tek's rating: ½

The Odyssey, on CBC (Canada)
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Caution: spoilers!

This first aired from 1992 to 1994 on CBC, and that's where I first watched it. (It later aired on Sci-Fi Channel, but I don't know if I ever saw it there.) In 2009 it was released on a limited edition DVD set, which you could order from Omni Film's website. I eventually ordered it there, probably in 2011, but it's no longer available, so... good luck finding it. (I'm really glad I got a copy before it sold out, since I couldn't have afforded it when it was first released. Usually when I wait until I can afford to buy something, I'm too late, so I guess I got lucky, this time.) Anyway, I started watching the DVD in 2011, but even though there are only 39 episodes in the series, I didn't finish it until 2014. And when I did watch it, there were lots of things I didn't remember, especially from the third season. I rather wonder how much I'd simply forgotten, and how much I might have possibly missed when it originally aired in the 90s. Either way, now that I've watched the series again, I can update my review considerably.

Season One
In the pilot episode, an 11-year-old kid named Jay Ziegler climbs up to a tree fort, trying to get his father's telescope back from some bully kids who had stolen it. (Jay's dad is supposedly dead, having drowned when he was out fishing with Jay about five years ago.) Anyway, Jay falls from the tree fort, hits his head, and falls into a coma. He dreams he's in a place called "Downworld" (at least I read that name somewhere once, though I don't think it was ever actually called that in the series) in which there are no adults. Kids run everything, and most don't even believe in the existence of "big people." Anyway, Jay remembers a lot about the real world ("Upworld"), things like "parents" and "home," which the kids he meets know nothing of. But apparently even Jay doesn't remember everything. He soon makes a couple of friends, a smart girl named Alpha (Ashley Rogers, whom I'd later see in Now and Then), and a strong boy named Flash. They begin traveling with Jay in his quest to return home. Alpha looks like his friend Donna Archipenko in the real world, except that Donna walks with a crutch, and Alpha doesn't. Flash looks like Keith Haldane, one of the bullies in the real world, who feels guilty after Jay falls into the coma, and befriends Donna and helps out with Jay sometimes in the real world. Jay's mom, Val, has Jay admitted to a private care facility called Driftwood, where his treatments are conducted by Dr. Max Oswald.

Anyway, Downworld is controlled by people at a place called the Tower. Apparently the ruler is Brad, a kid who was somehow a younger version of Jay's dad. The ruler is supported by the Monitors, kids who are kind of like the military or police. The chief Monitor is named Finger (Mark Hildreth). Jay wants to get to the Tower, but first there are various checkpoints he and his friends have to pass. Along the way they have various strange adventures, usually involving kids who are members of different clubs. (Alpha was a member of the Library Club, and Flash was in another club who were Jay's enemies when he first got to Downworld.) At one checkpoint, they encounter a girl named Medea (Andrea Nemeth), who uses a Ouija board to prophesy that "J" would be "the wrecker," and destroy the world. So she wants to stop him from reaching the Tower, as do Finger and all the Monitors. (In spite of Medea being an enemy, I always liked her, partly because I had a mad crush on her, and partly because she was the most interesting, least annoying, best written and acted character on the show.) At another point, Jay and the others encounter a scientist named Fractal, who's on the governing board of the Tower. He has a crystal that turns kids into zombies when they touch it, but it turns out that when Jay touches it, his consciousness returns to Upworld, though he still can't move or speak, there. (Actually, I don't remember if that happened in the original Fractal episode, or just later episodes with other crystals.) But anyway, Fractal is one of the few people in Downworld who believes in "big people," and in another world. Jay and his friends eventually learn that Brad had been overthrown by his chief Monitor, Macro (Ryan Reynolds), who now runs the Tower. They reach the tower by the end of season one, and meet Brad (who had been hiding in plain sight). But after Brad is discovered, he has to escape the Tower, as do Jay and his friends.

Season Two
Medea still wants to get rid of Jay, to prevent him from destroying the world... although it turns out that his leaving Downworld is what would cause it to end, apparently. (When he returns to Upworld, there are earthquakes in Downworld.) He never leaves for long, though. Also this season, we occasionally see a diner with a waitress named Lila. And after awhile, Brad basically disappears from the world, because he turns 16, which no kid ever does. And of course there are more random adventures, as Jay continues to search for his dad (the adult version). However, Alpha doesn't want him to leave the world again, so she joins Medea at the Tower. And in Upworld, the expense of Driftwood forces Val to try to finally claim Brad's life insurance policy, which she'd neglected for years because she didn't want to believe he was really dead. The insurance company contests this, so she gets help from a lawyer named Arthur. Also, there's a celebrity named Sierra Jones (Medea's Upworld counterpart), apparently a former Driftwood patient, who starts coming by and helping out with Jay's care, and fundraising or whatever. Meanwhile, in Downworld, Medea eventually joins Jay's side, and Alpha rejoins her friends as well. (Though Flash still doesn't trust Medea.) They finally catch up with Jay's dad at one point, but he is elusive, doesn't really explain anything about why he disappeared. And then he gets away again. Later, Medea tells them about a wall that separates the kids-only part of Downworld from an adults-only part, and they go to the other side looking for Jay's dad. They eventually find him, but he has enemies... though it's never clearly explained exactly what he's done to upset anyone. And then Jay wakes up, and learns some shocking secrets about his father's death in real life, though I don't think there's any real correlation between that and what's going on with the Downworld version of Jay's dad. Jay does reappear in Downworld after learning the truth in Upworld, though, and finds that there were no earthquakes in his absence, this time. Apparently this is because his father was still there (and made a deal with Macro to help him escape his enemies). So... I dunno, the whole mythology of the show just keeps getting more confusing and making less sense, even while the writers are clearly trying to make it make more sense. At least that's how I feel about it. But whatever... at the end of the season, Jay and his dad both disappear from the Tower, and we must wait to find out where they went in season 3. (I'm probably forgetting some important details from throughout season 2, though.)

Season Three
At the end of season two, Jay wakes up in the real world, but a part of him is still in Downworld. So that story continues in season three, but the story in Upworld takes on a whole new dimension, with Jay trying to get used to all the changes that have taken place while he was in the coma. It's not easy for him, and his mom makes him start seeing a psychiatrist named Sy Walsh. Lots of things annoy Jay about life now, including his mother dating a guy named Steve, now that she's finally accepted that Brad is dead (even though Jay claims he's not). Jay, Donna, and Keith spend a lot of time at a comic shop where a kid named Nathan (Fractal's Upworld counterpart) works. And eventually Jay starts dating Sierra Jones, though she already has a boyfriend, Mick (Finger's Upworld counterpart). Though Jay doesn't seem to get along very well with his friends. Meanwhile, in Downworld, everything's kind of different. No one's worried about Jay being "the wrecker" anymore, though Macro and Finger still don't like him. He seems to come and go much more freely than he used to, and while the Upworld Jay occasionally has memories of Downworld, the Downworld Jay doesn't really seem to think about Upworld anymore. Flash has started dating Lila, so we see people hang out at the diner once in a while. And Alpha starts publishing a newsletter called the Fax, which protests the Tower's nefarious actions. Macro becomes increasingly subserviant to Finger, and I guess Finger eventually sort of overthrows Macro, even if that's never made explicit. Even before that, Finger seemed to be dating Medea, though it's clear she's really on Jay's side. Eventually Finger realizes that, and imprisons her, though Jay helps her escape. Oh, and there's a Monitor named Savage, who seems to become Finger's chief Monitor. And eventually Jay leads a revolution against Finger, and makes Flash his own chief Monitor, sort of. And Medea becomes an important advisor to Jay. But there are also a few other kids who are leaders of different clubs, who have helped Jay form an alliance to fight Finger. But they are totally untrustworthy.

And... um... yeah, like I said before, I'm not even sure how much of the season I saw before I watched the DVD. Because my memories of the season turned out to be considerably different from the way it actually unfolded. I mean, I basically remembered the whole season as being about one particular theme that actually was a relatively small part of the season. And the end... I really don't remember if I saw it before or not, but all I can tell you now is that the season ends with major cliffhangers in both Upworld and Downworld, which would never be resolved, since the series got cancelled.

Anyway, it's all quite bizarre and rather fun. And complicated. The acting and writing could be kind of lame, but I still found the show's premise interesting. And I always wanted to learn more about the whole history of Downworld, or whatever. But the final season really kind of confused me in various ways, and I sometimes found the writing even lamer than usual... but as in the first two seasons, I still found it interesting. And I should say that while watching the show on DVD, it was fun to see some guest stars who I later got to know from other stuff, and didn't remember being on this show. They included Jewel Staite, Tyler Labine, and... maybe others, I dunno. Oh, and near the end of the series, I was watching a scene with Finger and Savage, and I suddenly thought to myself, "Those two kinda remind me of Macen and Zeke." (Man, I hope that reference makes sense to someone other than me, someday. But if it does, I assure you... the resemblance came as a complete surprise to me, and I wouldn't read anything into it, if I were you.)

And now I am so very happy to finally be done re-watching the series. I look forward to not watching it again for many years, but I'm still really glad I can watch it whenever I decide I want to. And as often happens with my reviews, I simultaneously feel like I've revealed far too much and still left out a ton of important stuff, from every season....

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