‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’: Season 4 DVD review

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The most successful of Irwin Allen’s 1960s television sci-fi series takes a bow on DVD as this fourth and final season of underwater escapades bids a fond, if undignified farewell.

A quick update for the uninitiated before we start: Irwin Allen was the unquestionable master of camp science fiction action shows. The mind responsible for Lost In Space, The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants and this had a peculiar talent for imagining outlandish situations involving threats from aliens, monsters, earth-bound villains and some or all of the above.

These ideas would usually be executed with scant regard for science, continuity or logic even, with shaky sets, dodgy costumes and bad over/under-acting to boot. All of these ingredients made for highly enjoyable camp classic television, so long as you didn’t really think about it too much.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea covered the adventures of near-future nuclear submarine The Seaview and its crew, led by stoic Admiral Harriman Nelson (Richard Basehart) and Captain Lee Crane (David Hedison), as they faced off against all kinds of silly menaces in the name of research.

This fourth season starts out at Admiral Nelson’s Institute of Marine Research as he is framed for the killing of a rival scientist by a murderous villain adept at disguise. This land-based romp has some vague basis in reality (save for the ridiculously perfect doppelganger fancy dress), something soon thrown aside as the production team seemed to realise it would be more fun to adopt the same flamboyant tone as the third season and focus on badly put-together evil monstrosities. So that’s what happens in Season 4.

So it’s more of the same then, with guest appearances from leprechauns, lizard people (David Icke must have been a fan), a rampant gorilla creature, an anthropomorphic lobster, Blackbeard the pirate and numerous malevolent extra-terrestrials. Season 4 ramps things up a little with more ambitious plot devices such as the extensive use of time travel and alien visitors but, by and large, remains faithful to what makes this such a well-loved show.

Rumour has it that Irwin Allen thought Voyage would run for several more seasons. This might explain why there’s little attempt to really drive the series towards much of a logical conclusion, though it’s perhaps fitting that we can assume the Seaview’s explorations into the unknown could continue indefinitely after the show was cancelled.

With this voyage getting more and more outlandish as it progressed further, the path was laid for Land of the Giants, Allen’s next major TV production, and one with a greater sense of the absurd. With Voyage’s importance in TV history cemented, this wave of cult classics could go on to greater, ever more ridiculous extremes.

With today’s dark, intelligent, stylish sci-fi, it’s a genuine relief to wade back in time to this lighthearted slice of unchallenging nostalgic cheese.

Released on DVD on Monday 7th November 2011 by Revelation DVD.

> Buy the boxset on Amazon.

Watch the trailer…

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