It seems like these days, with billionaires blasting off to space and thousands of satellites a year being placed into orbit; our collective eyes remain firmly fixated on the stars. But let us not forget about the magical world lying beneath Earth’s oceans.
Of all of the 1960s science fiction shows – and there were more than we could count – the aquatic adventure featured on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is arguably the most underrated. The series created by Irwin Allen – a legendary action producer that would go on to eventually create Lost In Space. As memorable as that program might have been, “Voyage” ended up becoming the the longest-running sci-fi series that Irwin ever worked on.
Since it’s on the air for four seasons, that means that Voyage even out-ran Gene Roddenberry’s era-defining science fiction masterpiece, Star Trek, which only managed to last for three seasons before getting axed. Granted, as everyone knows, Star Trek would ultimately birth one of the most significant sci-fi franchises of all time.
The Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea got it’s start as a black and white thriller that tapped into Cold War-era spy themes, but it did a great job at evolving with the changing times and eventually transformed into a full-color fantasy series featuring everything from aliens to time travel and even werewolves.
More than half a century later, “Voyage” is still a super fun series to watch. If you consider yourself a sci-fi fan and you’ve never seen this groundbreaking show, then you’re doing yourself a tremendous disservice. But even if you’re the biggest Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea fan around, there’s probably more than a few behind-the-scenes facts that you’re completely oblivious to. Join Facts Verse as we reveal some Secrets of Voyage.
It Took Place In The 70s and 80s
Generally speaking, science fiction TV shows and films tend to grossly overestimate the technological capabilities and advancements of the future. Case and point, it’s 2022 and we’re all still waiting for flying cars. By the way, don’t hold your breath on that one.
Anyway, “Voyage” made in the 60s. And it’s first two season’s set in the not-so-distant future of the 1970s. The third and fourth season got a bit weirder in terms of subject material and leaped forward a bit to the 1980s.
“The Sky is on Fire” Episode Reused the Feature Film’s Footage
Irwin Allen, being the frugal man, he often reused of footage, props and even a few sets to cut down on expenses. The 1961 feature-length of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film chopped up and re-tooled as the episode “The Sky’s On Fire’ which featured during the show’s second season. Later on, the episode ‘Turn Back the Clock” would reuse costumes, props, and footage from one of Irwin’s early movies, The Lost World.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
While Irwin wasn’t apprehensive about reusing components of his previous films and episodes when making Voyage, he also was perfectly comfortable continuing the practice going forward. In the Lost in Space episode ‘The Lost Civilization’, the Seaview Bridge set modified to serve as an underground base.
The Flying Sub made another appearance in Irwin Allen’s 1971 offering City Beneath the Sea; which set in a far-off distant future in world that vaguely reminiscent of the one featured in the Bioshock video game universe.
For Allen’s The Return of Captain Nemo, one of the eight-foot scale models of the Seaview taken apart and reworked as a prop for that film. Parts of the Voyage set again used in the 1966 Batman film, and Seaview would even make an appearance in an episode of Wonder Woman.
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And don’t go anywhere just yet. Keep watching to learn several more fascinating facts about Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
Renowned Sci-Fi Writer Harlan Ellison Allegedly Broke Someone’s Pelvis With A “Voyage” Prop
Because so many of the props and models seen in “Voyage” later reused by other films and shows, few of them have survived to this day. One prop in particular met a rather unfortunate end during the production of the series.
Author Harlan Ellison was one of the lead writers of the series. One day, he reportedly got into a fight with one of the ABC censors. During the scuffle, one of Irwin’s six-feet long Seaview models got knocked off it’s brackets. It then fell right on top of the guy that Harlan was beating to a pulp, breaking his pelvis.
The Planet Of the Apes Connection
After the first season, the Seaview given a design overhaul. It went from having eight front windows to only four and could then accommodate that awesome little nuclear-powered miniature sub.
William Creber served as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s primary art director and submarine designer. If that doesn’t sound like one of the coolest jobs ever, then we don’t know what does.
Creber would later hired to serve as a part of the design team for the Planet of the Apes. Notably, he built the half-scale Statue of Liberty seen buried in the sand at the end of the film. To film this memorable scene, the camera had to be held up on a 70-foot rigging.
No one wanted to climb to the top of the scaffolding to get the shot, so Creber took it upon himself to film the iconic scene on his own.
“Voyage” Star Richard Basehart Became A Sought-After Narrator
Basehart had a distinct, booming voice which no-doubt helped him significantly when auditioning to play Admiral Harriman Nelson. In 1964, Basehart narrated a documentary film about the JFK assassination called Four Days in November.
His voice could later heard in the opening credits of the hit 1980s television series Knight Rider. He also played the billionaire Wilton Knight in the show’s pilot episode. A few years later, he narrated the closing ceremonies at the ’84 Olympic Games in LA.
The Seaview Crew Wore Keds
The original Keds design, the Champion, was notable for being the world’s first mass-marketed canvas-top sneaker. Throughout the 20th century, especially from the late 70s to the early 90s, Keds were very fashionable with young people. But apparently, the crew members of the Seaview were also huge fans, as everyone onboard rocked bright white Keds that would start looking grey after scuffing them around the set for a while.
David Hedison Turned Down The Part of Captain Crane For The Feature Film
After starring in The Lost World, Hedison was reportedly uneasy about joining the cast of another Allen production the following year when of Voyage motion picture entered into production. He turned down the role of playing Captain Crane for that film, but three years later, he would cast to play Crane in the television series. Hedison ended up appearing in all 110 episodes of Voyage.
007 Fans probably remember Hedison as the actor who played CIA operative Felix Leiter in 1973s Live and Let die and 1989s License to Kill.
Hedison passed away at the age of 92 on July 18, 2019.
Robert Dowdell Was A Western Star Before Playing Commander Chip Morton
After studying at Wesleyan University and The University of Chicago, Dowdell enlisted in the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Once he discharged from service, Robert took an active interest in acting and started taking lessons with Wynn Handman.
His first role in a play written by Leslie Stevens. After that, he would cast in the Western television series Stoney Burke which Stevens had created. In that series, Dowdell given the recurring role of Cody Bristol.
Following Stoney Burke, he cast in Voyage. After the series canceled in 1968, Dowdell spent the next three decades continuing to act in stage plays, films and television productions. In 1995, he retired from acting and settled down Coldwater, Michigan. On January 23, 2018, Dowdell died of natural causes at the age of 85.
Richard Basehart Was Out Sick For Several Season Two Episodes
Late in the production of season two, Basehart, who played Admiral Nelson, fell ill and was unable to complete the episode ‘The Monster’s Web’. The episode had to be re-written to minimize the role of his character. Stand-ins used to replace him with their faces being obscured and their lines dubbed over.
The following episode ‘The Menfish’, had the Admiral being away and his lines given instead to a guest character named Admiral Park. In the episode “Th Mechanical Man’, Nelson still away, and his lines reassigned to Captain Crane. In turn, Crane’s lines given to Commander Morton.
Basehart was healthy enough to return just in time for the filming of the season finale ‘The Return of the Phantom’.
The Seaview Rock And Roll
Back in the day, a common movie trick was to have characters lurch to the tune of camera movements on an obviously static set to give off the illusion that they had just experienced some kind of shake-up or impact. Star Trek was particularly fond of this technique, but Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was the biggest offender when it came to overusing this method. The show did it so often that to this day, it’s still commonly known as the ‘Seaview Rock ‘N Roll’.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea may not get a lot of attention these days, but during it’s heydey, the series was one of the most watched sci-fi shows on television.
Were you a fan of Voyage? And do you think that it deserves more recognition than it typically gets? Let us know in the comments about the voyage.
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