Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.
This mid-season 1976-77 entry followed a scientific expedition that gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle and discovers that it is comprised of multiple “timezones” that travelers can pass through via hidden gateways. Several survivors from the expedition team up with a traveler from the future named Varian in search of “Evoland” where they can finally find the portal back to their own timelines. The Fantastic Journey series debuted at a time when interest in the Bermuda Triangle, U.F.O.’s and other paranormal phenomena was at a high point in America. But it was less interested in exploring those themes and more geared toward the “Earth Trek” format that Gene Roddenberry had previously attempted with his failed pilots Genesis II and Planet Earth (more on those at this link). Those took the core premise of Star Trek–visiting different societies each week–and grounded the travelers rather than having them flying through the cosmos. And The Fantastic Journey‘s showrunner D.C. Fontana was familiar enough with the basic premise as she had previously worked with Roddenberry on Trek (as a story editor and writer, penning the scripts “The Ultimate Computer”, “The Enterprise Incident” and more). Unfortunately, The Fantastic Journey never rose to the quality level of Fontana’s previous series, but it had some potential if it could have gotten past its 70’s cheesiness and preponderance for genre cliches, plus it also had a decent cast. I’ve always felt that Jarred Martin was underappreciated as an actor, and Roddy McDowall is one of my all-time favorites. And the beautiful Katie Saylor fought through some poor scripts to show signs that she could step up as a strong female lead. Unfortunately, the show was rushed into production and suffered from the dreaded network tinkering. It also had to contend with poor scheduling as it was pitted against popular shows Welcome Back Kotter on ABC and The Waltons on CBS and also subjected to frequent preemptions. It ended up getting cancelled after only ten episodes (a script for an eleventh was completed but never produced), though sci fi fans from the 70’s still have fond memories of it as one of the few true science fiction entries on Prime Time at that time. The following season would bring the Logan’s Run TV series which carried over much of the same creative team and continued with the Earth Trek theme. Neither of the shows can be counted as sci fi classics, though The Fantastic Journey probably had more long-term potential if given a chance. Sadly, it has yet to receive a DVD release, though you can catch episodes on YouTube from time to time. It’s worth checking out for some fun 70’s cheese that could have developed into a decent show if given the proper support from the network.
Aired: NBC, 1976-77, 1 Season Totaling 10 Episodes
Starring: Jared Martin, Ike Eisenmann, Carl Franklin, Katie Saylor, Roddy McDowall