Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea

I never watched Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea on television when I was a kid. It aired from 1964 to 1968, and I wasn't born until '65. Unlike Star Trek and The Wild Wild West, Voyage never aired in syndication in Maine during the 70's.

In fact, before catching an episode or two in the wee hours on the SciFi Channel in the mid-90's, my only glimpse of this Irwin Allen production was around 1975 when I was visiting my grandparents in Jupiter, Florida. I only saw about half an episode, but it stuck in my mind, especially the distinctive design of the submarine Seaview and the bright yellow Flying Sub.

I did, however, have the Whitman kid's hardcover novel (by acclaimed sci-fi pulp author Raymond F. Jones of This Island Earth fame) pictured to the right, and I loved it, although, at the time, I had no idea that it was based on a television series.

You see, I had a fascination with fantastic submarine adventures ever since seeing 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea on The Wonderful World of Disney. A few years later, I stumbled across a copy of Rex, King of the Deep, a WWII adventure novel by prolific Dell and Gold Key comics writer Gaylord DuBois, which chronicled the adventures of privately financed and built supersub battling Nazi U-Boats.

As a teenager, I read articles about the series – and the feature film it was derived from – in Starlog magazine, which also published an episode guide to the show's 110 installments. Eventually I caught the feature film on AMC, and saw those few episodes on SciFi.

Well, a couple of Christmases ago, I took advantage of an Amazon sale and picked up the first season of Voyage on DVD. I was quite surprised to find that the early B&W episodes were often quite intense espionage stories, as I had expected lots of goofy Irwin Allen monsters like on Lost In Space (turns out, most of those came later). Leads Richard Basehart and David Hedison were clearly taking their job – and craft – seriously, giving even the sillier episodes a certain amount of gravity. The production values were generally excellent, benefiting from the use of sets and miniatures built for the big-budget theatrical film. The pacing was a bit slow compared to today's television, and there were virtually no female guest stars at all. Like The Rat Patrol or Combat!, Voyage was a very testosterone-driven show.

Well, Deep Discount recently had a sale on Fox DVDs, and I was able to pick up Season 2 at roughly 50% off its usual price. I've watched the first half of the season, and it's clear that the series was changing rather radically.

Aside from now being in color, I've read that the show was moved to an earlier, weekend time slot, which caused the producers to adjust their approach, writing more for the kiddies – specifically, young boys. There are still spy plots, but they more resemble The Man From U.N.C.L.E. than the tense, Cold War stuff of the first season. There are more monsters, and virtually every episode features at least one female guest star. Still, Basehart and Hedison keep things grounded, and never camp it up.

I'm enjoying the show – we all know I love the cheesy monsters and old-school miniature special effects – but I haven't decided if I'll be picking up Season Three...

Anybody else remember the show?


Charles Gramlich said...

I remember seeing a few episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and liking it, but I never became a big fan. I probably have only seen a handful of episodes. Seems like I remember they had good music though.

Did you ever watch Flipper? I kind of liked that show.

Craig Zablo said...

I watched it occasionally. I, too, loved the flying sub!

I think the thing that made the show unique, that it took place on a sub, is also the thing that restrictions on the drama.

Haven't seen it in years... maybe it's due another look at some point.

Keith said...

I've seen a few episodes of it, but never the entire series. I've been wanting to give it a shot though.

J. Spath said...

I've never seen the show, but I did remember that I saw it posted on They have the whole first season up over there free to watch and since you've made the first season sound the most interesting, I'm going to give it a shot. Here's the link if anyone else is interested.

Hulu is NBC-Universal and Fox's official online video site in case you don't know, so watching it there is completely legal.

JDSantibáñez said...

I did watched most of the episodes here in Ecuador, when I was at school. It was one of my favorite shows. But if I watch it now it is not the same. Production values have changed, pacing has changed and I have changed also. Most of these shows are better remembered than seen.The same goes for The Time Tunnel, The Wild Wild West, The Six Million Dollar Man, among others.