Friday, August 05, 2016

Ranking Man from Atlantis, Best to Worst

The Good

Man from Atlantis (Pilot Film; 1977): The original TV movie introduces Mark Harris and his world with aplomb; and a healthy bit of social commentary.

“Shoot Out At Land’s End” (November 8 1977): Mark encounters a twin brother in the Old West town of Land’s End. The episode gives a crucial “bread crumb” about Mark’s past, and the existence of others like him (perhaps even from the same family.)

The Disappearances (Telefilm; June 20, 1977): Mark must rescue Elizabeth from a scientist who is building a space ark.  The story gives Elizabeth something of interest to do, for a change and also includes a suspenseful scene of the Cetacean under attack by a guided torpedo.

Killer Spores (Telefilm; May 17, 1977): Incorporeal aliens -- and perhaps the source of mythology about demonic possession – arrive on Earth, and need Mark’s help to return to space. A good story because it captures the commentary aspect of the original, and explores the very ‘70s notion that sometimes communication between different being simply is not possible.

“Melt Down” (September 22 1977): A perfectly satisfactory premiere episode of the weekly series. Dr. Schubert is accelerating global climate change and holds the world for ransom. He will stop his efforts if Mark surrenders himself. The undercurrent of this story -- Mark’s responsibility to others, and sense of guilt -- elevates the standard story.

The Average

“The Naked Montague” (December 6, 1977): A weird, weird story in which Mark ends up in a Shakespearean drama, Romeo and Juliet.  The story makes no sense at all, and yet the hour proves nonetheless, to be suspenseful.

“The Mud Worm” (September 13, 1977): Schubert creates a deep sea probe that might actually be alive.  The story doesn’t fully explore its notions of a machine with artificial intelligence, or end in a way that makes much sense.

The Deadly Scouts (May 7, 1977): Mark attempts to stop two aliens who may be from his world. The second TV movie has some real values (including Mark’s desperation to be reunited with his people), but features a tacked on and unnecessary love story.

“Crystal Water, Sudden Death” (November 22, 1977): Mark must defend a race of innocent beings in a protected underwater world from the exploitation of Mr. Schubert.  This episode features some genuinely good ideas, none of which are treated with particular inspiration.

“Giant” (October 25, 1977): This episode introduces the series to the idea of doorways in the oceans to other world, other realities.

“Scavenger Hunt” (April 18, 1978): The rogue, Muldoon (Ted Neeley) returns, along with a two-headed sea horse, Oscar.  The episode features a neat monsters, and Ted Cassidy, two bonuses in another story of air-breathers exploiting a natural environment and its population (see: “Crystal Water, Sudden Death.”)

“Siren” (May 2, 1978): Mark must save a siren child from captivity. One of the few episodes of the series in which Mark encounters another denizen of the sea.

The Bad

“The Hawk of Mu” (October 18, 1977): Another Schubert show. This one has Mark teaming up with the villain’s awkward daughter.

“Deadly Carnival” (June 6, 1978): The final episode. It features no Cetacean, and no Elizabeth. Instead, Mark goes undercover at a circus to catch two thieves. Go generic it could be an episode from any 1970s superhero show.  It also rehashes the love-story/romance from The Deadly Scouts.

“C.W. Hyde” (December 13, 1977); A strange formula gets spilled in C.W.’s coffee and he turns into a hairy brute.  One of the all-time lamest – and most inconsequential -- episodes.

“Imp” (April 25, 1978): A child-like being from the undersea world (played by Pat Morita) turns people into laughing fools by touch.  The battle royale occurs at a putt-putt course.  Another weak, embarrassing episode.

“Man O’War” (November 1, 1977): Mark goes head-to-head with Schubert’s giant jellyfish, which looks like a birthday party balloon.  Need I say more?


  1. Excellent breakdown into three categories of the MFA.


  2. Anonymous4:09 AM

    Thank you for your interesting and informative reviews of the Man From Atlantis TV series. I recently bought the two DVD sets and binge watched the entire series. Boy, how memory can play tricks on you! I loved the show as a kid but upon re-watching them some of the episodes are truly appalling. Of course the first four TV movies are the best, and one must keep in mind the limited budget of a weekly TV show, but still! The producers seemed to have no idea of the kind of show they wanted. Episodes veer from camp comedy to fantasy to almost serious drama. My favourite one hour shows were Crystal Water Sudden Death, C.W. Hyde, Deadly Carnival and Siren. I agree with you about Man O’War and Imp being the worst!

    In regards to running order; I think network executives made a disastrous mistake in uploading all of the Mr Schubert episodes first. I think that decision lost the show its audience and doomed it in the ratings. And the order seems out of whack as well. How can C.W. shake Schubert’s hand in Man O’War? How come the guy is not in jail by then? How can Schubert’s daughter appear and then disappear without mention? How come Schubert’s assistant Brent is not in Crystal Water? Why does the crew of the Cetacean change? Why does the submarine captain disappear after the movies? Mark Harris is the new captain of the sub and sits in the command chair?! Where is Miller Simon? Without him Elizabeth has no fellow scientist to converse with. Even the last two episodes seem out of order. What is the point of firing Belinda Montgomery and replacing her, and then having the new character not appear in the last episode? I don’t buy the theory that Belinda was off sick, which is floating around the internet; if that was the case why did they drop her from the opening credits? If she was sick she would have stayed in the credits and returned if the network has backordered the last half of the season.

    I am unable to find a production order for the episodes anywhere; but the network air order sure sucks! Instead I suggest the following order to better enjoy the show:

    1)Man from Atlantis, 2)The Death Scouts, 3)Killer Spores, 4)The Disappearances, 5)Crystal Water-Sudden Death, 6)Man O' War, 7)Giant, 8)Melt Down, 9)The Mudworm, 10)Scavenger Hunt, 11)Hawk of Mu, 12)The Naked Montague, 13)Shoot-Out At Land's End, 14)Imp, 15)C. W. Hyde, 16)Deadly Carnival, 17)Siren.

    Justification: Crystal Water is the most serious Schubert episode and the only one without his sidekick, Brent. It also has a different Cetacean crew. Man O'War is next because Schubert is still operating openly and not arrested and C.W. shakes his hand. Giant gives us a break from Schubert and introduces the conman character of Muldoon. Melt Down and the Mudworm are more Schubert eps, then Scavenger Hunt brings back Muldoon while still fresh in our memories. Hawk of Mu must be watched as the last Schubert episode because his daughter is in it; and she doesn’t appear again. But her name is Juliett which leads to Naked Montague – the Romeo & Juliet episode (because Mark Harris is thinking about her!). Deadly Carnival sees Belinda dropped from the credits, while Siren introduces the new replacement character and also features another change in the Cetacean crew. This order, in my opinion, makes much more sense than the network air order (and DVD order).

    Throughout the show Patrick Duffy is great as Mark Harris. He gives a quiet dignity to the character and manages to salvage something from even the worst episodes. I recently found out that Duffy has written a Man From Atlantis novel; I would be most interested in reading your review of it John!


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