It may be a rather obvious plot to use for a series about a submarine, but it's well written, well shot, and well acted.
The disaster hinges on a few moments of time--just a few moments! Crewman Evans is anxious to get emergency leave to go to his wife, who's having some complications with her pregnancy. Bishop, who's the ranking officer in the Control Room insists (not unreasonably) that Evans wait until Bishop can give the matter proper attention, but Evans insists on knowing now. When Evans threatens to go over Bishop's head (not to mention Chip Morton's and Captain Crane's)Bishop wraps himself in authority and threatens Evans in return, prompting a fight. Sonarman Blake jumps up to intervene, leaving his post for those precious few moments, leaving it for the Admiral to spot the minefield they are blundering into.
Naturally, they are not going to get out of it just so easy. The mini-sub almost manages it, but then the released mine goes off, causing a chain reaction that destroys the mini-sub and nearly the Seaview. Inside, pandemonium ensues, with skewed camera angles, yelling crewmen, and water spraying everywhere. The corridors are no narrower than they've always been, yet there's a stronger sense of claustrophobia.
Crewman Harker is horrified when he's forced to dog a hatch against a friend trapped below, but actually, there's a nastier scene just before this, when a crewman rushes up to a hatch, yells, "It's too late!" and slams it against a man who is right at the threshold, moments from safety.
We're introduced to the first Ship's Doctor of the Seaview (previously, we've only seen a medic or two) and we won't see him again. Possibly they decided he was too young for the role. (But cute!)
We're never told just how many men died before they got things (sort of) under control. Obviously a lot. They did a very interesting job filming the interaction between Blake and the rest of the crew. Are they actually looking at him with accusing eyes, or does Blake only think that they are, and reacts accordingly? Harker is the only one who blames him directly.
Richard Basehart gives a superb display of saying a lot without uttering a word, as he happily speaks with Chip Morton over the emergency phone...and then his face changes. Seaview's diving bell is not ready to be sent down, and it is the only bell on the coastline that can come to that depth.
There are a great many character vignettes. Interestingly, Crewman Evans, while defending Blake, takes none of the blame on himself, although the responsibility is largely his. Neither does anyone else. They instead push all blame onto Bishop, who, while obnoxious, was actually only doing his job. Nevertheless, when informed that Bishop will die unless given extra oxygen, all the men, even Evans, agree to give up their share of the emergency supplies. Harker, who needs to blame someone for his friend's death, keeps harassing Blake, even accusing him of hoarding oxygen when Blake is merely distributing the canisters as ordered. Blake, for his part, doesn't even try to explain what he's doing, but simply attacks Harker. Crane shows a surprising gentleness while tending O'Brien, who has collapsed from the bad air (O'Brien was actually the first to show a reaction, so his collapse wasn't surprising) while O'Brien himself is utterly embarrassed at his display of weakness. Collins is an enigma. One wonders how this man got a place on the Seaview in the first place, given his utter self-absorbtion. Even Harker is ready to jump in when assistance is needed. We can't feel too sorry for Collins, although his frantic pleas for help are unnerving to listen to.
Nelson finally points out to Harker what was obvious to everyone else--that Blake will have to live with the consequences of his actions. Blake chooses not to, instead sacrificing himself to flood a chamber and bring the Seaview back to an angle where the diving bell--finally arrived--can link up to her. Kudos to the stunt man, who showed Blake being slammed backwards to sprawl in what must have been an uncomfortable heap.
Chip Morton's "Permission to come aboard, sir?" must have been the sweetest sounds ever heard by the men in the Control Room. The business of clearing the mine field and bringing the men to the surface could have encompassed another whole episode, but it was left off scene. Naming the Evans' baby after Harriman Nelson was a nice touch, but a nicer one would have been to include Blake's name, as well.
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