Popeye Up The Down World…

The ethereal image of an alien-looking probe reaching out from the murky depths under the headline of ’20 Gazillion Megabytes Under The Sea’ would be the first tantalising glimpse for US audiences of the bold new joint venture between Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and the NBC Network, seaQuest DSV.

Daniel Cerone’s five-page cover story for the LA Times Calendar (read transcript here or click on images for larger) serves not only as an exciting introduction to the concept and theme of the show, but also showcases exclusive images, including the first photograph of star Scheider on-set and in uniform alongside producer Spielberg and a gallery of detailed sketches from production designer James Lima.

While the wisdom, aspirations and dreams of scientific consultant Bob Ballard regarding the future of the ‘Down World’ are laid out clearly here, between the lines already there is an undercurrent of tension behind the scenes due to a volatile combination of creative differences and a hitherto absent Executive Producer.  Indeed, with such a clear and concise brief for the show as created by Rockne S. O’ Bannon, financed by NBC, pitched to Scheider and overseen by Ballard & Spielberg, one wonders just how why and when the show got off to such a false start.

The fall guy (at least as of this writing) seems to be one Tommy Thompson, ambitious young producer fresh from ‘Quantum Leap’ and apparently keen to make seaQuest into a Saturday evening adventure show of the same ilk.  In fairness to Thompson, it would appear that  a suitable compromise between the factual/documentary aspects favoured by camp Ballard & Scheider and the action/adventure genre had yet to be determined and in trying to please all parties had failed to accommodate either.

Despite sensationalist reports that would emerge later suggesting Thompson and Scheider would have furious rows onset, Scheider is eloquent in his determination here that Thompson was simply the wrong man for the job.  Nevertheless, the conflicts resulted in production being shut down merely two episodes in, and while the introduction of Producer David Burke may have steadied the course of the show, it could be argued that the compromise between fact and drama would plague the entire season and beyond…

Coming soon, Tommy Thompson strikes back…



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