seaQuest DSV: It’s like Star Trek… underwater
Written by Madeline Kohlberg. Media by Austin Schumacher
I seem to find myself looking for a new show to watch on a more regular basis lately, as my poor Netflix profile will tell you. I often browse around my recommendations, and come up empty. And when I do find something that looks interesting, it’s pretty rare for me to stick around a show for longer than a couple of episodes. When I find myself still watching after a good five episodes, I know that there’s something different about this one.
seaQuest DSV had been recommended to me by a friend before I got my Netflix subscription; it was one of those shows that I had heard about, but never really managed to get around to actually watching. I have to say that I wish I’d started watching it much sooner than I did. It stars Roy Scheider (Brody from Jaws) as Captain Nathan Bridger, designer and creator of the submarine seaQuest. Joining him is Jonathan Brandis as Lucas Wolenczak, the super-genius teenager, and Stephanie Beacham as Dr. Kristin Westphalen, scientist extraordinaire.
The first season takes place in 2018, where “mankind has colonized that last unexplored region on Earth: the ocean.” All of the nations of the world have created colonies under the sea, all governed by the United Earth Oceans (UEO) organization. The UEO was created in 2017, following a massive conflict between countries that led to a new union being formed. The seaQuest itself was a large submarine that was created with the intention of keeping the peace and pursuing scientific research prior to the forming of the new government; while it does everything it can to keep said peace, the unstable nature of the UEO’s colonies makes fighting inevitable.
The nations of the world had no choice but to begin to harvest the natural resources in the ocean, for they had destroyed much of the world on the surface. The job of the UEO is to protect the smaller colonies, particularly from the undersea colonies that are not associated with the government.
The show, which aired from 1993-1995, has a great deal of variety in its subject matter, showing everything from undersea ghosts to genetic disease to other dimensions. You’re never quite sure what to expect, but the writing is very good, particularly in the first season. That first season has an excellent supporting cast and good storylines that make me want to keep coming back for more. Brandis as Lucas Wolenczak adds comic relief, but is also a character that has a real place in the show, his genius helping get the seaQuest out of more than one sticky situation. He made sure that the show has a talking dolphin, for heaven’s sake, by designing software to translate a dolphin’s clicks and whistles into English.
It shifts gears in the second season, showing more futuristic sci-fi than we saw in the first season. The supporting cast of naval officers was swapped around, giving a fresh feeling. While I feel that the quality is not so good in the second season as the first, the storylines were nicely handled, and the cast did their job. The show really spiraled downhill by the third season, replacing Scheider with Michael Ironside in the captain’s role, but the first two seasons deserve to be remembered.
One of the main ideas of the show was to show a world that is actually possible in our future. All of the episodes of the first season ended with a brief clip showing Dr. Robert Ballard (the man who discovered the wreck of the Titanic) explaining how the scientific aspects of the episode might show up in real life. Explaining things like living underwater and the possibilities of communicating with another species, the clips really helped to pull everything into perspective.
There’s no denying that the show has its rough moments, much like any other program. The creators certainly had their ducks in a row at the beginning. The brainchild of Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape, Alien Nation) and produced by Steven Spielberg, it started out well with a fantastic cast and capable writers. Even the special effects were pretty impressive for the 90s. But there is a definite decline as you move through the three seasons. The creators took what was good, and tried a bit too hard to make it better.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot. All three seasons are available to stream on Netflix. The main problem with this show was untapped potential. But if you can overlook that, it is a truly enjoyable show.