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Where’s my undersea science fiction show?

Illustration for article titled Where’s my undersea science fiction show?

The recent post about Lost in Space got me thinking about other Irwin Allen projects. I saw the movie Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea several times on TV as a kid in the '70s. The Seaview bursting out of the water at the beginning is a classic scene. If space opera is back, why not undersea opera?


Irwin Allen's Undersea Adventures

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea started life as a 1961 movie starring Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden's butt produced and directed by Irwin Allen. He later used the movie's premise of a high tech super submarine in the near future for the television show of the same name. Walter Pidgeon was replaced by Richard Basehart as the scientist and engineer Admiral Nelson. The Seaview's mission was research and exploration of the oceans but was also secretly tasked with defending the world against various threats. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was Allen's first science fiction series and the longest running for four seasons from 1964 to 1968.

Allen tapped into the undersea adventure idea again with City Beneath the Sea. It was first a pilot for NBC as a potential Star Trek replacement in 1967 if that show had ended after the second season. There are obvious elements from both Star Trek and other Irwin Allen shows (like the flying sub from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) in the video above. Since NBC didn't pick up City Beneath the Sea Allen reworked the idea into a TV movie (and pilot) in 1971. The second version wasn't picked up either but it was something else I saw a lot during the '70s.


seaQuest DSV

This show aired in the 1990s on NBC and featured yet another veteran naval officer and another super sub. This time it's Captain Nathan Bridger sho has been called back to duty to command the seaQuest DSV 4600, basically an updated Seaview partially designed by Starfleet engineers. The seaQuest's missions were exploration and keeping the peace (sound familiar?). The first season was a mixed bag quality-wise but went seriously downhill after that.


The Irwin Allen stuff played fast and loose with the science but seaQuest DSV at least made an attempt to incorporate science in the show (including having Robert Ballard as a consultant for the first season who would talk about science used in at the end of each episode).

The obvious pitch for a new underwater science fiction show is "Star Trek in the ocean." What all the shows, movies and pilots I mentioned share is undersea adventure in the near future. The near future setting allows the use of familiar technology and such mixed in with futuristic elements without looking odd (like Humvees on Caprica in Battlestar Galactica). While this could be dark ("we screwed up the land and were forced into the sea") it could be done in a more optimistic tone ("we're using the resources of the sea to help everyone").


I enjoy good space opera but why can't we look to the oceans as well as space?

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