The premiere issue of the (very) short-lived sci-fi magazine Not Of this Earth contained features on both men at the helm of the upcoming show for the NBC network produced by Steven Spielberg –
Indeed, this wasn’t the first rodeo for veteran actor Scheider and Director Kershner (having worked together years before on Loving) with both going on to contribute to numerous genre projects and considerable box-office success. The powerhouse combination of their names, plus Spielberg meant that executives were probably justified in their belief they had the hit of the season in their grasp.
With the pressure on once an order for a full 22-episode season was made, filming the pilot for seaQuest DSVwould represent a challenge for the actor on his first television series (Scheider had sworn off TV since Assignment: Munich in 1972) and a Director also more accustomed to shooting for the big screen. However, despite the limitations of the set and a script in need of a few more revisions, ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ was nonetheless a huge ratings success and set the bar for subsequent episodes.
While Scott Nance interview with Roy Scheider is one of very few coversations on record with the actor about the series, look out for more insights to come from the much-missed Director as the SQV posts more vintage interviews with Kirshner about his experiences on the pilot.
Finally, although it may not seem that posts are few and far between recently, I direct your attention to the Main Menu navigation bar above where I have spent considerable time updating and reorganising to build up the site to make it even better. The SQV is always a work in progress and relies heavily on contributors and fans so please DO go to the ‘Mission’ page to submit any suitable content.
“Dropping on The Geek Authority’s YouTube Channel with your host Lorenzo Marchessi on Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 – The Geek Authority dials in the United Kingdom and talks to Martin Lakin – an amazing man and father who admires a TV show from the 90’s that we miss so dearly – seaQuest DSV! He has original props, costumes, continuity Polaroids and so much more. Fun and incredibly charming it is a great conversation from across the pond! Don’t miss it..!”
Today marks the 88th Birthday of Roy Richard Scheider, known to many as the Police Chief from Jaws, to movie buffs as a leading icon of 1970’s cinema, to fans as one of the most underrated actors of all time, and to his grandkids as simply ‘Grandpa Big Fish’.
To describe Scheider as an ‘urban everyman’ would be to grossly understate the range of the twice Oscar-Nominated performer. Was he a vulnerble, relatable leading man that audiences rooted for? Undoubtedly. Was he also a versatile actor just as capable of headlining a musical as he was in the shoes of a thinking man’s action hero? Definately. Yet many believe that he failed to live up to his full potential despite leaving behind a vast body of work and countless box-office receipts.
For anybody interested in Scheider’s life & career I can personally recommend Diane C. Kachmar’s definitive volumeRoy Scheider, A Film Biography but to chronicle the story of the only TV series he made in his career, the seaQuest VAULT picks up his story around 1992 with the super-rare piece taken from the UK edition of Hello magazine shown above.
By all accounts during the early ’90’s Scheider’s star appeared to have dwindled. Despite a filmography peppered with commercial and cult hits alike, Scheider entered the new decade tentatively, with suppporting roles in such fare as ‘The Russia House’ and ‘The Naked Lunch’ as his personal life had apparently taken precedent.
To date, Scheider had always maintained a balance between mainstream and modestly budgeted projects based on what had interested him. In 1992 he had just finished shooting four-part mini-series ‘Wild Justice’ based on the novel by Wilbur Smith, an international production shot on location in the UK and starring Scheider in a role as close to James Bond as he would ever get. Response to Wild Justice was indifferent and it would eventually be re-cut and released as ‘Covert Assassin’, a straight-to-video quickie that would sadly foreshadow much of Scheider’s later work.
By his own admission more mature, wiser and slower, Scheider was in a better place than he had ever been by the time he was contacted by his old friend Steven Spielberg. Finally heeding his call for a bigger boat it seemed like he was on course to Captain one all his own in a TV show with the working title Deep Space…
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 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