Beneath The Surface Lies The Future. Thirty years after Irwin Allen's Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea television returns to an under water science fiction adventure series. But even with Steven Spielberg as an executive producer the show would face turbulent waters trying to find its own identity.
Spoiler Level: Minor
The time is the near future (2018). After a near incident in the Livingston Trench, Captain Stark (Shelly Hack) is relieved of her command by XO Ford aboard the SeaQuest Deep Submersive Vehicle (DSV). Eighteen months later the United Earth Organization (UEO) tracks down Nathan Bridger on an island in the Caribbean, Nathan has been living in isolation with his only companion, a dolphin named Darwin.
Admiral Noyce (Richard Herd) has come to convince Nathan (Roy Scheider) to return to civilization and the UEO. But Nathan is still grieving the death of his wife and the death of his son in a military incident and isn’t interested. Admiral Noyce tells Bridger that the SeaQuest, which was designed by Bridger, has been finished and operational for three years.
After most of the surface’s resources have been depleted the oceans of the world have become new frontiers for mining, pharmaceuticals, and farming. And the world has become far more dangerous for it. Undersea borders, nations split into confederations, and territorial claims make for an uneasy balance for peace in the world. The UEO was formed to administer a peace treaty and NORPAC has given the SeaQuest to the UEO, not as a war ship, but as an exploration and peacekeeping vehicle outfitted with a team of scientists. Since Nathan Bridger designed and created the SeaQuest UEO wants him to come back to it. Nathan only agrees to come back and take a look at what’s been done to his boat.
Bridger gets a grand tour of the sub. He runs into an old friend who is now head of security and has a bumpy introduction to Lt. Katherine Hitchcock the chief engineer. Admiral Noyce admits the SeaQuest is still a military vessel much to Bridger’s chagrin. Continuing on his tour, Nathan is greeted by his trusted companion Darwin who was brought on board and who has access to the entire boat. However, Nathan isn’t happy they kidnapped Darwin to lure him back. Then Nathan hears Darwin speak!
The logistics of Darwin’s speech are explained to Bridger by Lucas Wolenczak whose father has put him on the SeaQuest. Lucas is your generic young genius trapped in a world of lesser smart adults. Also aboard the SeaQuest is Stephanie Beacham (The Coblys, Dynasty) as Dr. Kristin Westphalen, the chief medical officer and head of the science department.
The show was troubled from the the very beginning. Disputes between the producers, which included Steven Spielberg, NBC, and cast members, changes in the production staff and even an earthquake marred the the show. The second season saw changes in the cast, continuing disputes with cast members and producers and the third season saw a total overhaul of the show. Season one, which premiered in 1993, had the series taking place in 2018 and was originally popular with audiences as the SeaQuest was grounded in real world problems as it embarked on oceanographic research and tackled environmental issues and political intrigue across the world. Ratings weren’t that great even at the beginning with seaQuest DSV going up against the hugely popular Murder, She Wrote on CBS and Lois And Clark The New Adventures of Superman on ABC. So in the first season finale, Captain Bridger sacrifices the SeaQuest to stop an ecological disaster and most people involved with the show thought it would not be renewed for a second season. Then NBC, in a surprising move, ordered a second season of the series. NBC and Universal decided to change the format and also move the show from L.A. to Florida. NBC also wanted a younger cast. Stars Stacy Haiduk (Lt. Hitchcock) and Stephanie Beacham weren’t up for relocating and were written out. Season two was also to have a heavier focus on science fiction with episodes featuring aliens, time travel, monsters of the week, and genetic engineering. New cast member Michael DeLuise had bio-engineered gills and his newbie brother Peter DeLuise was a genetically engineered life form (GELF aka “Dagger”). Roy Scheider was very vocal in his dislike of the new direction…”I didn’t sign up for this stuff”. He was very bitter about how seaQuest DSV had lost its way.
Ratings were in a steady decline due to bad writing and being constantly pre-empted due to sports events. The season 2 finale had the SeaQuest abducted by aliens and the sub and its crew were destroyed in what appeared to be the series finale. But in another surprise move, NBC renewed the show for a third season. Roy Scheider asked to be let out of his contract which NBC obliged with the condition he return for a few guest appearances. Michael Ironside of V fame was brought in as the new Captain with only Lucas, Commander Ford, and Lt. O’Neill (Ted Raimi) still present from the first season. Ratings tanked and the series, which had been renamed SeaQuest 2032 despite the fact Lucas was still a teenager, finally was cancelled and went to it’s watery grave. There was a total of 57 episodes between 1993 and 1996.
seaQuest DSV propelled it’s young star Jonathan Brandis to teen idol status. Born in 1978, Brandis began acting at the age of 6, landing a role on the soap opera One Life To Live. At the age of 14 he got his first starring role in The NeverEnding Story II and the same year he played Bill Denbrough the stuttering teen in the television adaptation of Stephen King’s It. During the height of his popularity on seaQuest DSV he received over 4,000 fan letters a week. On November 11, 2003 he was found hanged in the hallway of his apartment. The next day he died from his injuries sustained from the hanging. He was 27 years old. His friends later reported that Jonathan was very depressed and saw his career fading. He had pinned a lot of hope on his role in the 2002 film Hart’s War, that it might jump start his career again. When the film was released Brandis saw a great deal of his role was cut. He began drinking a lot and friends say he voiced he was going to kill himself.
If you are ever feeling like you don’t want to go on and that life is hopeless please remember no one knows what tomorrow may bring and there is no shame in asking for help. Please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Underwater science fiction shows are few and far between. Most notable shows include Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, seaQuest DSV, Surface and the current show Siren (which I highly recommend). It's basically a little tapped setting. seaQuest DSV could have been the underwater version of Star Trek but it never quite could decide what it wanted to be. The talents of Jonathan Brandis are missed and we'll never get to see the actor he could have grown to be. That's the saddest part of all.
Amazing Science Fiction: seaQuest DSV
Writing - 6.5/106.5/10
Storyline - 7/107/10
Acting - 8/108/10
Music - 9/109/10
Production - 9/109/10
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