Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season Three, Volume One – DVD Review

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Executive Producer:
Irwin Allen

Richard Basehart….Adm. Harriman Nelson
David Hedison….Capt. Lee B Crane
Robert Dowdell…Lt. Comdr. Chip Morton
Del Monroe….Kowalski
Terry Becker….CPO Sharkey

Fox Home Video presents Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season Three, Volume One. Thirteen episodes on 3 Flipper DVDs. Episodes aired from Sept. 18, 1966 to Dec. 11, 1966. DVD released June 19, 2007.

The Show

Deep beneath the waves, there was always trouble bumping into the Seaview, a futuristic submarine protecting America. It could be a nuclear bomb or an enormous sea monster. The crew always seemed up for the challenge, no matter which way the waves rocked them. Their leader, Admiral Nelson was a statesman, inventor and superspy. He could do anything necessary on a mission which was good since the series mixed science fiction with international espionage. Capt. Crane, the second in command, provided raw sex appeal and muscle. They were hearty men that lurked beneath the waves.

The first season focused on Cold War espionage. There was plenty of quasi-Soviet plots being hatched with only these deep diving seaman protecting our shores. The series was shot in black and white so it had a Dr. Strangelove atmosphere. There was a lot of high contrast lighting on the actors. Season two brought color to the underwater action. The story lines slowly started getting away from the serious tone of international intrigue to more sci-fi scripts. By the time of the third season, the communist threats had calmed down. Most of the action involved aquatic monsters invading the Seaview. Each week the crew had to fight off another freak of nature.

This is perhaps the most testosterone-powered show in network history. None of the episodes on this box set feature any women on the screen. There are accounts that after the second season, producer Irwin Allen discovered that he could save on the budget by not having any actresses on the show. They didn’t have to budget for separate dressing rooms, hair and makeup. Thus the Seaview became a submersible boys club. On “Death Watch,” they did have a female voice for Seaview’s computer to create a little female presence.

The third season kicked off with “Monster From the Inferno.” The crew discovers an alien brain on the ocean floor. When they bring it inside the sub, the life force attempts to take control of the crew and the ship. Dick Tufeld, the voice of the robot from Lost In Space, plays the voice of the alien brain. “Werewolf” has the hairy beast working its way onto the sub and spreading its disease. “The Terrible Toys” has the ship invaded by an evil toymaker and his playthings of horror. “The Plant Man” is just that. It’s a guy in a plant suit attacking crew members aboard the sub. This one is worth a laugh and a half.

Keeping the budget low seems to be a code word for the third season. “The Death Watch” features Nelson and Crane hunting each other down on an abandoned Seaview. Crane has a gun and Nelson has CPO Sharkey. The best part is that they passed on the savings to us with an exciting episode. What would make Crane turn on Nelson? Where is the rest of the crew? It’s a minimalist thriller that pays off without it being a complete cheat. “The Lost Bomb” brings back a bit of the cold war atmosphere. The Seaview has to recover and deactivate a bomb. The trouble happens when a rival sub arrives and wants the bomb for themselves. There’s a fear that someone on the Seaview has gone rogue.

“Thing From Inner Space” has an opening scene that really wasn’t helped by DVD quality. The episode features a documentary filmmaker who must chase down a monster that attacked them on an island. The beach set looks like something that would have been created for a saturday morning show. There’s no fooling the eye of the viewer. The painted palm tree backdrop sticks out behind a few prop plants. You almost expect the scene to end with the director yelling, “Cut!” We should discover that it’s a movie within the TV show. But no. We’re supposed the believe this is real. Perhaps in the days of the TV antenna reception, it looked like they were shooting on a Pacific island? You get a great idea of the the Seaview sub model’s size when its attacked by an underwater monster that’s a guy inside a suit. Besides being a sci-fi espionage thriller, Voyage has also transformed into a inadvertent comedy.

As a child, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was a great show because of all the underwater gadgets and monsters. As an adult, the show is still fun, but your mature eyes can spot the zippers and strings during the big effect shots. The underwater action looks like it was filmed in a bathtub or the aquarium at Red Lobster. It seemed like Irwin Allen reused every prop created for Lost in Space on Voyage. But the cheapness of this season is part of the show’s charm. While the first half of the third season wasn’t as intense as the first season, Voyage is freakishly entertaining when it slides into absurdity. What kept this show from becoming extra dumb like a SciFi Channel movie was that the crew didn’t ham it up as the scripts required them to be chased by a giant fern. Nelson and Crane always looked intense as if they were still working in the universe of international intrigue. They never turned into the campy acting poses struck on Batman. While season three of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea lacked depth, it didn’t sink like rock.

The Episodes

The episodes from the third season included in this collection are “Monster from the Inferno,” “Werewolf,” “The Day the World Ended,” “Night of Terror,” “The Terrible Toys,” “Day of Evil,” “Deadly Waters,” “Thing from Inner Space,” “The Death Watch,” “Deadly Invasion,” “The Haunted Submarine,” “The Plant Man” and “The Lost Bomb.”

The picture is 1.33:1 full frame. The color transfer has only a few specks. The details are sharp which means you can figure out how they created the miniature action.

The soundtrack is Dolby Digital Mono and Stereo. There are Spanish and French dubs. “The Lost Bomb” is missing its French track. The levels are good. The subtitles are in English and Spanish.

David Hedison Interview (5:12) features segments from a longer talk. The topics include “Visitors on the Set,” “Letters from Fans” and “The Rock and Roll.” He lets us know the secret of how the crew knew how to fall back and forth when the submarine was rocked. There’s a vintage radio interview from 1966 that has Hedison talk about how the technology on the show is being developed by the US Navy. There’s a great photo montage that goes with the conversation. Best is a pic of Hedison reading Mad Magazine on the set.

Still Galleries features a couple dozen photos from episodes and publicity photos.

The Comic Book contains a Golden Key comic book where the crew takes on the mysterious Dr. Gamma. Not sure what year the comic came out, but it sold for 12 cents on the newsstand. They’ve cut out the panels so you’re seeing a big picture per click instead of the entire page squeezed on the screen.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, S3, Vol. One
(OUT OF 10)






The Inside Pulse
Thanks to the DVDs, I’ve become rehooked on watching the series. The Seaview is still the coolest sub design. And I actually enjoy the monster attacks since the crew is so serious when they fight back. There’s no mugging for the camera when it’s a giant plant attacking them. The only annoying thing about this boxset is why if it only has 13 episodes did they have to put it out on 3 flipper DVDs?