Animated / Children’s
17 x 27 min episodes / 1991-2003
Back in 1987, Focus on the Family started a radio drama series for Christian families called “Adventures in Odyssey,” and it is still running today, more than 900 episodes later. It also spawned 17 animated episodes, the first of which is The Knight Travellers.
It’s clear from the start of the first episode that viewers are expected to have some familiarity with the radio original, as main characters John Avery Whittaker (“Whit” for short) and Eugene Meltsner aren’t really introduced. For those that don’t know, Whit is a lovable grandfatherly figure and an inventor and Eugene is his geeky, cheerful, and probably early twenties, assistant.
In this first episode, some bad guys have stolen his “Imagination Station” invention which Whit designed to allow people to travel back in time, at least in their imaginations, to find out what life was like back then. However, the bad guys have turned it into a “Manipulation Station” so they can use it to control people’s minds and get rich. As regularly happens, Whit gets some pint-sized help, this time from 10-year-old Dylan Taylor and his dog Sherman (who aren’t from the radio dramas).
If you are familiar with the radio show, then it won’t surprise you that these videos can have some tension to them. In this episode, Dylan has to contend with a crocodile, a giant boa constrictor, and a smooth-talking, and iron-mace-swinging, evil knight. In the next episode, Dylan and the new neighbor girl have an ongoing argument that continues on through the episode and ends in a hospital trip. In Episode 3, Dylan’s disobedience leads to a runaway mower destroying some prize flower gardens. Everything turns out all right in the end, and, of course, lessons are learned. But the sibling arguments, the menacing villains, and the narrow escapes, will be too much for some sensitive viewers.
This series is meant to teach lessons, and there are a couple morals to the initial story. The first – that true treasures are not found in toy catalogs or toy stores but come from God – is true enough. But the second moral is problematic. Whit tells the main bad guy that:
“Our hope lies in something you can never control or conquer. Our _______”
If you would have filled in that blank with “Our God” then you understand why Whit’s answer – “Our faith” – is misdirected. Without God to preserve us, our faith would be conquerable. It is Jesus who is unconquerable. That’s a point worth raising with your kids.
Also problematic is the third episode, where Dylan is initially irresponsible, so the lesson here is responsibility. What goes unaddressed is how Dylan, in an attempt to make up for past mistakes, risks and almost loses his life to save some bird eggs. This is presented as brave, but in treating his life as of no more importance than that of a bird, Dylan is actually being irresponsible.
These instances underscore how, even though this is a Christian show, there is a real need for parental guidance and discussion – they can’t be treated as “hit play, and walk away.”
I’ve watched the first half dozen episodes, and the animation and writing is comparable to Hanna-Barbera productions like The Flintstones or The Jetsons. While this is too childish for teens, parents who remember Adventures in Odyssey from their youth will enjoy this for the nostalgia, and their younger kids – those who can handle some tension – will too. I’d rate all of the episodes we’ve seen a 7 out of 10.
There were two “seasons” to the animation series, and while it doesn’t seem too important to watch them in order, The Knight Travellers does introduce us to Dylan so it is probably the best place to start. The episodes all seem to be 27 minutes, so in total there’s about seven hours’ worth of viewing.
Original Series (1991-1998)
1 – The Knight Travellers
2 – A Flight to the Finish
3 – A Fine Feathered Frenzy
4 – Shadow of a Doubt
5 – Star Quest
6 – Once Upon an Avalanche
7 – Electric Christmas
8 – Go West, Young Man
9 – Someone to Watch Over Me
10 – In Harm’s Way
11 – A Twist in Time
12 – A Stranger Among Us
13 – Baby Daze
Series 2 (2000-2003)
1 – The Last Days of Eugene Meltsner
2 – Escape from the Forbidden Matrix
3 – The Caves of Qumran
4 – Race to Freedom