The Fantastic Journey
4. Children of the Gods.
This one’s a bit of a stinker. Taking its cues from Lord of the Flies, we’re presented with annoying order of minors who have it in for those rotten adults (Elders). Star Trek’s done this before, of course; it’s a standard plot and becomes even more patronising (if that’s possible) when it comes to the moral of the tale.
The NBC set designers break for lunch.
Scott: You really do know a lot of things, don’t you?
The travellers arrive amidst some Greek ruins (doubtless stock NBC props) and Willaway holds forth with his knowledge of ancient history. He appears to be taking over this role from Varian (although Jonathan wouldn’t have been able to give the lowdown on ancient Atlantis). He dates the temple to 500 BC on account of an inscription from Pindar, the Greek poet (“Hold they tongue on the anvil of truth”). This doesn’t seem to have much to do with the main plot (aside from the adoption of Greek names; we learn that one of the few nice Elders was a historian), other than that Willaway discovers a cache of futuristic weapons in a room beneath the ruins (the rifles look like the same props as those used in the following story).
Yes, they live in a sewer. Nice painted backdrop, though.
Willaway: We cannot hang around here because of some runaway child.
Although he’s given to moralising with the whippersnappers, he retains a winningly callous streak when the rest of the party express concern over the fate of Sigma (Bobby Eilbacher). Or “little ragamuffin”, as Jonathan refers to him. The boy is a fugitive from the teenage dictatorship presided over by Alpha (Mark Lambert).
Say what you like about Roddy; he has some natty duds.
Willaway: Have you heard of the word “bribe”?
It isn’t long before Sigma and Scott are captured. The former is to be punished, the latter to told that he may join this group of youngsters. Alpha is a temperamental little git, given to strictly rote motivation, but Lambert turns in a strong performance. We learn that Alpha found the power to drive the Elders away (laser weaponry). All Elders are evil, because they used to punish the kids by tying them up (!) For some reason, all the kids wear futuristic boy scout uniforms and they live in a dwelling that appears to be entered via a main drain.
Willaway on the case.
Willaway is captured and sentenced to death for disturbing the holiest of places (the weapons store). Fortunately, this ensures that McDowall making the biggest impression of the main cast. He gets all the best lines, and even makes the in-roads in getting through to Sigma that would previously have been reserved for Varian. It’s Willaway who realises that the respected elder was Alpha’s father (the kid’s got daddy issues, and he’s just misunderstood).
That Alpha's not fooling anyone; he's 35 years old if he's a day.
Varian: You have become the thing you hate.
Inevitably, the plot turns on the announcement that Alpha has effectively become an Elder himself, bullying the small fries. Plucky Scott challenges Alpha and, even though he gets an ass-whupping, his bravery inspires the other kids to challenge their leader (“I want to live without punishment!”) Alpha has a complete personality change and vows to be a much better leader in future. How beautiful!
Money can't buy this kind of production value.
The rest of the cast don’t get much of a look-in. Liana does more fingers on temples magic. At least she, Varian and Fred aren’t missing out on great storytelling. Scripter Leonard Katzman worked on The Wild Wild West and went to pen several episodes of Logan’s Run. A tiresome, predictable episode; for the second in a row it’s only McDowall who keeps things interesting.