First episode date
12 September 1993
Country of origin
No. of seasons
Roy ScheiderJonathan BrandisStephanie BeachamDon FranklinMichael Ironside
SeaQuest DSV (stylized as seaQuest DSV) is an American science fiction television series created by Rockne S. O'Bannon. It originally aired on NBC between 1993 and 1996. In its final season, it was renamed seaQuest 2032. Set in "the near future"; the year 2018, seaQuest DSV originally mixed high drama with realistic scientific fiction. It originally starred film star Roy Scheider as Captain Nathan Bridger, designer and commander of the eponymous naval submarine seaQuest DSV 4600. Jonathan Brandis also starred as Lucas Wolenczak, a teenaged computer genius placed aboard seaQuest by his father and Stephanie Beacham as Kristin Westphalen, the chief medical officer and head of the seaQuest science department. In the third season, Michael Ironside replaced Scheider as lead of the series and starred as Captain Oliver Hudson. Also present was a dolphin character called Darwin who, due to technological advances, was able to communicate with the crew. Steven Spielberg expressed interest in the project and served as one of the show's executive producers during the first two seasons.
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 3
- Guest stars who became famous later
- Special guest stars
- DVD release summary
- Soundtrack album
- Behind the scenes
Production of the first season was marked by disputes between the producers, NBC and cast members, changes in the production staff, and even an earthquake. The second season contained changes in the cast as well as continued disputes between cast members and producers, while the third season introduced a new lead actor and title. While initially popular, the series began to decline in ratings throughout its run and was abruptly canceled in the middle of its third season.
The series follows the adventures of the high-tech submarine seaQuest DSV (Deep Submergence Vehicle) operated by the United Earth Oceans Organization (UEO), a global coalition of up-world countries and undersea confederations, similar to the United Nations and Star Trek's United Federation of Planets. The UEO was created following a major showdown of nations and confederations at the Livingston Trench in the North Atlantic Ocean that occurred circa 2017, and it remains a recurring element for the duration of the series. The seaQuest was designed by Nathan Bridger and built by NORPAC (a military organization mentioned in the pilot) and given as a loan to the UEO after its creation. The storyline begins in the year 2018, after mankind has exhausted almost all natural resources, except for the ones on the ocean floor. Many new colonies have been established there and it's the job of the seaQuest and its crew to protect them from hostile nonaligned nations and to aid in mediating disputes as well as engage in undersea research, much of which was still in the preliminary stages when the show began production in 1993. Bridger, though originally reluctant, due to a pact he made with his wife after their son, Robert (Bobby), was killed in a naval military action before her death, is convinced to return to the Navy (UEO) and assume command of the seaQuest after its original captain was relieved of duty for disobeying direct orders from NORPAC Command by the ship's Executive Officer, who remains in charge of "seaQuest" till Bridger takes command.
Part of the original focus of seaQuest DSV also centered around the interpersonal relationships of the crew, such as Captain Bridger's, Lucas Wolenczak's, and Dr. Westphalen's relationship as a surrogate family with Bridger and Westphalan's roles as Lucas's surrogate father and mother, and later on as Bridger and Westphalen's own personal relationship bloomed. Also the "love-hate relationship" between Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg and Lieutenant Commander Katherine Hitchcock, recently divorced, now forced to serve together on the same boat.
It was also the first show of its kind to follow the armed forces' practice, primarily that of the Navy, of reassigning officers to other ships and assignments at the end of a tour of duty. This offered the chance to bring in new officers and crew for the following season, though none of the officers or personnel that were replaced ever made any guest star appearances in the following seasons, with the exception of Lieutenant Benjamin Krieg in the third, and final, season.
In the first-season finale, Bridger sacrificed the seaQuest to prevent an ecological disaster and for a short time it was not known if the show would be renewed for another season. When it was decided the show would return, NBC and Universal used this opportunity to change the show's format. Both Royce D. Applegate (Chief Manilow Crocker) and John D'Aquino (Krieg) were released by NBC as the network wanted a younger cast for the second year (D'Aquino subsequently returned for a guest appearance in the third season). Stacy Haiduk (Hitchcock) informed producers that she did not wish to relocate to Florida for the second season, having just returned to Los Angeles after spending four years there during the production of The Adventures of Superboy. Stephanie Beacham, who as Dr. Kristin Westphalen was one of the first season's strongest characters, was also hesitant to relocate to Florida. Beacham also blamed continued disputes between the network and the show's producers as a major reason why she did not return. The series had also suffered in the ratings, as it was pitted against Murder, She Wrote on CBS and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman on ABC.
Joining the series for season two were Edward Kerr as Lieutenant James Brody, seaQuest`s weapons officer; Kathy Evison as Lieutenant Lonnie Henderson, ship's helmsman; Rosalind Allen as Dr. Wendy Smith, the boat's new chief medical officer; Michael DeLuise as Seaman Anthony Piccolo, an ex-convict who has genetically engineered gills and Peter DeLuise as Dagwood, a prototype genetically engineered life form (G.E.L.F. or "dagger"—a racial slur) who serves as seaQuest's custodian. As the seaQuest itself was rebuilt in the storyline, it allowed for the sets to be redesigned for the new Florida location and a shortened version of the Emmy award winning main title theme was instituted as the series returned to the airwaves on September 18, 1994 with the two-hour television movie "Daggers". The move to Florida also changed the seaQuest`s home port from Pearl Harbor to New Cape Quest, a fictional city in Florida, whose ocean view in "The Sincerest Form of Flattery" was the harbor side view of Boston, MA. The "seaQuest" herself in the redesign was made to be more fictional with the tail of the "giant squid" design moving, as well as adding lasers to the front of the boat. Darwin's (the talking Dolphin, thanks to Lucas's vocodar from the first season) speech and actions were more fictional than in the first season as well. NBC also decided they wanted more traditionally science-fiction oriented episodes this season, a direction that was explored toward the end of the first season when seaQuest discovered a million-year-old alien ship entombed in the ocean floor in the episode "Such Great Patience". Whereas the first season dealt with issues like ecology, exploration of the sea, environmental radicals, advances in technology, and political intrigue, the second season featured episodes involving genetic engineering, aliens, parapsychology, Time travel, and various "monsters of the week" (including killer plants, a dragon worm, a prehistoric crocodile and ancient demons.)
Roy Scheider was vocal in his anger at the show's new direction. In an interview given during the second season, Scheider averred: "It's childish trash... I am very bitter about it. I feel betrayed... It's (the new season) not even good fantasy. I mean Star Trek does this stuff much better than we can do it. To me the show is now 21 Jump Street meets Star Dreck." Scheider felt the series had strayed too far away from its premise, and that he "became more of a combat commander than a scientific commander and I hadn't signed up for that." He added that after moving production to Florida, the show was "going to present human beings who had a life on land as well as on the boat... we've had one script that has done that (the episode 'Vapors')," Scheider said. "The other shows are Saturday afternoon 4 o'clock junk for children. Just junk—old, tired, time-warp robot crap (making reference to the much maligned episode "Playtime")." As Scheider explained, "I don't do this kind of stuff... I said (to the production executives), 'If I wanted to do the fourth generation of Star Trek, I would have signed up for it. I wouldn't have done seaQuest. You guys have changed it from handball into field hockey and never even bothered to talk to me.'" Scheider's comments left him in trouble with some of the executive producers, including Patrick Hasburgh who, in reply, had strong words for Scheider as well: "I'm sorry he is such a sad and angry man. seaQuest is going to be a terrific show, and he is lucky to be part of it."
By the end of season two, seaQuest DSV was again suffering, partly attributed to a perceived decrease in the quality of the writing as well as preemptions by NBC due to sports coverage. The threat of cancellation loomed large but NBC kept the show in production after plans for a new series titled Rolling Thunder to replace seaQuest DSV were canceled. Producer Lee Goldberg claimed the new series was canceled because the premise was "awful."
Blaming continued disputes with producers and abandonment of the show's original premise, Roy Scheider requested to be released from his contract with NBC. However, the network only partially agreed and demanded that Bridger would make several appearances throughout the third season. Edward Kerr had been very frustrated with the episode entitled "Alone" (reportedly, Kerr hated the script so much that he walked off the set, which is why Brody does not appear in that episode) and also wished to exit the series in the third season, which is why his character was critically injured in the season finale, "Splashdown." However, NBC would only agree to release him from his contract if he continued to play Brody for a few episodes in the third season so his character could be killed off for more dramatic impact in the episode "SpinDrift." (Because of rescheduling, the episode "Brainlock", with Brody still alive, aired after the character's death.) Rosalind Allen was released as her character proved to be unpopular with the audience and because producers felt that her character's telepathic abilities wouldn't fit with more serious tone planned for the new season. Marco Sanchez (Sensor Chief Miguel Ortiz), who had requested to remain with the series, was also released after NBC decided it wanted the principal cast number dropped from ten to nine, leaving Jonathan Brandis (Lucas Wolenczak), Don Franklin (Commander Jonathan Ford), and Ted Raimi (Lieutenant Tim O'Neill) as the only three cast members who remained with the show since the first episode. The marine trivia presentations at the end of the show, formerly hosted by oceanographer Dr. Bob Ballard in the first season and the principal cast in the second season, were dropped entirely. The show itself was renamed to seaQuest 2032, with the storyline pushed ahead ten years after the end of season two.
In the season premiere, the seaQuest reappears on Earth, its crew mostly intact, ten years after their abduction at the end of season two. Captain Bridger retires to raise his new grandson and Michael Ironside joins the cast as the more militaristic Captain Oliver Hudson. Originally, Ironside refused to take over for Scheider as star of the series. "I saw so many problems that I couldn't see where I'd be able to do the work I wanted to do." claimed Ironside. After weeks of negotiations where Ironside offered producers a number of changes to the storytelling structure of the series, which were mutually agreed upon, he finally signed on. "You won't see me fighting any man-eating glowworms, rubber plants, 40-foot crocodiles and I don't talk to Darwin." he said. Also joining the cast was Elise Neal as Lieutenant J.J. Fredericks, who serves as seaQuest's ace sub-fighter pilot. Steering back towards more reality-based story lines, the third season attempted to blend the sense of the first season with some of the unique elements of the second season, while at the same time, pushing forward in an entirely new direction altogether as the UEO faces the threat of the Macronesian Alliance and the ever growing corporate conglomerate Deon International. The series is perceived as becoming much darker than it was in the previous two seasons, focusing less on science (season 1) and science fiction (season 2) and more on international politics. While these changes were met with mostly positive reactions, ratings did not increase and NBC cancelled the series after thirteen episodes. The final network airing of seaQuest DSV/2032 took place on June 9, 1996 after 57 episodes.
Guest stars who became famous later
Special guest stars
During the first and second seasons, NBC aired the show on Sundays at 8:00 PM. During the second season, NBC would begin preempting the show in favor of NBC Sports coverage. NBC had originally planned to cancel seaQuest DSV partway through the second season in favor of another show about a "high-tech truck" entitled Rolling Thunder. However, NBC executives were unimpressed with the new show's development and kept seaQuest DSV in production. Shortly before the third season was to premiere, the second season episode "Blindsided" was finally aired after being preempted twice. During the third season, NBC moved the show to Wednesdays at 8:00 PM; but, continued to frequently preempt the show in favor of sports coverage and other television specials. Several of the show's producers, including Carleton Eastlake, believe these preemptions led to the show's cancellation. In fact, the final Wednesday night episode of the series, was preempted by the Detroit NBC affiliate, among other stations, in favor of a news special.
Currently, seaQuest DSV does not air in syndication or re-runs. After cancellation, the series aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States for a number of years as well as Space: The Imagination Station in Canada, both of which aired marathons of the series on occasion.
DVD release summary
Fans of seaQuest DSV have campaigned for the release of the series on DVD. Universal Home Video, which owns the distribution rights to the series, had at one time stated that it had no plans to release the show on DVD. Over the past few years, illegal bootleg recordings of the series have been sold on eBay and other online auction sites in VCD and DVD format.
In 2005, Universal announced that the first season of seaQuest DSV would be released on DVD on December 26, 2005 along with a week-long marathon of the show on the Sci Fi Channel. Universal credited the fans with changing their minds about a DVD release. However, some also credit the successful sales of bootleg copies of the series. The DVD release included numerous deleted scenes as well as alternate versions of broadcast scenes. The first season was released on four double-sided discs. The only extras included were deleted scenes for a handful of episodes.
The second season was released on January 1, 2008. As opposed to the first season, the second season was released on eight single-sided discs. The second season does not contain any extra features such as deleted scenes. The first season DVD release presents the episodes in their original airdate order, which leads to some continuity errors from episode to episode. (see List of seaQuest DSV episodes for more information) The second season DVD release is presented in a similar fashion, however, the episode "Blindsided" is presented in the correct order, despite an incorrect summary of it on the DVD slipcase; the DVD slipcase mixes the summaries for it and "Splashdown" around.
All three seasons are available for streaming by Netflix subscribers, though as of mid-2012, the episode "The Stinger" gives the description for the episode "Whale Songs."
On December 12, 2015, the Australian DVD label ViaVision, through its distributor Madman Distribution, released Season 1 on Blu-ray in full 1080p High definition. Although presented in 1080p, the program is presented Pillarboxed to maintain the original 4:3 aspect ratio. Season 2 is due to be released on Blu-ray on March 2, 2016.
Other merchandise made available included a shot glass in cobalt blue with gold logo, key chains and pins, a book cover, 'magic rocks' sets, journal, and a set of bookmarks.
John Debney composed the original theme music and scored the pilot and season one shows, with Don Davis working on season two; when the series was revamped as SeaQuest 2032 in the final season, Russ Landau composed a new theme and scored all the episodes. In 1995 Varese Sarabande released an album of Debney's music from the show, featuring the series main and end title themes and selections from "To Be or Not to Be" (tracks 2-8), "Knight of Shadows" (tracks 9 and 10) and "Such Great Patience" (tracks 11-13).
- Main Title (1:03)
- Preparing for Battle (2:51)
- Bridger's Dream (:52)
- Uncharted Waters (2:06)
- First Engagement (3:18)
- Darwin Speaks (:58)
- Dangerous Adversary (1:34)
- To Adventures Bold (1:31)
- Waltz With the Dead (2:48)
- The Forgiving/Resurrection (4:53)
- The Discovery (2:15)
- Lucas Meets the Alien (2:30)
- Solemn Oath (2:26)
- End Credits (:37)
Behind the scenes
Roy Scheider's character was based on John C. Lilly. Lilly was a pioneer researcher into the nature of consciousness using as his principal tools the isolation tank, dolphin communication and psychedelic drugs, sometimes in combination. He was a prominent member of the Californian counterculture of scientists, mystics and thinkers that arose in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Albert Hofmann, Gregory Bateson, Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Werner Erhard, and Richard Feynman were all frequent visitors to his home. The character's name, Nathan Hale Bridger, was in homage to Nathan Hale.
When producers began developing new characters for the second season, they named Lieutenant Brody after Police Chief Martin Brody, Roy Scheider's character in the first two Jaws films. Ralph Willcox and Karen Fraction, who both became recurring guest stars in the third season, had previously appeared as different characters in the second. Despite the numerous cast changes, Jonathan Brandis appeared in every episode of the series, as did Don Franklin (except for "And Everything Nice") and Ted Raimi (except for "Nothing But The Truth" and "The Siamese Dream").
Several of the cast's family members were brought in to play characters, as well. Brenda King, Roy Scheider's wife, portrayed Carol Bridger; Todd Allen, Rosalind Allen's husband, portrayed Clay Marshall in "The Siamese Dream". Several cast members also dabbled on the creative side of the show, as both Ted Raimi and Jonathan Brandis penned episodes during the second season. (Brandis wrote the aforementioned "The Siamese Dream" and Raimi, "Lostland.") Conversely, Robert Engels, one of the show's executive producers (and writer of two episodes, "Greed For a Pirate's Dream" and "Hide and Seek") during the first season, portrayed the recurring character Malcolm Lansdowne.
While in production, seaQuest DSV won and was nominated for a number of awards. John Debney won the 1994 Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music" for his composition of the seaQuest DSV theme song and in 2000, it was named the 48th best theme song of all time by TV Guide. Don Davis also won an Emmy in 1995 for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Composition for a Series" (Dramatic Underscore) for his score for the second season premiere, "Daggers." Russ Mitchell Landau was also nominated for his work on the third season premiere, "Brave New World", in 1996. Kenneth D. Zunder was nominated for the Emmy award for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Cinematography for a Series" for the episode "Such Great Patience". Jonathan Brandis won the 1994 Young Artist Award for "Best Youth Actor Leading Role in a Television Series" for his portrayal of Lucas Wolenczak and the series was nominated for a 1994 ASC Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Pilots" as well as the Saturn Award for "Best Genre Television Series" in 1995.
A seaQuest DSV feature film was in pre-production stages, however, it never materialized.
Despite being scripted in at least one episode, Captain Bridger never refers to Dagwood by name. The closest he ever got was calling him "Dag" in the episodes "Special Delivery" and "The Siamese Dream".