The Great Fantastic Journey Rewatch: Vortex Part 2

Previously on The Fantastic JourneyIke Eisenmann (as Scott) was traveling with his father (Dr. Paul Jordan) and a motley gang of 1970s scientists on a chartered boat in the Caribbean to do some…uh, marine biology or something when the captain, Ben, steered the ship into a big green cloud in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.  As a result, the group wound up on a mysterious, distinctly non-Caribbean island where they encountered a seemingly mute (and obviously white) man dressed as a member of the extinct Arawak tribe.  Then, even more inexplicably, Scott followed the man into the jungle and watched him disappear into a puff of blue analog special effects!

And now, the conclusion of this most peculiar pilot episode!

[25:00 – 35:00]

As soon as the Arawak disappears from sight, a voice rings out from the darkness, informing Scott that he’s “curious and intelligent” and should walk straight ahead and not be afraid.

So, ignoring the seeming stranger danger, Scott walks through the blue special effect, as well, and winds up face to face with the loin-clothed Arawak, who cheerfully informs him, “That tingling sensation will diminish in a few more seconds,”  which is definitely not a creepy thing for a half naked man to say to a pubescent boy at all!

But since Doc Jordan didn’t raise no idjits, Scott states, “You’re no Indian” and demands answers about the fake Arawak’s identity and his earlier mute routine and the blue special effect and the gold watch and everything…

…at which point, Fantastic Journey deviates sharply from Lost (its closest TV descendant) by actually providing some answers as the Not Arawak leads Scott into a giant TARDIS-y contraption shaped like a big grey 20-sided die and explains he’s from Earth in the year 2230 — but that he, like Dr. Jordan’s expedition, also became stranded on the island after some unspecified accident involving his (apparently Dungeons & Dragons-powered) craft.

journey8Then the ersatz Arawak pauses, staring off into space like that guy Elaine dated on Seinfeld who went into a trance every time he heard “Desperado” and announces, “I believe that your father is looking for you.”

Cut to Dr. Jordan, who is indeed looking for his son (accompanied by scientist Eva), providing Scott the perfect opportunity to introduce them both to the “tingling sensation.”

“It’s okay!  Just walk right through it,” the youngster advises, beaming the adults to his location, where he announces to them (and us) that at some point he discovered the wack Arawak calls himself Varian and can apparently get them all off the island.

But first, Mr. Loincloth says they’d better go find the rest of Dr. Jordan’s party before it’s “too late” — as opposed to the night before, when it definitely wasn’t too late and they were all safely gathered in a cave together.  Oops!

Meanwhile, in another part of the tropical forest, scientists Fred and Jill (the one whose ears were ringing with crazy ghost bells right after the shipwreck) are still looking for Scott when, much to their horror, they unexpectedly stumble across…

…A RENAISSANCE FAIRE!!!  And not a fun one with jousting and turkey legs, but rather the kind with mysterious horsemen who capture them (and, elsewhere on the island, poor Cap’n Ben, too).

Observing from a distance, Varian unhelpfully tells Eva and the Jordans that there’s nothing they can do for their friends until nightfall…

…while observing from an even further distance, some dude in a standard-issue ’70s sci-fi Nehru jacket speaks into a giant glass egg (which I’m hoping Apple will release soon, so I can laugh and point at all the trendy people who buy them and then can’t fit them in their pockets).

“But iEgg also has a live streaming camera function!” the trendy people will say, pointing to how Nehru Jacket uses his to “scan” the “candidates in his vision.”  (Or, in the words of Kyle’s Mom, “What-what-WHAT?!?”)

Well, we’ll put that question aside for the moment as Eva and the Jordans follow Varian back to his 20-sided die, where the faux Arawak finally puts on a shirt and pants and Dr. Paul digests the fact that they’re in some sort of “time lock,” a space-time continuum, with past, present, and future existing side-by-side.  Not bad for a marine biologist!

Varian confirms there are many time zones on the island — indeed, Neanderthal man took his first upright steps at the exact moment modern man first walked on the moon, and there’s “only a thin tissue of consciousness separating one event from the other.”

(Oh, yeah…now I’m starting to remember why I dug this series so much:  the heaviosity!)

hqdefaultVarian informs the others that the Renaissance Faire dudes who grabbed their friends are British privateers from the 16th century (who’d previously captured him, too).  He eventually managed to escape, though, and figured running around in a loincloth would make him less conspicuous.  (Or at least that’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.)

It’s also why he didn’t initially reveal his true identity to the 1970s gang, since he wasn’t sure he could trust them.  But, now, with trust fully established, Varian toasts his guests with some future wine…bottled all the way back in 1986!  Eva takes a sip, and it’s clear from her expression that while Varian may be from the future, she’s maybe not necessarily gonna trust his Yelp reviews if they ever swing through a 21st century time zone together.

Meanwhile, in the 16th century, the privateers are totally psyched to have Jill in camp — a.k.a., the first “fair-skinned woman” they’ve seen in 11 years.  Uh-oh.

[35:00 – 45:00]

But, wait…who’s that firing a gun into the air, putting a kibosh on the whole Elizabethan frat party vibe before it gets outta hand?  HOLY SHIT!  It’s Ian McShane, who my 10-year-old self was evidently digging on TV 29 years before I thought I’d first discovered him as Al Swearengen in Deadwood.  All that stuff Varian said about the tissue of consciousness?  Totally true!

Anyway, in this time zone, McShane is Sir James Camden, who faces down the frattiest of the privateers in a solid bout of swordplay that effectively buys Jill (as well as Fred and Cap’n Ben) at least a little safety at the Faire.

Sir James asks if Queen Elizabeth still rules back in England, and Jill’s swift enough on the uptake to say yes (and also mentions that the war with Spain is going just swimmingly for the Empire, thanks very much).

Pleased, Sir James offers to give Jill a more appropriate outfit (since the privateer dudes apparently have some gowns and corsets lying around (…uh, y’know…for Shakespeare night!), and then things get awkward again when the Brit very un-politically-correctly assumes Fred is Ben’s slave.

Thinking fast, the Cap’n says, “Oh, you see, he saved my life and I…I gave him his freedom,” which is a pretty good ad lib for someone who doesn’t know he’s in a 16th century time zone and would likely have assumed they’d simply stumbled across some kind of horny, racist 1970s LARP-ing group.

Back in the 20-sided die, meanwhile, Varian explains that in the year 2230, musicians are the doctors, Earth has unlimited resources, and “the five races are melded into one” (which means he must be some kind of freaky mutant back home, ’cause Mr. Future Man is clearly whiter than Grand Funk Railroad).

CUT TO:  Nehru Jacket, walking towards a structure in the distance that looks ominously like L.A.’s Bonaventure Hotel surrounded by a matte shot.  MUSIC STAB!!!

Then it’s back to the Renaissance Faire, where Cap’n Ben and Fred are starting to realize all the 16th century shenanigans may actually be real, especially when the privateers lock ’em in a supply closet while Sir James wines and dines Jill.

Fortunately, help is on the way, as Dr. Jordan, Scott, and Eve prepare Molotov cocktails for a raid on the privateer camp (but not Varian, who spoils the fun by getting all 24th century pacifist up in their faces)…

…though, as it turns out, good ol’ fashioned 20th century aggression comes in plenty handy when our heroes arrive just in time to save Jill from getting burned at the stake (as a result of her angering Sir James with some crazy witch talk about Elizabethan England actually being 400 years in the past).

Sadly, though, rather than escaping with the others, Ben takes advantage of all the ruckus to sneak into the privateers’ treasure room, where’s he’s killed by a rubber cobra (as greed tragically shifts the crusty old captain from “recurring cast member” to “pilot episode guest star”).

Meanwhile, at the futuristic Bonaventure Hotel, Nehru Jacket talks to a pair of his grey-clothed colleagues (sexy blonde Rhea and world-weary Atar) about how the Source powering Atlantium needs a candidate for regeneration and…um…what?  Does the show realize we’ve only got, like, seven minutes left in the episode?

Well, apparently so, given how quickly the plot dispatches Jill, Eve, and Dr. Jordan as they’re suddenly, inexplicably separated from the others when the group enters the Bonaventure…uh, sorry, I mean the Atlantium time zone in search of a section of the island where the Arawaks say “any man can find a doorway back to his own time.”

As for Varian, Scott, and Fred, they’re greeted by Rhea, who escorts the trio into her gleaming chrome and glass future city, where they’re all trailed by a conspicuously mysterious cat as Nehru Jacket informs his “guests” that their companions have gone back to the future

(Which, I’m now remembering, is yet another reason I loved this show as a kid, what with one episode smearing into the next like that, revealing glimpses of the ever expanding universe the writers had planned…as opposed to stories that wrapped up neatly each week like The Dukes of Hazzard — or, years later, on that other show about castaways on a supernatural island, where the writers were clearly making up their cockamamie “mythology” as they went along!)

But what evil plan does the sinister talking oatmeal in charge of Atlantium have for our heroes?

(And what’s the deal with the mysterious cat that seems to know more than its saying?)

Stay tuned for Episode 2 of The Fantastic Journey:  “Atlantium”!

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