Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea had two highly successful and entertaining seasons behind it in 1966, as it entered its third season. It had made the jump to a new timeslot and color shooting the previous year, and the cast remained the same, led by Richard Basehart as Admiral Harriman Nelson and David Hedison as Commander Lee Crane, with Bob Dowdell, Terry Becker, Del Monroe, and Paul Trinka returning in their supporting roles as members of the crew of the submarine Seaview. Only Alan Hunt, who had played crewman Stu Riley, was gone, Hunt having been drafted. Unlike the transition from the first two second seasons, there were no changes depicted in the design of the ship, or the major pieces of hardware used in the plots. Terry Becker as Chief Petty Officer Francis Sharkey played a somewhat bigger role in the action in this season, as he had been absent, except for appearances in stock footage shots, for most of the second half of the previous season -- his character was given more background and development, and he had a lot more to do, especially in his interactions with Basehart.
Now ensconced in an early Sunday night timeslot, one would have hoped that that the series could maintain the quality of those first two seasons. But instead, Voyage took a strange and bizarre turn, away from the careful mix of espionage stories, science fiction, and adventure tales that had characterized those first two seasons, and into monster-on-the-loose stories for its third season, and even introduced werewolves and showed regular confrontations with aliens from outer space and all manner of creatures from inside the Earth. The series, in effect, became much more like producer Irwin Allen's other successful series, Lost In Space, with several monstrous creatures crossing over between the two shows, both of which were produced at adjoining facilities on the 20th Century-Fox lot. This was the season in which adults began to get embarrassed by many of the shows, which became decidedly more juvenile, and even older teenagers started to treat Voyage as a "guilty pleasure."
Yet the series survived and thrived, mostly because the pacing of the episodes was notched up considerably. The stories may have been silly at times, and the array of monsters faced by the Seaview's crew ridiculous, but the shows delivered non-stop action at a breakneck pace, and became engrossing on that level, especially for the relative handful of good scripts that were produced -- and those were very good. "The Death Watch" was a stark psychological drama involving just Basehart, Hedison, and Becker aboard an otherwise deserted Seaview, while "Day of Evil" and "Thing From Inner Space" gave supporting actor Paul Trinka two great scripts in which to star; and "Deadly Waters" offered an acting tour-de-force fromb series regular Del Monroe as well as a highly suspenseful story of a disaster at sea. And "The Day The World Ended" presented a fascinating story about mass hypnosis of the crew, which included some fine special effects footage.
Despite such highlights, however, the series also started to rely too heavily on stock footage, which longtime fans had seen more than once in the run of the series, and which marred the effectiveness of some of the shows. "The Terrible Toys", for example, was a ridiculous if highly entertaining thriller about an encounter with an alien spaceship, which offered lively pacing and some suspenseful moments, but fell down when extensive footage from a prior season show turned up at a critical moment in the story. The series' problems may well have been a result of the attention of producer Irwin Allen being stretched too thin -- in addition to overseeing Voyage and Lost In Space, he had Time Tunnel in production at the time, and was about to go into pre-production on what would become his most expensive series ever, Land Of The Giants. On the positive side, the actors picked up some of the slack in the scripts. "Day of Evil" and "The Haunted Submarine" gave Hedison and, even more so, Basehart, the opportunity to play dual roles that were immensely fun to watch. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
- Richard Basehart, David Hedison, (more)