In the mid-seventies, an ill-defined patch of nothing roughly located between Florida, Puerto Rico and Bermuda became an unexpected geographic celebrity, a notorious place where no man, boat or aeroplane was safe, where things just disappeared, never to return. Was the cause natural, unnatural or supernatural? Was it perhaps extra-terrestrial? And what was a bare faced Galen from ‘Planet Of The Apes’ doing there?
In the ‘The Fantastic Journey’ pilot, a group of eggheads (and the lead boffin’s son) are out innocently doing science in this so-called Bermuda Triangle when an ominous green cloud engulfs their boat. After some swirly effects, the party find themselves shipwrecked, trapped on a bizarre and mysterious island where all sorts of wildlife and all sorts of people from all sorts of times and places and planets co-exist. Within about twenty minutes, for instance, our shipwrecked protagonists have met a chilled out new age Doctor from the 23rd century, as well as tangled with a group of angry 18th century pirates, led by a man who looks like Ian McShane, only younger and smaller.
The series that followed built on this premise, but only ran for nine episodes, so left a number of unanswered questions and under-developed concepts in the wake of its premature cancellation. What is clear is that the bizarre and mysterious island had an endless supply of lurex, as almost everyone seems to be wearing it (especially the men, resulting in some distracting and unpleasant lumps and bumps in the crotchal region).
Most of the original characters were supposedly ‘returned to their own time’ (i.e. fired) after the pilot, leaving a core crew of the hippy future guy, the scientist’s son, the black Doctor (mainly there for fighting and shouting ‘right on’) and, as they went along, a foxy half alien, half Atlantean telepath miniskirt lady and her psychic cat and, best of all, shifty, waspish Roddy McDowall as a shifty, waspish scientist who, in the end, despite wearing all black, turns out to be a bit of a sweetheart.
This motley crew traipse around day after day in the same clothes looking for a way home. The separate parts of the island are reached via flashing laser portals which instantly transport the traveller to their next stop, although it isn’t clear if they are travelling through time as well as space. Either way, on this ‘fantastic journey’, they encounter lots of people from the future, several robots and some green faced Hispanic looking people in a series of silly scenarios that tick the boxes in terms of sci fi television cliché (hey, there’s a society ruled by sinister kids; a society ruled by an evil tyrant; a society ruled by sexy women and evil tyrant Joan Collins, etc.) as well as traditional drama staples like haunted houses and doomed romances.
The following scene is from an episode in which our travellers happen across an enormous but totally deserted fairground. Unabashed by just how incredibly creepy that is, and undeterred by the fact that, wherever they go, people want to kill them, they amble happily over to the site in search of fun. As they approach, all the lights go on and the music starts and the Merry-Go-round goes merrily round and all that and STILL they don't run away. To be honest, they deserve the quasi-mythological, hairy, cosmic horror that comes next...
If anyone can explain where the thunder and lightning at the end comes from, we'd be very grateful.
The whole programme is as daft as daft can be, and extremely enjoyable, especially when those wonderful analogue synths kick in. Cheap and shoddy, occasionally laughable, the show nevertheless has a sense of (mostly unfulfilled) mystery, a feeling that anything could happen because all the clocks are broken and the maps are wrong. Thirty years later, someone will throw loads of money at this concept and call it ‘Lost’.
Interestingly, after a blaze of publicity and some best selling books, it was very quickly proved that stories about the Devil's Triangle were just that, stories, and the supporting evidence mere invention, urban legend, i.e. statistically, that area of sea is no more dangerous than any other area of sea, and most incidents occurring there had quite prosaic explanations. Human nature is such, however, that people still believe in the various fraudulent claims made about The Triangle, and there are many who remain wary and frightened of it, although much of this may be down to Barry Manilow’s terrifying 1981 hit single of the same name*.
*The Wikipedia entry for this song is worth quoting in full:"Bermuda Triangle" is a song by Barry Manilow, from his album Barry. Released as a single in 1981, it reached number 15 in the UK charts, and number 16 in Germany.The song features tonicizations, the cycle of fifths and a brief modulation to the tonic minor, which represents Manilow 'losing his woman'.