Previously on The Fantastic Journey: A bunch of characters from 1976 sail into the Bermuda Triangle and wind up on an island full of other stranded travelers (and even entire civilizations), all contained within separate time zones. Varian, a musician/doctor from the 23rd century, leads the newcomers on a quest to find a dimensional doorway that will allow them to return to their own homes and times…but first, they have a nasty encounter with some Elizabethan privateers, then find themselves in a futuristic city called Atlantium, where all the survivors from the ’70s group are “sent home” except for Scott, the son of a famous scientist, and Fred, a young doctor just out of medical school.
And now…on with the series!
So, you know how each episode of, say, Game of Thrones starts with a thirty second “previously on” clip that attempts the impossible feat of recapping everything that’s happened to 150 characters over the entire course of the series? Well, the second episode of The Fantastic Journey actually starts with four minutes and twelve seconds of clips from the first episode to bring audiences up to speed (possibly because attention deficit disorder hadn’t been invented yet in 1977).
Anyway, Fred and Varian are excited about finding people with the power to send them home…but Scott’s not sure, since one of the members of the ’70s group that supposedly went on ahead was his father. “Dad wouldn’t have left me behind,” the teenager reasons, having apparently seen all the “previously on” clips revealing that Atlantium is actually powered by an angry brain in a jar called the Source who needs fresh “candidates” to repower him (or it…I’m not sure what the politically correct term for brains in jars is these days).
In hopes of convincing the boy, an Atlantean named Atar presents a letter from Scott’s father, and Varian determines it’s authentic by sensing the letter’s aura with some kind of groovy 23rd century postal Reiki.
Scott feels better after reading the letter from the NBC network executives explaining how they could only afford three series regulars (I mean, um, how the father figured his son would be safe with Fred and Varian, so he went home early to let his wife know she didn’t lose her whole family in a shipwreck). But then things get shady again when the Atlanteans explain there’s “an unforeseen problem,” since sending the others back drained all the power from their time machine. Oops!
But, on the up side, the Atlanteans have a way for Scott to see that his father’s okay: the pool of mirrors! And what is a pool of mirrors? We’ll find out…right after a conspicuous shot of a cat watching everybody!
Meanwhile, at Source HQ, brain-in-jar tells Dar-L, “There are traitors in our midst below us, where those we call the unders work” (y’know…on the off chance Dar-L has, indeed, forgotten what they call those who work below them).
Cut to: the unders — so-named, it seems, because they all wear sad brown undergarments while catatonically engaging in hydroponics.
Into this gloomy underwear underworld comes the conspicuous cat from earlier, who runs over to mind meld with a sexy woman in a sexy black and white stewardess uniform. (I was going to say “flight attendant” uniform, until my wife reminds me I’m watching a show from the ’70s.)
Now, before we go on, I have to say: when it comes to The Fantastic Journey, my 10-year-old-self came for the Ike Eisenmann, but stayed for this sexy cat lady (who, we’ll soon find out, is named Liana and played by Katie Saylor, an actress who’d previously only appeared in a handful of awesomely-titled B movies prior to her role in this series, including Invasion of the Bee Girls, Dirty O’Neil, The Swinging Barmaids, and Supervan…and stay tuned for more Katie Saylor fun facts in future recaps)!
But here’s the thing: as noted above, I started watching The Fantastic Journey back in 1977 because Ike Eisenmann was in it, and that’s because he’d co-starred in one my favorite movies at the time: Escape to Witch Mountain. And one of the main reasons I’d loved that movie so much was because it had featured my first celebrity crush, Kim Richards, as Tia — a cute girl with supernatural powers.
Now, I don’t know where this interest in supernatural women came from…but if I had to guess, I’d trace it to a third grade case of chicken pox, which made me so sick and vomitous that I spent one particularly wretched night on the living room couch drifting in and out of consciousness as the TV kept me company.
And somewhere around 3:00 AM on that hazy, half-dreaming, half-awake night, I looked up and saw the insanely beautiful Kim Novak as the mind-bogglingly desirable beatnik witch Gillian Holroyd in Bell, Book and Candle, seducing Jimmy Stewart with the help of a sexy, breathy song and her familiar, Pyewacket the cat…in other words, just the kind of thing to put the zap on the head of an impressionable, heterosexual geek for pretty much the rest of their lives.
So, in other words: once I saw the cat mind-melding with sexy, leggy Liana on The Fantastic Journey, I was pretty much a goner — and if the show had continued on for decades, Dr. Who-style, I’d probably still be watching today.
…I mean, um…oh…uh, did I type that aloud? What happened? Where were we?
Oh! Right…the unders! Turns out that one of them (Il-Tar) — along with the cat, Sil-El, and Liana — comprise an Atlantium alliance plotting the overthrow of brain-in-jar! And while Fred, Scott, and Varian gaze longingly into the pool of mirrors (remember the pool of mirrors?) the rebels convince an amazingly hairy-chested fellow under to escape his bondage…whereupon he’s instantly dematerialized by three overhead projectors that suddenly jut out of the ground and glow red at him.
And the reason for that (as brain-in-jar helpfully explains in the next scene) is that he/it controls the minds of the unders so they’ll just work and work and never think about escaping…
…but now somebody (specifically a certain sexy leggy somebody in a sexy stewardess outfit) is filling the unders’ heads with socialist nonsense about NOT serving brain-in-jar!
Meanwhile, in other exposition, Varian explains that the Atlanteans are actually an advanced race from 30,000 years ago…
…though not advanced enough to support under-rights, as guardians from above head down below to search for the rebels and…hey! Remember one episode ago, when the show had an almost entirely different cast and was about escaping Elizabethan privateers? Talk about time zones!
Anyhow, so Liana takes out a guardian simply by staring at him and blinking (which has something to do with the fact that she’s not only Atlantean, but also freakin’ extraterrestrial), because nobody’s cooler than Liana…except maybe her cat, Sil-El (who, according to Cult.TV, was played by “a trio of cats, collectively known as ‘The Felix Team’,” and there’s nothing cooler than that).
And, as it turns out, Liana is also eager to get away from the crazy Bermuda Triangle time-zone island and return home and…hmm…if only she could find a trio of travelers with the same goal!
Brain-in-jar has a different goal, of course: he/it still needs fresh meat to regenerate power, and thus chooses the freshest meat of all: Scott!
As such, Dar-L decides to lure the teen away from his companions with the temptation of “a place of amusement…of Atlantium games” (in other words: a 30,000 year old video game arcade).
Scott says he’d like to see it sometime, and Dar-L says, “Anytime you wish” — then nearly tips his hand by adding the slightly too eager, “Now, if you wish.”
Not picking up on the clear To Catch a Predator vibe, Fred and Varian let Dar-L leads Scott to a utility closet — um, I mean the Hall of Dreams! — where the Atlantean invites the youngster to lie down on a cot, saying, “I am certain you will enjoy this very much.” STRANGER DANGER!!! STRANGER DANGER!!!
Fortunately, Sil-El is keeping tabs on things, and warns Liana, who decides to warn Varian and Fred (while wearing a totally boss hoodie-cape, which somehow manages to make her stewardess outfit even sexier).
Liana brings Varian up to speed and reveals that Il-Tar used to run Atlantium before ol’ brain-in-jar took over (which must have been a super-weird election). Then Il-Tar gets all Bernie Sanders, spouting off about how the elites of Atlantium owe their cushy lives to the toil of the 99%. Unders unite! You have nothing to lose but your ugly brown garments!
But Varian, who’s already had a pretty exhausting week what with the Elizabethan privateers and all is in no mood to Occupy Atlantium…until Liana gets his attention by revealing brain-in-jar’s whole life-force-sucking scheme.
Fred admits he’s a little skeptical of the rebels’ rabble-rousing (what with the nice Atlantium 1%-ers controlling the local time machine franchise and all) — but, just to be on the safe side, he agrees that it might be a good idea to go find Scott.
Whereupon brain-in-jar sends in the clone — specifically, an evil, super-chipper Scott doppelganger created to lead Fred and Varian to the pool of mirrors and terminate them while the real Scott is prepared for energy drainage.
But then Fake Scott blows his cover via the rookie mistake of pretending to see things in a clearly empty pool of mirrors…then blows it even more by flipping Fred onto his back and lifting a giant Styrofoam boulder.
Varian quickly pulls out his sonic screwdriver…er, I mean, crystal tuning fork gizmo and disintegrates faux Scott, after which Liana pops up and agrees to lead them to the real Scott…assuming it’s not already too late!
Together with Il-Tar, our heroes rush to Source HQ, just as brain-in-jar starts life-draining Scott (and a few of his/its own faithful minions, for good measure).
Fred and Liana free Scott (with a combination of fisticuffs and intense staring and blinking) while Varian uses his tuning fork to turn the tables and drain power from brain-in-jar, instead, who vows Atlantium (and its handy time machine technology) will perish without him/it!
Varian don’t care and keeps on draining until brain-in-jar is just a sad lump of oatmeal and Il-Tar’s back in charge.
But even better, Liana (after a sad farewell to Sil-El) reveals she’s joining the featured cast in their search for the doorways back to their own times. Or, in the words of Fred: “Right on.”
But what adventures (and potential new cast members) await the Fantastic Journeyers in the next time zone?
Stay tuned for the next episode (“Beyond the Mountain”) to find out!