Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 1 Episode 13

The Blizzard Makers

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Dec 07, 1964 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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out of 10
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  • Compared with the average Voyage episode, this one is rather slow-paced and quiet, at least until near the end. However, I found it quite interesting. Werner Klemperer gives some depth to what could have been a flat, stereotyped villain.

    It opens with a classic television gimmick: against a dark backdrop flecked with snow, we see a series of newspapers whirl up to the screen with headlines screaming that a bizarre cold wave has hit the South. People are panicking. (I can believe this. Once, on a visit to North Carolina, I was startled to find that the schools had been closed, on a fairly cool but bright, clear day. Their forecast had indicated that it might snow a bit. It didn't actually snow at all, but they closed down anyway.) Nelson believes that the condition is caused by a shift in the Gulf Stream. (The headline just says "Nelson"--and assumes that all the readers will know just which Nelson it is. Now, that's fame.) The final newspaper states that Nelson will confer with Dr. Melton. It is presumably these last two newspaper articles that set events in motion.

    They further hammer in the bizarreness of the situation by having Dr. Melton living in Sunnyvale, Florida--"The Sunshine City". Someone is watching as Nelson arrives at the Melton household. He speaks with another man, Cregar, who states that Nelson must not get help from Melton, and, after Nelson leaves, sets in motion the "telephone plan". A man comes to the Melton house, claiming that they are checking the telephones because of the blizzard. In Melton's bedroom, he tampers with the bedside telephone. Later in the evening, after the Meltons have gone to bed (in separate beds; this was a '60's television household) the telephone rings, triggering a gas. (Lucky for their plan, no neighbors called earlier to chat.) Cregar and two other men enter the house, Cregar stating that the gas effect will last ten hours. His men bundle Melton up and carry him off.

    Nelson having presumably travelled to Florida by plane, the Seaview is on its way to rendezvous with him, travelling at the surface so that Kowalski can get stuck with the duty of standing watch on the conning tower. Despite the weather, they are properly on course, and should arrive in two hours. Once there, Nelson says that he's leaving for Washington in the morning to get approval for his plan, and will hopefully be back by evening. Nelson is confident that Washington will agree, now that Melton has agreed with Nelson's theory.

    The following scene starts off looking rather silly. It seems to be a kind of hospital/lab setup. Melton, on a table, seems to be wearing a very early model of a hair permanent machine, while the doctor simply tapes a little gadget to his stomach. There is no evidence whatever of any invasive procedure, yet Melton's right frontal lobe has been circumvented and he has been programmed. Further evidence that they haven't done much is shown when Melton is revived almost instantly. (They must have given him something to counter the effect of the gas.) Melton recognizes Cregar, although it's not clear if he knows him from the programming, or if he has extensive knowledge of the bad guy network. Cregar shows Melton a large beaker, and states that it is Admiral Harriman Nelson. Handing Melton a gun, Melton promptly shoots the beaker. After the doctor shows Cregar the simple method of introducing new programming, Cregar instructs Melton to kill himself, and Melton, without hesitation, raises the gun to his head. Cregar quickly intervenes--but he does not actually countermand his order, which means that Melton should have tried killing himself again. Cregar speaks admiringly of Melton, which is unnecessary, as Melton at this point is little more than a robot. He tells Melton that Nelson is right about the Gulf Stream--which is why he has to be stopped. He asks Melton to come up with something more subtle for Nelson's demise. At this point, the scene becomes quietly intense. Melton merely asks, "Chemicals?" and Cregar indicates that he can have whatever he wants. Melton rapidly scans the available selection and goes methodically to work. It is utterly silent, except for the soft chinks and gurgles of the containers. Background music would have spoiled this segment. Cregar watches intently, obviously curious, but he refrains from interrupting the genius at work. Melton is somehow aware that his papers had been brought along, and he saturates them in the chemical mixture, which will create an explosive sensitive to low pressure--such as found in an ascending airplane. Melton is returned to his house, and gets to the bedroom just as his wife is stirring (and probably wondering why she feels so hung over). Melton goes to the Seaview, and offers Nelson his notes to help with Nelson's presentation to Washington. He then drives Nelson to the airport. Having walked with Nelson inside the building, Melton returns to his car--and for a brief moment, looks troubled. The pilot takes Nelson's briefcase on board as Nelson takes a telephone call. The plane then lifts off--and explodes.

    On the Seaview, a stunned Crane tells Chip Morton of the Admiral's death--although they're waiting for confirmation. Back home, Melton finds that his wife recovered sufficiently to go out to her hair appointment. Cregar is inside, and hands Melton a gun. He doesn't actually order him to kill himself, so this order must have been transmitted through Melton's stomach, so to speak, or else it was left over from when he shot the beaker. (Although in that case you would think that Melton would simply have arranged to wreck his car or something on the way home.) This time, Melton clearly hesitates as he raises the gun--luckily for him, as moments later the doorbell rings. Nelson is there. The telephone call had informed him that Washington had already O.K'd his plan, so Nelson didn't waste time going up. Melton asks what Nelson is going to do now, and Nelson, astonished, replies that he's going on with the plan. Melton's brain control gadget seems to work telepathically in emergencies, because when Nelson asks if Melton is still coming with him, Cregar, in another room, nods his head, and Melton nods with him.

    On their way out (and I'd like to know just how they calculated where to go) Melton lectures the senior officers on the Gulf Stream, likening it to a wall that kept the cooler Northern waters from mixing with the warmer South. Something has shifted the wall's position, and it's up to the Seaview to find it and fix it. Some time later, Melton fills up a pen with a chemical mixture, and tosses it in on Nelson's bunk while Nelson is sleeping. Perhaps it's the jolt as it lands on the bunk that triggers off the chemical and it begins spurting flame. Curley's in the hall, bringing a report to Crane (whose bedtime must be later than the Admiral's.) Crane spots smoke under Nelson's door. They haul Nelson out, send a fire detail in, and head for the surface to get the smoke cleared out. This next scene is confusing, timewise. Chip Morton is at the periscope scanning something odd up on the surface. Crane comes in, and his comments make it sound as though the sub has not yet surfaced to clear out the smoke, yet Nelson turns up immediately, ready to get some fresh air. Another point--if it was night (and Nelson's pyjamas indicate that he wasn't just taking a nap) how could Chip and Crane identify the dead fish on the surface? (Especially as they seem to be invisible fish.) Crane suggests to Nelson that he must have had some chemicals on his clothing that ignited spontaneously. Nelson doesn't believe it--and he should know if he spilled chemicals--but has no better explanation. Oddly, no one comments on the fact that Nelson has escaped a nasty death twice. Curley's stuck with the assignment of retrieving one dead fish. The sample fish turns out to be full of radiation. Nelson now has an idea of the cause of the Gulf shift--a nuclear explosion of some sort. Melton confesses that he had not run any tests on their water samples for radiation. Nelson is angry that Melton would miss such an obvious possibility. Melton counters that he is a guest, not an employee. Nelson apologizes, and wonders if Melton is fidgety from being on a sub--not everyone can handle it. (Including Richard Basehart, who once stated that he could never be on an actual submarine, as he was claustrophobic.)

    Tracing the radioactivity, the Seaview locates a buoy with a whip antenna. (The antenna seemed to be as visible as the dead fish; all I could see was a small loop sticking out of the top.) Kowalski is sent out to follow the chain down (but only as far as he can go and come back in ten minutes, because of the radiation). Kowalski says that the chain goes clear to the ocean floor. I don't know why everyone seemed surprised to hear this, how else do you keep a buoy in place? Sparks picks up an electronic beam at this point, and they track it to a nearby island. Nelson plans to send a landing party to the island, while the Seaview returns to the buoy. Melton tries to protest that it has nothing to do with their project. Nelson should have started suspecting something right then. He doesn't argue with Melton, he simply says that he doesn't agree. The landing party, consisting of Crane, Curley, Kowalski, and the nameless crewman you know isn't coming back, hit the beach. They are quickly spotted. Kowalski sees what Crane describes as a "shock tower", and then sights a large cavern entrance. It's at this point that the pace picks up considerably. Coming to the entrance, a voice orders them to stop and disarm. Nameless of course tries to shoot and gets himself killed (with a nicely effective stunt fall). The scene jumps to a control room inside the cavern, with Cregar in charge. Judging from the shout outside the room, I suspect that Crane and Co. made an attempt to escape. Cregar addresses Crane by his name and rank. (Crane may not be as well known as Nelson, but he gets around.) There is one hour and forty minutes to the end of a countdown. Cregar, as a good T.V. villain should, informs Crane that they are running a series of nuclear tests to provide their country (unnamed) with a weapon of unequalled power. The world will not learn of this until it is too late. Crane is confident that his ship can deal with the situation--until Cregar points out that it's sitting right over the bomb. Placed in a cell, Curley and Kowalski discuss the situation, while Crane contemplates the light fixture. There's a bug on the top. Crane silently points it out, and they make some very labored comments about "bugs" that should have clued any listeners in immediately. Crane pulls a mini-laser from his sock (now, how did their captors miss that?) Telling Curley to stop whistling (which would, in fact, have covered up any sound he made nicely) Crane burns out the doorknob. They knock out a guard, taking his gun and walkie-talkie. Crane doesn't seem to make any adjustments to the walkie-talkie's frequency before using it to call the Seaview to warn the Admiral. David Hedison's voice shifts oddly during this passage. He says firmly that they need to get away. Then, when he speaks of "that hole in the ocean floor", it sounds as though he's shouting to be heard over some noise, although his voice isn't especially loud. Then his voice changes back again. I'm wondering if Hedison recorded the dialogue twice, using different voice tones, and they mixed the two. Crane thinks that Cregar will stop the countdown if he sees the Seaview parked alongside the island with her weapons aimed down his throat. Melton, who has been listening to the conversation, pulls out a gun (stolen from the unattended weapons cabinet) and shoots out the radio. Gesturing the men away from the various controls, he shoots out the panels where the men steer the ship. Chip almost gets himself shot as he lunges for the gun. Melton tells them that they will sit until the bomb goes off, and is utterly indifferent to the fact that he will die, too. A crewman grabs him from behind. The gun twists around, and goes off, hitting Melton in the arm. Melton is hauled to Sickbay, struggling frantically--which may explain why the two crewmen holding him down in Sickbay are not the same two who carried him from the Control Room--Melton must have worn them out. Nelson sends men to Auxilary Steering, which the landlubber Melton of course did not think about. The doctor (or maybe he's just a medic; we won't see him again) states that Melton's arm was just creased. Nelson spots the bandage on Melton's stomach. Melton slumps as soon as the gadget is pulled free. Nelson instantly recognizes the device--he's seen a similar experiment before. He has Chip record and play back the next transmission. Melton awakens totally confused, but quickly starts to remember what he's done. Nelson reassures him that he's not to blame for his actions. The next transmission indicates that Cregar is aware that the Seaview has not been disabled. He now wants Melton to deliver Nelson to the island, and Nelson decides to play along. Nelson rows to shore, Melton holding a gun on him. Crane and Co. are listening in on the search parties. Kowalski (who seems to have the sharpest eyes on this team) spots Nelson and Melton, and prepares to shoot Melton. Crane restrains him, realizing that Melton could not possibly have gotten Nelson off the ship past the entire crew--unless Nelson allowed it. They quietly follow behind. Nelson and Melton enter the cavern's control room. Nelson learns of Crane's escape, and also that there is to be another explosion after the current one. The final bomb is still on the island. Cregar orders Melton to shoot Nelson, and discovers that Melton isn't his puppet anymore. Crane and Co. enter the room. Crane relieves Melton of the gun and clears out the room. Cregar says they cannot disarm the bomb without the proper code, and they don't even bother contemplating trying to get it out of him. Nelson and Melton start investigating. Nelson quickly realizes that they can't stop the bomb--but they can make the final bomb go off at the same time. (What all this nuclear junk is going to do to the water and the atmosphere....) Nelson quickly connects the necessary wires. More guards are on the way, and Crane and Co. retreat to the control room, along with Cregar, who refuses to stop the countdown. The group escapes, Kowalski taking out a couple bad guys in the process. They get on board Seaview and get the heck out of there.

    The island goes up--meaning that the ocean bomb goes off as well. Something incredible happens at this point. Two major explosions have taken place, the concussive force must be huge, and the Seaview...does not lurch! Irwin Allen must have been snoozing that day, because he normally grabbed every possible opportunity to toss the crew back and forth. Conveniently, the dual explosions knocked the Gulf Stream back where it was supposed to be. Crane pops into the lab to inform Nelson and Melton that they will be in Pensacola in two hours. The weather report says it's fair and warmer--which is a nice touch. It doesn't say that it's back to normal, only that it's warmer, which makes sense, because you wouldn't expect the weather to shift back instantaneously.

    A lot of people probably found this episode rather dull, but I enjoyed it. This first season provided a wide variety of situations for the Seaview and her crew.