The Dark Side of
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Getting the drop on Nelson in Mutiny.
In Mutiny, an overdose of medication has Nelson freaked out.
 Raw nerves and blind fear . . . "Mutiny"

Season One boiled with darkly confrontational themes . . .

This kind of brilliant photography was served up by Academy Award winner Winton Hoch.

First year shows were often tight, tense and gritty, as in "Submarine Sunk Here."

     Anyone familiar with Voyage 's first season is well aware that many episodes stormed with darkly confrontational undercurrents.  Science fictional or not, there was a gritty realism in the scripts that the black-&-white format suited to a "t".  Whether driven by an experimental fear-inducing gas (The Fear Makers), bigotry (The Price of Doom), an overdose of medication (Mutiny), a political monster (The Exile), or just the pressure of diving where no unprotected human could live for  even seconds (The Condemned ), Season One's plots often explored the darker side of the human condition.  Voyage did this not only with style, but also with high production values, and consistently good, occasionally excellent, writing.  No fan of the series need be ashamed of Season One's shows.

Voyage in black and white--it doesn't get much better.
     Suspicion played a key role in the early shows.  Suspicion of the unknown, and its darkest form, suspicion of one another.  Who was a spy?  Who was an enemy?
Gritty realism--TV noir.
     Suspicion's close cousin, fear, was dealt with regularly.  The show's real focus was not on fear per se, but rather, on how the crew, men of solid virtue, dealt with it.

Richard Basehart--a wonderfully expressive face.

The ultimate horror: Nelson realizes it's no game--he's been ordered to launch offensive nuclear weapons in "Doomsday," a cautionary tale.

     Season One Voyage dealt with issues as well.  Nelson, a scientist, is also an admiral with an admiral's responsibilities.  In the episode "Doomsday," he confronts missile control officer Corbett about  his failure to activate Failsafe when so ordered:
Corbett: "This is doomsday, Admiral--doomsday!"
Nelson: "If it is, we didn't start it."
Corbett: "What difference is it who started it?  It's one thing to carry a big stick--it's another to bash someone's head in with it.  I just couldn't do it.  But you could!" (he looks astonished)  "Couldn't you, Admiral?"
Nelson: "You think that because I do what I have to do I don't feel . . . "  Nelson chokes, but recovers.  "Our job is to provide the bone and muscle of our country's deterrent power.  If we fail in that . . . if we freeze in the clutch, our country's defenseless.  You failed your country once before--don't ever fail her again. "  This said, you know Nelson damn well means it in spite of the implicit horror.

William Read Woodfield's powerful cautionary script for "Doomsday" poses a horrible dilemma for both Nelson and Crane.  They are duty-bound to carry out their orders in spite of the fact that to do so is madness.  The writer is clearly on the side of Corbett, who pleads the case for humanity, arguing that there is a line past which individuals are not bound by orders.  And at the conclusion of the drama, the viewer sides with Corbett in spite of the fact that his military career is ruined and Nelson is obviously the show's daddy/hero.  Fairly bold stuff to air in 1964 during the cold war and a brewing Vietnam, "Doomsday" is arguably Voyage 's finest attempt to deal with social and moral issues.  "The Sky is Falling" and "The Price of Doom" also take a firm stand, although in the context of science fiction.

Donald Harron turned in an intense, focused performance.
In Doomsday, pleading the case for humanity.
Donald Harron as Corbett--a standout performance.

Hedison, along with Basehart, was generally at his best in the first season.

Prison bars and a five o'clock shadow.  In the Captain's book, there could be no concession to brute force. 

     As noted, not only was Season One often dark, it could be gritty as well.  Such is the case with the episode, Mist of Silence , the title of which literally refers to a wall of poisonous nerve gas that first, puts Crane and several Seaview crew (including Kowalski) in the clutches of a decidedly evil South American would-be dictator.  Beyond that, the title also refers to the cancerous pall that blind subservience to any aspiring military bully or dictator must inevitably lead. 
     In this episode, a frightened, screaming Seaview crew member is dragged away and shot in cold blood.  Crane narrowly escapes the same fate.  This kind of brutal realism was exorcized from Voyage when it went to color and was moved to the 7:00 Sunday-night family slot opposite Disney in the fall of 1965. 

For More on The Fear-Makers, Click here.
For more on DoomdsayClick here.
As always, thanks to Stephanie Kellerman  for help with photos.

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