The animated series and character Jonny Quest have been brought to the televison screen on numerous occasions. First was in the mid sixties, where Tim Matheson provided the voice of young Jonny Quest. Matheson keeps his spy credentials in check having recently put in the odd guest appearance on Burn Notice and he has even directed a few episodes too. Jonny Quest was next updated in the 1980s, where a series ran for thirteen episodes. This telemovie, Jonny’s Golden Quest was released in 1992 and then was followed in 1995 by Jonny Quest Versus the Cyberinsects. The last official series was The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest which had George Segal and John De Lancie providing the voice for Dr. Benton Quest.
This movie, despite obviously being aimed at the adolescent market, is actually very good and a lot more mature than you’d expect in a program of this type. Young Jonny has some real issues to deal with and quite a bit of ‘mixed up’ teen angst to work through.
The show opens with Jonny Quest (voiced by Will Estes) doing something that he shouldn’t. He is accessing some top secret information from a computer. He is discovered by ‘Race’ Bannon (voiced by Granville Van Dusen), who pulls a gun on Jonny. People who are not familiar with the series, may think this sounds rather plausible – but let me explain – ‘Race’ Bannon has actually been hired to protect Dr. Benton Quest and his son Jonny. Dr. Quest works for an Itelligence Agency known as I-1. So, the fact that Bannon is trying to kill Jonny means that there is something seriously wrong.
Jonny quickly ‘legs it’ with Bannon hot on his heels. Jonny’s blind attempt to escape leads him into a dead-end alley, and Bannon has him cornered. Bannon aims his gun and fires – and of course, this is all a training exercise. Jonny is fine. Bannon is almost like a second father to Jonny and would never hurt him.
This telemovie is slightly different to the preceding episodes in various Quest series over the years. In this show, it is not an ‘all-boys-club’. Jonny’s mother, Rachel Quest also lives at I-1 headquarters with her husband, Jonny, Bannon, and another young lad named Hadji – who knows a few mystical Eastern magic tricks. He can levitate and move small objects around. These skills come in very handy when there’s trouble.
And as it so happens there is trouble at the moment. Well, not so much trouble, but a mystery that needs investigating. Deep in the Peruvian Forests there have been reports of strange mutations and aberant behaviour by the animals in the region. So the Quest family, along with Hadji, Bannon and their dog Bandit (I didn’t mention him before did I?) head off to Peru. There they will be met by a civilian who will brief them on the situation.
The Quest plane (which I am sure has a name), lands on a runway in the forest. Their cars race out of the back of the plane and head toward their camp. Then from out of nowhere another car rushes out of the forest to intercept them. Bannon takes the lead and moves to block the agressive new-comer, only to find that behind the wheel is a woman named Jade Kenyon. Or more correctly, Jade Kenyon-Bannon. Yep, she just happens to be Bannon’s ex-wife. She is their civilian contact.
She explains that some of the animals in the area have mutated and have become particularly agressive. This is borne out when a two headed crocodile attacks Bannon. While this is going on, two ‘space gliders’ rise out of the water, piolted by some weird mutant lizard men. These mutants swoop in on Dr. Benton Quest (voiced by Don Messick) and Rachel Quest (Meredith McCrae), picking them up and then taking them away.
Bannon and the boys try to pursue the mutant in a 4WD but in the rough overgrown forest terrain they are impossible to follow. However Bannon does manage to fire a tracking dart into one of the ‘space gliders’ so he can follow them later.
The kidnapping and the mutations turn out to be the work of nefarious evil mastermind – and arch enemy of the Quest family – Dr. Zin (Jeffrey Tambor). Zin, who is carrying out his research in a hollowed out volcano (but, of course), is dying, and is searching for a way to prolong his life and make clones of himself. To prove his point, Zin creates a perfect duplicate of himself in front of Dr. Quests and Rachel, who are locked up in a cage above the laboratory.
At that moment, Bannon, Jonny and Hadji arrive on the scene. Their arrival is signified with a series of explosions. Zin sets his mutant henchman to destroy Bannon – but y’know, they’re just henchmen and become fodder for the fight that ensues. Seeing that his plan has failed, Zin flees on one of the ‘space gliders’ and as insurance, he scoops up Rachel as a hostage. Dr. Quest grabs a gun and aims it at Zin, but refuses to take the shot becauseRachel may get hit. Jonny watches as his father refuses to take the shot, and then witnesses as Zin escapes to a secret getaway plane he has hidden higher up in his villain’s lair. Zin forces Rachel into the plane and then lifts off to make his getaway, but at that moment, the volcanic underground lair explodes, and the resulting fireball blows up Zin’s plane, killing both him and Rachel.
Jonny is distraught that his mother is dead, and he blames his father because he didn’t shoot Zin when he had the chance. This drives a huge wedge between father and son – causing quite an large amount of friction between the pair over the duration of this movie.
This, as you may have guessed is just the set-up for this show. So far, there has been no ‘gold’, which you’d expect in a show called ‘Jonny’s Golden Quest’. And there is gold as the story gets moving again, and it’s the old ‘Philospher’s Stone’ story about being able to convert metal into gold. The Quest team’s research leads to Tokyo, then to Paris to examine some documents written by Leonardo Da Vinci (apparently they contain some kind of code – a ‘Da Vinci Code’ as it were!). From Paris their mission takes them to Rome, and the catacombs underneath, before finally leading them to the Australian outback.
You may consider this a spoiler, but if you have read this far, and have noted the salient plot points, such as super master criminal doing clone research, you probably have already guessed that Dr. Zin is not dead and the man behind the synthetic gold scheme.
I must admit, I have never really seen any Jonny Quest before this, and if this is the standard of the stories in the other Quest productions, then I am pretty impressed. As I stated earlier, the story is rather mature. Let’s face it, how many animated kids shows start with killing the heroes mom? It’s a pretty drastic story-telling device, and here it works well. Young Jonny becomes a rebellious youth – while not quite being Marlon Brando in The Wild One, he certainly has his little pig-headed tantrums which make him a far more interesting character than the usual one dimensional, stereotypical heroes that dominate children’s television.
This was a pleasant surprise and highly enjoyable.