How to Ruin a Fantastic Show: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (TV Showcase #40)

Well, it’s been eleven shows since we’ve explored an Irwin Allen production, and I already gave him pretty high marks on “The Time Tunnel“. But this show was Allen’s baby. It started first, ran the longest, and from what I could see, garnered the most of his attention. This show was highly unusual, and with a closer look, we’re going to find out how, and what that meant as far as it’s creativity. So prepare to dive as we observe what it’s like to take a “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”. And yes, I know how increasingly cheesy these are getting.

“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (VBS for short, no reference to Vacation Bible School intended) started as a movie in 1962, and when the movie was successful, the show was created in 1964. It ran for 110 hour-long episodes over four seasons, ending in 1968. The show was about a a submarine called the Seaview, which was the United States’ best submarine in the sea. The Seaview would be used for various missions from the US government, usually involving espionage or international crime. The military advisor aboard the ship was Admiral Nelson, with Captain Crane serving as the ship’s captain. The crew often met with unexpected challenges, and always got more than they bargained for.

Now, you may remember from previous Showcases that Irwin Allen is a scifi guy. And yet I asserted that he held this show in such high regard, even though it sounds like VBS isn’t a scifi show at all. Well, that’s the cool thing about the show. It was scifi and nautical adventure, and espionage, just not all at the same time. By discovering the secret, sometimes the Seaview would stumble upon horrible sea monsters or aliens. The first season was absolutely enthralling, the plots genuinely suspenseful. Then came the later seasons.

While season one had contained a few alien stories, season two bumped up the count quite a bit, and the space monsters started to become a little bit of a nuisance. Season three was, in my opinion, an all-time low for the show. It had been doing so fantastically, and season two had brought it down, and now here was season three, almost entirely comprised of space monster stories, and the use of stock footage was unreal.

It was known of Allen that he was incredibly cheap with money, so he’d pay big-name actors the big bucks while skimping on everything else he possibly could. He had also been known for his use of stock footage, but he used more in VBS than any of his other shows. Ten minutes of previously-seen footage was not unusual for season three of VBS, including scenes from the black-and-white season one, tinted to try and make it look like it was in colour! In one episode in particular, less than five minutes of the fifty-minute program was original footage. It was unacceptable for a professional filmmaker like Allen, but he did it anyway.

Season four was an improvement, with some better-formed stories, but still, most of them were monsters, alot of which were re-used monster suits. Only a few of the season four episodes were mind-boggling in their scifi concepts, which is what made it an improvement over season three. The show was cancelled after that, a once great show about spies and submarines that had turned into “monster of the week”. Even David Hedison, who played Captain Crane, acknowledged the ridiculousness of the excessive monsters and stock footage.

So I’d highly recommend season one of “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, and some select episodes from season four. But in the end, succumbing to the seemingly popular demands of aliens and rubber monster suits was not the way to go, and it ultimately ruined a show that had started out fantastic. What do you think?


6 thoughts on “How to Ruin a Fantastic Show: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (TV Showcase #40)

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