The Town Sheriff…

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.


Krieg, Lite

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..!



This Little Girl From Barnett…

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…




Not Wesley…

The follow-up to veteran Starlog correspondant Bill Warren’s introductory feature on seaQuest (see last post) is this candid interview with teen sensation Jonathan Brandis.  While Its impossible not to acknowledge the tragedy that would befall this talented young performer, we can at least enjoy his wit and insights during what was obviously a high point in his life and career.

With over a decade in showbusiness already, Brandis had clearly earned respect and admiration from his peers, and although he had already worked with stars of the calibre of Chuck Norris, was evidently full of admiration for his co-stars in seaQuest.  Naturally the conversation would gravitate to star Roy Scheider, and here Brandis does his best to sound like a colleague and professional, when really you can tell he’s just as gushing a fan as anybody else who had seen JAWS. 

The same could be said for his role in the show, where Brandis demonstrates true insight into the character of Lucas and his father/son relationship with Captain Bridger.  Thankfully this would continue to develop throughout the season just as he hoped, and would ultimately be one of the best and fondly remembered aspects of the whole series.

The most endearing aspect of this interview, however, must be how humble Jon comes across, when arguably, his star was shining brightest.  When he laments about having his mind blown by  turning up for work on Monday morning surrounded by the people he watched on TV the night before you can’t help but think what a fabulous leading man he would’ve become…