Blu-ray/DVD review: “SeaQuest DSV” (1993-1996)

“SeaQuest DSV” (1993-1996)

Television/Science Fiction

57 Episodes

Created by: Rockne S. O’Bannon

Featuring: Roy Scheider, Jonathan Brandis, Stephanie Beacham, Don Franklin and Michael Ironside

Capt. Nathan Bridger: “Beneath the surface lies the future.”

Recently re-released on blu-ray is the mid-nineties sci-fi series “SeaQuest DSV” (1993-1996) that was heavily indfluened by two shows from the 1960s, those being “Star Trek: The Original Series” (1966-1969) and most obviously “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1964-1968). What “SeaQuest DSV” did (in its early seasons anyway) was to take the idea of the unexplored oceans and using a military type organisation that was using technology that seemed to be devoted to the exploration and science much like the ‘Federation’ from “Star Trek: The Original Series”. The storylines were much as you might expect for a show of this genre, mostly one-offs with a few call-backs, it was seemingly heading to some success when behind the scenes ructions scuttled not only the appearance of the lead in Roy Scheider but ultimately the entire series.

There was much to enjoy and like about “SeaQuest DSV”, the first was the casting of the fantastic Roy Scheider who was at this point of his career an actor that has appeared in some legendary films but was foundering a little so to be able to create a character that while a fairly typical genre creation he was able to infuse it with sorely needed originality. Then there was the casting of genre regulars Ted Raimi and Peter DeLuise who lent some characterisations that were required for a show that needed something that was lefty of centre. Finally there was the casting of the late Jonathan Brandis as Lucas Wolenczak who was also the conduit for a talking dolphin, this was the highest profile project he ever worked on and you can see shades of an actor who finding his way but who never caught on later in his career leading to personal issues as well as his eventual suicide.

“SeaQuest DSV” was set in “the near future”—originally the year 2018 in the first season—seaQuest DSV originally mixed high drama with realistic scientific fiction. It originally starred film star Roy Scheider as Captain Nathan Bridger, designer and commander of the eponymous naval submarine seaQuest DSV 4600. Jonathan Brandis also starred as Lucas Wolenczak, a teenaged computer genius placed aboard seaQuest by his father and Stephanie Beacham as Kristin Westphalen, the chief medical officer and head of the seaQuest science department. In the third season, Michael Ironside replaced Scheider as lead of the series and starred as Captain Oliver Hudson. Also present was a dolphin character called Darwin who, due to technological advances, was able to communicate with the crew. Each week there would be stories related to the ocean, some dealt with technological advances, some ecological disasters or threats as well as a variety of others that genre fans would immediately recognise.

This was never a perfect television series, at the time of original broadcast it was taking place in a post “Star Trek” world where many of the themes of this show has been aired before, what it became was a reminder that genre television has not only an audience but with it that which has proven again and again, if you offer something even a little original there will be an audience. It was only a few years after the cancellation of this series that a similar show was spawned that being “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007) which actually covered themes that were alike but with the added layer of a storyline that went through at least the first eight seasons. Not only that but an entire industry was spawned with multiple spin-offs, television movies and even an animated series, something “SeaQuest DSV” may have only dreamt of, but the framework was there, one can only wonder what might have been possible.

Episodes

Season One:

Pilot: When Commander Jonathan Ford is forced to relieve Captain Marilyn Stark of duty for disobeying orders, the seaQuest DSV is left without a captain. The new United Earth Oceans Organization recruits reluctant retired Captain Nathan Bridger to assume command; however, Bridger is not at all enthusiastic about rejoining the military. But, when a renegade pirate submarine begins to endanger lives, Bridger can’t help but be swept up in the life he tried to escape, especially when the captain of the rebel sub turns out to be the recently fired Stark on a revenge mission to destroy the seaQuest.

The Devil’s Window: While investigating a black smoker, Darwin becomes seriously ill. Bridger must contemplate setting his long-time aquatic pal free in order to save his life.

Treasures of the Mind: The seaQuest discovers the lost Library of Alexandria sunken beneath the sea. However, when surrounding nations cannot agree on a peaceful way to share the discovery, Bridger must act as mediator before escalating tensions result in the destruction of the library.

Games: Mass murderer Dr. Rubin Zellar (Alan Scarfe) is unwittingly taken aboard the seaQuest. Placing him in custody, Zellar is able to escape and informs Bridger that he’s hidden a toxin frozen in ice somewhere aboard the ship… a toxin that is surely melting with each passing second.

Treasures of the Tonga Trench: As the seaQuest undergoes inspection, Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg has a close encounter with an unknown life form while in a seaCrab in the Tonga Trench. When the creature lets him go, Krieg discovers a treasure trove of mysterious glowing stones; stones that may mean big money. However, is the bigger threat to seaQuest the greed that overtakes the crew or the unknown life form?

Brothers and Sisters: The seaQuest is ordered to entomb a munitions depot thought to be abandoned. However, when the crew discovers children living inside, Bridger must convince them to follow him to safety.

Give Me Liberte: A virus found on board a sunken space station infects the crew. As Bridger rushes to find the inventor of the pathogen, a warrior submarine from an opposing confederation arrives to cover up their crimes, even if it means the destruction of the seaQuest.

Knight of Shadows: When Bridger is hurled across his quarters by an unknown force, it leads the seaQuest to find a hundred-year-old sunken ship where the spirits of those who perished there haunt its ancient hull, one of which possesses Dr. Westphalen.

Bad Water: Commander Ford, Dr. Westphalen, Lucas and Lieutenant Krieg are trapped on the surface of the ocean as a hurricane rages above them. Meanwhile, suffering severe damage from a lightning strike, the seaQuest must desperately search for a sunken French submarine before its passengers, all children, run out of air.

The Regulator: When the air conditioning breaks down in the crew quarters, Krieg has no choice but to turn to “The Regulator”, a cut-throat black market trader who hides a shamed past with whom Bridger is familiar with and whom Lucas finds he can sympathize with.

seaWest: When the seaQuest visits the Broken Ridge mining colony, one of the colonists desperately pleads for the crew’s help to escape from a dangerous situation straight out of the Old West.

Photon Bullet: Feeling isolated, unwanted, and unappreciated aboard the seaQuest, Lucas visits Node Three, a communications colony populated by other teenage computer geniuses, led by legendary computer hacker Martin Clemens, aka. “Mycroft”. However, Lucas soon finds himself caught up in the group’s tampering with global finances – tamperings that have more motive than they appear.

Better Than Martians: The first manned mission to Mars returns home to Earth, led by Commander Scott Keller, an old friend of Bridger’s. However, a malfunction during re-entry plunges the capsule into the ocean where a corrupt general from a foreign confederation races to recover the astronauts before the seaQuest can.

Nothing but the Truth: In preparation for an experiment, the crew evacuates the seaQuest, leaving only Commander Ford, Lt. Commander Hitchcock, Lieutenant Krieg, Chief Crocker, and Lucas aboard. However, environmental extremists use the seaQuest’s vulnerable state to seize control of the boat.

Greed for a Pirate’s Dream: When Dr. Raleigh Young’s magma buoy launched from the seaQuest months earlier rockets out of the sea and crash lands onto an island, a group of treasure hunters believe that the UEO is on their way to steal the fortune they hope to find.

Whale Song: When an environmental radical begins to sink whaling ships, the UEO orders Bridger to find the attacker and destroy him. However, Bridger refuses on moral grounds and resigns as captain of the seaQuest.

The Stinger: Lucas and Lt. Commander Hitchcock enter the seaQuest in a competition to design a revolutionary new kind of single-seat submersible. However, while testing it, Lucas is fired upon and the sub is captured by a rival developer.

Hide and Seek: While visiting Dr. Westphalen is visiting Malcolm Lansdowne, the two of them are captured by ousted dictator and escaped UEO prisoner Milos Tezlov, who wants Malcolm’s dolphins to train for militaristic purposes. However, when Kristin notices Tezlov’s autistic son Caesar taking an extreme liking to dolphins, she forges a deal for her release, granting Tezlov passage aboard the seaQuest.

The Last Lap at Luxury: UEO Secretary General Andrea Dre travels aboard the seaQuest en route to a conference where she invites Lucas to join her to speak out on his work with Darwin. However, Lucas soon finds himself held hostage along with the leaders of the other UEO confederations.

Abalon: When Commander Ford believes he saw a mermaid at the bottom of the ocean, Captain Bridger orders him to take shore leave, but while on leave, Ford encounters the same woman again and soon finds himself ensnared in a mysterious scientist’s unnatural experiment. Meanwhile, Lucas sneaks away to a party where Julianna and he may go “all the way.”

Such Great Patience: The seaQuest makes the biggest discovery in Human history when they discover an alien starship entombed in an undersea rock face; trapped there for over a million years. When an away team goes inside the ship, they find that they might not be the only thing aboard it.

The Good Death: The seaQuest is tricked into torpedoing a ship carrying dozens of child refugees, led by Cynthia Westphalen, Kristin’s daughter. When their launch is damaged, Commander Ford, Shan, and the Westphalens must take refuge in the Amazonian Confederation, whose brutal leader believes the seaQuest has sent assassins after him.

Higher Power: An emotional time is at hand as the seaQuest’s tour of duty comes to an end; Chief Crocker faces his retirement and the end of his marriage, Commanders Ford and Hitchcock are offered the same command, and Captain Bridger and Dr. Westphalen begin a romantic relationship. Most emotional of all is Lucas who realizes that his father is hardly a part of his life anymore. However, when the Earth’s crustbegins to crack open underneath his father’s power plant, the world is threatened by an unstoppable rise in ocean temperature which will melt the polar caps. With lava seeping into the sea, Bridger must sacrifice the seaQuest in order to save the world.

Season Two:

Daggers: The crew of the new seaQuest shove off from New Cape Quest, Florida, but their shakedown cruise is interrupted when Genetically Engineered Life Forms (G.E.L.F.s) revolt and seize control of their island colony as well as a defensive weapons space base and threaten to destroy the Human race.

The Fear That Follows: The engineers of the alien spacecraft that the original seaQuest discovered before her destruction receive the message sent by the crew and relay their intentions, through Darwin, to make first contact with the Human race. While the crew are ecstatic, General Thomas and a hot-shot UEO lieutenant can only see things from a military perspective.

Sympathy for the Deep: A parapsychologic experiment gone terribly wrong and has driven the residents of the peaceful Miranda Colony to near insanity, including Captain Bridger’s old girlfriend, who pleads with him for help. When the seaQuest arrives, they too are affected.

Vapors: While on shore leave, Captain Bridger and Dr. Smith struggle with a possible romance after rumors about their love life sweep through the seaQuest. Meanwhile, Henderson and O’Neill go out on a date, while Commander Ford, Brody and Ortiz try to find dates. On their shore leave, Piccolo, Lucas and Dagwood respond to Piccolo’s father’s plea for help.

Playtime: A distant call for help pulls the seaQuest through an underwater anomaly, propelling the boat 225 years into the future where they find that mankind has destroyed itself, leaving only two teenaged kids as the only Human life left on Earth.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery: A programmer obtains a computerized copy of Captain Bridger’s personality and uses it to automate an experimental submarine. When the project goes awry, the sub breaks free and begins attacking UEO bases. Bridger must go one-on-one with himself before the sub can destroy the seaQuest and level New Cape Quest with a missile attack which will kill everyone in the city.

By any other means: A distress call from an underwater horticultural colony brings the seaQuest and her crew to investigate. However, the seemingly benign colony is not what it appears to be when a flower picked by Henderson is brought back to the boat and begins to mutate.

When We Dead Awaken: Lieutenant Brody’s mother suddenly reappears in her son’s life after being cryogenically frozen for twenty-two years, though their reunion may be short lived as she is soon targeted by an assassin – an assassin who’s affiliated with someone the seaQuest crew is familiar with.

Special Delivery: When Dr. Smith performs psychological evaluations on the crew, Commander Ford allows Dagwood to take shore leave. Trouble soon arises when he is accused of murdering the man who created him, something he does not remember doing. Sentenced to life in prison, Ford and Brody attempt to give Dagwood a small taste of a life he’s never had and seemingly never will.

Dead End: Lucas, Brody, O’Neill and Henderson are pulled beneath the Earth’s surface into a cavern while in a seaLaunch. With not enough air for them all to return to the surface, they must take their chances in a lottery. When Lucas comes up short, he must come to terms with being condemned to death.

Meltdown: An undersea mining operation raises the temperature in the South Atlantic, releasing a behemoth prehistoric crocodile from its icy tomb which threatens the life of local inhabitants, including an undersea farming team led by Commander Ford’s family.

Lostland: On a deep diving mission, Commander Ford discovers an ancient gold helmet proving that the lost continent of Atlantis once existed. However, when Captain Bridger and Ortiz try the helmet on, they are consumed by the ancient curse sealed within and begin lashing out at the crew.

And Everything Nice: While up-world, Lucas falls for a beautiful woman and asks to resign from his position aboard the boat. However, he soon becomes ensnared in an elaborate scheme to seize control of the seaQuest and deal a crippling blow to the UEO.

Dream Weaver: When a comet splashes into the water near seaQuest’s location, it mysteriously disintegrates into particles, which cocoons the boat and impregnates it with an aggressive alien predator that disables the ship and attacks the crew.

Alone: A paranormal being known as “The Avatar” begins to threaten the world with his ability to place government officials into comas, including Secretary General McGath. As the UEO places all known psychics into concentration camps to try to stop “The Avatar”, Dr. Smith must use her own psychic powers to confront him before it’s too late.

Watergate: On a mission to escort rock star Sarah Toenin to a USO show, Lucas and O’Neill discover that nearby Solitaire Island is, in fact, an ancient pyramid. Upon making the discovery, Sarah speaks in strange tongues that O’Neill recognizes as Ancient Greek, foretelling the coming of Neptune, the God of the sea.

Something in the air: The crew protects a group of researchers at an abandoned mining outpost while they study an ancient chest found buried in the Mediterranean. However, the chest turns out to be a Pandora’s Box that unleashes a demon on the seaQuest team.

Dagger Redux: A legendary computer hacker known as “The Marauder” breaks Mariah out of prison to use her desire for revenge against Captain Bridger to destroy the seaQuest, leaving the sea free to be mined for prehistoric insect fuel whom “The Marauder” believes to be the missing element in cold fusion. Meanwhile, feeling stagnated aboard the boat, O’Neill takes a leave of absence but soon finds himself in Mariah’s clutches.

The Siamese Dream: When Piccolo and Dagwood mysteriously share a nightmare, Dr. Smith takes them to a parapsychology facility to try to help them, administered by her former love, Clay Marshall. However, Marshall is planting the dreams in an attempt to gain access to the seaQuest

Blindsided: When his airplane crashes in the South American jungle, Piccolo is kidnapped by a ruthless dictator from a militant confederation who has been secretly creating cloaked artificial life-forms that have gone out of control.

Splashdown: After receiving a plea for help from Commander Keller, a massive alien starship draws seaQuest from the water and takes the crew billions of light-years away to the far distant world of Hyberion where they are dropped in the middle of a civil war that threatens to destroy the boat and all aboard.

Season Three:

Brave New World: In the ten years since Captain Nathan Bridger and the crew of seaQuest mysteriously disappeared off the face of the Earth, Captain Oliver Hudson leads a search for the lost submarine as a fascist Australian confederation grows its sphere of influence above and below the sea. When seaQuest reappears on Earth, it may be just the miracle the UEO needs to stop the Alliance of Macronesia’s intent of world domination.

In the Company of Ice and Profit: As the crew chafes against the hard-as-nails attitude of Captain Hudson, Larry Deon of Deon International plots to send an iceberg the size of New England towards Saudi Arabia, which, when melted, would flood the Saudi desert, increasing the demand for his water purification technologies. To prevent Hudson from destroying the iceberg, Deon plants Macronesian refugees on its surface, led by a former member of seaQuest’s crew: Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg.

Smoke on the Water: When UEO haulers begin to mysteriously disappear, the seaQuest is ordered to stand guard and defend the ships. However, this mission reunites Hudson with his long-lost love. Meanwhile, when Dagwood encounters a group of Daggers up-world, he considers leaving seaQuest, and Lucas must learn about the responsibilities of being an officer.

Destination Termina: When a revolutionary new underwater train heads out on her maiden voyage, Lucas is ordered by Captain Hudson to go along and observe, while Commander Ford and Henderson also take a ride on a secret date. However, when Deon International plots to keep the air travel business at number one, they sabotage the train and kill the engineer, leaving Lucas to stop the locomotive before it crashes.

Chains of Command: When UEO missiles are launched against a Macronesian outpost, Captain Hudson is ordered to relieve his former commanding officer, Admiral Vanalden, who has seized control of a secret military base and plans to plunge the Human race into a state of nuclear war.

Brainlock: On the eve of the signing of the new UEO charter, President Alexander Bourne and Larry Deon conspire to gain control of Lieutenant Fredericks’ psyche-implant in order to program her to assassinate Secretary General McGath and cripple the UEO beyond repair.

Spindrift: After rescuing a group of children from a Macronesian attack, Henderson is captured and sentenced to death by President Alexander Bourne. Unwilling to accept this, Captain Hudson organizes a rescue mission, one that puts Lieutenant Brody’s life in extreme jeopardy.

Equilibrium: Upon discovering a viral outbreak caused by a rescue mission mounted by the original seaQuest over a decade earlier, Lucas develops a method to counteract the agent. However, when Captain Bridger arrives on the scene and proposes to let the pathogen naturally break down, seaQuest soon finds itself locked in mortal combat with its former captain.

Resuurection: After faking his own death, environmental radical Max Scully once again encounters the seaQuest and plans to use the ship’s laser banks to detonate an underwater nuclear stockpile that will destroy the Human race, save for a select few within his environmental paradise of Ecotopia.

Good Soldiers: Captain Bridger, Lucas, Commander Ford, and Dagwood infiltrate a former UEO base, now in the hands of Macronesia, to locate a set of top-secret data crystals containing information on crimes against humanity—crimes that Bridger and Ford were accessories to.

Second Chance: A freak imbalance in one of seaQuest’s reactor cores creates a time displacement sphere around the boat that rockets the ship back in time to October 1962, where they find that all of mankind has been destroyed as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis. With no choice, the crew must travel back further in time to try to prevent the event.

Reunion: On a diplomatic mission, Henderson discovers that her former love is now a prisoner and forced to work as slave labour. She also finds that Mason Freeman, Larry Deon’s hired gun, is also a prisoner. When the two of them instigate a prison break and steal a submarine, they capture a UEO science outpost and hold the science team hostage.

Weapons of war: As seaQuest patrols a free trade zone between the UEO and Macronesia, Lieutenant O’Neill’s online romance turns out to be a defector from an elusive Asian power known as the Chaodai; a power that attacks both the UEO and Macronesia with its impressive sub-fighter capability. In this final adventure, one member of seaQuest’s crew will not live to see another day.

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