Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fantasy Island is The Tempest!

“Reunion / Anniversary.” By Allen Baron and John Newland. Perf. Ricardo Montalbán and Hervé Villechaize. Dir. John Newland. Fantasy Island. Season 1, episode 13. ABC. 29 April 1978. DVD. Sony Pictures, 2005.

I'm thrilled to announce this discovery. I have long suspected that Fantasy Island was, on the whole, a general derivative of The Tempest, and now the time gives it proof! Fantasy Island is The Tempest; Mr. Roarke is Prospero; Tattoo is Ariel!

Only the first season of Fantasy Island has been released on DVD—and that only in a Portuguese-language version in Region Two format. But, thanks to a friend in Portugal, I've obtained this rare DVD (which, most fortunately, has English-language subtitles).

For the most part, Fantasy Island keeps its connection to The Tempest in the background. However, the show made the connection explicit in episode 13, the plot of which exactly mirrors that of Shakespeare's play:

This derivative version of The Tempest makes some particularly interesting decisions, including these:
  • Tattoo's usual cry of "The plane! The plane" is replaced by the cry of "Boatswain! Boatswain!" This change clearly foregrounds the episode's reliance on The Tempest; it also seems to be the origin for the beginning of Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books (1991), which also begins with that line. Here, it is spoken by Tattoo, the Ariel analogue, rather than by the Shipmaster, as the text has it.

  • When Mr. Roarke, as Prospero, looks skeptically on at Tattoo as Ariel (the script has the stage direction "Enter Tattoo, dressed as a modern Ariel"), Tattoo quotes directly from the play—the forward slash in the subtitle is a clue that he's quoting poetry when he says "I come / To answer thy best pleasure" (I.ii.189-90). This annoys Mr. Roarke, who seems to want to avoid calling attention to the episode's source material. Hence, when Tattoo continues with Ariel's speech ("be't to fly, to swim"), Mr. Roarke interrupts him with another line from the play—but one delivered, this time, as if it were not a direct quote: "Hast thou perform'd the tempest that I bade thee?" (I.ii.193-94).

  • Ariel's line about liberty is delivered not to Prospero but (with a wink) to one of the maids of the island. Is this a conflation of the carnal desires of Caliban with the etherial spirit of Ariel?

  • The same question applies to Tattoo's delivery of a line the text ascribes to Miranda: "Your tale, sir, would cure deafness" is said with a leer at Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio.

  • Alonso, Sebastian, and Antonio have their genders reversed in this version, even though Mr. Roarke refers to Antonio as "my brother." The fourth of that party, Gonzalo, is present (the gender of his role has been changed, too—he is the tallest of the four) but not mentioned. As the plot unfolds, we realize that this is because Mr. Roarke does not count her among his enemies.

  • Tattoo / Ariel is shocked at some of Prospero's plans. For example, when Prospero, in a calm but not emotionless voice, declares his intention to "plague them all, even to roaring," Tattoo glances at him disapprovingly.

  • In connection with that, Mr. Roarke delivers a line the text reserves for Caliban in his description of this group of enemies: "A devil, a born devil, on whose nature / Nurture can never stick" (IV.i.188-89). Is Caliban abstracted so far as to represent all evil in this derivative, allowing lines normally addressed to him to be spoken directly to the abstraction of evil?

  • When Trinculo and Stephano enter, Mr. Roarke introduces them with a line adapted from the Dramatis Personae instead of from the body of the play: "Trinculo and Stephano: A Jester and a Drunken Butler."

  • Toward the end of this opening sequence, Mr. Roarke promises Ariel his liberty—but he follows it with a quote that the text has Propsero deliver to Gonzalo: "You do yet taste / Some subtitles o' the isle, That will not let you / Believe things certain" (V.i.123-25). Does this turn Ariel / Tattoo into a slave to the isle rather than merely a denizen of it?
If these questions arise out of the first four minutes of the show, what do you imagine the rest of the episode will bring?

Discovered and posted this first day of April, 2010. "You do yet taste / Some subtitles o' the isle, That will not let you / Believe things certain." (V.i.123-25)

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the first season from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Bonus image for all those who have scrolled down this far:

A rare image of an early draft of this episode. The notes (in what is known to Fantasy Island scholars as "Hand D") seem to confirm the direct connection between this script and Shakespeare's play.


Anonymous said...

The most elaborate April Fool's plot I have ever seen! I feel like a piker having only baked an apple pie entirely of Ritz Crackers.

Dan said...

The 90s version of the show starring Malcolm McDowell made the inspiration far more overt, with two supporting staff on the island named Ariel and Cal.

kj said...

Very interesting, Daniel!

Do the characters match their names?


kj (Bardfilm)

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest