As promised, the Bill Warren legacy continues with another superb interview from the October 1994 edition of Sci-Fi bible Starlog. The late (and much missed) Royce D. Applegate gets appropriate column inches here, telling tales of his humble beginnings in showbusiness, right up to the point – to everybody’s astonishment at the time – where his seaQuest tour ended.
Always a straight talker/shooter as evidenced by his very long list of appearances in episodic television and more, Applegate’s account of exactly what happened behind the scenes of seaQuest during and after its first season reads as the most honest and believable yet. A science-fiction fan himself, Applegate seems more convinced than anybody that seaQuest should’ve embraced the genre rather than sail against it much earlier on, its exclusion costing the show viewers.
Applegate was also seemingly acutely aware of his character and how to get the best out of it – at once citing his displeasure with the ‘fish poop’ episode while acknowledging his best was ‘Bad Water’ where he memorably sang ‘Drunken Sailor’ to roust a weary crew. Admittedly disappointed and still bitter about NBC’s decision to ground him for the second season, his universal praise for Roy Schieder – sentiments shared by most of the cast if not the producers – meant his time aboard the seaQuest was a creatively fulfilling one. Look no further than the scene in the final episode of season one where Bridger Gives Crocker a parting gift, only to discover Crocker’s wife has left him and he’s got nothing to go home to. The lack of this kind of poignant human drama in season 2 – ironically now having embraced its sci-fi roots – meant season one would remain the most memorable of the entire series.
Applegate went on to appear in plenty more film & TV projects in the proceeding years, always projecting the charm and blue-collar sensibility of his roots. Yet his role as Chief Crocker is the one for which he’s most, and probably best, remembered.
We interrupt our regular programming to bring you this latest addition to the VAULT. Bill Warren’s Starlog coverage will resume in the next post (featuring an interview with everybody’s favourite Security Chief!) but as you will see, this revelation was too good to wait –
‘seaQuest 4600’ Production-Made Submarine Maquette from ‘seaQuest DSV’ (1993 – ’95)
Finely detailed ‘Desktop model’ made from resin (approx. 15 1/2″ long) sculpted by John Eaves. Several of these casts were apparently made by the art department during the first season for set dressing, most notably for Captain Nathan Bridger’s (Roy Scheider) quarters. This particular cast comes from the estate of Michael Moore and is in unfinished condition, with several chips and spots of red filler throughout the underside of the hull. Two small magnets are also present for mounting onto a stand (finished versions featured a wooden base with a detailed brass plaque) and the model is coated with a dark grey textured paint. The unique design of seaQuest was finalised by James Lima, who coined the new aesthetic of ‘Nautical Nouveau’ after several more conventional proposals for the exterior of the Sub had been rejected.
Presenting another superlative cast member profile from the Starlog correspondent, the late Bill Warren. As Warren was the dedicated columnist for seaQuest , one hopes he was a fan of the show and enjoyed his time with cast & crew.
“He’s a talker” was the affectionate description of actor John D’Aquino, AKA ‘Supply and Morale Officer’ Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg. A firm fan favourite from the first season, Krieg provided the basis of much, if not all of the comic relief on the show and could switch from comedy to drama effortlessly thanks to D’Aquino’s versatility.
A pity, then, that his path to the show would eventually make his position somewhat untenable. As a close friend of Producer Tommy Thompson (whom he met on Quantum Leap) Krieg was one of the few roles where the character was written with a specific actor in mind. A jobbing actor prior to his appearances in various cult fare, D’Aquino was obviously flattered to have a role tailor-made for him in the seaQuest crew.
All was not well on the seaQuest set, however, and the well-publicised fallout of Thompson & star Roy Scheider prompted D’Aquino to make his thoughts on the new regime public in order to clear the air. In Louis Chunovic’s book ‘seaQuest DSV – The Official Publication Of The Series’ D’Aquino was asked ‘Is the War over?’ to which he replied ‘I have to hope’. On the topic of the feud between Thompson & Scheider he went on to say –
“I walked up to Roy first day and and said – Mr. Scheider, can I speak to you? If you haven’t heard already, you probably will that Tommy and I are very close friends…I just wanted you to know that I’m quite honoured to be working with you and I consider myself one of your soldiers here, and I will never compromise you to Tommy. I will never betray any confidence that we have on the set, and Tommy doesn’t expect me to, and I wouldn’t anyway…”
In what must have been a particularly challenging time professionally, D’Aquino still took the opportunity to shine in the part, and although much of the humour in the episodes hasn’t dated well, his Krieg was one of the better fleshed-out characters. Fans will agree so much more could’ve been made from his former relationship with Commander Hitchcock and his ongoing double act with Lucas Wolenczak but by the season finale, there was some inevitability that Krieg, along with many of the established crew, would not be returning for the second tour. While this disappointment was one of many to come for the renewed season, the goodwill for Krieg character, and indeed for D’Aquino himself, meant his story wasn’t over just yet…
See you on the next exciting post of the seaQuest VAULT..!
Our vintage Starlog coverage continues under the masterful hand of the late Bill Warren, key correspondent for seaQuest’s run. Having already interviewed most of the principals, it was now the turn of an actress that was destined to become no less than a National Treasure in her native UK.
Although her fellow cast members would infamously brand her character ‘Doctor Crestfallen’ Stephanie Beacham’s Dr Kristin Westphalen would nonetheless become a key player and a firm fan favourite for the first season.
Already familiar to US audiences thanks to her turn in Dynasty and The Colby’s she had been enchanting British audiences for years having first appeared in two Hammer Horror films in the early seventies. Indeed, Beacham’s longevity could be attributed to her ability to transition and re-invent herself through the decades, having left the decadent ’80’s behind to become a positive role model in the ’90’s.
Bill Warren’s gift for casual revelations uncovers that the Westphalen role was originally written as a male, with only Beacham’s connections and persistence winning the Amblin execs over to cast the former glamourpuss in the show. And despite the negativity surrounding series lead Roy Scheider and conflicts with Producers, Beacham confirms the series lead made the effort to personally read with her for Network approval.
While Beacham speaks highly of all her fellow cast members and aspirations for the show, it was the budding romance between her character and the Captain that most captivated the audience imagination (quickly becoming the subject of reams of fan-fiction). While this did eventually came to fruition in the season finale, it would sadly also be Beacham’s final turn as the character having refused to re-locate to Florida for season two.
To this day, many fans cite the absence of the Westphalen character as one of the defining elements of the decline in quality of the show it would never truly recover from. As the internet campaign to ‘Rescue seaQuest’ gained momentum, a return to ‘Science Faction’ may have been the key motivator, but it was the chemistry between Bridger and Westphalen fans missed most…