“I think that this is going to be the hippest show in about 25 years. Its the kind of show that is, like, timeless; and people in 2018 are gonna go ‘Man, is that what they thought?!’. I think people are really gonna relate to this show in the future, and hopefully they’ll learn a lesson from it ’cause I think we’re teaching a lot of people now…”
– Jonathan Brandis 1976 – 2003
The 21st Century…
…And while mankind has yet to colonise the oceans, much of the future as projected in 1993 by creator Rockne S. O’Bannon has come to pass in one form or another. Leaps in technology forming part of the ambitious pitch for his new series about a futuristic Submarine such as the vPal Communicator, SeaPOC Tablet and Stun Gun Taser all prevail today (albeit under different terms). Artificial gills are merely a 3D print away and even the Stinger one-man Sub now exists as the Seabreacher -a legitimate recreational vehicle.
Its not all about the hardware, however, as ecology and politics remain at the forefront of the human condition, with conflict and war prevalent as ever and an environment challenged by a current US administration that refuses to acknowledge the extent (or even existence) of climate change.
And so we actually, finally, find ourselves in the year 2018, where, in an alternate reality, The United Earth Oceans Organisation has been formed to govern the thriving undersea communities and its flagship, state-of-the-art submarine SeaQuest DSV has been assigned to its original designer – Captain Nathan Hale Bridger – for a tour unlike any other.
I vividly remember first reading the word ‘Seaquest’(working title: Deep Space) in an article stating that Director Steven Spielberg had been reunited with his Jaws star for a show about a hi-tech submarine set in the near future. The idea alone captured my imagination – my all-time favourite actor Roy Scheider in a pilot Directed by Irvin Kershner – (The Empire Strikes Back) with Spielberg as Producer and a first-rate cast featuring state of the art CG Effects? – What could possibly go wrong..?
As it turns out, plenty along the line, but nothing would detract from my undying enthusiasm for the project. Here in the UK, the show was previewed on ITV with commercials opening with a closeup of Scheider with the narration ‘Just when he thought it was safe to go back in the water’ setting completely the wrong tone – and when the series finally premiered a butchered version of the pilot made little sense with 20mins cut. This inconsistency would plague the first season throughout its run on Regional TV, with scheduling making it difficult for even the most fervent viewer to follow. Indeed, some would later say poor advance word from the US meant it was treated with indifference here from the outset (despite ITV paying a fortune for it) so it never really stood a chance.
Despite this, there was much to enjoy about the show, from its incredible production design to the great cast and Emmy-award winning score. The trio of Scheider, Beacham and Brandis would rightfully become the focal point of the first season, playing well-defined characters in the midst of some admittedly generic stories. The premise of the first episodes was ‘Science Faction’, a fusion of drama with an educational bent. This was given some legitimacy by the bookending of each episode by real-life scientist and oceanographer Bob Ballard, who would cheerfully debunk everything shown in the preceding 45 minutes. Despite the appearance of numerous genre guest stars (William Shatner, David McCallum, Charlton Heston, Topol et.al) poor scripts and feuds behind the scenes meant much of the creative staff (Including O’Bannon) departed long before the end of the season.
There has been endless debate in the decades since about just why seaQuest became a successful failure, citing everything from comparisons to Star Trek to stiff competition with Lois & Clark in the ratings, but there is no one definitive answer. Nevertheless the show was renewed for a second season, albeit with big changes made both conceptually and amongst the cast. Certainly the remarks made by the show’s star during the filming of the ‘younger, sexier’ Season 2 did nothing to endear it to viewers in advance by branding forthcoming stories ‘childish trash’ and word was Scheider wanted out. Another conceptual shift and rebranding of the show (To seaQuest: 2032) for a foreshortened third season did little more than further alienate fans of the first two and even the addition of new Captain (cult favourite Michael Ironside) couldn’t stop seaQuest’s descent to the bottom of the ratings. The show was finally cancelled in 1995 after 57 episodes of wildly varying quality and, while most thought it forgotten, in reality it was left to age like fine wine.
The show may no longer have been on the airwaves but the legacy would live on through its fans – although seaQuest retained what would now be deemed as ‘cult’ following, there were several websites devoted to it at the time of its broadcast in what would now be considered the early days of internet fandom, bolstered by an abundance of fan-fiction (usually based around the romance between Capt. Bridger and Dr. Westphalen). As these sites steadily died away in the intervening years as interest in the show diminished, only newcapequest.com would endure and provide survivors with a reliable outlet.
The mission of the seaQuest Vault is simple: To be the definitive resource and most complete archive of the show and its ephemera anywhere in the world. My ultimate aim to to provide an immersive experience, a time-capsule to contain the atmosphere of what it was like to actually work on the show, to literally be onset by way of in-depth interviews with cast & crew.
My passion for the show runs deep – the vision of the future represented in seaQuest was tangible and I longed to reside in New Cape Quest as an officer of the UEO. This was compounded in reality by the incredible experience of coming across the filming location of SQ’s Port at St. Pete’s Pier during a family holiday in Florida, making it all the more real for me.
My name is Martin Lakin. I am a UK-Based Science Fiction fan and writer. My acquisition of seaQuest-related material began in 1993 and I have maintained and added to it ever since to build the largest collection of merchandise and original props/costumes this side of the Atlantic. This has been aided in part by people such as Mark Bradley, Eric Nagy and the late John Kachmar, whose seaQuest Costume Museum was the ultimate archive of the show and will hopefully one day be seen again. These are the first of what will hopefully become a fully-fledged crew of contributors both from fans and people who worked on the show itself, many of whom have fascinating stories to share.
Please embark on this journey with me and feel free to provide any info, recollections or images you may have to make this the best site it can be. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
For beneath the surface lies the future….
Martin Lakin, Sitemaster