“It’s one thing to carry a big stick, Admiral, but it’s another thing to beat someone’s head in with it.”
Sssh. . . what I’m about to tell you is top secret, so step closer and swear you won’t repeat a word of this to anyone. You just never know who might be listening and there are foreign factions that would kill to know what I know. Deep beneath the innocuous looking Nelson Institute of Marine Research is a dock carved out of solid rock. And in that dock? A super secret nuclear submarine known as Seaview. Security is tight, but I’ll try to get you on board. The Seaview is the brainchild of oceanographic genius Admiral Harriman Nelson and is run by Captain Lee Crane and a top-notch crew. And get this. Most people who know about the Seaview think it’s just a marine research vessel, but actually, its purpose is to investigate and eliminate enemies of the United States. It’s a spy ship and if things really get rough, they’re packing a couple of nuclear missiles. So word of warning to all the Blofeld’s, Dr. Evil’s and THRUSH agents out there – stay out of the ocean or you’ll be taking a permanent Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
In this day and age, one-hour dramas on TV run a solid twenty-two episodes in a season. Back in 1964, when Irwin Allen was making his new sci-fi series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a season was thirty-two episodes and I don’t know how they managed. Those extra ten episodes are the reason we’re here to review Season 1, Volume 2 and I’m here to tell you, this set is as every bit as good as the first one if not a little bit better.
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. Background players, turned fan favorites Del Monroe and Paul Trinka are along for the ride and it’s the farewell performance of Henry Kulky as Chief Curly Jones who died suddenly before the start of the second season.
Once again, this isn’t monster of week, Voyage. This is first season and its almost more relevant in theme now than it was forty years ago. Let me tell you about it. . .
On the Up Side
I started watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea when I was a kid. A bit young for the first go round, my local UHF station began airing it at dinnertime when I was a teen. It caused a daily struggle in my house, my mom trying to pry me away from the TV to join the family at dinner, me praying for the roast to take a few more minutes in the oven so I could see the end of the show. Ah, the days before DVR’s, huh? How did I manage? Well, back then I recorded the shows on audio tape and listened to them over and over to the point where today (thirty years later) I can still remember the lines as I watch the shows on DVD.
I still dig it but something’s changed – the world as it relates to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I know, that sounds terribly dramatic but it’s true. All those years ago, watching the men of the Seaview struggle with the concept of nuclear war, well, it was Science Fiction, fantasy. But as I sit here now, explosions rock Beirut and Korea is test launching missiles. It’s a whole new world and like much of the Sci-Fi of the past, the storylines are coming true.
Take the episode called “Doomsday”. In the midst of a party, an alarm sounds, alerting the crew that the United States is on war alert. Fail safe devices are activated – four keys, four men and the sub sets sail for the launch coordinates. Along the way, the tension mounts as one key holder realizes what this really means. Despite years of training, of practice drills and dry runs, this is the real thing. These four men are about to open the doors to nuclear war and suddenly those damn drills don’t mean a thing. The right and wrong is debated. Humanity versus military logic. Plans made in times of peace must be carried out to the letter in times of war. It’s one thing to carry a big stick and another thing to beat someone’s head in with it. In the end, the alert is called off. The original missile launch was found to be an accident but it’s easy to see how a simple miscommunication could result in nuclear war. It’s easy to see how human emotions can cloud judgment, how doing one’s duty can force a man over the line.
Hey, I’m the first to admit that Irwin Allen has a reputation for being a showman, for being campy, melodramatic, even to the point of ridiculousness in his shows (which you’ll see in later seasons of Voyage). Yes, the Seaview does get attacked by puppet masters and guys in rubber alien suits but there are diamonds in this rough. “Doomsday”, “The Condemned”, “The Traitor”, the Manchurian Candidate inspired “The Saboteur”. These aren’t only the best episodes of this boxed set, they’re also really good TV.
Check it out:
Disc One: Side One
• “The Last Battle”
• “The Invaders”
Disc One: Side Two
• “The Indestructible Man”
• “The Buccaneer”
Disc Two: Side One
• “The Human Computer”
• “The Saboteur”
• “Cradle of the Deep”
• “The Amphibians”
Disc Two: Side Two
• “The Exile”
• “The Creature”
Disc Three: Side One
• “The Enemies”
• “The Secret of the Loch”
• “The Condemned”
• “The Traitor”
Disc Three: Side Two
On The Downside
My only complaint here is that the special features don’t really live up to the promise of other Irwin Allen releases. The interview with Hedison is left over from an old documentary and is done in that same click a question, hear the answer style. Annoying. The Still Gallery is forgettable. The only bright spot is the blooper reel, which, while not laugh out loud funny, is nice to see. It’s old, it’s rare and it shows Richard Basehart cracking a smile. Worth the price of admission alone.
Lastly, I had sound issues but that doesn’t seem to be the norm, so maybe it was my set up that was the fly in the ointment. I’ve also heard of some disc freezing but I didn’t have that problem so perhaps the troublesome discs are spotty. I’d say overall, the quality is top notch.
In the End
Political maneuvering, spying, brain washing, power struggles, nuclear bombs, terrorism – no, I’m not talking about an episode of 24, I’m talking about Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Season 1, Vol. 2. If you love a good Tom Clancy novel, give the series a try.
Now close all water tight doors. Batten down the hatches and get ready to dive, dive, dive.