The Trials Of Rockne Concluded…
The SQV closes the file on series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon with this compelling piece (again from Joe Nazzaro) published in Starlog #204 – chronicling the young writers career and ultimately – the creation of seaQuest DSV.
For whatever conflicts that arose behind the scenes leading to his premature departure after delivering the series pilot, O’Bannon’s candid responses here indicate that at the time of writing (midway through the first season run) he seemed reasonably content with his creation but frustrated at all the unfulfilled potential.
O’Bannon also offers some good insights as to why the critics were seemingly lying in wait to savage the show from the outset, due to the association with Spielberg and his uneven track record for television. One wonders if the show may have endured less scrutiny in Spielberg’s absence, but conversely, would the 22-episode order ever have been placed without Amblin’s clout?
Regardless, by all accounts it seems that the lack of Spielberg’s involvement hurt the show early on and disillusioned producers and cast members, in particular star Roy Scheider, who (according to a recent interview with Stephanie Beacham) repeatedly demanded to know Spielberg’s whereabouts.
The answer, of course, was in Poland, directing Schindler’s List, only ever managing to visit the LA set on one occasion. Later, by his own admission, Spielberg regretted not delaying the production of seaQuest for a year so he could give it his full attention (and even direct some episodes) but it never came to pass.
Also intriguing are some of O’Bannon’s original concepts for Darwin and characters such as Dr. Shimura and one Gabriel Harpe, best friend and closest rival to Captain Bridger. Both characters would never see airtime but the character of Harpe especially had been planned as a recurring foil – his profile first outlined in the seaQuest Season 1 Bible and subsequently (as Geoffrey Harpe) in the novels Fire Below and The Ancient. Thanks to the diligence of seaQuest fans, however, an unfilmed script featuring Harpe’s debut is now available for the first time. ‘The Agony And The Ecstasea’ turns out to be an ambitious but fairly routine episode, with Harpe, for all the investment in his creation, a somewhat uninspiring villain.
As a footnote, O’Bannon didn’t go on record about seaQuest for decades until last year, where he penned a heartfelt tribute to arguably the best-known of his creations. It really is a touching piece and offers great closure to the show – found exclusively in the liner notes of the recently released seaQuest DSV Deluxe Edition Soundtrack and available for purchase here