“My dear guests! I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island!”
Without this man, there wouldn’t be a Fantasy Island. He was the brains and the power behind the business, the very reason it existed at all. From the moment you set foot on the island, you knew right away you were dealing with someone more than just mere human. He often knew things you were sure you had never told him. Sometimes he’d get a look about him that convinced you he was reading your mind. Next thing you knew, everyone around you was mobbing you for your autograph on their copy of your latest rock album; or you had bank accounts just overflowing with money, a mansion, a couple of fancy cars, and a retinue of servants to do your bidding; or maybe you found yourself face-to-face with Abraham Lincoln or Cleopatra or Nero, or even just your own great-grandmother.
Roarke was the owner and operator of the island, the ultimate authority and the one you turned to for advice when your fantasy took a turn it wasn’t supposed to have taken. Just when you were in hot water and ready to give up, Roarke would come in to check up on you, tell you he couldn’t alter or end your fantasy, and then perhaps make a cryptic observation or drop some innocuous little piece of advice that would help you get yourself out of that jam you’d gotten into. And then…turn your head for two seconds, then look back and find you’re standing there all alone. How’d he do that??
But even Mr. Roarke’s powers extended only so far. He was a widower: he’d fallen in love more than once over the course of his lifetime, but he was most devastated by the death of Helena Marsh, whom he married in Season 3. Unable to prevent her demise from an inoperable brain tumor, he could only watch helplessly as she passed peacefully away in his arms. He might be able to put you in touch with the ghost of your dear, departed mother, but he couldn’t bring her back to life again.
However, he could make the blind see again for awhile, or the deaf hear again. He could endow you with the temporary power of telekinesis; he even held the elusive secret of travel into the past, so that you could meet an ancestor or your favorite historical figure.
He met up with plenty of characters from legend and myth: a mermaid princess, ghosts, a Greek goddess, a vampire, a werewolf, a Frankenstein-type monster, even Mephistopheles. Not only that, but there were historical figures as well: Lady Godiva, Cleopatra, the Hungarian “blood countess” Elizabeth Bathorý, Jack the Ripper, Lillian Russell, Mata Hari, and Shakespeare. And let’s not forget the literary figures: Don Juan, Don Quixote, King Arthur, Sherlock Holmes, and Cyrano de Bergerac…this man really got around!
Some wondered who Mr. Roarke was; others wondered where he came from, still others how he’d gotten into the business he was in. Nobody ever quite got up the gumption to ask Roarke himself—well, almost nobody. Consider the following quotes:
Arnold Greenwood: “Fantasy Island…it’s a wonderful name, a wonderful place…your idea?”
Roarke: “I was ‘consulted’.” [Original pilot film, Fantasy Island]
Laurie Shannon: “…you did tell my guardians I could have my fantasy, right?”
Roarke: “Yes, I did…”
Laurie: “So I think I already know who [God] is.” (addressing him angrily) “Why did you kill my mother and father?”
Roarke, startled: “Oh…but…I’m not what you’re searching for, Laurie.”
Laurie: “But look at you! You’re all dressed in white…you have a sort of shining all around you…you make people’s fantasies come true.”
Roarke: “I am very fortunate that I can sometimes bring happiness to others, yes. But what you’re looking for, Laurie, is different.” [“God Child“, Season 7]
One decided to ask Tattoo, thinking maybe he knew:
Charles Fleming: “Tell me. Just what is your Mr. Roarke?”
Tattoo: “Some people call him…” (lifts eyes to ceiling and raises hands as if in prayer) “and some people call him…” (looks meaningfully down at the floor)
Fleming: “And what do you call him?”
Tattoo (innocently): “Mr. Roarke”. [Second pilot film, Return to Fantasy Island]
But at least one guest managed to reveal a telling characteristic about him. After a fencing match in which Roarke sustained a small side wound, a woman surveyed him and noted, “You bleed, Mr. Roarke. And if you can bleed, you can also die” [“Death Games“, Season 6].
Whatever Mr. Roarke was, one thing was certain: he was uniquely talented. No wonder he did such a brisk business for seven seasons. After all, who wouldn’t want a crack at living out his or her wildest, most secret dream?