Why the pilot to seaQuest DSV Sucked

[Note: Yes, this is several years old, but I dug it up and reread it, and rather enjoyed doing so. seaQuest has to be one of the most embarrassing SF shows to come down the pike in recent years, and that's up against some pretty stiff competition. I posted this on Genie right after the pilot aired. For amusement value, and because it's so out of date, I've added the occasional annotation in bold.]

God, what an awful show. We open with a character who for absolutely no reason that we are shown, disobeys orders and is about to commit mass-murder in the name of self defense. All we know about this woman is that her dialogue is badly written ("Don't they know you can't have peace except through strength?"), and that's hardly a distinguishing feature on seaQuest DOA. She's revealed as a nasty, relieved of command, and disappears, all before the opening credits.

After this little diversion, which seems to be set up to pave the way for The Coming Of Bridger, we get the Reluctant Captain Plot. Didn't we just do this on Deep Space Nine's pilot? And wasn't it hokey then? And at least Avery Brooks can act, which puts him one-up on Roy "I have only one facial expression, and I show it every chance I get" Scheider. (By the way, he should've kept the beard -- he looked quite good in it; more dignified, less like a moon crater.) {Note: in the second season, Scheider grew the beard back. He shaved it again for his reduced third season role.} Given that his name is prominent in the opening credits -- the only one listed before the show's title -- it's safe to say that he's gonna captain the sub.

Prior to this little parcel of predictable plotting, we get Admiral Noyce (played by Richard Herd, The Eternal Character Actor) ordering the first officer (whose name I can't even remember) {Note: his name is Ford, though after three years, I still can't remember the name of the actor who played him.} to act like a complete incompetent in order to convince Bridger to take over. First off, any truly competent officer would question those orders, at least a little. Secondly, what would happen if all Bridger did was haul the XO up on charges, stay long enough to testify at the court martial, then go back to his island?

This incompetence extends, apparently, to endangering the lives of civilians -- who lay dying in the attacked farming colony while the XO pretends to be freezing under pressure (at least we think he is; it's a real problem when a character we've just met and don't know is asked to be out of character, which we have no basis of judging properly). Speaks real well for this benevolent underwater UN we've got running things here at Voyage to the Bottom of the Barrel.

We then cut to Industrialist-With-Foreign-Accent-Who-Talks-In-Convenient-Exposition. This is an especially amusing piece of writing: we get five minutes of exposition in which we don't learn anything, to wit, what the hell are all those undersea colonies/stations/whatever DOING down there???? Are they all farming? Why? And why would an industrialist give two hangs about it? This is never explained! And why did this guy wait until the seaQuest was operational to sabotage, when he had six months of no sQ to sabotage to his heart's content?

And we learn that our villain will be -- Shelly Hack again! Gasp! Why isn't she off in a military prison somewhere?

Our favorite demi-competent XO steps in to explain: we get background on the character up to her being relieved -- "Then she just -- disappeared."


We're talking about a huge military organization, here. We're talking about a high-ranking captain in a sensitive and important position. We're talking about a high-ranking captain in a sensitive and important position who just went completely off the deep end, cluck cluck, gibber gibber, my old man's a mushroom, etc. And she just wandered off? With no successful investigation, despite all the resources at their disposal? Speaks real well for this underwater UN we've got running things here at seaQuest RIP, dunnit?

Stepping lightly over the topics of Flipper Redux and Wesley's Evil Twin Skippy {Note: that's Darwin, the dolphin who talks with the same voice as Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and Lucas, played by Jonathan Brandeis and who would go on to become the show's most popular character, due to his being somewhat easy on the eyes, so to speak.}, we jaunt ahead to the two-dimensional hologram. I'll simply say here that I saw better holograms just a week prior to the premiere of seaPtui! DSV at the Hologram Store in the Cannery in San Francisco.

Having been treated to the most over-clichéd dialogue since The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man & the Bionic Woman, we get to meet the only interesting character in the entire bunch, the supply and morale officer, who has a funny, jaunty, real sounding conversation with Bridger -- the first such in the entire episode. The writers (Rockne S. O'Bannon and The Other Guy) obviously realized just in the nick of time that this scene was getting far too mired in this tiresome dialogue, and they needed to punch it up, hence closing with "Your son said he always wanted to be just like you." {Note: credit for the phraseology of that last sentence goes to John S. Drew. Take a bow, John.} Dunno what Bridger said after that, 'cause I ran into the bathroom to throw up just then. (It just came over me...)

Then we get the space ba-- er, the undersea battle. First off, we get sQ hit with an "electrostatic torpedo," which is shorthand for "torpedo that won't crack open the hull of a submarine like a dry eggshell," which makes it unique among torpedoes. When the chief engineer said they had no counter measures, it was as good as saying, "We're going to die within the next seven and a half minutes -- making peace with yourself and/or your deity might be an excellent career move."

Luckily, Shelly Hack's character has the strange disease suffered only by TV characters known as ACTTPIABS, or Aberrations Convenient To The Plot In A Battle Situation, Syndrome (a disease also contracted by Commander William Riker in the Next Generation episode "Rascals" when a bunch of Ferengi took over the Enterprise with the spaceship equivalent of a VW beetle, a takeover that succeeded mainly because the Enterprise never once fired a shot), whereby the character's tactical ability goes south and allows their enemy to win through one's own sheer incompetence. This wouldn't be so bad, except Eric Da Re's titular first officer keeps drawing attention to it: "We should attack now!" "No we wait." "Why the hell FOR, for Chrissakes!!!!????!!!!????"

Along the way -- except for her suffering of ACTTPIABS Syndrome -- we continue to learn absolutely nothing about why the Hack's character {Note: "the Hack's" is, strictly speaking, a typo, but it's so appropriate, I've decided to let it stand.} is behaving the way she is, which, again, puts her in good company. We also don't know why Noyce ordered the XO to act like an asshole, or why Bridger finally decided to stick with sQ instead of telling Noyce to perform an anatomical impossibility on himself and go back to his island where he's safe from ex-captains who are insane and active admirals who are gibbering imbeciles.

I'll stop there, and only add that necrophiliacs and Freudians are going to have a field day with the computer-as-Bridger's-dead-wife.

{Note: From this inauspicious beginning, the show went through constant fine-tuning, suffered through its star constantly badmouthing it, then tried bringing in a new star in Michael Ironside. ("For this, Ironside left ER????" was my reaction.) The show was finally put out of our misery in late 1995. Nobody noticed.}

[First posted on the "seaQuest DSV" topic on Genie shortly after the show debuted in September 1993.]


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