Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tooniversary: The Gathering of the Team (Fantastic Voyage 1st episode, 9/14/68)

Filmation, to an extent, broke new ground with their adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Fantastic Voyage into a Saturday morning adventure series in 1968. Up until then, "origin" stories, which explained how the heroes came to be, weren't done. We wouldn't learn the secrets behind Space Ghost, for example, until a comic book miniseries published by DC nearly 40 years later. Other heroes of the era, such as Birdman & The Super Six, just appeared, no questions asked, though today would require a lengthy tale to reintroduce the characters. Hanna-Barbera's Shazzan & Frankenstein, Jr. were easily explained, as was Dino Boy.

The Combined Miniature Defense Force (CMDF) is introduced in the open of each episode of Fantastic Voyage, but the series premiere, "The Gathering of the Team", tells the story of how Jonathan Kidd, Erica Lane, & Guru joined with scientist Busby Birdwell to form the CMDF's field team. Marvin Miller (Aquaman) voices both Guru & Busby, plus some additional characters. "Gathering" first aired on Sept. 14, 1968.

Here is "The Gathering of the Team":

Writer Ken Sobol would script virtually every episode of the series, and remained with Filmation for a few more years, even doing some yeoman work on the Archie franchise.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I always appreciated this show went with an origin episode. I suspect it may have been to better differentiate it from the 1966 film.

I've commented before how it was rather forward having Dr. Erica Lane as part of the crew - as the resident biologist. However, when we first meet her, she's more of a surgeon than scientist - on a space station no less! We hadn't even been to the moon yet! Plus she could pilot a spacecraft! It's nice she was so accomplished but it was touch of overkill I think.

I didn't appreciate Busby's characterization however; while it was good having him as the scientific skeptic (especially concerning Guru's mystical abilities), [Sobol] went a bit overboard and made him a bit of a jerk.

It's only in adulthood that I came to realize that Capt. Jonathan Kidd should have been retired from the Navy, since he was missing an eye! But the patch was cool looking none the less.

I do thank the show for introducing me to the term, "guru". When I looked it up as a child, I learned the character had a title, but not a proper name.

Funnier still, Marvin Miller had to argue with himself!

For the record, it's not so strange for it to snow and nothing stick on the ground. Even in NYC, it wasn't uncommon to have had flurries but nothing stick if the ground was too wet or warm.

Yeah, I'm nitpicking.

SaturdayMorningFan said...

"It's nice she was so accomplished but it was touch of overkill I think."

That may have been because the character's name is taken from the name of Filmation Founder Lou Scheimer's 2 children; his daughter Erica and son Lane. Maybe his father's pride made him pump up the abilities of the character named after his kids. Just a thought.

magicdog said...

Oh, I'm aware that she was named after his kids. It was still pushing it though.

hobbyfan said...

Funny thing. Erica's design was similar to another of Jane Webb's characters that season---Betty Cooper (The Archie Show), kind of like a grown up version, right down to the ponytail, though Jane gave Erica a more mature voice (her Batgirl & Betty voices were almost the same).

Geed said...

Erica Lane also had the character design of Wonder Girl from Teen Titans, albeit with black hair. They released the complete Fantastic Voyage on DVD in the UK which I was happily able to purchase off Amazon UK. Sadly, the company that released it has no intentions of the companion series, Journey to the Center of the Earth (I know it's not really a companion series but I always thought of it as one).

hobbyfan said...

Journey preceded Voyage by one year, and was on the same network (ABC). 20th Century Fox has the rights to both series here in the US, and now that I think of it, they might've been able to work out a deal with Filmation and the networks whereby they'd give up the rights to Batman, so that the animated version would air on CBS, while Filmation produced Voyage for them and ABC. What does Andy Mangels' book say about that, Geed?

Geed said...

Sadly, the book has very little about Journey/Center/Earth and Fantastic Voyage, concentrating on the DC Super Heroes and Archie. It says Journey got picked up for a second season all reruns and that ABC snagged Voyage because CBS had such a stranglehold on Saturday mornings, they were trying anything that could be a hit and it was so similar to Journey in terms of animation and stories. I dunno. I loved them both. I was born in '68 so I caught nothing first run. Journey is my top wanted on DVD followed closely by Hot Wheels.

hobbyfan said...

Good luck getting Hot Wheels, at least the '69 series, released on DVD. Insofar as I know, Mattel has no plans to authorize a DVD release, unless you've heard something to the contrary.

Maybe Mangels is waiting to do a sequel to finish the Filmation story. That would be more appropriate.