When Judge Cynthia Boris enlisted for duty on this classified submarine, she expected perks like lots of men in uniform. She wasn't prepared for the recycled air, recycled plots, and recycled Lost World footage.
Our reviews of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea: Season 1, Volume 2 (published July 26th, 2006), Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea: Season 2, Volume 1 (published November 22nd, 2006), Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea: Season 3, Volume 1 (published July 4th, 2007), Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea: Season 4, Volume 1 (published May 21st, 2009), Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea: Season 2, Volume 2 (published March 7th, 2007), Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea: Season 4, Volume 2 (published March 10th, 2011), and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea: Global Warming Edition (published October 26th, 2007) are also available.
"Seaview's job is never finished. As long as there are destructive forces in the world, as long as there are secrets of nature to be probed…There'll be work for us. On missions just as vital and dangerous as this one."—Admiral Nelson to Captain Crane upon completion of their first mission together.
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. 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 Blofelds, Dr. Evils, and THRUSH agents out there: Stay out of the ocean, or you'll be taking a permanent Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
Facts of the Case
In 1964, Irwin Allen made his first foray into the world of TV when he shrunk down his major motion picture Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and turned it into a weekly series. Serious stage actor Richard Basehart took over the role Walter Pigeon (Forbidden Planet) played in the movie, and David Hedison (The Fly) took the Robert Sterling role as captain of the Seaview. Professional wrestler Henry Kulky came on board as Chief Curly Jones, but he died half way through the season and was replaced by Terry Becker as Chief Sharkey. Bland-but-beloved Bob Dowdell was also there as the sub's exec.
With Basehart being stalwart and Hedison being roguish, the crew of the Seaview was sent off on a whopping thirty-two missions in the first season. You'll get sixteen of them in this DVD set. But if you're like most people, you'll be surprised by what this set contains. This isn't monster-of-the-week Voyage. This is first season, and it's a whole 'nother animal.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was an ambitious endeavor back then—even now! In 1964 when the series debuted, the most popular shows on TV were innocent sitcoms such as The Patty Duke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Munsters. But here was a large-scale adventure show with weekly special effects and loads of underwater photography, based around an enormous submarine set loaded with banks of dials, knobs, and blinking lights. At the time, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea's closest cousin was The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; that is because, despite what most people remember about the series, it started out as a spy show.
On the surface, the pilot episode "Eleven Days to Zero" seems to be your typical disaster movie tale. A tidal wave originating in the Arctic threatens to flood the world, but Admiral Nelson has a plan to stop it. All he has to do is detonate two perfectly placed nuclear charges at exactly the right moment, which will counter the force of the earthquake (which will in turn cause a tidal wave), robbing it of its energy and rendering it harmless. Quite enough plot in and of itself, but there's more! The Seaview's original captain is murdered by enemy agents and there's a German/Asian Communist conclave of villains (led by Werner Klemperer, Hogan's Heros) out to stop the sub from completing its mission! Why? So they can take over the world, of course! That taking over the world theme is an underlying thread throughout most of this season:
Disc One: Side One
• "The City Beneath the Sea"
• "The Fear Makers"
• "The Mist of Silence"
Disc One: Side Two
• "The Sky is Falling"
Disc Two: Side One
• "The Village of Guilt"
• "Hot Line"
• "Submarine Sunk Here"
Disc Two: Side Two
• "No Way Out"
Disc Three: Side One
• "The Ghost of Moby Dick"
• "Long Live the King"
• "Hail to the Chief"
Disc Three: Side Two
• Bonus Materials
Finally, we have my favorite feature, the promotional reel that was used to get affiliate stations to pick up the show. This is a real riot. You've got Irwin Allen (New York nebbish) trying to look all cool and hip as he talks about his new series. But I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the "scenes from upcoming episodes." Red Buttons is sent to Africa on a vital secret mission! Ooh, wow, except that the scene is of a very comedic Red Buttons running through an Arab market place with palace guards chasing him ala Aladdin. And wait, that other clip is David Hedison all right, but that's Jill St. John and Irwin's favorite pet lizard! These clips look suspiciously familiar…ah yes, it's more footage from The Lost World and Five Weeks in a Balloon! Talk about false advertising. I have this image of some station manager in Boise writing an angry letter to 20th Century Fox. "Dear Fox, You promised me Red Buttons and all I got was Carroll O'Connor. Please refund my fees."
Fox earns high praise for the box art on this DVD set: gorgeous melding of images of the two leads and the Seaview sub in varying shades of blue. Three snap cases fit into the cardboard sleeve with the cover art repeated on each. There are episode listings and synopses on the back of each case. Navigation is a clean, simple, non-animated graphic.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When looking purely at the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I have only one complaint: the melodramatic presentation of the material. But in all fairness, that style of acting was quite common in the era and it really was a trademark of an Irwin Allen production. Allen was famous for wanting everything bigger, louder, and broader, so it shouldn't surprise me when Basehart bemoans the lack of sugar for his coffee as if it was a clear sign that the Earth was doomed.
"Come with me…come with me…on a voyage to the bottom of the sea…" Nothing like a Frankie Avalon sea chantey to brighten up one's day. Of course, Frankie only sang that song in the movie and not on the show (but hey, this is my fantasy and I'll have it any way I want!). Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is one of those shows from my childhood that filled me with glee to see after all these years. Though it appears to be a manly man's show, I know a lot of women who adore it. Well scripted, with heavy hitter guest stars, the oh-so-sixties spy plots, and men in uniform, lots of men in uniform…what more could a girl ask for?
Check it out and if you haven't seen it, check out Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea the movie. They're both real classics.
The court finds Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Vol. 1 not guilty. Close all water tight doors. Batten down the hatches and get ready to dive, dive, dive.
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Scales of Justice
• Unaired B&W Pilot (Eleven Days to Zero)
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