Cult TV Essentials

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

One of my favorite science fiction shows when I was a child was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, starring Richard Basehart as Admiral Harriman Nelson and David Hedison (The Fly) as Commander Lee Crane. The series was based on the 1961 movie starring Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, and Barbara Eden (before I Dream of Jeannie). Well known king of the disaster flicks, Irwin Allen was the producer.

Broadcast on ABC from 1964 to 1968, it turned out to be one of the most successful sci-fi programs of the era. 110 episodes were made and from 1964-1965 the shows were in black and white. From 1965-1968 the rest were shot in color. Initially the first four seasons took place in the 1970s. The latter half of the series was set in the 1980s.

An unusual fact about the pilot is that it was shot in color but shown in black and white. The episode, “Eleven to Zero,” introduced you to the crew of the nuclear submarine, Seaview. Its mission was to protect the world from all threats including extraterrestrial.

Each week, viewers were treated to a wide array of dangers stemming from the Cold War to sea monsters and aliens. In season two, things became a bit more advanced. The FS1 (Flying Sub) was introduced. This was an extremely cool underwater vehicle that could transform into an airplane so that the crew could have more adventures.

Toward the end of the season, Richard Basehart had taken ill with a bleeding ulcer. Gary Merrill filled in for him as Admiral Park. Basehart returned for the final episode, “Return of the Phantom.”

Season three ventured into paranormal realms. Some of the featured creatures were leprechauns, werewolves, mummies and lobster men. The fourth and final season became even bolder in the storyline department. Time travel back to the American Revolution and extraterrestrial invasions were among the challenges the crew of the Seaview faced.

The show spawned comic books, lunch boxes, View-Masters and a Milton Bradley board game. If you are looking to add this terrific show to your DVD collection, 20th Century Fox has released it in two volume sets.

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