Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 4 Episode 11

A Time to Die

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Dec 03, 1967 on ABC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

A Time to Die
While on a mission, the Seaview appears to pass through an odd magnetic field. However, a dinosaur and alterations in the star patterns indicate that they have been thrown back in time one million years. Nelson encounters the mysterious Mr. Pem, a man who has learned how to control time, and wants to use the Seaview as a powerful source of energy for his time device. Nelson must try to outwit a man who can simply back up time and alter anything they attempt to do.moreless

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  • I have mixed feelings on this one. It's interesting, exciting, and has a superb villain, but it's marred with some hard-to-overlook problems.

    Quite often I can shrug off the nitpicky little things and just enjoy the show. (Although I like picking the nits afterwards.) However, being blessed (or cursed?) with a logical mind, sometimes the errors just reach out and grab me by the throat, as it were.

    Seaview is cruising underwater. They seem to be on a mission requiring precise timing, so they have their chronometer up and running. It's to take place in twenty-seven minutes. (We never do find out just what they were trying to accomplish.) Nelson, Crane and Chip discuss the adjustments they need to make to their course. As Chip prepares to relay the new course headings to Navigation, they suffer a minor lurch. Kowalski sees nothing on Sonar. Then there's a longer lurch, and the Seaview slows down. As the effect worsens, Nelson decides to surface. Crane starts to give the order, and then the lights start to fluctuate, and the Seaview sways gently back and forth. The chronometer suddenly speeds up, and Nelson, perhaps automatically, checks his own watch and notices something odd. (Presumably it is also running forward, although they don't specify.) Crane thinks, quite reasonably, that they are passing through a magnetic field. Nelson hopes that this is the case, but (as usual) he doesn't express what the other possibilities might be. The chronomoter stops,

    and Nelson (checking his watch again) seems to take this to mean that they've gone back to normal (although if you watch the chronometer, you'll see that it has literally stopped--it's not counting off at all. Come to think of it, why should the watches be affected by what happened? They are simply mechanical devices to measure off human increments of time, not time itself.) They decide to surface anyway, but Kowalski notes something dead ahead. Crane orders all back full, hard left rudder. They all stare out the nose. A dinosaur is staring back in. (Couldn't they have found some footage of an aquatic-style dinosaur? Reason would tell you that an aquatic dino would be smooth and sleek, like fish and whales.) Cut to credits. This time, they did not have a voice-over.

    After a good, long look, Crane decides to sound General Quarters, but Nelson disagrees, as the dinosaur seems to be backing off. (Just because you sound General Quarters doesn't mean you HAVE to fight, just be prepared to do so, which seems like a very good idea under the circumstances.) They close the collision screen, and 'Ski reports that the dinosaur is moving away. Nelson figures that the dinosaur had "bluffed" them (and was probably quite happy not to deal with this strange hard-shelled monster). Seaview surfaces, and they call lookouts to the conning tower. Nelson and Crane go up as well. They find the sun in the midst of a total eclipse--but there's not supposed to be any eclipse in this latitide, total or partial, for years. (Crane's being a bad boy; he staring right at the eclipse, and everyone knows that you should never do that.) Nelson produces a camera from somewhere (he did not carry it up with him) and begins taking pictures. He also asks Crane to check on the sun's position, and Crane hauls out a sextant (also from thin air). Nelson comes below, sending the film to the photolab to be developed ASAP. Meanwhile, Sparks is ordered to reach the Astronomy department at Nelson's Institute. Kowalski wonders if what they had seen was a sea serpent. Nelson thinks it might be something even less believeable, and goes off to ponder the situation. Crane comes down. According to the position of the sun, the Seaview has moved considerably off course. (This may be a literal move, or it might simply be the difference a million years has on the sun's position.) They try to check the satellite to confirm their position, but get no response--"insufficient data". Crane goes to consult with Nelson. Before he arrives, Nelson checks with Sparks, who tells him that he can't raise the Institute, even though they are on a twenty-four-hour radio watch. Sparks is not picking up any signals whatsover. Crane arrives, and is told that they are completely out of contact with the world--but there is nothing wrong with the ship. (That's a drop of comfort, anyhow.) Nelson, in that aggravating way he has, acts as though he knows what is going on, but he's not saying anything. He does say, straight out, that Crane will think he's mad if he speaks. Sharkey comes in with the photographs. That's quite a camera--Nelson was taking photographs of the eclipse, but, looking at the photographs, they seem to imply that some of them are of the dinosaur. We then see photos of galaxies, and they speak of constellations. Nelson can tell, just off the top of his head, that the positions of the constellations are off by a million years. (How does he DO that?) Having this tangible evidence, Nelson finally Makes His Statement: they have gone back in time. (It's never mentioned, but it's reasonable to suppose that calculating back to that solar eclipse provided the time marker for sending them back.) Faced with this flabbergasting situation, Nelson proposes--to do nothing. Just wait, watch, and attempt to find a solution, if there is one. Oh, yes, don't tell the crew. Their little minds couldn't handle it--although you'd think after three and half seasons on THIS ship, they could handle anything.)

    Crane is called back to the Control Room. There's been a blip on sonar, first taken for a plane, but the flight path is wrong. The lookouts report a bird--a bird as big as a jet. (I don't believe that they had real "birds" back in the time of the dinosaurs, but I suppose it was easier than trying for some pterodactyl footage.) Crane comes up, in time to see the big bird swoop on them. Crane tells the men to prepare to come below--and not to stand on ceremony if the bird came round again. Crane's getting into Nelson mode--he doesn't want to say what he saw, even with two witnesses to back him up. They bring the men down and dive to 200 feet. There's a sudden sound and a lurch. Crane calls Nelson--this seems suspiciously similiar to the last incident. They anticipate a second jolt, following the pattern, and it comes in due course. Nelson starts to get up from his desk, but the lights start flickering--and only in his room. The Control Room chronometer is working normally (which implies that Nelson's watch is not.) As he opens his cabin door, the lights return to normal. However, nothing else is--he steps out, not into a corridor, but his own office at the Institute! Nelson slowly paces through the room, looking out the window--it's Santa Barbara, all right. One thousand miles from where he's supposed to be. Nelson queries himself, out loud, and hears chuckling. Calling out, he turns and sees his desk chair spin around. Nelson has an I'm-getting-very-fed-up-with-these-tricks expression as he looks at the empty chair--which suddenly fills up with a man.

    Whoever did the casting for this episode was dead on target. Henry Jones was absolutely perfect. He looks so inoffensive, yet he projects sheer fiendishness and amused contempt in a way that can only be rivaled by Richard Basehart himself. Nelson, grasping for a semblance of normality, asks the man who he is. The name is Pem. Simply Mr. Pem. Nelson asks how Pem got there, but Pem knows better--Nelson wants to know how HE got there. Nelson walks to the phone and calls Security. Security, with admirable discipline, does not ask what the @#$%^* Nelson is doing in his office when he's supposed to be on the Seaview. Pem, with that amused contempt (that gets very maddening very quickly) states that the men will not arrive unless he permits it. He asks Nelson (as a military man) what is the most potent of all weapons? Assuming that it's a rhetorical question, Nelson allows Pem to answer: the control of Time. Pem has mastered it, making him the most powerful man in history. (This is one of the problems that I can't get away from. Pem stated that he had mastered the control of Time. Just Time. Nothing else. Yet obviously he is controlling Space as well, yanking Nelson across a thousand miles. It might not have been so eye-catching, but it would have been more plausible (in the context of the plot) if Nelson had remained in his cabin (Pem having sneaked aboard somehow) with something--a calendar, perhaps--indicating that time had jumped forward or backwards. (By the way, they never indicate exactly when the Seaview got yanked forward again.) Nelson, despite the fact that he had already deduced the idea of time-travel, scoffs at Pem. Pem is offended, but concedes that, under the circumstances, Nelson is entitled to his disbelief. He has Nelson open the office door, which leads to the Institite corridor, of course. Then he has him look again, this time activating a small gadget. Nelson opens on the Control Room (although for some reason they can't see him). This is more of that Space paradox--just how does he turn an open door into a window on the Seaview? The Seaview seems to be around the same time that Nelson left his cabin (whatever time that may be). They went looking for him when he didn't arrive at the Control Room. Sharkey and 'Ski (as usual) are sent to search the entire ship. Nelson turns away, and Pem tells him to look again. Nelson doesn't like Pem's tone--he obviously likes ordering people about. Pem agrees; given the power he has, doesn't he have the right to? Humoring Nelson, he asks him to PLEASE look again. This time they see the Seaview from an underwater shot--and again, just how do they do this? Where are they "standing" that they could see underwater? Either Nelson is not impressed, or, more likely, he's deliberately masking it to diminish Pem's arrogance. So it's the Seaview--so what? More scenes indicate that the Seaview has gone back (or forward) to two years previous to contemporary time, when they encountered a giant, man-shaped sea creature. (Season Three's "The Thing from Inner Space") Pem tells Nelson to wait and watch (I had the impression that he was going to do something to alter the situation, but apparently it was just a demonstration.) Nelson is starting to think Pem is mad, which is quite possible. Pem mentions in a casual aside that he has stopped time, so that Nelson won't be missing anything (and Security won't show up). Nelson is starting to think that he's either dreaming or drugged. Nelson finally closes the door, not wanting to relive an unpleasant experience. His next idea is that Pem has somehow hypnotised him. After all, Pem has only shown him things from the past--things that he could have found out about. (This, of course, does not explain the dinosaur.) Pem realizes that Nelson wants to know his future (as probably anyone in this situation would) but he thinks it would be unfair to subject Nelson to the horrible experience twice. From this, Nelson deduces that Pem has something nasty in mind for him, and Pem does not disagree. Nelson fetches a gun from his desk, prompting more amused contempt as Pem readies his own gadget. Pem takes the gun to mean that Nelson is starting to believe him. Nelson has never shot a man in cold blood before, but Pem eggs him on until he does. At this point, his gadget rewinds the scene until Nelson is back to before he collected the gun. Putting Nelson back in time should have erased Nelson's memory of the shooting, but it doesn't--another flaw. Not to mention the notion that Pem could activate his gadget faster than a speeding bullet. Dripping amused contempt from every pore, Pem suggests that Nelson resign himself to the inevitable.

    Back on the Seaview (or forward on the Seaview, or sideways on the Seaview--this gets confusing) the search for Nelson is going nowhere. Not surprising, considering they are using just two men, together, to search a very large submarine. This search should have taken hours. Sharkey decides to check out the one place they haven't looked--Nelson's cabin. At the Institute, Nelson fetches his gun again--just to see if it was back in the desk. Nelson sounds as though he's just humoring Pem (which may be another attempt to deflate him). He asks about Pem's source of energy. Nelson only knows of one theoretical way to affect time: acceleration. Pem would need acceleration much greater than the speed of light. Pem appears to be fascinated by Nelson's musings. He would need an almost unlimited energy source--where? Pem asks if Nelson really believes that Pem would tell him, and Nelson responds that Pem won't be able to resist. Nelson, as usual, is right. Pem is finding Nelson more intelligent than he suspected (although his tone implies admiration for a slightly better trained dog than the norm). Pem shows him his gadget--which looks like a pocket watch. Nelson scoffs again, but why not make it look like a pocket watch? As Pem says, it's appropriate. It turns out that Nelson was scoffing at the size; it's much too small to generate

    so much power. Pem tells him that it is an energy BOOSTER, not a producer. All he needs is a large source of energy and his device, which boosts power by a factor of one hundred thousand or more. Nelson tells Pem that he's a genius--but also a fool. So he's going to kill Nelson and take over the Seaview for its nuclear energy source--and then what? There's no valid plan, here. How is he going to capitalize on his discovery? As we might have guessed, Pem has no intention of using his invention to benefit humanity. Nelson implies that he doesn't, either. All of us who know and love Nelson know that he has just started putting a plan into action, but Pem, like many people, judges Nelson by his own low standards and accepts that Nelson is trying to save his skin and grab additional benefits, as well. Pem needs someone to plan and direct, and Nelson suggests a partnership. Pem is looking pleased at the idea of taking over the world--until that word "partnership" percolates through. JUNIOR partner, if you please.

    Sharkey and 'Ski reach Nelson's cabin--and Nelson is there, looking mildly affronted at being interrupted. The startled men are even more so when they spot Pem, sitting in Nelson's bunk. Nelson calmly introduces him, then has Sharkey take a message to Crane--he'll be up in the Control Room momentarily. Sharkey pauses outside the cabin--how did a civilian get on board, and why is Nelson so casual about him? Up in the Control Room, a frustrated Crane is about to call the searchers, when they come down the stairs. Sharkey reports that they found Nelson in his cabin, and Kowalski mentions the strange civilian, a weirdo with a funny look in his eye. (Kowalski always has a good sense of the weird.) Sharkey and 'Ski are sent back to their posts (nobody ever seems to get break time in the Control Room) as Nelson and Pem arrive. Nelson introduces Pem, prepares to take him on a tour, and casually, like an afterthought, reminds Crane to go down to Frame 35 and shut down everything in that area. Crane repeats the order, which almost (and should have) roused Pem's suspicions, and says he will take care of it. As Nelson escorts Pem out, Kowalski is giving Crane a sharp look; clearly he has an idea of what's up. Chip (again given the thankless task of spelling things out to the audience) rushes up to Crane. "Frame 35" is the reactor (which we all pretty well guessed). Shutting it down will put them on the bottom (where they've gone often enough; what's the big deal?) Crane understands that Nelson was trying to fool Pem, which is why he used the euphemism. Chip still seems shocked, but Crane intends carrying out the orders to the letter, and leaves Chip at the con while he does so. Nelson's tour seems to be short, and Pem realizes that they are already heading back towards the Control Room. He wants to see his power source, of course, and makes the extremely odd statement that they're running out of time. Why should he have a deadline? Nelson puts him off with the logical observation that Pem, of all people, does not need to worry about time. Down at the Reactor Room, Crane tells Patterson that he's shutting down the reactor, and it has to stay shut down pending a direct order from Crane. Patterson is to stop anyone who tries to interfere--with his life, if necessary. The unflappable Patterson accepts the order, and Crane pulls the lever, which shuts down very nicely, with no sparking about. There's an instant, moderate lurch--and they stay tilted. Pem, hanging off a piece of the corridor, asks what is going on, and Nelson, hanging off the stairs, calmly assumes that there's engine trouble. Crane leaves the Reactor Room. Up in the Control Room, Chip is called by the Engine Room, who reports that they've lost all power (obviously not all, or they'd be silent in the dark). Chip simply acknowledges the information, without trying to explain. Sharkey also points out to the audience that they're heading for the bottom, and shouldn't the Skipper be informed? Chip, sounding rather disgruntled, snaps that the Skipper knows all about it, having caused it himself. Seaview goes into a nose dive, and Chip calls (hopefully everyone, not just the Control Room) to brace for impact. They hit the ol' rock, smack into another one, and finally settle into the sand. (Presumably there are reports from Damage Control, etc, but we don't hear them.) Pem realizes that Nelson has tricked him, but Nelson won't say if the reactor has actually been shut off. Pem activates his gadget, and Nelson vanishes. Again, he moves through space rather than staying in the corridor, this time ending up...well, it kinda looks like Nelson's cabin. Pem's voice is heard (and how does he manage that?) He tells Nelson that he has underestimated Pem--and Pem expects his questions to be answered. (Typical petty tyrant behavior.) Nelson and his cabin start spinning off--although this effect has not been seen previously.

    Nelson slows, and finds himself in the Reactor Room, rather dazed (as might be expected). Patterson comes to assist. Nelson says that he must restart the reactor, and when Patterson refuses, erupts in rage, knocking Patterson aside. (Here's still another thing--Pem now seems to be controlling minds, and if he can do so, why didn't he from the start? How can he force Nelson to do something that he does not want to do?) Another crewman pulls him back from the lever, and Nelson throws him. (Remarkable, isn't it, how often Nelson manages to outfight these younger, taller, more muscular men?) Nelson starts pulling out rods, which makes no sense at all. Patterson gets on the mike and calls for Crane, who dives back down the corridor. Patterson struggles with Nelson (for a moment, I thought it was a third crewman, but it was just the stuntman), keeping him occupied until Crane arrives. (Crane's stuntman is not only obvious, he's familiar--he's one of the tall, nameless crewman often seen in the background.) Nelson chokes Crane against part of the diamond-shaped lattice (or whatever) around the reactor, and Crane falls. Sharkey now enters, armed with a gun. Crane calls out that the Admiral has gone beserk, and to shoot him. Sharkey hesitates (as you would expect) but finally fires. And...everything starts winding back, beyond the shot, beyond the struggles, to where Nelson first showed up in the room, beyond that, and back to the corridor, facing Pem. And again, he remembers everything. Pem, with that amused contempt, asks if he's ready to answer his question now. Nelson finally confesses about the reactor, and Pem gleefully raises his gadget, ready to pop back and prevent it--and nothing happens. That little demo used up the power Pem had left. Nelson is remarkable casual about it, while Pem starts pouting. As Nelson rubs it in (with a certain grim relish), Pem starts sliding sideways. Nelson suggests that he give up his device. The amused contempt completely wiped out, Pem snarls that Nelson will never get it, and dashes off down the corridor. Nelson yells after him, but doesn't bother trying to chase him. He calls Sharkey, arranges for an armed detail to hunt Pem, tells Sharkey to meet him at Corridor A2, then calls Crane and tells him to get back to "Frame 35" and guard it. (It gives you an idea of how swiftly things have been moving--Crane is only a couple steps away from the Reactor Room.) Nelson meets Sharkey outside the (whoo, boy) Circuitry Room, and tells him to take the sign off the door. Sharkey does a lovely doubletake as Nelson takes off down the corridor. It's clear what Nelson is planning to do, if not why. Nelson arrives at the Reactor Room, shuffling through a handful of change. He asks Crane for a dime. (Naturally, the designer of the Seaview knows just what size coins fit the different screw heads.) He quickly unscrews the Reactor Room sign, hands back Crane's dime (a lovely touch) and hurries off. Crane follows him (ignoring the command to guard the Reactor Room, which could have had serious repercussions, but of course Patterson was inside). Meanwhile, Pem is keeping one step ahead of the search party (as usual). Nelson and Crane reach the Circuitry Room, and Sharkey puts the Reactor Room sign up on the door. (He had a screwdriver which apparently was lying loose just inside the door.) Pem keeps creeping along, looking a bit harried as the search party closes in. (It's led by Hedison's stunt double.) Pem dives through a hatch, followed shortly after by part of the search team. The last man through gets clobbered by Pem, hiding behind the hatch door. Pem grabs his gun and heads back the other way. You can see Pem's confidence (and his amusement) returning. At the Circuitry Room, Crane tells Sharkey to join the search, and he moves off, carrying the surplus sign.

    As he walks away, a gun pokes around the corner into Nelson's neck. It's pure luck that Pem did not see Sharkey carrying the sign. For some reason, Pem has elected to dissolve his partnership with Nelson by sending Nelson far, far away. He steps toward the door. Nelson warns him not to take the energy booster in where there's so much power, but Pem ignores him.

    And another big problem. Look back to the Reactor Room fight, where Pem reversed time at the precise instant that Sharkey fired at Nelson. How could Pem possibly have done that, unless he was viewing the proceedings (as they did in Nelson's office)? For that matter, how did he know where to send Nelson unless he knew where the Reactor Room was in the first place? If he was watching, then he knows what the Reactor Room looks like, and it sure as heck doesn't resemble the Circuitry Room in any way. That aside, there is also a conspicuous lack of Radiation Hazard signs in the Circuitry Room. Pem ignores all of this, walking inside and starting to look about. (Nelson restrains Crane from following; Crane doesn't know about Pem's little gadget.) He sees a red box with a lever, similar to the one in the Reactor Room, but in a totally different position in the room), pulls on the lever--and vanishes in an explosion. Surprisingly, it doesn't cause much damage, or even a lurch. Just a lot of smoke.

    Seaview, having presumably repaired any damage, lifts off the bottom. In Nelson's office, Crane holds out the twisted remnants of Pem's time gadget. Nelson admits that Pem almost beat them (but almost doesn't count except with horseshoes and hand grenades). He explains what happened; Pem's gadget boosted the already high electrical power in the room, and the result was inevitable. (Wouldn't you think boosting radiation would be equally lethal?) Pem was a genius--and yet remarkably stupid. (This isn't the oxymoron that it sounds like; there are many people with high I.Q's and little in the way of common sense.) Crane tosses the remnants into Nelson's ash tray as the Seaview goes on her way (perhaps heading back to complete her original mission; it's hard to say just how much time has passed on this one.)

    Quite a fun outing, but I had real trouble maintaining my suspension of disbelief. Henry Jones, however, makes up for a lot. (I'm looking forward to seeing just how they get around Pem's instant fry job to bring him back for the final episode.)moreless
Henry Jones

Henry Jones

Mr. Pem

Guest Star

Terry Becker

Terry Becker

Chief Sharkey

Recurring Role

Del Monroe

Del Monroe


Recurring Role

Arch Whiting

Arch Whiting


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions