You never really realized just how many fantastic monsters, mad scientists and fugitive Nazis there were under the waters until Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea came along. Created and produced by Irwin Allen (the man behind TV’s Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants), and based on his 1961 movie of the same name, this effects-heavy show was one of the most popular sci-fi TV series in history, and it was easy to see why.
The aquatic steel beauty at the center of this hour-long series was the Seaview, a sleek atomic submarine invented by retired Navy Admiral Harriman Nelson to explore and defend the seas. Built with a glass nose for proper sea exploration (and suitable audience wowing), the Seaview had a crew every bit as tough and polished as its hull: Harriman, Captain Crane, executive officer Chip Morton, Chief Petty Officer Curley Jones, the ship’s doctor, radio man Sparks, and regular crewmen Kowalski, Clark and Patterson. And like any good sci-fi show, there were plenty of anonymous, expendable crewmen to be sacrificed to the various beasties beneath the sea.
The cast changed little in the show’s four seasons—Chief Sharkey replaced Chief Curley Jones beginning in the second season, and surfer dude Stu Riley gave the crew a hand that season as well—but the threats changed constantly. Set in the not-too-distant future, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea featured week after week of perilous situations, whether man-made or natural.
Like most of the Irwin Allen oeuvre, the emphasis was on “fiction,” not necessarily “science,” but that was the way we liked it. A true-to-life sub show might have made room for the spies, potential nuclear disasters, defectors, and maybe that giant jellyfish, but it’s a safe bet we would have missed out on the pirate curses, would-be world-dominator androids, werewolf scientists, killer plants, and that pair of undersea leprechauns.
With a list of enemies that impressive, it’s easy to see the appeal of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea to young sci-fi fans. Those die-hard Voyage junkies kept the show running for four seasons, a record for a sci-fi show until The X-Files came along in the 90’s. The show has held up well in syndication, thanks to its devoted following, and this cult classic continues to introduce new fans to the wonderful (if wholly fictional) sights and sounds at the bottom of the sea.
Shot on a soundstage using 4 foot and 8 foot models of the Seaview for underwater shots, ocean views from inside the craft were back projection of footage shot in the Bahamas and off the California coast.
USA / ABC – Irwin Allen Prod.- TCF / 110×60 minute episode (38 in black and white) / Broadcast 14 September 1964 – 15 September 1968
Creator/Executive Producer: Irwin Allen / Theme Music: Lionel Newman
Richard Basehart as Adm. Harriman Nelson
David Hedison as Captain Lee B. Crane
Robert Dowdell as Lt. Commander Chip Morton
Henry Kulky asChief Curley Jones (1964-65)
Terry Becker as Chief Francis Ethelbert Sharkey (1965-68)
Allan Hunt as Stuart Riley (1965-66)
Del Monroe as Kowalski
Paul Trinka as Patterson
Richard Bull as Doctor
Arch Whiting as Sparks