Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

When I was boy, age 8-11, I remember being enthralled by a television show called Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I even remember playing with a classic Bic pen, pretending it was the submarine Seaview.

Now, 60 years later, I decided to watch the whole series again. Despite all its flaws (some of which I list below), some of the episodes are pretty good.

What are the flaws? First and foremost, it is clear that Irwin Allen—the show’s creator—and many of his writers did not have a good understanding of basic science. Once you get past that, and the Seaviewpopping wheelies“, the Seaview “rock-and-roll” incidents (camera is rocked as the cast rushes from side to side on the set, simulating the submarine being tossed around), the frequent on-board pyrotechnic fires, a circuitry room that begs for a more secure door and an armed guard, and the all-too-frequent “monster of the week” and “mind control” episodes, you’ll always find an excellent cast of regulars (led by Richard Basehart and David Hedison), talented guest stars, and some imaginative stories.

So here goes…

Before you watch the television series episodes, I recommend you watch two submarine-themed movies.

The Enemy Below (1957)
This is a great movie, and includes David Hedison (credited as Al Hedison as Lt. Ware of the USS Haynes) who would go on to play Captain Lee Crane in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea television series.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)
This is the Irwin Allen film that later launched the television series. Once you get past the scientific inaccuracies (the Van Allen Belts on fire??), there is an excellent cast featuring such luminaries as Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, the ever beautiful and alluring Barbara Eden (before I Dream of Jeannie), Peter Lorre, Robert Sterling, Michael Ansara (before his role as the Klingon Kang in Star Trek and who was married to Barbara Eden at the time!), Frankie Avalon, and Del Monroe as Seaman Kowski who would go on the play Seaman Kowalski in the television series.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968)
The television series ran for four seasons. Here are my picks for the best episodes.

Season 1 (1964-1965)

Season 1, Episode 2: “The City Beneath the Sea”

Season 1, Episode 3: “The Fear-Makers”

Season 1, Episode 6: “The Sky Is Falling”

Season 1, Episode 7: “Turn Back the Clock”

Season 1, Episode 9: “Hot Line”
Directed by John Brahm of Twilight Zone fame, and guests include James Doohan and Michael Ansara before Star Trek.

Season 1, Episode 10: “Submarine Sunk Here”

Season 1, Episode 11: “The Magnus Beam”
Guests include Malachi Throne before his appearance on Star Trek.

Season 1, Episode 15: “Long Live the King”

Season 1, Episode 16: “Hail to the Chief”

Season 1, Episode 17: “The Last Battle”

Season 1, Episode 18: “Mutiny”

Season 1, Episode 19: “Doomsday”

Season 1, Episode 20: “The Invaders”

Season 1, Episode 23: “The Human Computer”

Season 1, Episode 28: “The Creature”

Season 2 (1965-1966)

Season 2, Episode 3: “…And Five of Us Are Left”

Season 2, Episode 10: “The Silent Saboteurs”
Guests includes George Takei before Star Trek.

Season 2, Episode 15: “Killers of the Deep”
Guests includes Michael Ansara before Star Trek.

Season 2, Episode 17: “The Phantom Strikes”

Season 2, Episode 22: “The Death Ship”

Season 2, Episode 26: “The Return of the Phantom”

Season 3 (1966-1967)

Season 3, Episode 5: “The Terrible Toys”

Season 3, Episode 13: “The Lost Bomb”

Season 3, Episode 19: “The Mermaid”

Season 3, Episode 23: “Doomsday Island”

Season 4 (1967-1968)

Season 4, Episode 3: “Cave of the Dead”
Guest star Warren Stevens was also a guest on Star Trek later that year.

Season 4, Episode 5: “Sealed Orders”

Season 4, Episode 6: “Man of Many Faces”

Season 4, Episode 7: “Fatal Cargo”

Season 4, Episode 8: “Time Lock”

Season 4, Episode 9: “Rescue”

Season 4, Episode 24: “The Edge of Doom”

Season 4, Episode 26: “No Way Back”

Of the 110 episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea produced, I think that 33 of them (30%) are well worth watching. Season 1 was the only season filmed in black-and-white, and the only season that had 32 episodes instead of 26. It was also the best season, with 15 great episodes. The next best season was the fourth and final season with 8 great episodes, followed by Season 2 with 6 great episodes. Season 3 was the worst season with only 4 great episodes.


The Invaders

Roy Thinnes as architect David Vincent

The Quinn Martin television series The Invaders premiered on January 10, 1967 and ran for two seasons, the forty-third and final 51-minute episode airing March 26, 1968. If I ever saw an episode of this series at the time it was aired, I sure don’t remember it. What I do remember watching at the time was Lost in Space (which ran for three seasons from September 5, 1965 through March 6, 1968) and Star Trek (which also ran for three seasons from September 8, 1966 through June 3, 1969).

Obviously, the target audience for Lost in Space was kids, and being ages 9-11 during its run, I regularly watched it. Looking back on it now, I see the show could have been so much better than it was. The Robinsons, Major Don West, the Robot, the Jupiter 2 spacecraft were all really cool (I still think so!). But as fine an actor as Jonathan Harris was, the Dr. Zachary Smith character just ruined the show. And I could have done without the (often) unbelievably cheesy aliens and bad science.

When Star Trek launched on September 8, 1966 (when I was 10), I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t like it as much as Lost in Space and missed most of the episodes. Boy, did that ever change! Once Star Trek went into syndication in the early 1970s, I saw all the episodes and became a lifelong fan, and it remains today my favorite science fiction television series.

Somehow, I totally missed The Invaders at the time, but having just finished watching the series on DVD (without ads!) from beginning to end, I am amazed at how good of a show it was. First of all, Roy Thinnes as architect David Vincent is truly outstanding. He makes the show a success, no question about it. Next, the scripts are phenomenal. Exceptional stories that keep you on the edge of your seat more often than not. And a fabulous array of guest stars further strengthen the show. Let’s not forget to mention the remarkable photography by Andrew J. McIntyre.

If you are unfamiliar with The Invaders, the basic premise is that alien beings from a dying world come to Earth with the goal of eradicating humanity and making it their new world. On Earth, they can assume human form, and infiltrate society in their quest for domination. David Vincent learns of their plans and embarks on a lonely and dangerous quest to convince those in power that their threat is real and must be stopped.

All of the episodes are worth watching, but here are my favorites:

  • Doomsday Minus One [Season 1, Episode 8]
  • Moonshot [Season 1, Episode 15]
  • Wall of Crystal [Season 1, Episode 16]
  • The Ransom [Season 2, Episode 15]
  • The Vise [Season 2, Episode 22]

Scythia Sweet

One of the enjoyable aspects of recording asteroids passing in front of stars (we call them asteroid occultations) is the interesting names of some of the asteroids. This month, Bob Dunford, Steve Messner, and I had two double-chord events across the asteroid 1306 Scythia, discovered in this month of 1930 by Soviet astronomer Grigory Neujmin (1886-1946).

The name 1306 Scythia immediately brought to mind a favorite piece of music, the Scythian Suite—surely one of the most unusual and otherworldly compositions by Sergei Prokofiev, or anyone else for that matter.

A quick look at the entry for 1306 Scythia in the 5th edition of Dictionary of Minor Planet Names by Lutz D. Schmadel (1942-2016) quickly confirmed my suspicion that the subject matter of both asteroid and musical composition is the same.

Named for the country of the ancient Scythians comprising parts of Europe and Asia now in the U.S.S.R. in regions north of the Black sea and east of the Aral sea.

In the wee hours of Friday, July 12, Bob Dunford in Illinois and I in Wisconsin observed only the second asteroid occultation of 1306 Scythia (and the first since 2014). The predicted path is shown below.

Predicted shadow path of the asteroid 1306 Scythia from the star Tycho 5189-597-1 (UCAC4 414-136241) on 12 July 2019 UT.

Bob, who was observing at Naperville, observed a 4.3-second dip in brightness as the asteroid covered the star between 8:23:46.203 and 8:23:50.531 UT, and I, observing at Dodgeville, observed a 1.3-second event between 8:24:01.783 and 8:24:03.054. Our light curves are shown below.

Bob Dunford’s light curve of the 1306 Scythia / Tycho 5189-597-1 event of 12 July 2019 UT, using a 14-inch telescope.
David Oesper’s light curve of the 1306 Scythia / Tycho 5189-597-1 event of 12 July 2019 UT, using a 12-inch telescope.

Here’s a map showing our observing locations relative to the predicted path.

1306 Scythia / Tycho 5189-597-1 event of 12 July 2019 UT – Predicted Path and Observer Locations

Here’s the profile showing the chords across the asteroid.

1306 Scythia / Tycho 5189-597-1 event of 12 July 2019 UT – Asteroid Profile and Chords

Just four days later, both Bob Dunford and I had a high probability event of the same asteroid passing in front of a different star, and this time we were joined by Steve Messner. Bob and Steve both got positives! Unfortunately, I was clouded out.

Predicted shadow path of the asteroid 1306 Scythia from the star TYC 5188-573-1 on 16 July 2019 UT.
1306 Scythia / Tycho 5188-573-1 event of 16 July 2019 UT – Predicted Path and Observer Locations
1306 Scythia / Tycho 5188-573-1 event of 16 July 2019 UT – Asteroid Profile and Chords

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) wrote the Scythian Suite in 1915 when he was 24 years of age. Even at that young age, Prokofiev already showed great talent and originality.

Sergei Prokofiev, circa 1918

Here are some excerpts of the Scythian Suite performed by the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Stanisław Skrowaczewski. This is a 1983 recording (Vox Box CD3X 3016). The movement descriptions are based on those given in Wikipedia.

1st movement: Invocation to Veles and Ala – barbaric and colorful music describing the Scythians’ invocation of the sun.

Some of the music you’ve heard in the original “Star Trek” certainly was inspired by this.
Alien landscape music
Alien landscape music #2

2nd movement: The Alien God and the Dance of the Evil Spirits – as the Scythians make a sacrifice to Ala, daughter of Veles, the Alien God performs a violent dance surrounded by seven monsters.

Best to observe this nasty dance from a distance…
This certainly reminds me of Dmitri Shostakovich, but he was only 9 years old at the time and just beginning to compose!

3rd movement: Night – the Alien God harms Ala; the Moon Maidens descend to console her.

This beautiful movement of many moods begins peacefully, then moves to a section of descending lines that might remind you of “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, but this was being written at the exact same time as the Scythian Suite! Next the music takes an ominous turn, and then returns to a little night music, but more a travel through interstellar or intergalactic space rather than a terrestrial night.

4th movement: The Glorious Departure of Lolli and the Cortège of the Sun – Lolli, the hero, comes to save Ala; the Sun God assists him in defeating the Alien God. They are victorious, and the suite ends with a musical picture of the sunrise.

Here, now, the conclusion of this remarkable work.

Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite. There is nothing else like it in the orchestral repertoire!