Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 4 Episode 6

Man of Many Faces

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Oct 29, 1967 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • Anyone who thinks that the fourth season episodes were poor obviously never saw this one. It has a few flaws, but it ranks up with the best of any of the other seasons.

    For a change, it doesn't start on the Seaview. A door with a red light indicates that we are at a studio, with a program in process. Nelson, in full class A uniform, approaches, only to be told by a young man that he'll have to wait until the program is completed. Looks like Nelson is running a little late for whatever is going on. Nelson claims that he has special permission, and brings out a folded note. Showing it to the young man, he drops it and then clobbers the young man as he bends over. Whoa! Obviously this situation is serious. As he opens the door, we can hear a voice talking about extremely cheap, unlimited power to run the world's machinery. Sounds like Utopia (especially these days). As Nelson cautiously approaches, we see what will turn out to be a live press conference, with several men at a long table, the central man questioning a Dr. Mason, who seems to have learned how to harness the power of the tides. The main interviewer mentions that a number of people have spoken against Mason's ideas. Mason is perfectly willing to name names, one in particular who has fought him from the very beginning. (Our suspicions immediately kick in.) Mason had called this press conference so quickly because he wanted to get his story in before his antagonist could call his own press conference and start spreading his lies about Mason. Even if we didn't already suspect who Mason's antagonist is, there seems to be a touch of mad scientist paranoia here. If he truly could come up with a means of safe, cheap power, only the people making their profits from expensive fuels would be objecting. As Mason slowly but inevitably works his way to his denouement--his antagonist is Admiral Harriman Nelson--the audience's collective jaw drops as Nelson pulls a gun, approaches the table, shouts that Mason is a liar--and shoots him. That's one way of ensuring that you have the audience's attention.

    The credits roll, and then we're at the Nelson Institute. In what is presumably Nelson's office, Crane watches grimly as the live broadcast continues, moments after a temporarily insane Nelson committed the murder. Mason's body has been removed, and the hunt is on for Nelson, who managed to escape. Crane snaps off the set--and walks over to Nelson, dressed in his common uniform, looking somewhat pensive. Ah, NOW we know--it was an impersonator, and a darned good one at that! Crane starts to make a call that will inform the world that Nelson was demonstrably miles away at the time, but the phone seems to be dead. Nelson, with a rather knowing expression, moves to a cabinet housing a radio, and, as he obviously guessed, the radio is being jammed. This plot, whatever it is, is well organized. Crane is confused--all he has to do is testify. (It doesn't occur to them that Crane's testimony about his commander and friend might be considered a teensy bit biased.) In any case, trying to establish testimony will take time Nelson can't afford. Nelson knows about Mason's project, and he knows why it won't work. (As soon as we were sure Nelson was against Mason, we knew Mason must be wrong.) Mason is a genius, Nelson grants him that, and he and his team put together an electromagnet larger and more powerful than any before. Nelson was the only one who knew about it, (perhaps Mason had consulted him in the early stages) and he thinks he knows where the magnet is hidden: on the ocean floor. Mason had hidden it in order to control the monopoly on the power source. (Even extremely cheap power will make you a multi-trillionaire if you're the only one who's selling it.) Mason's magnet has already established a magnetic field around the moon (one might suspect that he had NOT gotten permission from the world's governments to do so), and the flaw is already showing. The moon is starting to move out of it's orbit. This was Mason's one blind spot; he utterly refused to consider this possibility. If they (meaning the crew of the Seaview, of course--who else?) can't turn off the magnet in time, the moon will crash into the Earth. Not a pleasant prospect.

    At this point, we see a police car pulling up in front of the Institute. Inside, Crane thinks that the killer must be one of Mason's associates--presumably one who wants to collect the profits. Nelson ruefully concedes that at the moment, no one is going to want to listen to Nelson and his end-of-the-world warnings. All they can do is find the magnet and destroy it, without help. A red light flashes on Nelson's desk, warning that someone is approaching. Nelson quickly conceals himself behind a moveable paneled wall. Instead of the police, Sharkey comes in, in full uniform, although not class A. He had watched the program, and was stunned at the outcome. Nelson stuns him further by coming out. Sharkey is instantly convinced of Nelson's innocence--he couldn't possibly have gotten to the Institute from the studio already. They hear the siren as the police approach from the gate. Nothing like advertising your presence. Nelson asks Crane to prepare the Seaview, which will take three hours. Crane counters with his own suggestion--let Sharkey prepare the Seaview, while he drives to Los Angelos to make a sworn statement. This will cancel the arrest order and the government will be forced to listen and perhaps provide aid. Crane slips out the back way as Nelson hides himself again. Apparently the police do think Nelson could have jumped from the studio to his institute. Sharkey invites them to come in for a good look. (That would have convinced me that Sharkey was in on Nelson's plot.) Crane comes down a fire escape, jumps in his bright red car (I'm no good with cars, but I know that it's one of those super classy convertibles that men drool over--captaining the Seaview must pay handsomely) and peels out, followed immediately by someone in a drab beige car. We see Crane racing down a long, empty stretch of road. He spots his pursuer, snatches off his hat, and settles down to some serious speed. Somehow, the ordinary car manages to catch up with the little hotrod, and then Crane finds the road blocked by a large truck. Men with guns leap out. Sensibly, Crane knows when he's licked, and vacates the car with no attempted heroics.

    Back at the Seaview, preparations are underway. Chip Morton, in full uniform (what were they all doing, anyway?) arrives back in response to Sharkey's call. He also knows the situation, and Sharkey assures him that it's not true. Sparks informs Chip of a special broadcast coming up, and they (and Nelson, in his cabin) settle in to watch. The broadcast, with the same interviewer, mentions "wild rumors" that Nelson had been far away from the studio at the time of the shooting. Just where did those rumors come from, I'd like to know? Did Sharkey put in a call? Captain Lee Crane is present in the studio (uh, oh, we can see what's coming here) and the interviewer makes it obvious that the "rumors" hold that Crane is Nelson's witness. Crane says that yes, he was at the Institute at the time of the shooting...but he was alone. Oh, boy.

    The truck that served as a barricade goes down what looks like the same stretch of road. Inside, Crane, bound but not gagged, manuvers himself over to a box (which fortunately had not been properly latched) prods it open, extracts what looks like a metal tent stake with his teeth, and quickly severs his bonds. Moments later, he dives out of the truck onto an embankment, picks himself up, and races down the road. The truck quickly stops, and two men jump out and open fire, but it's dark, and Crane vanishes. On the Seaview, Sharkey's taking inventory of supplies down in the Missile Room. Kowalski wonders just how Nelson is going to get on board with all those guards out on the docks. Speak of the devil--a large crate is lowered from above (that Missile Room seems to have a very high ceiling when it needs one!) and as soon as it is safely down, they hear a knocking sound. They quickly yank off one side of the crate, and Nelson emerges. Not a dignified entrance, but an effective one, nonetheless. Chip calls down; they're ready to cast off, but there's been no word from Nelson. Nelson gives the word. Chip recovers quickly, and mentions that Captain Crane is topside, requesting permission to enter. Sharkey and 'Ski make plain what they think of their captain's perfidy, but Nelson, also sounding angry, gives permission. A dusty and battered-looking Crane enters the Control Room. He probably assumes that it's his appearance that's causing everyone to stare. Chip responds to him coldly. Nelson, on the other hand, coming down the circular stairway (he seems to have taken the long way around from the Missile Room) simply asks Crane, "What happened?" Of course, he has good reason to believe that things may not be as they look. Crane hesitates (which may have confirmed Nelson's suspicions) and they retreat to Nelson's cabin to discuss the matter. Crane takes the time to tidy up as he explains. He had learned about the special broadcast when he got back, and plans to tell the crew the truth (although as far as I know, he never did). Crane is amazed at the impersonator's skill, but Nelson is more interested in why he'd doing it. Whoever is doing it obviously does not believe that the moon is coming out of orbit. Sparks calls Crane to the radio shack, while Nelson speaks of reaching the magnet in time--clearly, he's pretty certain of the location. Crane has a call from the Coast Guard. Their port clearance has been revoked; they are to return immediately. The Seaview is past the breakwater, but a cutter is overhead, armed with a search warrent. Crane tells Sparks where the Coast Guard can go. (Tsk, tsk! They're only doing their job; hopefully Sparks was more diplomatic.) Crane orders a crash dive to ninety feet. Chip doesn't seem quite so cold, but perhaps that's because he's got orders to carry out. Nelson comes to the Control Room, and Crane reports. Nelson has a map with the target area; Crane estimates that it will be twenty-four or -five hours to reach it. Not good enough. In a little less than twenty-five hours, the moon will have passed the point of no return. (There's no mention, by the way, of just how they're going to get the moon BACK to its proper orbit; do they think it will just slip back, or will we all have to get used to major, permanent changes in the tides, weather, and so forth?) Crane thinks they can shave off twenty minutes, with luck. (Where's those Strontium 90 pellets when you need 'em?) Crane works out the course, marks several points along the way where he wants to be notified, and hands it over to Chip.

    This next scene, judging by another scene further on, apparently takes place further up the Control Room, toward the nose, although it doesn't really look like it, or sound like it; it seems more like a private room, but not Nelson's. Nelson had set up a video recording of the broadcast, back at the Institute, thinking that it might be useful later. (On the show, and with today's viewers, this would have been taken entirely for granted; back then it would have seemed like something special.) Watching the broadcast again, Nelson cannot see any flaw in the impersonator's performance. Crane plans to check on the ship's progress and then head for bed. Apparently some little time has gone by; Crane furiously confronts Chip with a printout with the course settings. They are completely opposite to what he had ordered a half hour previously. Chip stares at him, then summons Sharkey, a few feet away, and asks him to report what he had been doing. Sharkey affirms that Chip Morton had been with him in the Missile Room, checking stores, for the last forty-five minutes. It dawns on Crane (and the audience) what has happened. Rather brusquely (there's no time for the amenties, and anyway, captains aren't suppose to apologize) Crane tells Chip to disregard what he said, hands him the correct course settings and heads for Nelson's cabin. Their problems have just been jacked up a number of notches; not only do they have a stowaway, they have an enemy who is skilled at disguise. They won't be able to trust anyone. Anything could happen while one of them is out of sight. Crane says that they'll just have to forgo sleep for the duration, disregarding the fact that he is close to total exhaustion already. (So why doesn't he take a nap in Nelson's cabin, in Nelson's presence?) Crane decides to pop down to the Sickbay for a quick pill, and Nelson concurs. Considering that they had just spoken about not trusting anyone.... Down in Sickbay, Doc expresses concern about drugging Crane into wakefulness, but Crane can sleep after the mission. Doc then states that he has a fast-acting stimulant to hand. The discerning viewer will not be surprised in the least to spot the real Doc, bound and gagged in the next room. "Doc" returns with the hypo, Crane rolls up his sleeve, and...cue commercial break.

    It's a little stunning to come back and realize that Crane has already been given the shot; Doc had no chance to warn him, and Nelson comes into the Sickbay just a little too late. Nelson says that he wants a pick-me-up like Crane, but it seems the real reason is that it occurred to him--belatedly--that they shouldn't be so trusting about a man armed with drugs. He asks "Doc" about a special medical report, and "Doc" responds that he's been too busy to get to it. Nelson promptly decks him, just as Crane reacts to his shot, doubling over in agony. "Doc" makes his escape as Nelson rushes to Crane, then hears Doc kicking the walls and runs to untie him. Hopefully Doc also gets well paid for his labors, and really should get a bonus; taking a sniff at the dregs of the hypodermic, he leaps for his drug cabinet and gives Crane a counterdose moments before it would have been too late. Unfortunately, Doc did not see who it was that knocked him out. The man cannot leave the sub--but he can look like anyone, so there's not much point in making a search. (Actually, if they'd gone about it right...but then, the man probably would have taken to the air ducts.) Crane, who missed death by inches, insists that he's all right (and is obviously lying through his teeth). Seaview is brought to periscope depth (actually, they were already there, unless Crane ordered a deeper dive when we weren't looking) and they take a look at the moon, which looks ten times bigger. As always, Nelson's calculations have proven to be correct. (Nelson's probably wishing that he'd been wrong for a change.) By now, of course, the whole world must be aware of what's happening; Nelson decides to break radio silence and let them know WHY. Nelson hands the message to Sparks, who begins reading it carefully, prompting Nelson to ask if it's all in order. If the viewer's hackles don't raise at this point, he or she hasn't been watching very closely. Nelson turns away, remarking that they must be suspicious of everyone. Everyone but the radioman, who gets up and leaves as soon as Nelson does, passing Sharkey along the way. A moment later, Sparks walks up to Sharkey from the opposite direction, prompting a beautiful flabbergast from Sharkey. Sharkey starts to shrug it off, but then Sparks mentions the message from Sharkey that had taken him out of the Control Room. Sharkey didn't call anyone. Sparks, for his part, shrugs it off; they're on radio silence, after all, so his absence didn't cause any harm. Both men are operating a little below par, here; I'd certainly want to know who was passing fake messages around. The imposter isn't being too brilliant, either; if he hasn't heard Nelson, Crane, and the crew discussing the movement of the moon, he now has in hand a message carefully spelling out what is going on--but he still continues in his nefarious purpose. Up forward in the Control Room (and how did they miss seeing Sparks pass by?) Nelson and Crane are checking the calculations again. Sonar reports a submarine following them. Nelson forbids any firing on the sub, even if she fires on them. (No one considers that this sub might have been sent by the plotters; Nelson assumes that it's a Naval vessel, just doing its duty.) Crane orders anti-sonar procedures, and silent running. This next part is marvelous, as the Control Room crew, and Sharkey down in the Missile Room, and presumably everyone on board (sans one) stand tensely, listening to the churning sound of the approaching sub, getting louder, louder...and then away. She passed by without seeing them. Suddenly everyone starts as a very loud banging sound commences. Sharkey is right by the source; he sees Kowalski (we know better) banging on a pipe. Kowalski flees, pausing to hurl his mallet at Sharkey.

    The other sub is still hovering in the vicinity. Perhaps she hasn't seen them, but perhaps she just doesn't want to destroy the Seaview, even to get Nelson. Sharkey comes up, reporting what Kowalski had done. Nelson decides that it's time to explain--but only to Sharkey. (Why not Chip Morton, the exec?) They go down to Nelson's cabin. Problem is, can they be sure that Sharkey is Sharkey? They start asking some personal questions, which Sharkey, on edge, answers slowly. He was born in Brooklyn--well, Coney Island. (What's wrong with that?) He went to Lincoln High School, where he only got one A in a subject. Shrkey is horrified. He mutters, "Home Ec" but Nelson makes him specify it. Cooking. Sharkey apparently joined the class as a joke. Sex discrimination is still alive and well. Nelson and Crane figure that Sharkey knows the crew better than anyone. Their main fear now is that the man will attempt sabotage. They have booby-trapped the main powder locker on the assumption that the man will look for explosives. At this point, if he'd been thinking clearly, Sharkey should have mentioned the odd incident with Sparks. (The imposter, BTW, is very smart; he keeps anticipating what Nelson and Crane will do next, and arranges to be there.)

    Crane checks the moon again--getting bigger all the time. Nelson calls him to the viewscreen to see a broadcast showing the effects of the moon's movement--high tides, massive flooding, hurricanes, tidal waves. (And I'll bet it will be all tidied up by next week.) They mention that they're still hunting Nelson, although at this point, you'd think one little murderer would be of little consequence. Chip complains to Crane that Sharkey is asking some funny questions. Crane, straight-faced, says that he's just doing his job. I think Chip is going to be pretty miffed when this is all over. Sharkey, following a crewman down a hall, takes up a stance in front of the main powder locker, which seems to be a direct contradiction to his orders. How is he going to see anyone sneaking to the locker when he's right in front of it? As it is, someone's already there; the hatch slowly opens behind him. Oh, noooooooo.... There's a quick shot of the Seaview, quietly crusing along--and then the powder locker explodes, hurtling Sharkey out the door. Crane races up, forgetting entirely about their impostor; he simply calls for a corpsman to get Sharkey to Sickbay, in spite of the fact that Sharkey surely wouldn't have gotten caught in the trap. The real Sharkey (or is it the real Sharkey? It's getting very confusing) runs up, having left off standing in front of the locker at some point. Crane gapes at him, then looks at the unconcious man. With a perfect "Mission: Impossible" peel (they started the previous season) Crane reveals...Kowalski? They built up to a great climax, then jerked the rug out from under us!

    In Sickbay, the groggy Kowalski stoutly maintains that he got hit on the head and remembers nothing more. He's been saying the same since he woke up; Doc is certain that he's telling the truth. Nelson calls down, and Crane reports. Nelson thinks that the imposter (still one step ahead of them) hynotised Kowalski to use him as a decoy. (Hmmm. Maybe it was the real 'Ski banging on the pipes.) Crane is summoned to Nelson's cabin, where they watch the video of the shooting again. They're less than two hours from the target point--their man will be getting desperate. Nelson, however, is certain that he's not desperate enough to destroy himself along with the Seaview. As long as he's aboard, they are safe. Chip promptly calls with the news that the gunner's mate has reported a large package of explosive missing--from a lesser powder locker, presumably. The package is enough to destroy the Seaview. Crane goes off to investigate, while Nelson replays the video again, this time pausing on a closeup of the killer's hand at the moment he fired. Nelson obviously sees something, this time, and quickly exits the cabin. Crane enters the Missile Room--wait a minute, why would Crane be carrying a small air tank? This has to be the impostor, and so it turns out. "Crane" attaches some wires on the tank, which sets it to ticking, then places it in the escape hatch. At this point, one of our regular background characters walks in, caryying a real air tank (for whatever reason) "Crane" ducks out of sight. The crewman hears the ticking and finds the bomb, but "Crane" jumps him as he grabs for the mike. The courageous crewman, nailed three times before he can react, still comes back for more and gets in a good swing before he's knocked out and dragged away.

    Up in the Control Room, we immediately know that it's the fake Crane when he asks Chip if the Flying Sub is prepped to go. He's taking it out alone--an idea that he has. Now, if they'd just thought to warn Chip--but that would have spoiled the plot. Chip sees him down the hatch, and the imposter, who is remarkably well informed about the Seaview, expertly drops into the seat and powers up. FS1 goes merrily on its way, just as the real Crane shows up. A stunned Chip (he doesn't flabbergast as well as Sharkey) reports, and Crane reports to Nelson--but there's no answer. (Bet I know where he is.) Crane orders Chip to maintain their course, as well as sounding General Quarters. As the alarm sounds, Kowalski brushes past Doc and vacates the Sickbay, as other men rush to their stations. FS1 is now in the air. I was really expecting Nelson to step out of a corner. Sharkey and 'Ski are now tracking the corridors with what looks like a peculier Geiger counter. Crane joins them as it leads them to the Missile Room, and then to the escape chamber. Now that they know what they're dealing with, Sharkey calmly observes that the bomb is safe as long as it keeps ticking--when it stops, they'll have ten seconds or less. Moments later, of course, it does stop. Crane snatches it up, and they all leap for the torpedo tubes. Crane jams it in and closes the hatch, while Sharkey hits the button. The bomb goes off, and--good heavens! It's nearly the end of the episode, and we just now get our first lurch of the day! Not much of one, at that. As they start to relax, they hear a banging sound. I liked this moment--even if it was a Familiar Face, it was still just a background character, but they all reacted as though he was moments from death, as they opened a lower missile tube and found the crewman who had fought the impersonator. Crane, himself, helped carry him to Sickbay.

    Up in FS1, "Crane" checks his watch, and smugly observes that they're all gone. No more Nelson, no more Crane. At this point (Yes! I knew it!) a curtain in an alcove moves aside to reveal Nelson. Nelson's a little too sure of himself, as he confronts "Crane" and orders him out of the driver's seat. (Nelson was quite sure of his crew, too; there was no indication whatsoever that that he thought they might not have found the bomb in time.) "Crane" jumps Nelson, first hitting a switch which put FS1 into a power dive. They sure make up for the lack of Seaview lurching, here--FS1 bobbles back and forth as the men fight. Nelson finally overpowers "Crane" and grabs for the controls. I thought he was going to make it a controlled dive into the water, which would have been cool, but he pulled it up at the last second--very cliche. Nelson immediately returns to Seaview, hauling his prisoner with him. He reaches for Crane's face, and...cue commercial break. Keep us hovering a wee bit longer.

    The mask comes of, with quite a twist--it's Dr. Mason! Nelson doesn't seem too surprised, and anyway, he's got more important things to do. Kowalski has reported contact with their target. (Say, where has Patterson been? I haven't seen him for a while, now.) Crane orders four missiles launched, and Chip relays the order. In a nice touch, the explosion comes up exactly in front of the moon (which actually doesn't look all that big). Now they can get some answers. Nelson had observed a ring on "Nelson's" right hand (oddly, it was on the middle finger) which Mason is now wearing. (He must have slipped it on after he got into FS1, because he wasn't wearing it before.) Nelson presumably recognized the ring, which would explain why he wasn't surprise to find Mason alive. The man shot at the press conference has been a carefully trained and made-up assistant, who of course did not realize that he was slated to be killed. Mason seems remarkably indifferent to his colleague's death, and to the situation as a whole, which I think mars the ending somewhat. Mason, even after hearing what was going on, seeing that message from Nelson (and presumably seeing an extra-large moon from FS1) had blindly continued on his course, yet, when Nelson was about to destroy his baby, he didn't react in the slightest. Nor did he make any comments afterwards. There's been mass destruction and probably a lot of deaths, yet for him, it's just, "Oh, well." He heads unprotesting to the brig, leaving Nelson to wonder just what sort of punishment would fit a man who so nearly destroyed the world.

    An excellent, on-the-edge-of-your-seat episode.