After an elaborate re-cap of “Vortex” that eats up over five minutes of story time, “Atlantium” — The Fantastic Journey’s second episode — commences in the futuristic city of the Atlantean people.
In terms of exteriors, this metropolis is represented on-screen by the Bonaventure Hotel (also frequently seen as New Chicago in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century).
Inside the city, it looks like a real life, 1970s shopping mall, perhaps in keeping with the Logan’s Run (1976) vision of the future as a consumer’s paradise.
Though Scott accepts this explanation with grace and maturity, it’s still remarkably lame. Scott’s mother lives safely in 20th century suburban America, under the rule of law, and with available law enforcement. She might be sad to believe her husband and son are dead, but certainly she would be safe and taken care of. She’d be okay.
By contrast, Scott is trapped in the Bermuda Triangle, with danger and mystery on all sides.
Perhaps more to the point, Paul could have sent Jill and Eve back with the message to his wife that he was “okay,” while he waited for Scott in the city of Atlantium. This explanation makes Paul a jerk and a bad father, no two-ways about it.
Anyway you cut it, this is also bad writing. As I wrote in the review of “Vortex,” it should have been established that the Source and the Triumvirate of Guardians had Paul and the others killed. Though grim, that explanation would have tied up the dangling loose ends a bit neater. And Scott still would have wanted to get home…to be with his only living parent; his Mom.
In Atlantium, specifically, we learn that the “Unders” (Underclass) toil mindlessly to grow food for the coddled City Dwellers. But here things are even worse than un-equal: the Source actually controls the thoughts of the “Unders,” so that individual consciousness is not possible. With the Source losing power, however, the Unders are beginning to awaken to the idea of slavery…and freedom. Imagine if the 1 percenters could actually control our memories and thoughts, and you get an idea of the total enslavement in Atlantium.
I will state this: Katie Saylor was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, and created a hybrid/empath character a decade before Star Trek: The Next Generation went in the same direction with Counselor Deanna Troi.
As Lianna, Saylor veritably radiates warmth and sensitivity, and her magnetic presence gives The Fantastic Journey a tremendous emotional boost. Though young (and yes, incredibly sexy) Saylor assumes the role of ‘mother’ in the group easily and confidently. She is a boon to the program, and gives every episode a lift.
In particular, Varian tells Scott in this episode that by 2230 mankind has proof that Atlantis existed, and that it possessed incredible technology, even by 23rd century standards. When Atlantis was destroyed in the distant past, Varian insists, the Earth’s continents “re-shaped” themselves. Accordingly then, the city of Atlantium featured in this episode is from a zone in the distant past (like the zone of the pirate privateers in the previous installment.) Thus, in a sneaky way, the writers have gotten around the network’s edict about using the “boring” past. Clearly, Atlantis thrived in the past, but a science fiction sheen accompanies the tale and the locale, so the network was appeased.
All that established, the episode does feature some intriguing touches, namely Atlantium’s “pool of dreams” (where you can visualize your loved ones…) and “The Hall of Dreams” (where your fantasies can come true.) Still, even these touches reminded me of the Logan’s Run milieu, which featured locales such as “The Love Shop” and “New You.”
I also enjoyed this episode’s meditation on immortality, another trope of the 1970s (seen frequently in Space:1999, The Starlost and other programs of the day). Here, we are told the story of “the Source,” a brilliant man and leader who ruled the city, but — even on physical death — could not let go of life. Now nothing more than a brain, he seeks to steal the life of a youngster, his good “human” qualities long since gone. As humans, we gain immortality from our good deeds (or evil deeds, I suppose…) and in the lives of our children and their children, not in our physical continuance. In sci-fi TV, many characters have failed to heed that distinction.
At the end of “Atlantium,” the travelers unite and commence toward Evoland, on “journey towards the rising sun.” That was Fantastic Journey’s destination too, on ascent as it headed for greener pastures in the upcoming episode, “Beyond the Mountain.”