“I think of Aramis cologne because [Irwin Allen] used to come on the set . . . and I always knew he was there because I smelled Aramis and I cannot stand that smell to this day. It terrifies me. That’s what I think of Irwin.” — David Hedison on his impressions of Irwin Allen
When Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea premiered, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was going strong on the small screen and James Bond’s Thunderball was breaking the box office. The Soviet’s had spy satellites and LBJ sent 50,000 troops to Vietnam. And though the Cold War wasn’t quite so cold we were still living in an era of mistrust. Those themes, those fears, were the basis for the series, but as we got into the later half of the second season rubber suited monsters began to creep in. It’s time for Voyage to the Bottom of Sea: Season 2, Vol. 2 . Monsters of the week may now start lining up for an interview.
We’ve still got Richard Basehart and David Hedison (The Fly) heading up the crew of the submarine Seaview. Bob Dowdell is there as the sub’s exec, Chip Morton and Terry Becker is on hand as Chief Sharkey (though he does disappear for a while thanks to a salary disputre). We also have recurring background players, turned fan favorites, Del Monroe and Paul Trinka. And Allan Hunt adds a bit of youthful enthusiasm as surfer boy, Crewman Riley.
Other than cast tweaks there were two major changes to the series in this season. First, the use of living color. For the first time, audiences got to see the lovely blue-green ocean with its bright white-capped waves. Such a waste that the Seaview herself is nothing but a dull gray. . . . oh. . wait. . time for major change number two! The addition of the bright yellow Flying Sub.
This clever gadget was berthed beneath Seaview’s command deck (and they were smart enough to retool the front windows of the sub model to match). The “sub” had a pilot and co-pilot seat and room for two more. It’s unusual saucer shape made it visually stunning as it sliced upward breaking the surface of the ocean to become airborne time and time again. The Flying Sub was so popular with fans that the model kit made by Aurora and then Monogram is still highly sought after today.
The second half of the second season marks a real turning point for the series. Though it does contain some of the best episodes of the season, it also contains some of the worst. Beware: Here there be monsters!
The second season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is an interesting mix of plots with the emphasis still on spying, action and adventure. There are a few more fanciful storylines scattered throughout the season including a story about a two-headed seaweed monster, a trip to a land time forgot and several ghost stories. There’s good. There’s bad and there’s awful. Take a look.
“Terror on Dinosaur Island”
While checking out a volcanic island, Nelson and Sharkey are forced to abandon ship (well, Flying Sub) and find themselves stranded on an island full of dinosaurs (well, Irwin’s infamous costumed lizards). The island plotline is ho-hum but it’s backed by a story of a crewman who wants revenge on Crane for what he sees as the unnecessary death of a friend. B
“Killers of the Deep”
Missiles are being stolen from underwater silos. When Crane and Nelson investigate, they’re shot down and separated. Crane ends up on the sub that is doing the stealing while Nelson (unaware of this) begins hunting down the enemy sub with intentions of destroying it. Michael Ansara, always a favorite, stars as the enemy sub captain and a very young Patrick Wayne (Big Jake). A
**Notice David Hedison’s change of costume so they could use stock footage from his movie The Enemy Below.
“Deadly Creature Below”
The Seaview rescues two men who turn out to be escaped convicts. Determined to continue their escape, the men wreck havoc on the sub forcing it right into the arms of a sea-weedy, two-headed monster. Sadly this story is what the series came to be known for and it’s a shame. The plot is ridiculous and insulting but it’s the episode that was used for the View-Master reels. D
“The Phantom Strikes”
The series redeems itself in spades with this, one of the best episodes of the season. The Seaview comes across a sunken World War I U-Boat, they’re drawn to the ship when they hear banging on the hull as if someone was alive inside and trying to send a message. Enter the ghost Captain Gerhardt Krueger (Alfred Ryder, Star Trek) with plans to find himself a new body to inhabit. Though this could be a silly episode with its ghostly theme, it’s actually an eerie, haunting story about a man struggling to cope with his own early demise. A+
“The Sky’s on Fire”
The Seaview races against time to get to the exact coordinates needed to fire a missile at the burning Van Allen Radiation Belt in order to save the world from catching on fire. If the plot sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the plot of the original Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea feature film which launched the series. Sadly, the plot held up better on the big screen.
“Graveyard of Fear”
This one is badly titled, as the plot revolves around a scientist who has learned to stall the aging process. The hitch? All of his notes and samples are on the bottom of the ocean in a wrecked ship, which is being guarded by a giant, killer jellyfish. Take out the jellyfish and you’ve got a nifty little tale. B-
“The Shape of Doom”
Kevin Hagen is another scientist gone wrong. Because of him, a giant whale with a nuclear bomb in its belly is swimming too close to a ship carrying the President of the United States. It’s rock and a hard place time as they try to figure out how to destroy the whale safely, while crazed Hagen tries to stop the process altogether. B-
“Dead Men’s Doubloons”
Albert Salmi is a bit too comical in this tale about pirates (the old school yo ho, yo ho kind) out to steal some high-tech equipment. Are the pirates ghosts? Are they real? And what about that spooky schooner that keeps lobbing cannon balls at the Flying Sub? A convoluted and silly story. C-
“The Death Ship”
Dark take on Agatha Christies’ “Ten Little Indians”. The Seaview is afloat with only a small group of scientists on board to test their new automation system. Unfortunately, the members of the party start turning up dead and suspicion begins to tear the remaining members of the group apart. A neat little murder mystery on board a submerged submarine. A
“The Monster’s Web”
Giant undersea spider. ’nuff said. B-
Okay, here we go. Mad scientist uses human glands (kills humans to get it) to create Menfish (Why? Who cares?). Menfish go crazy on Seaview. One Menfish (Manfish?) ends up in the ocean and grows to Empire State Building size, cause that always happens, and attacks the Seaview. I feel the third season coming on. . . . D
“The Mechanical Man”
James Darren (Time Tunnel) guests in the lead role as an android who wants more, more, more, even if it means destroying Seaview. Should have been a good story but it’s lacking. C
“The Return of the Phantom”
Lost in Space’s “Girl from the Green Dimension”, Vitina Marcus makes another appearance as Captain Krueger’s lost love. Back from the original Phantom episode, Krueger inhabits Crane’s body so he can be reunited with his sweetheart, Lani. Excellent episode and Hedison plays it perfectly when he’s Krueger and not Crane. Neat atmosphere, unusual camera angles and it’s a great way to end the season. A
Interview with David Hedison – once again we have a series of unconnected questions and answers that you have to page through one by one. Some interesting stuff here, but I wish they could have done it as a sit down with an interviewer and not in this off-camera style.
Still Gallery – Another great set of photos. I’ve been collecting photos from this show for years and there are plenty in this gallery that I’ve never seen. It’s amazing.
While some people will complain about Voyage’s campy style and rubber monster suits, that’s really an unfair criticism. Sure there are some missteps, but in general, this series is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on the small screen. The miniature work is so perfect you’ll forget that you aren’t watching a real submarine slice through the ocean. Episodes such as “The Phantom” are cleverly written and well executed. The DVD itself is incredibly clean and sharp with colors that pop off the screen and that’s a welcome change from years of watching episodes taped off of a local channel before cable.
When it comes to Voyage to the Bottom of the Seas: Season 2, Vol 2, I’m happy as a clam. . . a large, mutated, hungry clam with plans to eat the Seaview but a clam, nonetheless.