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Wayback Machine: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

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Posted by: Byron Brewer, Contributing Editor
created 10/22/2011 - 11:16am

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picI cannot say, having been on one, that the option of working on a submarine is the most appealing of employment choices. That is especially true since I have been in and out of MRI tubes too tight for M.E. girth for the last seven years, thereby deriving claustrophobia.

Still, there is no elder sci-fi TV series I am happier to watch in reruns, wherever that might be, than the brilliant (and later, in full color!) Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

This mid-1960s Irwin Allen series, which followed a feature film by the same name, was a dream show for little tikes with imagination and a godsend for toy makers everywhere. You had the sub itself, Seaview; the miraculous Flying Sub, no bathtub toy better; and all the other paraphernalia (mini-sub, diving bell) that accompanied the crew of this futuristic nuclear sub on her adventures.

Voyage never went as camp as Lost in Space in its later seasons, but there were some cast questions I always had. Often, the ship’s crew was under magic spells, delusions, battling either invisible monsters or themselves and thus no need to pay a guest star, I guess. Yes, there were pirates and leprechauns and phony looking sea monsters, but this is sci-fi! And it was fun, plain and simple.

Voyage was broadcast on ABC from September 14, 1964, to March 31, 1968, and was the decade's longest-running American sci-fi TV series with continuing characters. The 110 episodes produced included 32 shot in black and white (1964–65) and 78 filmed in color (1965–68). The first two seasons took place in the then-future of the 1970s. (I never did see the high school me on there, though.) The final two seasons took place in the 1980s. Although there were recurring characters, the show was basically a two-man act, starring Richard Basehart as Admiral Harriman Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Lee Crane.

I don’t know if it was because the show followed the golden age of TV westerns or not, but there were a lot of fistfights on the Seaview, most involving the cocky Crane. I learned on this series that you can knock out someone with just a chop to the back, and that the core of any sub is the torpedo room. Crane was knocked about, kicked, punched, almost drowned, a lot of what we call “Mr. Bill” treatment – but, God bless him, his necktie (he was the only one on board wearing one) never went crooked or was loosened. Amazing!

Voyage had a cool pilot. “Eleven Days to Zero” was filmed in color but shown in black and white. It introduces the audience to the futuristic nuclear sub USOS Seaview and the lead members of her crew, including the designer and builder of the submarine, Nelson, and Commander Crane, who becomes the Seaview's captain after the murder of her original commanding officer. The submarine is based at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research (NIMR) in Santa Barbara, Califonia, and is often moored some 500 feet below NIMR in a secret underground submarine pen carved out of solid rock. The Seaview is officially for undersea marine research and visits many exotic locations in the seven seas, but its secret mission is to defend the planet from all world and extraterrestrial threats in the then-future of the 1970s.

As a young fan of sci-fi in the 1960s, I hated that the Seaview and her crew did not make it into the real 1970s or the show’s fifth season. The idiocy of ABC programmers was exacerbated when Voyage’s timeslot was filled with the boring and anal Allen property, Land of the Giants. Yawn.

I still have my model Flying Sub and a miniature Captain Crane to drive it. My Seaview model is long gone, but oddly I still have the box.

No fanboy of the 1960s had bathtub adventures like yours truly!

 

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