The Dark side of
Voyage to the Bottom
of the Sea

Classic episode--"The Fear-Makers"

Anthony Wilson    


Leonard Horn


Lloyd Bochner--a fine performance.
The face of fear--Lloyd Bochner as Martin Davis

Monitoring Polidor's progress aboard Seaview at the Institute Dock.     A recent viewing reaffirmed my conviction that "The Fear-Makers" is one of Voyage's very best outings.  It opens literally with a bang and really puts the show's fine ensemble cast of actors through their paces.  Richard Basehart gets center stage as a man torn by a subtext of guilt and the need to know the truth about a horrible accident involving Seaview's sister-sub, the Polidor.  Comedian Edgar Bergen, cast against type as Dr. Arthur Kenner, a psychologist and expert on fear, shines in a dramatic role.  The episode also sports one of Lloyd Bochner's most sinister television performances. 

Increasing tension.
As "The Fear-Makers" opens, Nelson listens
with ever greater astonishment as the hand-
selected crew of Seaview's sister sub Polidor
apparently goes crazy with fear, and
the sub, on a test dive, runs out of control.
Polidor lost . . .
Director Leonard Horn gets right in the face of his characters with revealing close-ups, and just when the chaos coming over Seaview's speakers climaxes, we see Polidor's final fate.
Nelson is crazy with frustration, anger
and helplessness as he realizes what has
happened.  Something has gone terribly
wrong, yet he can do nothing to bring back
the Polidor and her crew.

Come into my parlor . . .
Bochner as Dr. Martin Davis

      The dust is just settling and the Admiral preparing Seaview to search for the wreck of Polidor.  He is suddenly beset by politicians threatening to cut his purse strings unless he comes to Washington to explain the loss of Polidor.  They agree to let him delay the report so he can get underway, provided he'll take along Dr. Arthur Kenner, an expert on emotional stress (Kenner, by the way, has developed a prototype fear-inducing gas).  Unknown to anyone, Kenner's assistant, Dr. Martin Davis is a foreign agent who plans on secretly using the gas to convince Nelson that work at such depths is impossible.  

Out-of-touch science.
Bergen as Dr. Arthur Kenner

Once on board and underway, Dr. Davis makes a point of planting little seeds of doubt in as many minds as he can about whether or not humans can actually function at such depths.
Any chance they're still alive down there?
Kowalski: No!
Davis: You never can tell.  They might have made it to the surface.

Put through the ringer.  

Kowalski: Not from 8 miles deep.
Davis: Maybe they're still down there--just a couple of compartments flooded.
Kowalski: NO!  It doesn't happen like that Doc.  Not that deep.  It just goes and then there's nothing....... NOTHING!
Kowalski buries his face in his hand, overcome by the moment.

Davis' assault on Patterson is more direct.
Doesn't it frighten you to be going down 4,000 feet in an eggshell?
Patterson: I never thought about it that way.
Davis: Well maybe you should Patterson.
Davis makes his way from one crew member to the next and plants the seeds of fear, trusting that his own knowledge of the fear gas will protect him from its effects.
I never thought of it that way.

    The seeds of doubt and fear sown, Davis proceeds to the next step, which is to set his supply of fear gas, brought aboard Seaview disguised as a tape recorder, into the air revitalizing system.  From this point on, "The Fear-Makers" kicks into high gear, and a growing sense of barely controlled fear spreads like a disease through the submarine's personnel.

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