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
The SQV is overjoyed to be once again bringing you both exclusive material and first-hand accounts from those who actually worked on the show.
SeaQuest was pioneering in its use of CGI for most all of its Special Effects work. Though the technology and software used was primitive by today’s standards, Sci-Fi themed TV shows like Babylon 5, Star Trek, Voyager and Space, Above and Beyond had nonetheless moved beyond traditional model work for vehicles and environments generated entirely by computer by the 1990’s, setting the standard for what was to come.
One of the upcoming young visionaries responsible was Fred Tepper – a VFX artist who managed to put his stamp on SeaQuest from the very beginning, working on the pilot under director Irvin Kershner. Fred recalls his experiences developing experimental CGI and the pressure of meeting deadlines for a big-budget Primetime Sci-Fi TV show at length here.
Fred has also exclusively uploaded two of his showreels from his personal archive featuring his work on SeaQuest and other projects. The first is an Amblin Imaging VFX Reel –
Followed by an Amblin Reel of Playback Screens, showcasing Computer OS type displays as seen on the SeaQuest bridge and beyond…
My sincere thanks to Fred for sharing this content with the SQV and SeaQuest fans across the globe..!
Do not adjust your set – normal service is resumed at the SQ Vault with this third in a series of vintage articles exploring the origins of SeaQuest DSV directly from series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon.
The November 1993 Special Edition of very short-lived publication Not Of this Earth features a piece by Mark A. Altman (click for larger) contains a few more revelations about the show’s influences (citing the Hunt For Red October) and declares O’Bannon had already departed for ‘personal reasons’, which, in the fullness of time would be fully explored (in a future post!)
For all the great ideas about the future as depicted in 2018 and the courageous rejection of a dystopian vision, its seems apparent even at this point in time (midway through Season 1’s run) many of these concepts still to be fully explored and were off and running with only the ‘three sentence idea’ as outlined. Among the casualties discussed here was ‘Earthnet’, the mock news TV channel intended to provide insight into world affairs.
While its easy to see how the subject matter lent itself so readily to Television, one can’t help but think that the movie as originally planned by Spielberg rather than a series of self-contained adventures may have been the voyage to a new frontier audiences would have craved…
Mark Simon may be notable for his current duties on The Walking Dead for AMC, but ask him what his favourite assignment was from the 4,500 productions he is credited with and he maintains it was one of his first, an ambitious Sci-Fi TV show produced by Steven Spielberg.
Indeed the young artist’s enthusiasm is evident in the superb piece by Bill Wilson taken from the pages of Starlog Science-Fiction Explorer circa 1995, where its clear that, while enjoying the creative freedom that can only be provided by a fantastical theme, there is much more to storytelling than mere imagery. This became the basis of his first book Storyboards: Motion In Art and culminating in his own company Storyboards and Animatics. Inc.
Although referred to as ‘storyboard artist’ for SeaQuest DSV’s second season, his formidable experience accrued already in the field meant his collaboration with Production Designer Vaughn Edwards went beyond sequential art into concept illustration and eventually, second-unit direction (on the episode ‘Playtime’.) and would leave a legacy of illustrations for the show that still resonate today.
So it is with considerable pleasure that the SeaQuest Vault smashes the champagne bottle on the Mark Simon Portfolio – a permanent page not only featuring galleries of his work but a world-exclusive all-new audio interview where we catch up with Mark himself as he recalls his experiences on the show. His candid recollections are in turn fascinating, insightful and surprisingly poignant. Be sure to read the above interview carefully and then jump to over two decades later here– its essential listening for ‘Questie’s and sci-fi fans alike..!