Thursday, 31 July 2014

Seabase Atlantica: The Whole Sorry Story - part one


I was first introduced to the bizarre-ness that is (or rather was) Seabase Atlantica by an American friend called Paul Morehouse back in the mid-nineties. It was the dawn of the internet age and Paul lived just outside Philadelphia in the US. I’ve since lost touch with him. A friend of a friend told me he got married and moved to Canada whilst someone I met a few years ago told me, he had died from a septic paper cut. Whatever his fate, I have him to thank for this little effort. His was the original research and most of the words within the episode synopses are his. All I have done is to embellish the facts with fresh ones that I have uncovered in the two decades since our first efforts.

What is ‘Seabase Atlantica’?

In short, it was a TV science fiction adventure series made in the late sixties/early seventies (accounts differ with dates) by the later Master of cinema disaster, Irwin Allen. Irwin at the time had made a name for himself in television with success with the likes of ‘Lost in Space’ and ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ – both of which were known in equal measures for both their incredible special effects and their increasingly bizarre storylines.

‘Seabase Atlantica’ built on all this… or at least, it is reputed to have. The thing is, nobody actually remembers it and very few have actually seen it.

Irwin Allen’s ‘Devon Productions’ made the series for Twentieth Century Fox at a time when the studio was in a dire financial situation. A lot of money was ploughed into ‘Seabase Atlantica’ as a production but the show saw very little return. The reasons are subject to conjecture but the most enduring one suggests that it was made without a sale to a major network such as ABC or CBS. It was assumed that one of them would buy the finished product but instead, all of them turned their noses up at it. At the last minute, some quick thinking saw the first season air on a handful of local syndicated stations and there are reports that it was sighted in Norway in 1972 or possibly it was Sweden in 1973 – we just don’t know! 

Click to enlarge
One of the most tangible sightings was in the UK where early copies of a 1969 edition of the ‘Radio Times’ heralded its forthcoming debut on BBC1 but most archive copies from the period seem to suggest these early editions were withdrawn and reprinted with alternative programming for the show’s alleged Saturday night slot.

Fate would deal ‘Seabase Atlantica’ a further blow in 1971 – a blow that would involve the US government and seal the show’s future in a permanent limbo. Part two will follow shortly.

season one 
episode guide - part one

September 1969 - March 1970


ROBERT YOUNG…Professor Jonathan Crutch
JAMES DARREN…Captain Anthony ‘Ziggy’ Shapiro
CHAD MARTIN…Aqua, the Mer-boy
JUDY ALLEN…Cindy Crutch
JONATHAN HARRIS…Voice of Debbie the Robot

Wr. William Welch (from a story by Irwin Allen)
Dir. Felix Feist
Prof Jon Crutch is putting the finishing touches to his new invention – the hyper-intelligent robotoid his daughter has christened ‘Debbie’. Suddenly, a power surge causes it to go out of control and to raid the sea base’s peutronic reactor. Affected by the radiation, the robot is transformed into a werewolf and kidnaps little Cindy Crutch. Ziggy follows them to a cavern beneath the ocean floor where he is able to activate some radiation dampening plankton and cure the robot’s lycanthropy. Debbie is later repaired and becomes the latest member of the Crutch family.

Wr. Arthur Weiss (from a story by Harlan Ellison)
Dir. Robert Spar
Guest cast: Tim O’Connor (The Prawn).
A giant intelligent prawn man invades the aqua-base, claiming that the Crutch family are destroying the seabed with their latest experiments with nuclear fission. He hypnotises Aqua and commands him to put the peutronic pile on overload. However, the super-prawn is overcome by the radiation and faints.
(Tim O’Connor had just finished filming an episode of ‘Mannix’ when he got the call to the Seabase Atlantica set. Despite his and his agent’s effort, he was unable to get out of his contract for the role.)

Wr. Bob and Esther Mitchell
Dir. Sobey Martin
Guest Cast: Carroll O’Connor (Voice of Crab)
A Red spy satellite crashes in the sea near the base and begins leaking deadly radioactive isotopes into the sea. Cindy pet spider crab finds the wrecked satellite and, affected by the radiation, it grows to enormous proportions and threatens the base. With Prof. Crutch’s help, Cindy is able to communicate telepathically with the crab and tormented by what it has done, it explodes.
(Richard Basehart was originally cast as the crab’s voice but was overdubbed in post because the director wanted a more friendly sounding crab.)

Wr. Shimon Wincelberg and Steven Bochco
Dir. James Goldstone
Guest cast: Florence Henderson (The Ghost of Amelia Earhart).
Jon Crutch discovers the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s plane and takes it back for study to Seabase Atlantica. There, the poltergeist spirit of Miss Earhart reeks havoc and eventually takes over the body of Susan Crutch. Ziggy manages to render her unconscious and places her in a lead-lined anti-gravity chamber. Switching on the decompression oscillator, he is able to exorcise the spirit and destroy the phantom aviator forever.

Wr. William Welch
Dir. Felix Feist
Guest cast: Ernest Borgnine (King Anthrax), Bill Williams Jnr (The Arbitron).
The Crutch family accidentally discover the lost kingdom of Atlantis and its king – Anthrax – falls in love with Susan. If the others are to ever leave the city, Susan must stay behind and marry the monarch. The only way to escape is for Ziggy to battle the Arbitron – a giant two-legged sea urchin – and claim Susan for his own.

Wr. Richard Shapiro
Dir. Sobey Martin
Guest Cast: Basil Rathbone (Keeper), Bill Williams Jnr (Rubber Pluroid Man, Green Gorilla Creature, Giant Lizard Monster, Zoldax the Barren)
Giant men from the centre of the sun imprison Ziggy and Susan in their space zoo on the planet Mercury. Jon is forced to bargain with the aliens using the sea base’s peutronium rods – a power source that they desperately desire.
(Some sources suggest that the filming of this episode led to guest star Basil Rathbone’s shingles during his final years.)

Wr. Bob and Esther Rantzen
Dir. Harry Harris
Guest cast: Ricardo Montalban (Golden Alien Man), Bill Williams Jnr (Semun).
A golden alien man arrives at Seabase Atlantica to place Jon Crutch on trial for his continued bastardising of the Earth’s resources. Cindy is forced to use a telepathic memorathon to call up incidents from her father’s past to plead his innocence. The alien decides to finally grant Crutch his freedom when he sees a single tear in the child’s eye. (This story features footage from the unseen pilot ‘God Thing With Nine Brains” and previous episodes. It was hastily made when star Robert Young turned up drunk and dyed green on set one morning following a stag do for actor James Brolin.)

Wr. Arthur Weiss and Irwin Allen
Dir. Irwin Allen
A massive explosion in the seabase’s peutron store catapults the Crutch family back to prehistorical times where they battle stock footage from Irwin Allen’s movie ‘The Lost World’. As the local volcano threatens to devour them all, Cindy wakes up. It was all a dream.
(Another episode hastily put together to allow star Robert Young to recover further.)

Wr. William Welch
Dir. Harry Harris
Guest cast: David McCallum (Horrkostovich), Bill Williams Jnr (First Spy), Ian Wood (Third Spy), Gerry O’Dell (Fourth Spy), Simon Greenfield (Spy).
Evil red scientists infiltrate the seabase and its peutron rods. However, they become infected by their atom radiation and turn into werewolves. The added radiation count reanimates Cindy’s dead pet crab, which kills the atom-wolves in a massive nucleonic explosion. (This episode re-used footage from ‘Wish Upon a Crab’)

Wr. Bob and Wanda Ventham
Dir. Nathan Juran
Guest cast: The Kelp Drifters (Themselves), Don Knotts (T.P.Flexiton), Bill Williams Jnr (Gorilla).
A visiting pop band are unaware that their manager, Mr. Flexiton, is really a foreign agent who plans to use the group’s music to enslave and control the world’s youth population. Aqua the Mer-boy is mysteriously unaffected and smothers the group’s amplifiers with liquid seaweed before their live broadcast from Atlantica can take place. Mr. Flexiton is beaten to death by a gorilla. (The song featured in this episode, ‘I Wanna Kiss Your Octopus’, was released as a single by The Kelp Drifters and got to number sixty-eight for one week in the Billboard Top 100 until someone noticed.)

Wr. William Welch
Dir. Harry Harris
Guest cast: Ronnie Reagan (Voice of Dossar), Bill Williams Jnr (Fungoid Man).
A giant fungoid man from space arrives at the base. Its plan is to kidnap humans as food for its master, Dossar – an energy being from the planet Mercurion. Crutch lures him to the base’s main control centre where Debbie the Robot short-circuits him. (Actor Ronnie Reagan had originally requested no on-screen credit for his role but this was declined as the graphics department had already ordered the letraset.)

Wr. Sidney Marshall
Dir. Sobey Martin
Guest cast: Vincent Price (Phutt), Bill Williams Jnr (Mummy man).
The Crutch family discover an ancient scroll at the bottom of the sea, little realising that once its hieroglyphs are translated, it will summon the Egyptian god, Phutt, who plans to snuff out all life on Earth. He doesn’t though because of something. (Vincent Price auctioned off the dentures he used in this episode in the 1980s to raise money for saving babies. They fetched $35 before tax)

Wr. Charles Bennett (from a story by Irwin Allen)
Dir. Harry Harris
A long dead volcano erupts and threatens to engulf the seabase. Jon and Ziggy journey to cap the crater with a peutron plug, little realising that little Cindy is trapped in a cave beneath the raging inferno. It’s up to Aqua the Mer-boy to rescue her before the area is showered with deadly peutronic particles.
(Some of the background plates of the volcanic fire were re-used by Allen in the movie ‘The Towering Inferno’)

Continued in part two here

Seabase Atlantica: The Whole Sorry Story

Written by Andrew-Mark Thompson

Based on material originally written and researched by Paul Morehouse and first published in the magazine ‘FanGrok

With humble acknowledgement to the work of Adam Richards and Owen Richards.

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