Tuesday, April 28, 2015


I don't have a lot of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA material in my vast collection of stuff here in the ol' man cave but what I do have is pretty good. Let's see, there's the original 1961 film on DVD (need to upgrade that one to Bluray), the complete season one of the television series on DVD, the paperback novelization (by noted science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon no less) of the 1961 film and three issues of the Gold Key comic book series. When I was a kid, I had more of the Gold Key comics along with plastic model kits of the Seaview and the Flying Sub, both of which met a fiery demise thanks to some well placed Black Cat firecrackers.

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA premiered on ABC-TV on September 9th, 1964. The black-and-white first season (which aired on Monday nights), combined science fiction with spy/espionage elements, all of which made for some pretty entertaining episodes.

With the second season, the show was produced in color and moved to Sunday nights, which is where I watched it on a more or less regular basis until the show ended in September 1968. Four years was a pretty good run for a 1960s science fiction television series (STAR TREK only lasted three) but most fans of the show will admit that things started getting a little dicey towards the end of the series.

I've been watching the color episodes of VOYAGE that are broadcast on MeTV as part of their Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night lineup. I remember some of the episodes, while others are brand new to me. But new or old, they're all a ton of fun to watch. 

Several things stand out concerning the production of VOYAGE. The first is how economical (make that cheap), producer Irwin Allen was. He used footage from the 1961 feature film over and over again as well as new footage shot for the television series. Stock shots of the Seaview and Flying Sub abound. When the Seaview heads to the bottom (as it does in almost every episode), it strikes the same rocky outcrop every time.

The underwater photography (shot in a shallow tank on the 20th Century Fox lot) is nicely done, showcasing the excellent models of the Seaview and Flying Sub (and other undersea vessels and monsters). The live action footage of scuba divers (also shot in a tank) also appears to be heavily recycled. And how about that shot from the original film of the Seaview breaking the surface near the polar ice cap, it's nose pointed almost straight up, before crashing down into the water? A submarine that large would have to be traveling at an incredible rate of speed, with immense power generated by it's engines, to achieve such a surfacing. And when it flops down into the water, look out. Most of the crew would be severely injured (if not killed) from such an impact. Still, it's dramatic as hell.

There are a handful of standing sets for the Seaview that appear in every episode: the control room, officer's quarters, engine room, sick bay and various corridors to name a few. Many episodes are completely self-contained with all of the action taking place on existing sets. And there are very few guest stars on VOYAGE with the entire regular cast featured in almost every episode.

Another thing that is recycled is the musical score. I hear a lot of the same cues in every episode and I've even heard music from JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (both of which were 20th Century Fox films scored by Bernard Herrmann.). I guess Fox owned the rights to the music and didn't figure anyone would recognize it.

The monsters on VOYAGE range from the good to the bad to the ridiculous. I know it's hard to come up with a suitable menace every week but a giant, roaring underwater plant creature is pretty damn silly. Hell, I thought it was stupid when I was a kid and I had a pretty healthy willing suspension of disbelief back then.

Stars Richard Basehart as Admiral Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Crane do their best with the material given them each week. They're aided by a capable supporting cast including Robert Dowdell as Chip Morton, Terry Becker as Chief Sharkey, Del Monroe as Kowalsky, Paul Trinka as Patterson and Richard Bull as the doctor.

Another thing about VOYAGE that I love is how, whenever the ship is attacked and the cast flung about the set (which happens in every episode), as soon as the violence is over, the first thing Captain Crane does is grab the shipboard radio handset and bark "damage control, report!". I always wondered just who the poor slobs were that were assigned to damage control. Whoever they were, they were pretty damn fast operators as they have a report ready as soon as the damage occurs, which is usually only a matter of seconds.

I loved VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA when I was a kid. Heck, I even loved the MAD magazine take-off: VOYAGE TO SEE WHAT'S ON THE BOTTOM. It's not the most sophisticated science fiction ever seen on television but it was a consistently entertaining series.

And you know what?

I still love it.

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