Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Navigator, The: A Mediaeval Odyssey

Australian/NZ movie (1988). Arenafilm/Film Investment Corporation of NZ. Pr John Maynard. Exec pr Gary Hannam. Dir Vincent Ward. Spfx Paul Nichola. Screenplay Geoff Chapple, Kely Lyons, Ward. Starring Noel Appleby (Ulf), Chris Haywood (Arno), Desmond Kelly (Smithy), Jay Lavea Laga'aia (Jay), Bill Le Marquand (Tom), Paul Livingston (Martin), Bruce Lyons (Connor), Hamish McFarlane (Griffin), Marshall Napier (Searle), Sarah Peirse (Linnet). 91 mins. Colour and b/w.

TN:AMO is set partly in 1348 (shown in b/w) and partly in 1988 (colour); the tale makes extensive use of flash-forwards, and some of flashbacks.

1348: young Griffin's prophetic Dreams persuade the people of a Cumbrian mining village that they can be spared the Black Death if they send a mission to tunnel through the disc of the flat Earth to cast and erect a new copper spike on the spire of the cathedral they will find there. Led by Griffin's elder brother Connor, recently returned to the village from the outside world, the party emerges in a modern, industrialized NZ city, which they perceive alternately as the Celestial City and Hell. By chance they find a foundry on the verge of shutdown, where Smithy, Tom and Jay cast their cruciform spike. As they row across the harbour to the cathedral (they perceive an emergent submarine as Leviathan) Griffin has a further precognitive flash: one of them will fall to his death from the spire. In the event, it is Griffin himself; but as he falls he is returned to 14th-century Cumbria, where he has been telling his companions of his dream. However, it has not been "just a dream": Connor, it is found, survived the plague during his sojourn away from the village but has brought it back (there is a Pied-Piper motif here); as Griffin foretold, only one will die, and that, as if he were a Year King (> Golden Bough), will be himself.

TN:AMO is one of a kind, and powerful. Derisory comparisons have been made by mainstream critics between some of its elements and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) (and similar notions were indeed later utilized also to comic effect in Les Visiteurs [1993]). Such mockery betrays some cultural illiteracy, for the moments of Humour in this sophisticated, dual-levelled fantasy – it is as much an Urban Fantasy as a medieval Wonder Tale – are skilfully deployed to point up the true nightmare in which the 14th-century party finds itself. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.