. 

Dr. Jonathan Willoway, a scientist from the 1960s, was played by Roddy McDowall, who brought a level of class to the show that it might not have otherwise had. Other famous personalities like John Saxon, Joan Collins, Cheryl Ladd, and Desi Arnaz Jr. filled out the cast, although Desi Arnaz Jr’s role was dropped during editing.

The series was never a priority for the studio execs. Constantly short on money and utilizing moderate special effects techniques that were acceptable when the show began, Fantastic Journey’s effects became even less enticing when Star Wars:  “A New Hope” smashed into theaters changing audience’s perception of special effects overnight. The show garnered only moderate ratings.  Sadly, it was cancelled midway in its first season and was never picked up for syndication. In the 1990s. the ten finished episodes were released on VHS tape but are now out of print and very difficult for collectors to obtain.