Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 1 Episode 16

Hail To The Chief

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Dec 28, 1964 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • An unusual episode; combining elements of a rescue mission and "spy stuff".

    It starts in a rather exotic locale; we'll learn along the way that it's somewhere in South America. The Presidential aide from "Hot Line" marches into what is presumably the local American Embassy. Although his name was never mentioned in the previous episode, here we learn from two sources that his name is Larry Tobin. The whole room is bustling with activity. A secretary on the telephone, speaking Spanish, arranges for a helicopter at 10:04 and hands the information to Tobin. Obviously, something out of the ordinary is going on. Thousands of people are waiting, a motorcade has been arranged--but the plans have been changed. Tobin moves into a side room, where a well-attended man is lying in a bed, bearing an odd resemblance to Ebeneezer Scrooge in his nightcap. We learn that there is an upcoming conference in Geneva, and that the injured man can survive perhaps 36 hours without surgury. The man in question is Henry Talbot McNeil--President Of The United States. Naturally, the audience had to be informed of this, but it sounded peculiar, because of course the two men discussing the situation knew perfectly well who he was.

    Norfolk, Virginia. Nelson and Crane prepare to head off to some secret meeting. General Beeker arrives to escort them (positive proof that this is something big!) and requests a crewman with AA security clearance. Glancing around, Crane calls up Kowalski. The remainder of the Seaview crew will be restricted to the submarine on the General's authority. Waiting for the meeting to be completed, Kowalski chats up the secretary in the outer office, who turns out to be a temporary from the steno pool. She is perfunctorily courteous to Kowalski, but is much more interested in listening in to the earpiece of her glasses, as it picks up the conversation in the inner office. Nelson and Crane learn that the President, while on a goodwill tour in South America, had taken a bad fall, resulting in a subdural hematoma. His presence is absolutely essential at the Geneva conference the following week. (Presumably the world as we know it would have come to an end if he'd died in that fall.) It is hoped that surgury will not be necessary--Dr. Taylor has a special machine, the MGQ, which he hopes can dissolve the hematoma without invasive procedures, although a surgical party will stand by. As there are various groups that would be more than happy to keep the President away from the conference, the whole situation has to be kept secret. Naturally, the Seaview has been called in. The President has been flown by helicopter to a destroyer, which will rendezvous with the Seaview in the Carribbean. The surgical team will be on board Seaview. (One wonders who got the idea of performing delicate brain procedures, surgical or otherwise, on a ship famed for its lurches.) Nelson will be apprised of the rendezvous coordinates via courier.

    The bad guys, via their steno spy, immediately learn of the situation and prepare to exploit it. The coordinates having been established, they are placed in a very cheap-looking metal cuff, which could probably be cut off with a decent pair of kitchen shears. Kowalski is called in (taking a reluctant leave of the pretty steno spy) and gets cuffed. The steno spy, meanwhile, uses her multi-purpose glasses to report the route Kowalski will be taking--apparently they had already been informed previously of several possible routes. 'Ski goes by motorcycle--which no one had asked if he was capable of driving; maybe you can't get AA clearance unless you know how. He is quickly waylaid with a wire stretched across the road, which could quite easily have decapitated him if it had been a little higher. It's miraculous that he wasn't more seriously injured. A sultry brunette pulls up as Kowalski is staggering to his feet. It's a different woman, but on casual glance, it almost could have been the steno spy in a black wig. It's not necessary to knock 'Ski out--he does that all by himself. He is hustled into a van, where, with an X-ray type device, they scan the metal cuff and the paper folded up inside, with the greatest of ease. (And this is supposed to be a high security device!) Kowalski is then placed back where he had fallen, the whole thing taking only a couple of minutes. 'Ski reawakens, and, with only a few words for the pretty brunette (that must have been some blow to the head) he picks up the motorcycle (conveniently undamaged) and goes on his way.

    Kowalski delivers the information, passing off his battered appearance as an accident. Oddly, considering the situation, Nelson doesn't press him about it. Elsewhere, Dr. Taylor leaves his clinic in the (presumably) capable hands of his friend, Laura, preparing to leave on his secret mission. He's promptly knocked down by a hit-and-run car. Laura rushes to his side, yelling for a doctor, apparently forgetting, in the stress of the moment, that she is one. The next scene, the Chairman of the Bad Guys discusses Dr. Taylor's tragic "accident" with the person who will take his place--Dr. Laura Rettig. I realize that, at this point in time, having T.V. characters smoking was completely taken for granted, but Dr. Rettig, who looked quite elegant walking with Dr. Taylor, manages to look remarkably tawdry with a cigarette hanging from her mouth. She demonstrates how dangerous the MGQ can be with just a little more power added in, turning the contents of a raw egg to dry powder without damaging the shell. The gauges have been altered to show a normal reading even when the secret power switch is turned on. We learn, in passing, that Dr. Taylor has died. Presumably Bad Guys, Inc, has decided to leave everything up to Dr. Rettig, as they make no use of the information stolen from Kowalski.

    Seaview prepares to get underway, Nelson relaying the navigation instructions. They'll be travelling submerged at 40 knots, which should get them to their destination in 13 hours. The President will be brought on board by diving bell. The surgical team arrives, with Dr. Rettig following shortly thereafter, looking very glamorous compared with the somber surgical team. Once underway, the doctors prepare the Sickbay for the procedure. (Seaview's own doctor is nowhere to be seen.) Dr. Rettig tests the MGQ. Up in the Control Room, Chip Morton reports their speed at 35 knots, while the Engine Room states that it is 40 knots, as ordered. Curley starts checking the intruments. The Engine Room sees their course at 235 true, while Chip's instruments show 170. Nelson has noticed that his watch is not running correctly. A magnetic zone may be the source of the problem, and Nelson wonders if it's something brought aboard. He heads to Sickbay. The sonar man comments that they seem to be closer to the bottom than they should be. (Hold that thought.) In Sickbay, Dr. Rettig denies that the MGQ could be responsible, and demonstrates the machine without turning on the extra power. Crane arranges for detectors to be set up to triangulate the source of the problem if it occurs again. Before the instruments have a change to recalibrate, Seaview sideswipes a rock formation. The ballast controls are damaged, and the pressure is rising. Curley goes to the room housing the Emergency Valve, quickly followed by Nelson and Crane. Crewman Clark is already frantically attempted to get the hatch open. Finding that the aft controls are stuck, in the most unaccessible area (natch!) Clark volunteers to crawl inside and free up the gears by hand. Their only other option is to replace the hatch and crack the valve, flooding that whole section. They would then have to rush to the nearest port before sinking, and the mission, of course, would be blown. They'll have to do it anyway if the pressure rises 3 points above redline. Clark looks a little nervous, but gamely goes in anyway. It's a very claustrophobic scene--dark, wet, steaming and sparking. It takes Clark quite some time to reach the gears. The pressure gauge, on the other hand, is rising fast. Just as it reaches redline, Clark gets his arm jammed within the gears. I found it amazing that no one heard him yell. Nelson calls for Clark. Getting no answer, Crane (heroic as always) climbs in after him. As the gauge edges higher, Nelson orders the hatch replaced, and then Curley breaks the glass over the valve. Nelson counts off ten more seconds (less; he counts very fast) as Crane frees Clark. In spite of the fact that Clark did not seem to accomplish anything before getting stuck, the gears are freed up moments after Clark is--just as Curley starts to turn the valve. (Always gotta have things in the nick of time.) Clark is presumably bundled off to Sickbay (with perhaps a commendation to console him) and Seaview resumes course.

    They quickly make up the lost time and rendezvous with the destroyer. (They really needed some more stock footage--the Seaview is running submerged, but the outside shot shows her at the surface.) Crane goes to the nose to direct the joining of bell and submarine by eye, then they head for the Missile Room to see the President brought aboard. (Must have been rather awkward passing him down the bell and through the escape hatch on a stretcher.) Commander Jamieson, Naval surgeon, accompanies him, and will assist in the procedures. The EKG and the X-rays are encouraging, if surgury becomes necessary. (An extra man shows up in the room--Seaview's doctor, perhaps.) Dr. Rettig starts powering up the machine, then turns on the secret switch. The sound intensity changes, worrying the surgeons, although Rettig states that the gauges are normal. As the others look for themselves, the Control Room instruments go haywire again. For some reason, Rettig turns off the machine completely as they inject the President with an isotope solution. However, the detectors and the computer have already gone to work, and they triangulate the source--Sickbay. Nelson dives out the door. He has somehow deduced that the magnetic problem is connected with Foul Play. In Sickbay, Rettig starts moving the machine into position--and actually moves it enough so that it should have hit not only the President, but the doctor standing beside him. Nelson shoves past the Feds standing at the door and jumps for the machine, which promptly starts shattering bottles along the wall. (Incredibly, no one gets hit with the beam.) Having seen their plans come to an end, it's surprising that Rettig did not attempt to throttle the President or hit him over the head or any such--instead, she just stood quietly until they stepped up to arrest her. She snapped, "Don't touch me!" at the arresting Fed and marched out with proud defiance--and they let her! This woman just tried to kill the President, for Heaven's sake! This is no time to be gentlemanly.

    Seaview manages to stay carefully on trim while the surgury is underway. They return to Norfolk, getting a personal "Thank You" from the President. General Beeker also thanks them--rather shortly--and informs them that they are all restricted again until the White House works out what story they're going to give to the press. Nelson philisophically points out that they don't know anyone in Norfolk, anyway. Quiet night of reading, chess, and gin, I suppose. Quite an exciting and well-paced episode--although I wish they had explained that situation with Kowalski that went nowhere.
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