Tag Archives: Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Seaquest DSV Pilot

SeaQuest DSV MainTitle

I recently rewatched the pilot for Seaquest DSV(NBC,1993). I never watched it during the initial run (1993-1996) and saw only when it was shown on Sci-Fi channel some years ago. The premise is that the oceans are the new frontiers, with colonies now established. Rivalries exist, there are environmental terrorists and all kinds of rogues that the United Earth Oceans Organization (UEO) must deal with. To contend with all of this you need a powerful submersible and that is where Seaquest DSV (Deep Submergence Vehicle)  comes in. Seaquest is unlike any other submersible before with a radically different design that makes it look aquatic. Not only does it have the latest technology but has dual military and scientific missions. It is so large that an internal subway system is required to traverse it.

It is somewhat similar in concept to Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (ABC, 1964-1968). The Seaview, with is distinctive windows in front, was designed for marine research and nominally under civilian control. Like Seaquest, nearly all the officers and crew come from the regular navy. Voyage was set in the 1970’s with the Cold War still raging. Many stories (especially in season 1) dealt with spies, saboteurs and hostile governments along with monsters and aliens. Seaquest is set in 2018 and the world has gone to heck forcing many to head to the oceans for natural resources. The show was meant to showcase underwater action as well but also focus on real science. Which is why Robert Ballard served as a consultant and usually closed out the shows with a commentary.

The pilot dealt with a couple of things. First, getting Nathan Bridger (Seaquest designer and former naval officer) back and in command. Second, dealing with a rogue submarine owned by a German speaking millionaire who sees Seaquest as a threat. The rogue is commanded by the former Seaquest captain out for revenge. Third, dealing with the integration of the science and military aspects of the vessel. Bridger ends up taking command when things take a turn for the worse when the primary defense systems fail to operate against the rogue (a computer virus planted by the former captain). He ends up winning the battle by deception. He uses the resident dolphin Darwin to tag the rogue sub with a transponder and then configures the one torpedo they can fire to home in on the signal.

I liked the pilot and feel of the ship. It was different and yet had things we all know that ought to be there. I did not care much for the Jonathan Brandis character (Lucas Wolenczak). I suppose they wanted to make Bridger a father figure and also wanted to have super-smart kid that would irritate and solve problems. Using such characters is always risky. They can often irritate the audience and turn them off. Brandis was there to attract the 18-25 age bracket.  Stephanie Beacham as Dr. Westphalen was certainly a good idea. Sadly she would not stay with the show beyond season 1 (the one they brought in for season 2 was disliked by fans from what I read). Seaquest was an attempt to take Star Trek and make it work underwater. And it might have worked had the decided early on to stick to a combination of science, fantasy and good entertainment. NBC wanted it one way, the producers the other and NBC won.

So instead of stories about realistic underwater adventures it changed to space aliens and monsters with the usual bad suspects of corrupt leaders and business types to round it out. Roy Scheider was vocal in his dislike. Guy Williams, who played John Robinson on Lost in Space, would empathize as he faced the same type of outlandish scripts as well(remember the famous carrot monster!). The revamped series, Seaquest 2032, was darker and perhaps might have had a chance but by that time most had given up watching the show.

Seaquest now is remembered in marathons and special showings. For a brief moment it showed something that could have been really good. And it is those moments of this series we can enjoy and consign the rest to Davy Jones Locker.

Seaquest is out on DVD (all three seasons) through Netflix or you can purchase it from Amazon here. It is also now being streamed on Netflix as well.

Irwin Allen Would Be Proud

Virgin Limited Edition, a U.K. company, recently announced an “underwater plane” that will dive to 36,000 feet. It is a three person submersible and looks pretty cool from the model shown in the picture. It reminds me of the flying submarine from Irwin Allen’s television show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The show was based on the 1961 movie with Walter Pidgeon, Barbara Eden and Peter Lorre. None of the movie actors carried over to the series. Richard Basehart played Admiral Harriman Nelson and David Eddison as Captain Lee Crane. One of the nifty aspects of Seaview was its flying submarine. It could launch underwater, move to the surface and take off. It would do the same in reverse by diving under the water and then returning to its Seaview hangar underwater.

The Necker Nymph alas cannot fly except underwater. From the picture it looks pretty cool. Now for the details. Here is what the press release states (in part):

Available either when chartering Necker Belle, the luxury 105 foot catamaran, or when staying on Necker Island, underwater flight on Necker Nymph takes exploration to another level. Gliding on the water’s surface like an aeroplane on a runway, one of the three pilots will operate the joystick to smoothly dive down, and the thrilling experience begins. Uncover ancient shipwrecks, fly side-by-side with dolphins, or spyhop with whales; the options are endless. With the flexibility to glide peacefully over glorious reefs or bank adventurously in 360 degree turns, the sub is hydrobatic. Individual “wind shields” remove the pressure of slipstream, enabling comfortable speed and ranges previously unthinkable without enclosing the pilots. The open cockpits afford near ideal 360 degree viewing for occupants, creating a uniquely open experience. Dives can last up to two hours.

The press release states that it can be launched from the Necker Belle or from shore. Before you reach for the phone to make a reservation, you ought to know this is no cheap thrill. If you rent the Necker Belle for a week ($88,000 according to one report I read), you get the Necker Nymph for a weekly rate of $25,000. How much it costs just for a day and launched from shore is not listed. My guess is around $10,000-$15,000. Only the heavy wallet brigade can afford it.

Richard Branson once again makes the impossible seem possible. Irwin Allen would agree and, if alive, be one of the first to take a trip.