Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 4 Episode 3

Cave of the Dead

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Oct 08, 1967 on ABC

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  • Another spooky outing from Voyage's ghost writer, William Welch. This time he plays with an actual, known legend, rather than creating something new.

    The shots of the Flying Sub manuvering through a heavy lightning storm are great. Nelson's in the driver's seat, accompanied by an unknown Navy man; we'll learn shortly that his name is Van Wyck, and learn further on that he's a Commander. Some Naval ships have been lost in the vicinity, and Van Wyck is determined to find out why, although Nelson is prepared to give up for the moment and wait out the storm. Van Wyck points out that all the missing ships reported a bad storm before disappearing. Nelson finally makes the decision to turn back--and Van Wyck promptly tries to take over the controls. Nelson deals him a crisp blow on the arm, and threatens him with the brig. Nelson suddenly spots a three-masted vessel in front of them--presumably in mid-air. Van Wyck sees it, too, but before they can react much, they are fired upon and go into a dive.

    FS1 ends up floating on a calm sea; no storm clouds in sight. The men had presumably been knocked out for a bit. Nelson recalls seeing the strange ship, which he identifies as an old square-rigger. Van Wyck passes it off as an hallucination. They suddenly notice an island in front of them, and the disappearance of the storm. FS1's controls are unresponsive, and the radio is out. Nelson decides to go have a look-see before commencing repairs. There's a quick jump to the Seaview, just long enough for Crane and Chip to discuss the Admiral's absence--and that of the four ships. Nelson and Van Wyck reach the island. There's no sign of any man-made items that might account for the missing ships. Van Wyck finds a cave, it's entrance thickly covered with cobwebbing. He calls Nelson and they start in. Right inside, there's some words marked on the wall. Nelson wonders if it's German, but Van Wyck assures him that it's Dutch, and translates: "Cursed be those who venture through this portal". Nelson, naturally, goes further in. There's a sudden noise, and Van Wyck pulls Nelson back as a sword (a nice, shiny sword) drops from the ceiling. Nelson picks it up and tosses it aside. A little further in, they see a skeleton, eerily shrouded in cobwebs. Van Wyck points out a dagger in the skeleton's rib cage. Presumably by the time flesh and cloth had rotted away, the cobwebbing was thick enough to hold it in place. I can't imagine what would prompt Nelson to pull the dagger loose (seems a bit like desecration to me) but he does so. (If he wanted a souvenir, why not take the sword?) Lightning flashes inside the cave, and a voice declaims a curse on his head, now and forever. The cave starts to shake, and the two make a hasty exit.

    Having just barely gotten out in time, Van Wyck seems astonishingly unconcerned. This is enough to raise our suspicions--and Nelson's. He learns that Van Wyck apparently did not hear the voice calling out the curse, and he acts as though the dagger, which Nelson still has--clear proof that something happened--had been picked up off the floor, rather than pulled from a skeleton. Van Wyck casually asks to see the dagger (which, BTW, is also nice and shiny), but Nelson refuses. Someone seems to be losing touch with reality, and if it's Van Wyck, Nelson would just as soon not have him armed. (Nelson, rather arrogantly, refuses to consider that he might be the one hallucinating.) They head back to the FS1. On the Seaview, Sparks is still trying to raise the Admiral, and they have just received a dispatch from Washington, asking for a complete report on the missing ships. They are also planning--without waiting for such a report--to send in the 11th Fleet into the area on manuevers. Sharkey, like me, thinks that this is a pretty stupid idea, but it's not their place to argue. Chip mentions that the Admiral is only a hour overdue. It seems as though it should be a lot longer than that. Seaview herself is on course into the suspect area--and Crane orders them to keep right on going, at flank speed. Chip is troubled, but complies. Back at the FS1, Nelson prepares to begin repairs...but they aren't needed. Everything is fine. Van Wyck is utterly nonchalant about this (red flags up, everyone). Nelson gives him a look, but does not comment. Perhaps he should have. Would Van Wyck have claimed that everything was fine before they set out for the island? He finds that the radio is working fine, also, but gets some validation when Sparks tells him that they had been trying to reach him without sucess. Nelson also learns that A: Seaview did not experience the storm, nor pick up any indication of it on her instruments, and B: there is no island on the charts in that vicinity. Nelson doesn't waste too much time trying to protest this; he just heads for home. There is a marvelous underwater shot of the FS1 approaching the Seaview (they're nearly on the bottom, which makes the following shot of FS1 docking, with all the room in the world, look a little odd). Nelson climbs up into the nose. The red emergency lighting is on, which gives us pause, then we and Nelson both notice how quiet it is--and no one is there to give him a hand up. Nelson turns, and we get a fantastic shot of the Control Room...completely manned by skeletons. On the periscope island, at all the stations, at the helm. It would have been cool if they could have shown the skeletons moving a bit, but that was probably a little beyond the FX of the time. Nelson slowly moves closer, getting a good look at the skeletons at the helm, and then starts backing up, and I can't say that I blame him. A skeletal hand falls on his shoulder (EEWWWW!) and Nelson jerks his head around in shock, before whipping around to confront a very close-up skull. This is just too much, and Nelson passes out. (Can't blame him for that, either.)

    Coming to in the Sickbay, Nelson hears Crane's voice, but sees a skeleton hovering over him. Weakly, he tells it to go away. The skeleton then morphs into Crane (Crane's at a slightly different angle than the skeleton was). He tells Nelson that he came on board and passed out. Nelson abruptly becomes aware that he is in Sickbay--and he seems oddly outraged at the fact. Well, where else would they have taken him? The doctor questions him, and Nelson replies testily that he's just a little tired--which the doctor picks up on as a symptom of great emotional trauma. (It can also be the symptom of a long, hard day.) No one questions just what sort of trauma was experienced, and Nelson, as usual, is not telling. He learns that Van Wyck is all right, probably asleep in his cabin by now. Crane spots Nelson's dagger; again, it is proof that Nelson was somewhere and did something. Nelson apparently babbled about the curse while he was in Sickbay. Even after Crane drops the bomb about the 11th Fleet, Nelson is not ready to say anything; he just wants to see Van Wyck.

    Van Wyck, for some reason, has changed to full dress uniform before slipping into the Circuitry Room. Naturally he leaves the door ajar, and naturally, Sharkey spots this as he passes by, and pauses to investigate. Rather diffidently, he reminds his superior officer that no one is supposed to mess around with the circuits, and Van Wyck clobbers him and runs. Sharkey's not out, however, and goes in pursuit. Van Wyck flees down the corridors (as usual, there are no crewman around) and whips around a corner. Sharkey comes around the same corner, and nearly collides with a wall of shelving. Van Wyck is nowhere to be seen. Nelson, in his cabin, sits contemplating the dagger. Van Wyck (back in regular uniform) suddenly reaches out a hand, asking for it. Nelson backs up, taking the dagger with him. Van Wyck claims that Nelson didn't hear him come in. Nelson, who knows that Van Wyck was not in his cabin as reported, thinks that he was in Nelson's cabin all the while. Van Wyck again demands the dagger, and this time Nelson wants to know why. (So do we.) Van Wyck suddenly claims that the dagger may be an important clue in the disappearance of the ships. Nelson finds this laughable. How could a dagger in a skeleton (or on the cave floor, as Van Wyck claimed) have anything to do with ships disappearing? Especially as, up to this point, Van Wyck had passed off all of Nelson's experiences as hallucinations? Van Wyck makes a radical turn, speaking of the curse, and the ship they saw, which he suddenly identifies as the Flying Dutchman. Van Wyck claims the curse is upon all of them; not just Nelson, but the Seaview, and the four ships. Nelson, the scientist, despite his recent experiences, says that it is illogical, but Van Wyck claims that he can break the curse using the dagger. And just how would he know that? Nelson responds by putting the dagger in his safe. Sharkey knocks at the door, which is locked. (So, Nelson, just how did Van Wyck get in there, hmmm?) Nelson turns to unlock the door--and Van Wyck fades away. (We KNEW something was up with that man!) Sharkey reports Commander Van Wyck's behavior in the Circuitry Room--but not how he suddenly vanished. Crane has ordered a search for him. Nelson turns to show that Van Wyck is in his room, and stares in stupefaction. Nelson then responds to this startling turn of events by taking a nap. He hears the voice that laid the curse (and just whose voice is it? Certainly not Van Wyck's) saying that "They who reach the Flying Dutchman, never, never reach the shore...." Suddenly smoke and flames rise in front of Nelson's bunk. (In view of later happenings, this really makes no sense at all.) Crane, who is assisting the search, spots the smoke, opens the door (wasting precious seconds), closes it and calls for a fire detail before calling the two crewmen in the corridor to help him haul the Admiral out of his cabin. Others quickly rush in with extinguishers. (As I've said before, fire control is a primary concern on a submarine.) Nelson brushes off the offer of oxygen, which he could have used, and Sickbay, which also would have been a good idea. He asks Crane about the Flying Dutchman, which causes Crane to repeat his suggestion of Sickbay, but Nelson angrily stomps off to the Control Room.

    Chip reports that there are heavy seas and gales above, even though there have been no reports of storms in the area. He points out that weather conditions around the Cape are always tricky. (This is the first indication that they are in the vicinity of Cape Horn, source of Flying Dutchman legends.) Nelson mentions that the Flying Dutchman is always seen in heavy weather, and orders that the Seaview be brought to periscope depth, angrily brushing off Crane's concerns. Chip obediently brings them up to 90 ft. Looking through the 'scope, Nelson first sees heavy seas, as reported, then spots the square-rigger. He immediatly orders that aft torpedo tubes be prepped for launch. Chip astonishingly (considering that his Captain is right next to him) asks if he's really sure he wants to do that. Nelson repeats his order, and Crane belays it. When Crane looks through the periscope, he sees nothing but heavy seas; when Nelson looks, it's there. Kowalski is picking up nothing on his scanners. When he fails to do so a second time on Nelson's orders, Nelson leaves the room, muttering about the Dutchman. Crane and Chip are left wondering, not surprisingly, if Nelson's mental ship is foundering.

    Nelson seems to be seeking solace in sleep--he's napping again. The curse voice resounds again, ordering him to surrender the dagger. (To whom?) Nelson opens the safe, then thinks better of it, and starts searching his cabin for the source of the voice. Opening the door of what appears to be the washroom (it's a lot smaller than it used to be) he's confronted by a skeleton. (This is an oddity; previously, Nelson saw skeletons where his crew were actually standing, so who was hiding in his washroom?)
    Seaview is quietly crusing along, but inside, Sharkey eyes a printout with concern. Crane walks by; there is still no sign of Van Wyck. Sharkey shows Chip the printout; they have been traveling in a big circle all night. Nelson walks in, knowing without being told that they are off course. When Crane calls him on this, he snaps that he's been trying to tell them all along that they are under Forces Beyond Control. (Poor Nelson. One of the few times that he actually decides to tell what's going on, and no one believes him.) He's ready to put out a general distress call, which Crane belays. After all, the ship is in good order. Kowalski suddenly reports a ship on the surface, closing fast. Nelson is full of self-satisfaction--it's the Flying Dutchman, just as he'd been saying. Crane puts up the periscope, takes a look, then looks at Nelson with an expression of amused contempt, which seems out of place under the circumstances. It's just an ordinary freighter. Nelson takes a look and sees the Dutchman. This time, however, he doesn't try to persuade Crane--he just says, nonchalantly, that he wants to speak with the captain. Sparks is ordered to make the call; meanwhile, Chip reports that there are no malfunctions to account for them traveling in circles. Van Wyck suddenly appears on the periscope island, but everyone except Nelson is looking elsewhere. He informs Nelson that it is impossible to get in contact with that ship or any other. Nelson finally asks just who--or what--Van Wyck is, and Van Wyck counters that Nelson already knows, and vanishes. Sparks, as expected, cannot raise the ship--or anyone else. Nelson decides to surface, despite the heavy seas, and attempt to communicate visually. (At this point, I flashed on a delightful Charles Addams cartoon I had seen previously. A modern ship, in heavy seas, faces an old square rigger, with a man at the prow holding semaphore flags. A young crewman, also armed with flags, is turned back to his captain, and the caption reads "Dutch registry, sir. Says she can't stop--sailing under a curse.") We don't get to see this with the Seaview, however; as Crane starts to give the order, there's some sort of explosion. It's only a minor lurch, but lots of sparks. Crane can't reach Engineering to find out what happened. Chip speculates that the freighter rammed them, which, considering that they hadn't even begun to surface yet, seems pretty silly. Nelson takes another look through the periscope, and firmly tells Crane to have another look as well. This time, Crane does see the Dutchman (why now?) and it's beginning to open fire. Crane instantly orders a dive, but they lurch again. As fires break out, Nelson and Crane decide this would be a good time for a private chat.

    Crane still wants to think that this is all hallucinations--perhaps caused by vapors from a volcano on the island (the island that's not on any charts). Nelson points out reasonably that there is no reason for Crane to have been affected, yet he saw the ship. (And vapors would have no effect on the Seaview, either.) We see Van Wyck listening to the conversation from the grating. Thing is, we all know that those gratings lead to fairly narrow ducts, yet Van Wyck is not lying down; his head and shoulders are upright, which means that the rest of his body is, er...somewhere else. The dagger is the only physical clue they have. Nelson having retrieved it from the safe, Crane asks to see it, and Nelson hands it over. Nelson begins reading from a little, aged book on his desk about the legend of the Flying Dutchman. (There are, in fact, a number of sources for the legend, but for the plot, Welch tinkered with just one.) A Dutch ship, the "Amsterdam" disappeared after a long voyage. Nelson doesn't get a chance to go into details; Van Wyck is staring from the grate, and Crane suddenly has a fixed look on his face. He reverses his grip on the dagger. Nelson goes on to say that if the curse is broken (and how would anyone know about this?) the "Amsterdam" would sink and it's crew would turn to skeletons. At this point, Crane attacks. Nelson gets in a good punch to the midriff, which is quite effective, but only for a moment. The two wrestle back and forth all over the cabin, with Van Wyck watching all the while. Just as Crane starts to get the upper hand, Sharkey walks in and intantly pounces. Crane throws him off, Nelson flips Crane, and Sharkey gets in a good punch, which seems to bring Crane out of whatever he was in. Nelson sees this, and holds the furious Sharkey back. Crane says that he couldn't stop his arm; the dagger had a life of its own. (If that were the case, why didn't Crane speak out while they were fighting?) Nelson takes a sheath from a knife in his desk drawer; conveniently, it just fits the dagger, which he tucks in his waistband before leaving the room. With Crane sufficiently convinced about the Forces Beyond Control, Nelson plots out the course of the Seaview, which encloses the four points at which the other ships disappeared, which enclose the area where the island is. He asks Sharkey to prep Apple 1, which Sharkey says will take 15 minutes. Nelson gives him 10, which Sharkey accepts. (This put me in mind of Scotty from "Star Trek" who once said he always estimated more time than he actually needed, to make himself look good.) A crewman named Scotty (hey, wait a minute...) finishes up the preparations inside the bell. Nelson is going down alone. (These senseless heroics....) The cable pays out too fast, and neither Kowalski nor Sharkey can slow it down. Reaching the end, the cable simply slips off the barrel (wouldn't you think the end would be fastened securely to something?) Nelson calls the Seaview, but doesn't have much time to talk before he braces for impact. Said impact damages the reserve air tank; he only has twenty minutes. Crane proposes bringing down the Seaview to nab the cable. Nelson has a better idea, but before he can relate it, Van Wyck appears and snaps the communications wire. Nelson doesn't seem too surprised. He puts the dagger to Van Wyck's throat, which is a rather empty gesture. Van Wyck tells Nelson that he doesn't want to do this--he has to. He starts to relay the "real" story of the Dutchman. Nelson doesn't want to waste the oxygen, but how much oxygen does a ghost breathe? Van Wyck calls the ship the "Amsterdammer". All the legends deal with the captain of the ship, but here it was a matter of the crew mutinying when the captain refused to let them go home when they reached the Cape area. The captain was brought to the island (and if this is an actual island, why isn't it on the charts?) and the first mate killed him. (So why not kill him on board? Some superstition about it?) The captain laid a curse with his dying breath, saying that they would never reach port. Van Wyck, of course, is the first mate. (Speaks pretty good English for an antique Dutchman.)

    Up on the Seaview, they find that they can't fill the ballast tanks to make a dive--something's wrong with an induction valve. They speculate on what Nelson's idea would have been. It was right under their nose (literally): the Flying Sub, which has been checked over and is ready to go. How they missed something so obvious.... Back in the bell, Van Wyck states that Nelson will be ready to take his place. I really don't think that Nelson, or anyone else for that matter, would be ready to do anything of the sort. Apparently if Nelson dies by the dagger, he will take Van Wyck's place, and the Seaview will take the place of the "Amsterdam(mer)". Nelson's idea of coming down to the bottom was quite sound, by the way, just look out the porthole. Nelson spots the Dutchman, again beginning to open fire. He grabs for something that looks like a laser system, but Van Wyck tells him it's useless. (I've never heard of them having weapons on the diving bell.) He again asks for the dagger, and Nelson ignores him. The air is running out; presumably if Nelson dies by suffocation, the curse will not be shifted. I really don't see why it should shift anyway; the curse was laid on the men who murdered their captain, which Nelson had nothing to do with. FS1 launches. (Van Wyck traveled in the Flying Sub, lucky for them he didn't think to sabotage it.) Nelson is now nearly unconcious, but still blocks Van Wyck as he reaches for the dagger. Van Wyck is still patient. Nelson is certain that Seaview will rescue him. Van Wyck says that he's rigged the Seaview to neither surface nor dive--they'll just keep circling until the end of time. (Or until their fuel and air runs out.) Nelson asks a question I had wondered previously: why didn't Van Wyck use one of the men on the four missing ships? Van Wyck answers that they all died before he could get one to the island. All of them on all four ships? Van Wyck doesn't manage things too well, does he? You'd think by the second, or third, or fourth, he'd get the hang of things. This brings up the question: just how did this ghost manage to get clearance on those ships and the Seaview? Suddenly losing patience, he grabs for the dagger. Nelson somehow is able to knock the ghost unconcious--and then passes out himself. FS1 arrives, extending it's grappling pincers (which gives it the appearance of a peculiar-looking crab). With some manuvering, they catch the cable (although it looks at though the grips release again as they start to rise, and have to be clamped once more). It's hard to say just how they fed the end of the cable back up into the Seaview, but they manage. The cable is reattached (more firmly, one hopes) to the barrel, and Apple One is winched up. Although Nelson was unconcious before they even got there, he revives rapidly, and of course refuses to go to Sickbay. He quickly orders the island to be destroyed. Van Wyck was not in the bell when it was brought on board, which Nelson shrugs off. However, as they prepare to launch a missile, Van Wyck's voice calls out, and he appears, this time with a gun in hand. Apparently he has concluded that harder measures are called for.

    He orders Crane and Kowalski away from the launch panel, and they slowly comply. Van Wyck is standing a little in front of the bell, and he doesn't notice Sharkey at the threshold. Sharkey debates the matter a little longer than he really should have, but finally springs out on Van Wyck. Again, this ghost proves quite substantial; Sharkey is able to pin him, if only for a few moments. That's all that's needed. Nelson barks an order, and Crane and Kowalski both whirl back to the panel, but of course it's Crane that smacks it. A heavy Polaris missile breaks water. Van Wyck breaks free, and suddenly reveals that he has the dagger (Nelson, nearly suffocated, didn't notice it was gone). Crane and Kowalski both intercept him, and are knocked aside easily. He dives for Nelson, who frantically holds the dagger off. The island blows in a nicely spectacular effect. Crane and Kowalski start to pull Van Wyck away, then the Seaview lurches and he falls to the floor. Sparks flash all around, but things quickly stabilize. All the men surround Van Wyck, and Nelson turns him over. The dagger is lodged in his chest (right at the solar plexis, it looks like). The ghost morphs into a skeleton, although still in modern uniform. (I think it would have been more effective if he'd gone back to the clothing he wore back when the curse was laid.) The men all stare in silence. Presumably this means that the curse has been broken for good and all--but who knows?

    Up in the nose, with clear skies and waves breaking merrily against the viewport, Crane again wonders if they imagined it all. Nelson points out that they still have the dagger--and the reports of four missing ships. No more ships will disappear, but Nelson is left wondering just how he is going to explain matters to the Navy.

    Fun episode--the ghostly ones usually are, and the skeletons were great. But there are inconsistancies--as usual. How do you clobber a ghost? Why is it that Van Wyck could sabotage the Seaview, but he couldn't open Nelson's safe? Why couldn't anyone else see the spooky happenings--and then, suddenly, they could? Wouldn't it have served Van Wyck's purpose better if they kept thinking Nelson had gone crazy? And just what IS Nelson going to say to the Navy...?