September 12 is a big day for classic, cult science fantasy fans as 20th Century Fox not only hit us with their hotly anticipated Blu-ray release of the Star Wars films, but you’ll also be able to pick up the third season of Irwin Allen’s underwater epic from your favourite stockist.
Our patience in waiting for the region 2 versions has been long and frustrating but it’s been worth the wait as the promise to release the entire four season run of Voyage in 2011 comes to fruition.
This third season began production in 1966, Irwin Allen’s most prolific year when he was also churning out the second season of Lost in Space and the only season of The Time Tunnel. Any attempt at delivering a series based on any kind of feasible science fiction or credible espionage scenario had long been abandoned. Season 3 of Voyage was a wild colourful flight of fancy, buoyed at times by some of the most awful scripts to be committed to film - outside of Lost in Space’s third season. But having said that, the episodes are a lot of fun to watch as each and every week, the steadfast crew of the Seaview face just about anything and everything the script writers could imagine to throw at them. Watching the 26 episodes presented here is like watching a series of "Monster of the Week" B-movies.
Kicking off with Monster from the Inferno where a large brain-creature with delusions of world domination threatens to overrun the Seaview crew the mood of the ensuing episodes is set. As the episodes progress, the crew encounter a werewolf caused by the radioactive gas seeping from a volcano. The wolf attacks Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart) with seemingly no effect until a later episode The Brand of the Beast in which Nelson is again accidentally exposed to radiation and becomes perhaps the first ginger furred lycanthrope seen on screen.
The Fossil Men is another memorable episode as Nelson and company encounter a race of men who have become part man, part rock due to submersion in what appears to be volcanic lava. It’s a mistake to question logic or common sense in these episodes - I’ve lost count of the number of times someone shoots a gun on the submerged submarine without worrying about puncturing the hull, it could actually form the basis of a drinking game - just enjoy the chill of seeing the fossil men emerge from the rock to the eerie theremin music Bernard Herrmann composed for The Day The Earth Stood Still, or of the sight of the Flying Sub soaring through the air before crash diving into the perfect blue ocean. Encounters with Wax Men, Heat Monsters, Plant Men, an evil three thousand year old Mummy, giant jellyfish and various amoeba monsters capable of shooting lightning bolts. They’re all here in glorious colour and the transfer to DVD is great with the added bonus of a choice of either the original monaural sound mix, of a new stereo soundtrack. No 5.1 option, sadly - but unsurprising in a series that is 45 years old.
Worthy of note is The Day The World Ended. This is the closest the season gets to any type of political storyline. A fanatical senator (Skip Homeier) wants to use the Seaview for his own evil purposes. Naturally, writer William Welch gives the plot an added lunatic twist - the senator happens to be the greatest master of mass hypnosis who ever lived and has convinced the crew that all the people in the world have disappeared, except for one lowly crew member. William Welch also penned an episode included here titled Day of Evil where a visitor from space tries to force nelson to destroy the Pacific Fleet with a nuclear missile. (Apparently, as the Seaview is the world’s first privately owned nuclear submarine, even individuals can own their personal nukes in the far flung future of 1980).
The 26 episodes are spread over seven discs, with the seventh also containing some cool special features giving added value to fans of the series.
There’s the third part of an interview with David Hedison, candidly recollecting his career as Captain Crane. This time he comments on the despair sometimes felt by classically trained theatre actor Richard Basehart having to resort to working on what material that was really beneath his talent and training in order to pay his alimony bills and he tells us about the origins of the famous Seaview Rock and Roll.
This term originated as a result of the scenes when the submarine encountered underwater turbulence which it often did, and was being thrown around resulting in the control room crew being flung from side to side while the camera rocks and the sparks fly from various panels and displays (though other parts of the ship, like the sick bay are never affected). Hedison’s account of how these scenes were filmed and choreographed using the lowest tech imaginable (a bucket and a spoon) is a story worth hearing.
You also have audio interviews with the show’s main stars, Basehart and Hedison dating from 1966 and a readable onscreen reprint of an issue of Gold Key’s 1964 comic book based on the programme which will definitely take those of us who were around in the sixties tumbling back in time on a wave of nostalgia.
All in all this box set is a hugely enjoyable romp back in time to a period when sci-fi on TV was actually upbeat and fun to watch. No dystopian future here, it’s all bright lights and technicolor.
And the good guys ALWAYS win.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea - The Complete Series 3 is out now on DVD