Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 4 Episode 12

Blow Up

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Dec 10, 1967 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • This episode really irritated me, because the plot is driven by one piece of stupidity after another. Apart from that, it's a rather frightening display of the amount of damage one man can cause--just because he's the boss.

    Seaview is on the surface, while Nelson discusses their current mission. In roughly 12 hours, the 11th Fleet will be gathered for maneuvers. Seaview is to be the wild card, sneaking up on the Fleet so that they can test their new tracking equipment. Only a few people in the upper echelons are aware that Seaview will be intercepting the Fleet. Just then, Chip calls Crane to the Control Room. Engineering has reported a problem that may necessitate their return to base. Crane and Nelson both adjourn to see what the problem is. Sharkey comes to Chip in the Control Room, reporting that there is no change and that the situation is hopeless. Nelson and Crane arrive and learn that there is a missile fuel leak, which of course is highly volatile. The only way to repair it will be to drain the entire fuel system--which can only be done in dry dock. As Crane starts to concur, Nelson intervenes, saying rather scornfully that it is repairable. He orders Sharkey to fetch a standard wrench kit to Frame 40. Crane points out the danger (which implies that he knows what Nelson is planning.)
    At Frame 40 (or above it) Kowalski opens up a hatch in the floor. Before Nelson can descend, Crane arrives with an emergency breathing apparatus, in case the fumes get to be too much. Nelson goes below, and the hatch is secured. Nelson comes down to a small-seeming area crammed full of pipes. This dangerous problem which everyone else believed would require dry dock, Nelson attends to with a couple cranks of a wrench, which seems rather absurd. It may be that Nelson was simply doing a temporary "patch" job, but he certainly implied that he was fixing it completely. Upstairs, Kowalski, Sharkey and Crane underscore the danger by discussing their concern for the Admiral. Unfortunately the Admiral, surrounded by fumes just itching to explode, doesn't keep a very good grip on the wrench. As it falls, it causes a spark, which naturally leads to an explosion. Nelson collapses, and the only reason he isn't dead is because he's the star.

    Sharkey and 'Ski frantically try to lift the hatch, which of course has jammed. Sharkey is certain that the Admiral could not have survived the explosion (see comment, above) and Crane goes on to say that the explosion would have eaten up the remaining oxygen in the room. (Down below, the hardheaded Nelson stirs. See comment, above.) Sharkey suggests forcing oxygen down through the cracks, but Crane refuses. (Oxygen would simply feed any fire down there.) There is, of course, the E.B.A--but only if Nelson were awake to use it. 'Ski, sent to fetch an emergency team, arrives back and they set to. Nelson, showing no difficulty breathing the non-atmosphere, pulls out the E.B.A. and fits it over his mouth. He sits up, then looks upward and climbs the ladder, pulling out the E.B.A. as he does so. Again breathing the non-atmosphere as well as a lot of smoke, he pounds on the hatch. They get it open shortly thereafter and haul him up, then drag him along to Sickbay. Once there, Crane, Sharkey and 'Ski hover nervously as Doc checks the unconcious Admiral. All he seems to need is some fresh air. Taking the heavy hint, the three men leave. Crane hangs back long enough to learn that the doctor plans to administer a sedative. As he preps the hypodermic, Nelson awakens, glances around--and pretends to be asleep. This is enough to awaken our suspicions, but it's still a jolt when Nelson decks the Doc as he prepares to inject the sedative. Nelson throws the hypo aside and leaves Doc out on the floor.

    Up in the Control Room, Crane shows Chip the E.B.A, model 8-14, which saved Nelson's life. Apparently they had just stocked up on them. Crane then says something utterly unbelieveable. These E.B.A.'s have NOT been tested! So they were just handed out without anybody bothering to check if they WORKED? Crane accepts that they have now been field-tested (just one single bleeping test!) and he cheerfully orders them handed out to the crew, to be carried at all times. He then returns to the business at hand. Checking their position (as of five minutes ago) he orders them to hold course at standard speed. Chip asks about the leak, which is a darn good question to ask. Crane doesn't say that it has been fixed--he says that Nelson blocked off the problem line. One missile is now out, but there was no real damage from the explosion, which seems a little hard to believe. In one of the corridors, Sharkey sees Nelson coming and greets him happily. Nelson icily demands that Sharkey observe proper Naval protocols. Sharkey, taken considerably aback, apologizes. Nelson continues on to the Control Room, where he immediately spots the E.B.A. sitting on the "plot table" and dresses Chip down over it. Crane, overhearing this, looks tense, but does not mention that he's responsible for the E.B.A. being there. Nelson orders Crane to his cabin (apparently with strict Naval protocols you don't order your subordinate directly, even when he's a couple feet away from you). Nelson exits, leaving Chip wondering what the heck he did wrong.

    We get more of an idea of what's wrong with Nelson as he cautiously enters his cabin, then creeps up on each closed door and yanks it open. Closet and washroom are secure. He settles himself at his desk. Kowalski comes to the door, bearing a cup of coffee. Nelson immediately grabs for the gun in his desk (doesn't he usually keep it in the safe?) and allows 'Ski to enter, holding the gun down in the drawer. Granted, it would have been sensible for 'Ski to ask first if Nelson wanted coffee, but Nelson overreacts in the extreme--and then demands that 'Ski drink the coffee himself. 'Ski seems unaware of the implications, as he obediently sips the coffee. Nelson orders him out in no uncertain terms. 'Ski passes Crane as he exits, turning to give him a kicked-puppy look. Crane looks at him, but doesn't ask what is wrong, although something obviously is. Nelson grabs his gun again as he calls Crane to come in. Crane, not certain what this is all about, comments on Nelson's rapid recovery. Nelson sneeringly suggests that it is a surprise, and Crane agrees. However, Nelson is talking about AFTER the explosion. Crane is understandably confused, which allows Nelson to hope that Crane is not "in on it". Nelson, as usual, won't say directly what he is thinking. He tells Crane that he wants the doctor arrested. Crane is flabbergasted, which Nelson instantly interprets as a dispute. He's got a nice fat charge to lay against the sanctimonious doctor, a charge that will lead to a court martial. Attempted murder, not ten minutes ago. Hoo, boy.

    Down in Sickbay, Doc recovers (somewhat) from his knock on the chin (which is well bruised). Sharkey comes, scans the situation, and quickly realizes that it had to be Nelson. He begins clearing up the mess as Crane arrives. He quickly sends Sharkey off before notifying the good doctor of his impending arrest. Doc is not surprised, and explains what happened. He then says that if he didn't know Nelson so well, he would diagnose classic paranoia, which Crane instantly scoffs at--it must be something else. Why must it? And why should the doctor not diagnose it? It's hardly the first time Nelson has shown aberrant behavior. Alergic reactions, werewolf bites, alien takeovers.... After saying that he would NOT diagnose it, Doc proceeds to do just that, laying out the classic pattern. Abrupt change in personality, delusions of persecution, and violent behavior. In this case, they have three strong possibilities: the explosion could have caused subdural trauma to Nelson's brain, the volatile fuel fumes could have poisoned him, or the untested E.B.A. might have done something. Neither man even considers any of this. Crane still refuses to believe that something's wrong. In spite of the fact that Nelson had just been in an accident, Crane seems to think that such a diagnosis reflects on Nelson personally. Nelson comes in the room, wearing his gun in a holster, sees the doctor standing unfettered, and immediately draws the gun and leaps forward. And Crane thinks there's been no personality change? Doc covers for Crane, claiming that he has already been placed under arrest, and Crane follows along. Nelson wants Doc in the brig, flaring up when Crane hesistates. The doctor is a dangerous man. Doc and Crane exchange a look, and Crane agrees to the brig. Nelson informs the doctor that he will be shot if he resists. As the doctor leaves the room (unresisting) Nelson anxiously bids Crane not to let the man out of his sight. Crane might have intended letting the doctor stay in his quarters, but Doc insists that he carry through. He makes no further suggestions about Nelson, perhaps thinking that the facts speak for themselves. Unfortunately, they don't speak loud enough for Crane.

    Up in the Control Room, Sharkey brings a party of men to Chip and formally presents the new watch. Chip, who is staring at the ceiling, acknowledges them brusquely. Sharkey comments on the new formality, and Chip grits out that it's what the Admiral wants. Chip asks Engineering for updates on the situation, indicating that something has come up. Crane comes in, passing Kowalski at Sonar. Perhaps remembering the kicked-puppy expression, he asks if 'Ski is all right, but 'Ski says that everything's fine. All is not well with the Seaview, however; Chip reports that, contrary to the first reports, the explosion caused weakening in the hull plates, between frames 38 and 42. Repairs can be completed in an hour if they remain on the surface. The 11th fleet has already gathered, but by the time the Seaview intersects with them, she should be ready to go below. Crane gives the order to stay on the surface. Moments later, Nelson comes in (still armed), sees that they are still on the surface, and orders them down. Chip attempts to explain about the damage, which Nelson completely ignores--all he hears is a refusal to obey. Tight-lipped, Chip suggests that he discuss the matter with Crane, which Nelson takes to mean that he, Nelson, is incapapable of making decisions. Chip backs down, and Nelson orders them below. At this point, Crane comes over, pretending that he had not heard the altercation. When he mentions the necessary repairs, Nelson erupts; he doesn't want explanations. Rather than exerting his authority as the actual commander of the ship, Crane also backs down. Chip passes the order to Engineering, who also protest, infuriating Nelson still more. Chip spits the order out. Nelson knows that Crane disapproves, but a sub on the surface is a sitting duck. Crane protests reasonably that that only holds true in wartime; they are at peace. Nelson states that he will be the judge of that. Nelson, alone, is to judge if the country is at war? At this point, Crane should have belayed the previous orders and demanded some explanations, if Nelson were capable of them. Seaview dives, and comes to the assigned depth (which no one assigned). Now what? Straight course to the 11th fleet, at flank speed. This draws an instant protest from Chip, and Nelson rips into him. After Nelson leaves, Engineering calls. The transmission sounds a little odd; I'm not sure if that was a technical error or if they wanted to indicate the growing problems. Engineering spells out what Crane and Chip already know--the Seaview cannot handle the speed and depth in her weakened condition. No longer cowed by Nelson's presence, Crane decides to surface, and Chip gladly concurs. However, the order comes too late. They are hit with a major lurch. There's a bad steam leak somewhere, I think Engineering. Patterson attends to it, armed with thermal gloves. The man next to him, unprotected, collapses. They've gone into a nosedive, meaning that they're taking on water fast. Crane orders everyone to brace for collision, openly calling Nelson a "murderous fool". The Seaview bangs into a rock outcropping, snappping off a big chunk (I think that's new) and slamming into the bottom.

    Coming back from the commercial break, Crane is obviously in the midst of conferring with Damage Control. Three compartments are flooded, although the watertight doors are holding. One man is definitely dead. (I wonder if it was the man scalded by the steam?) Uncertain if they will be able to surface, Crane goes below to supervise. Kowalski gets up from his station (which is probably not proper Naval behavior) and confronts Sharkey. They all know who is to blame for this mess. Sharkey demurs; anyone can make a mistake in judgement. 'Ski argues, rousing Sharkey's ire. Kowalski believes (as would any man with an ounce of functional brain tissue) that Nelson is in no state to be allowed loose on the ship. Sharkey furiously orders 'Ski back to his station, although 'Ski points out that Sharkey wouldn't be so angry if he didn't agree with him. This is what I find infuriating: in a damaged submarine, with over a hundred lives at stake, you cannot afford to tiptoe around a man's obvious loss of judgement. Nelson comes back to the Control Room, demanding to know who caused the blunder. With admirable restraint, Chip does not snarl "YOU did!" in the Admiral's face; he merely points out that they attempted to warn him of the danger. (No one has considered that the Admiral's utter disregard for the safety of his pet submarine is another indication that something is terribly wrong.) The entire Control Room crew listens in shock as Nelson announces that he has never really trusted Chip, that Chip is plotting against him. (Is anyone besides Kowalski starting to notice that the Admiral is not quite himself?) Nelson asks about Crane, and Chip replies that he's down below...sir. As Nelson leaves, Sharkey tries to take him aside for some private talk, but Nelson naturally sees this as evidence that Sharkey is in on the plot. Elsewhere, Crane sends a wounded man off to Sickbay, then reports to the Control Room, where Chip reminds him that their ship's doctor is indisposed. Crane rushes off. Up in the Control Room, Kowalski, flanked by other crewmen, tells Chip that someone has to do something. Kowalski has a fine grasp of the obvious; they should make him an officer. Chip points out that "doing something" is the Captain's job. Well, the Captain is busy, and maybe he doesn't realize how bad things are. Sharkey pushes in at this point. 'Ski thinks that Sharkey is still trying to make excuses, but Sharkey stumblingly makes it clear that something is definitely wrong with the Admiral. (This is an excellent scene; he sounds as though he's a fraction away from crying.) Nelson needs to be locked up where he can't hurt anyone, including himself. Chip states that this sounds like mutiny. With a smile (that would look creepy under other circumstances) Kowalski assures him that they know Chip is with them. Meanwhile, Crane sprints to the brig and releases the doctor, who nobly ignores the fact that Crane had forgotten about him. He's needed in Sickbay. This is not just a parole--he's out clear. Hearing Nelson's approach, the good doctor pragmatically turns tail and runs the other way. Crane should have shut the brig door and moved to intercept Nelson, who was obviously looking for Crane. Instead, Nelson discovers the empty cell, and assumes the doctor has escaped. Crane confesses what he has done, and why, angrily adding that Nelson knows perfectly well that there is no real charge against the doctor. There's no time for games; if they can't raise the Seaview, they will all be dead. For a long moment, Nelson looks as though he actually grasps what Crane is telling him, but as he talks of Crane being the only one he can trust, it's clear that he was simply thinking up a new approach. Crane states that Nelson can trust the entire crew, and Nelson replies that "they" have taken him in, but it's all right for now. It is imperative that the Seaview reach the intercept point. A little exasperated, Crane points out that it's not that important. Nelson hints that he knows something, but refuses to say what it is. (As this is standard operating procedure for Nelson, in whatever shape he's in, Crane accepts this.) Nelson leaves, after reiterating that Crane must trust him. (Nelson, BTW, makes no suggestions about repairs to the ship.) As he passes down a corridor, he hears someone coming and ducks into a storage room. A crewman passes by, and goes into the (gulp!) Circuitry Room. In the Control Room, Crane enters to find all the men (sans Sparks) lined up in full confrontational mode. Crane sarcastically refers to it as an "indignation meeting". Nelson's flattering comments about trust have overridden Crane's own observations. Chip and Sharkey simply want Nelson confined until he's over whatever's wrong with him, but Crane of course takes this as possible mutiny, which rattles them all. Crane is magnanimously prepared to overlook the situation, provided they all get back to work. They probably should have mentioned Nelson's slam at Chip, but instead they all back down and return to their stations, however reluctantly. Apparently Damage Control has been working to some effect; Seaview is now in shape to raise off the bottom. Meanwhile, the crewman has left the Circuitry Room (and, of course, no one is on duty in there) and Nelson slips in, pausing as he hears Chip's order to blow ballast. Seaview raises off the sea floor. Crane orders them to surface with no forward speed until they get topside--and then no faster than one third. In the Circuitry Room, Nelson makes some adjustments to various panels. As they reach 150 feet (from the top, or from the bottom?) Crane cautions the helmsmen that they have to rise carefully to avoid "ballooning". Nelson finishes up in the Circuitry Room. The Seaview suddenly stops rising. All the controls are out. In an outside shot, we see the Seaview (looking only a few yards above the seabed, rather than 150 feet) starts moving forward. Crane calls down to Engineering, with predictable results; they can't do anything. The speed is going up to flank. Crane orders the planes up angled, to force the Seaview upwards, but again, there is no response. Chip yells (can't say that I blame him, he's having a rotten day) that the hulls won't take it, and this time, they'll go down for good.

    A furious Crane finally realizes that the ship is being controlled by remote, which could only be done in the Circuitry Room--and there's only one man who could have done it. Well, it took him the better part of the episode, but he finally figured it out, at the cost of only one dead man. Marching over to the arms cabinet, he pulls out guns and calls for Kowalski to assist. Sharkey follows after them. They find Nelson, who wants a report on their position relative to the Fleet. Crane gives him a long stare, then points out the danger to the Seaview and crew. Nelson simply brushes this off; he has a job to do. Crane formally relieves Nelson of duty and places him under restraint, citing regulations--Section 14, paragraphs 42-51. Nelson is contemptuously amused--mental incompetence? Crane asks for his gun, which could have been rather dangerous. Nelson accuses them of mutiny, and says he'll see them hanged. Crane relieves Nelson of his gun, and orders Sharkey and 'Ski to take him to his cabin while he checks the Circuitry Room. (Once more, he's ignoring the safety of his ship for the sake of Nelson's dignity--Nelson could easily escape his cabin, but not from the brig.) Nelson furiously forbids them to touch him, but Kowalski calmly points out that they will use force if necessary. (Kowalski is the only one who doesn't let the Admiral's rank deter him.) Nelson starts up the steps, then kicks both men down. A third crewman appears out of nowwhere and springs on Nelson, only to get knocked back. Once again, three younger, stronger men fail to control the Admiral, who knocks them all flat before racing off. Kowalski and the third crewman head after him. In the Circuitry Room, Crane finds the problem, but the panel sparks as he opens it. Sharkey grabs a mike to call Crane, who promises extra help in the search. They should try to get Nelson alive, if they can. (That's awfully nice of him.) Calling Engineering, Crane tells them that the circuits are locked and he needs their best electricians to re-channel them to manual. He then calls Chip, who has been listening in and is way ahead of him.

    Seaching in a corridor, Sharkey comes under Nelson's gun (which he presumably grabbed during the fight). Nelson ducks away as Sharkey turns. Crane comes up to him. He's trying to figure out where Nelson would go by figuring out what Nelson is trying to accomplish. Crane needs to outthink the Admiral, which admittedly is tough going. Crane heads up the stairs to the Control Room, also under Nelson's gun, but for some reason, Nelson does not fire. He pauses for a long moment. Perhaps something inside is starting to recover. Up in the Control Room, Crane checks their positon, trying to get a line on what Nelson wants. They're heading right for the Fleet, and will be in visual range in ten minutes. Crane feels that this is important, somehow. (Nelson's manic insistance on making their rendezvous might just possibly have a little to do with it.) Sharkey, Kowalski, and the third crewman intercept Nelson at the hatch to the Missile Room, and once again he fights off all three. Getting inside, he jams the hatch. Naturally, no one thinks of getting inside through the air ducts. And, naturally, no one's on duty inside. Sharkey calls Crane, who suddenly realizes that they're coming into torpedo range of the Fleet. Crane sends for a welder to burn through the hatch. Inside, Nelson loads a missile. Crane comes to the Missile Room. A few moments later, a white-coated corpsman shows up. They're almost through. Nelson finishes his preparations and goes to the launch panel (although there's no way he could tell if they were in range yet). As the hatch wheel drops off, Nelson hits the launch button with a vindictive, "So there!" expression.

    Considering what happened to the missile fuel at the beginning of the show, it would have been very fitting if the missile had simply fizzled out--they mentioned that one of the missiles was useless, remember. But that wouldn't have been as exciting. Several men dive for the Admiral, while the corpsman stands by and Crane detours to the intercept panel. The missile explodes too soon, and Nelson, realizing who's responsible, launches himself at Crane. Crane points out, with grim irony, that Nelson himself invented the intercept device. Nelson snarls that he'll kill Crane. On Crane's command, the corpsman leaps forward and injects Nelson (with the sort of hypo designed for going through clothing). Nelson slumps, although he doesn't seem to collapse completely.

    In Sickbay, Nelson, now dressed in his bathrobe, seems to awaken as he's being given oxygen. It quickly becomes clear, however, that this is the last stage of his treatment--Nelson is quite aware that he's been under the influence of a gas. Turns out that the untested E.B.A. (and isn't this JUST why you test such things before putting them out to general use?) used some form of gas that had a deleterious effect, to say the least. No mention of the fact that a man died because someone down the line decided to cut corners. Nelson has some concern about a possible relapse, but Crane (not the doctor) somehow is certain that there will not be one. Crane announces that the E.B.A's will NOT be standard equipment after all--which is about the only intelligent thing he's done all day.

    Very exciting and well-shot, and some good performances, but spending the entire episode mentally muttering "You fools, you fools" kinda spoils it.