Not quite the father and son trip I had planned.
Dr. Benton Charles Quest is a man of many faces. First and foremost, he is the father of Jonny Quest, the boy wonder who has faced numerous adventures over the past 50 years under the careful watch of Hanna-Barbera. Dr. Quest is also an eminent scientist and researcher, as well as owner of The Quest Foundation. His research has made him a premiere expert in the fields of, among other things, virtual reality, herpetology, archaeology, anthropology, and optics. Is there anything this man hasn't done?
Dr. Quest (originally voiced by the phenomenal Don Messick) and the rest of the Quest gang made their first television appearance on September 18, 1964, with the initial episode of "Jonny Quest" on ABC. The show was Hanna-Barbera's third half-hour show, following "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons" to the small screen. In almost every episode (25 in all), Dr. Quest would take Jonny, his adopted son Haji, and Jonny's bodyguard Race Bannon on scientific expeditions to all places of the globe. There, trouble would begin, usually in the form of ancient curses, mythological creatures, and occasionally Asian gang factions.
Originally Quest worked for the government, inventing equipment for moon missions, lasers, satellites, and other astrophysics doohickeys. His passion for science sometimes led to apathy towards Jonny and Haji's reckless curiosity, but in the end he was always there to save his family and fight the bad guys (he threw a pretty mean right hook!) He also grieves for the loss of his wife Rachel at the hands of his archnemesis, Dr. Zin. (In original episodes, his wife's name was Judith, and she died of cancer, but at some point the backstory evolved to give focus to Quest's vengeance against Dr. Zin.)
When that series was cancelled, Dr. Quest went into hibernation in the H-B vaults for sometime. In 1986, Benton, Jonny, and company made another television appearance, but it was an ill-conceived and short-lived series. An hour-long special entitled Jonny's Golden Quest had but a brief cameo of our favorite father, and is a great waste of celluloid in my not so humble opinion.
Finally, in 1995, the gang found their way to their first feature-length in the made-for-TV movie Jonny Quest vs. the Cyber Insects. The movie featured some highly effective computer-generated animation to complement the traditional shots of the crew, this time fighting a crippling virus in virtual reality (making a nice twist on computer "bugs" in the process.) The success of the movie gave the Quest family new life, and "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest" went to air in 1996.
Messick, who was in ailing health, did Benton's voice sporadically, but he was replaced by a leading light in film and television in George Segal (The Cable Guy, "Just Shoot Me"), who admirably filled the good doctor's shoes. Quest's job description had evolved from mere physicist to phenomenologist - a title more fitting for the exotic and varied adventures that seemed to crop up around the family. Here we were first introduced to QuestWorld, a virtual world used for training and simulations by Jonny, Haji, and new addition Jesse Bannon, daughter of Race - though more often than not QuestWorld became a serious battleground in the fight between good and evil.
After two seasons, Hanna-Barbera again cancelled production, and Benton Quest disappeared once more. Since then, he has made only one new appearance, as himself in an episode of "Harvey Birdman, Attorney-At-Law", in which he fought for custody of the children against Race Bannon, his "more than business" partner, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).
Will the Quest crew be making any more appearances on television or film? Only time will tell. But one thing's for sure, Dr. Quest will continue to be on the cutting edge of science and technology - while still keeping a close eye on his adventuresome son.
Now if you boys will excuse us, I'm going to toot Mr. Birdman's horn.
Dr. Benton Quest