Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Production information and notes by Mark Phillips
Story synopses, Mike Bailey


The Sky's On Fire  Airdate: January 23, 1966

Ice cascades past Seaview observation ports. Out on Seaview's flying bridge, the command crew is stunned by the  fire in the sky. An undulating, burning hell.
Shelf ice plunging into the sea.
The sky's on fire.
 The fire in the sky.

Richard Basehard, David J. Stewart, Robert H. Harris.
Nelson, Weber and Carlton.

        It's basically the Voyage movie re-shot and aired five years after the initial release of the theatrical version with Basehart, Hedison and company at the south pole rather than the north.  Seaview surfaces from under the antarctic ice shelf after being rained upon by huge chunks of ice.  They surface to discover a wild scene which Sharkey gets to summarize this time with one of my all-time favorite Voyage lines, "The sky's on fire" (of course, the episode title as well). 

At the behest of the President, Nelson makes for Washington in the Flying Sub to lay out a quickly concocted plan:  use a missile to blow the burning Van Allen belt out into space before the earth is fried to a cinder.  He has opposition in a UN representative (August Weber) who along with the more reasonable Commander McHenry of ONI, and a fence-sitter (Eric Carlton) accompany Nelson back to Seaview, which is ordered full speed ahead to get into position to fire the missile. 

      The soon to be dead McHenry works on Dr. Carlton  a
  Frank Marth as ONI's Commander McHenry tries to convince Dr. Carlton (Robert H. Harris) of Nelson's plan.

Weber (David J. Stewart) holds Nelson at bay as time ticks off toward missile firing time.   The UN representatives squabble amongst one another over the advisability of Nelson's plan. Carlton ends up dead and the crew, affected by a drug employed by Weber, act paranoid and conspiratorial toward Nelson, threatening the mission. Weber eventually holds everyone at bay with a grenade which is about to go off when Sharkey throws himself on the device to save the others.  As in the movie, Captain Crane saves the day by secretly exiting Seaview and setting a magnetic primer to launch the missile on time.


Seaview about to surface into the firey south polar sea
Seaview and her crew about to surface into a fiery new world.

The Sky's on Fire 

Written: William Welch
Story: Irwin Allen, Charles Bennett
Directed: Gerald Mayer

Guest Cast
August Weber.............David J. Stewart
Dr. Eric Carleton.........Robert H. Harris
Commander McHenry.......Frank Marth
Sparks...........................Anthony Brand

Trivia: This was Terry Becker’s last second season episode as Chief Sharkey.  The actor left the show when Irwin Allen refused to increase his salary.  Several other actors, including  Harvey Lembeck, were brought in to audition as replacements for Becker but Allen realized Becker was the only actor right for the role and he returned for the third season.

Mark Says: An acceptable budget-saver, although I didn’t believe the crew’s mutiny for a moment. The presence of David J. Stewart adds a morbid touch, since the acclaimed Broadway actor died very shortly after filming this segment.

Mike Says:  It is interesting to compare the movie cast to the television cast in their handling of basically the same story.  Basehart's Nelson is much more intense than Walter Pidgeon, who in some ways walked through the movie role.  The same can be said of David Hedison's portrayal of Crane versus that of Robert Sterling.  By the time I saw this episode, I was so familiar with the basic story, that it was distracting.   Nelson's explanation that the ice is sinking because it fell from great height is put paid by the fact that it never comes up again.  Just the same, a decent show.  (Re)writer William Welch had a pretty good script from which to work.

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