The second and final part of the retrospective on legendary director Irvin Kershner comes from Issue #69 of Starburst magazine, where interviewer Joe Nazarro teases out some startling commentary on the seaQuest pilot broadcast in the fall of 1993 –
Foremost among the revelations here is that Kershner’s version of ‘To Be or Not To Be’ was in fact never aired. Despite his cut being preferred by most, NBC executives intervened and re-shot and re-edited without his input. To add insult to injury, the network edition was recut entirely for European territories with around 20 minutes of footage excised.
The problems with the beleaguered production had started early according to Kershner, who, while enthused about the concept (and casting of Roy Scheider) was less than enamoured with the script. Branding it simply ‘very bad’ Kersh seemed to share Scheider’s concern early on that the focus of the show was not exploration but ‘who sends the torpedo’s first’. Between this and the constraints and politics of shooting for Television (as opposed to features where the Director has creative control) Kershner is clearly frustrated about how his contribution was diminished and rightfully outraged about how his work was butchered.
In the midst of this, the turmoil during production about who did have creative control of the show was seemingly never fully resolved. From creator Rockne S. O’Bannon’s unprecedented early departure to Quantum Leap Producer Tommy Thompson’s furious on-set clashes with Scheider (more about that to come!) all compounded by Executive Producer Steven Spielberg’s absence meant the show could and would not depart on an even keel.
Despite the odds being against him, Kersh, (who died in 2010 aged 87) managed to deliver the highest-rated Drama Fall Premiere in six seasons for NBC with a 17.8 Rating and 28 share. Kersh himself may not have been proud of it but his efforts were acknowledged by by the Writers and Artists Agency (who took a out a congratulatory ad in Variety) and the pilot is still regarded by many as one of the best episodes of the first season.
Having left such a legacy (not to mention being responsible for countless global box-office receipts) it seems almost evident and proper that The Kershner Cut of the seaQuest pilot should rise from the depths and be not only released in his memory, but as testimony to a visionary whom, for all we know, may have set the seaQuest on the right course…