I am halfway through the second season of the DVD release of the 1960s TV show “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (VTTBOTS), and taking great pleasure in reliving my teenage years in the process. This was one of my favorite shows at the time, and it is fascinating to see the shows again with 40 years of adult life between viewings. With the aging of the baby boomers, it seems no coincidence that dozens of DVD sets of old TV shows, from “Lost in Space” to “F Troop”, have been released. There’s no doubt that a huge nostalgia factor drives the sales of these old TV shows. In the age of CGI movie special effects, I can’t see my kids ever wanting to see these shows from a frankly simpler time.
VTTBOTS aired from 1964 to 1968. I loved the show as a teen. The submarine Seaview, the coolest submarine ever designed (see the image below) is a scientific research sub (complete with nuclear missiles!) that on a weekly basis explored the depths of the ocean, faced various monstrous and human perils, and in general was the centerpiece of amazing adventures. Set 10 years in the future (i.e. the 1970s!) the technology was fairly believable, at least to a 14 year old boy. Captain Lee Crane and Admiral Harriman Nelson are the two stars of the show (played by David Hedison and the late Richard Basehart), and they are accompanied by a crew of regulars such as exec officer Chip Morton, Chief Sharkey, crew members Kowalski, Patterson, and others. But the real star of the show is the sub itself, much like a few years later the Enterprise was the real star of Star Trek. After all these years many of the special effects are obviously dated, but the shots of the Seaview on the open sea are still amazing. No CGI here, instead an 18 foot model sailing on a lake for the surface shots. Smaller models were used for the undersea shots. The first season was the best, shot in black and white, with 8 windows on the nose of the sub. Later seasons had a redesigned sub, with 4 windows and were shot in color. Many of the first season plots were quite serious, focusing on cold war issues. Later seasons had a lighter tone, gradually morphing into the silliness of the later Irwin Allen show “Lost in Space.” One is impressed by some of the acting, especially Richard Basehart who was an excellent actor. In a sense the show was “beneath” him, but he doesn’t treat the role of Admiral Nelson superficially. Nelson is complex: an idealistic researcher, a great friend to Captain Crane, but also quick to anger, and, jarringly today, but unnoticed by me in my youth, a chain smoker. Again, many of the plots are often naive, even silly by today’s standards, though some, especially from season one, stand up well even today. All this doesn’t really matter though. I just love reliving those old days of my youth: the politically incorrect male-adolescent oriented adventures, the cute 60’s women walking around the submarine with their blonde pageboy hairdos, wearing tight skirts and stilleto heels (so practical on a submarine!), the various monsters, scary then, fake now, the wonderful theme music (I am serious about that) — the whole package.
The first 2 seasons are available on DVD, the 3rd is about to be released. If you’re curious check out the website www.vttbots.com, or take the plunge and check out the first season.