By Mark Phillips
A young Mark
A young Mark
The earliest memories I have of Voyage are from its first season as a four-year old. It was broadcast Sunday afternoons on a Canadian channel.
Yet as the series
progressed, I don't remember the kids at school talking about Voyage. In
first grade I related the story of "Shape of Doom" to my classmates. It
was about a giant whale that destroys a ship, swallows a 50 megaton bomb,
attacks Seaview, then heads on a collision course with the Presidents
aircraft carrier. The kids listened intently but told me they preferred
Walt Disney's animal shows and Flipper.
Around 1967, I bought my first Viewmaster, which featured 21 stereo reel pictures of "Deadly Creature Below." But I didn't have a movie viewer, so my Aunt bought me a viewer and a Viewmaster reel called Wonders of the Deep. "Mark, Wonders of the Deep will provide you with the history of the seas," she told me. I thanked her but reached for my Voyage Viewmaster instead. "I want to see the Seaview fight the two headed jellyfish first!" My Aunt was not impressed.
On the other hand, Richard Basehart and David Hedison once appeared as guests on The Mike Douglas Show, wearing their black flight jackets. I couldn't have cared less. I went outside to play. As a kid, the plots of Voyage appealed to me more than its heroes, unless they were fighting rampaging monsters."
When our family moved to Creston, Canada in 1968, Voyage had been cancelled, although I only had a dim realization that the show had run its course. Some months later, a group of us went down to a local pond covered with green scum. Darrin, one of the older kids, decided to test his Aurora model of the Seaview. He had two strings attached to the conning tower and one at the rudder. Two miniature hockey players, which he had gotten from a cereal box, were glued on top of the bridge, alongside a tiny Canadian flag. He gently pushed the sub out into the pond and we watched in disbelief as the sub turned on its side and started to sink from view. "No, no!" Darrin screamed as he pulled the strings to retrieve the sub, but the strings broke loose and the model quickly sank. Bubbles rose from under the green muck. It was an ill-conceived launch and I was the only kid who understood the significance of seeing the Seaview lost forever. No one considered salvaging the sub, since the pond was deep and filled with biting water bugs. The Seaview is still down there at the bottom of that pond. Darrin tried to convince me to give him my unassembled Aurora kit so he could try another launch but I refused. He sheepishly bought a unsinkable toy speedboat instead.
Good grief, for the first time in four years, I had the chance to see a color episode. I couldn't believe my good fortune. I checked channel 56 that night and sure enough, the reception was crystal clear. The next day, I turned on the TV, anticipating action, adventure and excitement. What I got was static, fuzz and noise. The station had simply disappeared during the daytime and I was incredibly disappointed.
During 1973-1974, Voyage was airing to great ratings on Seattle's KTTV channel 13. Unfortunately, we lived outside of Seattle and couldn't get the station. I could only read TV Guide story synopsis's about prehistoric islands, seaweed monsters and time travelers. Occasionally, we visited Seattle, and once I was able to LISTEN to the episode "Death Ship" (the picture was gone due to technical difficulties). I also saw "Graveyard of Fear" and it confirmed my memories of how fantastic the show was. It annoyed me that current TV fare such as Chase, The Magician and Six Million Dollar Man couldn't match this kind of excitement.
In 1975, while visiting Pike Place market in Seattle, I accidentally stumbled upon a giant barrel filled with photographs from Voyage. I couldn't believe it. I plowed through the bin and dug out dozens of photos. I only had 8 dollars on me, forcing me to select only the best, which included Captain Crane with a mermaid, Admiral Nelson trapped in a force field and beautiful Karen Steele posing against a control panel.
A year later, I wrote to
KSTW Channel 11, the leading independent station in Seattle, asking them
to bring Voyage to the airwaves. Their broadcasts of Twilight Zone and
Outer Limits on weekends had been a big success. A nice programming lady
named Kathy wrote back and said Voyage had been secured for their
schedule. It soon debuted on weekends and from 1977 to 1980. I finally saw
all of Voyage. The episodes ranged from the absolute best, such as "The
Mist of Silence", to the dregs, like "No Escape from Death", which was a
budget saver with stock footage.
But I was surrounded by a malevolent media that enjoyed taking swats at Voyage with cowardly, dismissive attacks. A critic for a major Seattle newspaper got the bright idea in 1974 to conduct his own poll of the worst TV shows ever made. Me and the Chimp, Queen for a Day, Gilligan's Island and I Dream of Jeannie were the top "nominees," along with Voyage, which he called, "an endless spool of mindless material...a yellowing rerun of annoying nonsense." The now defunct newspaper Monster Times labeled Voyage "a nauseating loser" and Movie Monsters called it "a kids show masquerading as science fiction."
Even the Seaview was demeaned when the sub appeared as stock footage in a Wonder Woman episode in the late 1970s. Now retitled "The Stingray", Seaview was a enemy drone sub that ended up being blown to bits by Wonder Woman.
Kate Jackson proved
to be a kinder soul when she appeared on a retrospective of ABCs past
programming in 1978. "When TV producers ran out of ideas, they
looked up, and then they looked down," she said. "Waaaay down, to the
bottom of the sea." The
resulting clip, of the whale swallowing the
diving bell in "Jonah and the Whale," was scratched and faded but it was
still an effective tribute to Voyage. When the clip was over, the
celebrity-laden audience erupted into enthusiastic