‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’: Season 3 DVD review

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By now, you really should know the drill. No? Oh, very well then. Retro DVD specialists Revelation have, over the last year or so, been steadily releasing the entire back catalogue of cult producer Irwin Allen’s science fiction TV shows from the 1960s.

Allen – renowned for his shabby sets, ‘interesting’ interpretation of science and straight-faced, remarkably camp storylines – was responsible for the likes of time travel Stargate-progenitor The Time Tunnel, normal humans thrown into giant alien planet adventure, Land of the Giants, and family lost in space saga, erm, Lost in Space.

Deservedly hailed as highly flawed but equally enjoyable cult classics, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, following the underwater scrapes of a near-future US atomic submarine’s crew as it discovers all kinds of strange phenomena, was Allen’s longest-running entry in his sci-fi canon, notching up an impressive 110 episodes between 1964 and 1968.

If you’re a fan, you definitely know what to expect from this third season. If you’re not, here’s the general gist. Slightly fading film star Richard Basehart plays Admiral Harriman Nelson alongside David Hedison as Commander Lee Crane; the heroic pair involved in most of the calamities befalling the vessel.

The duo and their crew, in this season, face off against foes including a malevolent talking brain with laser powers, the standard Irwin Allen frilled dragon lizard filmed in close-up to represent dinosaur-sized menace, werewolves and even a shape-shifting alien deity disguised as a replica of each of our protagonists.

All pretty standard stuff after the second year, then, complete with Chief Sharkey (Terry Becker) making more gruff wisecracks, low-level grunts Patterson (Paul Trinka) and Kowalski (Del Monroe) always (and we mean always) getting injured by the episode’s villain and Lieutenant Commander Chip Morton (Bob Dowdell), the perennial Gunther from Friends of the group, hanging about, acting badly and really not doing much.

So what’s new in Season 3? Well, there’s more of the paranormal as introduced in the previous season, but conversely, a lot more of the Cold War paranoia of the first year, including hallucinations brought on by atomic radiation and the ongoing dread of nuclear apocalypse. This combination of some of the most interesting factors of previous seasons makes for this DVD representing the show’s entertaining peak thus far.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems. It’s ridiculous to criticise the gaping plot holes and shaky sets, though the predictability of the storylines seems fair game. Each episode features stoic Nelson saving the day through sheer bloody-minded courage in the face of adversity; a guest star faces a curious fate and similar plot devices mean there’s little differentiation from one episode to the next.

This makes for a nagging feeling of repetition, something a show with such novelty value as this can’t afford to suffer from.

Still, this minor gripe falls into insignificance when you come across plots involving talking puppets, mermaids, lobster-people and even a leprechaun thrown in for good measure. Who could resist?

Extras: David Hedison interview, 1966 audio interviews with Richard Basehart and David Hedison, stills galleries and original US broadcast information.

Released on DVD on Monday 12th September 2011 by Revelation Films Ltd.

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