Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 3 Episode 14

The Brand Of The Beast

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Dec 18, 1966 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • This episode has flaws--notably Nelson's irritating behavior and that rather silly make-up--but it's redeemed by some fine acting by all hands.

    It starts out with some very effective contrast--a violent scene of a helpless, storm-tossed surface ship is suddenly replaced by a quiet shot of the Seaview moving serenely through the depths. This is repeated several times throughout the episode.

    Sparks receives a distress call from the British ship Columbine. Seaview is the closest vessel, and even she is three hours away at flank speed. Nelson orders it done, although Crane protests that the reactor's been giving them some trouble, and three hours at full power will cause more strain than she can bear. Nelson insists; the Colombine is a research vessel on a confidential mission, and carrying 6 of the finest scientific minds in the world. (And we all know Nelson's attitude towards scientists!)

    As predicted, the reactor gauge rapidly reaches the danger level. Kowalski, who happens to be passing by the Reactor Room, notices something odd--either the sound or the lighting--and reports a malfunction in the pile just as Sharkey reports that the reactor has reached critical. Before 'Ski can get things sealed up as ordered, something blows. Sharkey and a damage control team arrive on the scene. After sending 'Ski off to the Sickbay, Sharkey investigates and reports that, while there's no irreparable structural damage, the pile will have to be shut down so that they can tighten a loose valve on the inside. Nelson knows that shutting the pile down completely will cause a considerable delay, so he orders it left on--he will fix the valve himself. Although he's properly suited up for the occasion, his glove is scorched black in just the few moments it takes to tighten the valve. Seaview promptly goes back to flank speed. Both Crane and Sharkey urge Nelson to get to Sickbay immediately. Nelson is rather testy about it--and there's no indication that he actually did see the doctor at this point.

    Back in his cabin, Nelson learns that they are now two hours away from the Columbine. The latest report indicates that the Columbine's captain thinks that they can hold out three hours. Nelson complains of a sudden weariness--but insists that it is not due to radiation exposure. Crane, showing a great deal of concern, tells him to get some rest. He looks back as he heads out the door, as if wondering if Nelson will really follow his suggestion. He's right to worry. Nelson makes it over to his bunk, looking as though he will collapse any minute. He then notices that his hand is showing a good deal of hair. Horrified, Nelson moves back to his desk for the microphone--and then pauses. Rather than calling Crane or the doctor, he calls Chief Sharkey. When Sharkey arrives, Nelson orders him to lock Nelson in his cabin, and not unlock it for at least an hour. When Sharkey naturally questions this, Nelson shows him his hand. Sharkey instantly comprehends. Nelson then, outrageously, orders him to tell no one, and demands that Sharkey give his word. Under the circumstances, this demand is inexcuseable. Nelson had no business trying to hide his condition from Crane, and he had no right to ask it of Sharkey. We might put it down to the onset of his illness, were it not for the fact that Nelson is becoming known for the obnoxious habit of withholding vital information. Sharkey, for his part, should have told the Admiral that he could not make a promise that might endanger the ship. After Sharkey locks him in, the Admiral sags down at his desk. A flashback from the episode "Werewolf" runs through his mind--the dialogue subtly changing to Nelson's new thoughts, wondering if it can really be happening. It is. Nelson wolfs out.

    Kowalski brings Crane a new message from the Columbine. Crane orders him to deliver it to the Admiral, and then request him to join Crane in the Control Room--Crane wants to discuss a plan that he's made. Sharkey, overhearing, intercepts 'Ski and tells him that he will take the message. 'Ski refuses--it was a direct order from the Captain. Sharkey chases after him and demands the message, saying that he's under orders, too. After more arguing, 'Ski defers to his superior. Approaching Nelson's cabin, Sharkey hears the noises inside--Nelson is trashing his quarters--and quietly leaves.

    Growing impatient at Nelson's delay, Crane learns that Kowalski did not take the message. 'Ski tells him that Sharkey claimed his orders superceded Kowalski's. Understandably annoyed, Crane confronts Sharkey. Sharkey at first tries to pretend he doesn't know what Crane is talking about, but Crane is having none of it. Sharkey offers the very lame excuse that the Admiral was not feeling well, and that he didn't want him disturbed. Crane is not often angered by his men's behavior, but he is now--he relieves Sharkey of duty and orders him to confine himself to quarters. Sharkey leaves without making any attempt to protest. Crane calls the Admiral, using an open mike that the whole ship can hear. At first, there is no response. When Nelson finally answers, Sharkey hears that the Captain is heading for the Admiral's quarters. He rushes to get Nelson's door unlocked before Crane arrives, but is too late by a matter of moments. Sharkey, tight lipped, refuses to explain his actions. Before Crane can blow up any more, Nelson emerges from his cabin, a bit sweaty, but otherwise calm. He casually suggests that Crane drop the whole matter. Crane is incredulous--he can't overlook a subordinate flouting his orders. Nelson more or less begs him to do so, and Crane, as usual, gives in.

    The situation with the Columbine has changed--the captain no longer thinks that he can hold out until they arrive. Crane's idea is that Nelson take the Flying Sub and go on ahead, rescuing 15 men at a time (that would make it quite crowded). It would be hazardous, but if Nelson can pull it off, most of the rescue would be accomplished by the time the Seaview arrived. FS1 can be prepped in 15 minutes. Nelson agrees, and says that he's going down to Sickbay--but brushes off Crane's instant concern. Down in Sickbay, Nelson alludes--hypothetically--to the previous werewolf encounter, and asks Doc how effective the vaccine was. Listening to Nelson dance around the subject, Doc asks outright if Nelson has had a recurrance, and Nelson laughs it off. Doc tells him that a recurrance would indicate that the vaccine no longer worked. An additional dose would be useless--the condition would be terminal. Nelson claims that he was just curious, and the doctor doesn't think to ask what brought the subject up at this point in time.

    The visit to Sickbay must have been very quick--Nelson had time to return to his cabin and some paperwork before the FS1 had been prepared for launch. Knowing his situation, Nelson had no business agreeing to fly the mission. He may be the best pilot, but he's certainly not the only one. Crane himself could have gone. Noticing that his hand has gotten hairy again, Nelson gets into an agitated state of denial and rushes out of the room. Kowalski, who had already pronounced the FS1 prepped and ready, apparently had second thoughts and went down for another check. Coming back up, he gets slammed aside by Nelson, who nearly dives down the hatch. By the time he reaches the bottom of the ladder, Nelson has wolfed out again. Kowalski, picking himself up, hears the strange noises and approaches the hatch, although he does not look directly down inside. Also hearing the noises--which are now coming from the damaged FS1 as well as the Admiral--Crane comes up. 'Ski starts to explain, but Crane, spotting billows of smoke, jumps for the ladder. 'Ski, presumably worried about the Admiral's behavior, grabs Crane and hauls him back. (A bellowing snarl from the Admiral at this point makes it sound as though Crane was loudly protesting Kowalski's actions.) An explosion knocks them both down and still more smoke emerges, enabling Nelson to come out and head for the stairway without anyone seeing him too closely. 'Ski does see him from the back, and yells to Crane, who grabs the Admiral's foot, slowing him down. Jumping up the stairs, Crane grabs him again--and then freezes in an excellent reaction shot as he looks up at what used to be his Admiral. Nelson kicks him down the stairs and flees.

    Sharkey comes up as Kowalski is helping Crane up, and learns that the Admiral is responsible for the damage. There is a fine, silent exchange between Crane and Sharkey. Although he says nothing, you can tell that Crane is now fully aware that Sharkey's previous behavior had dealt with the Admiral's condition. Crane merely orders an armed search party, which he amends to only stun guns after seeing Sharkey's reaction. Crane heads for Sickbay. Apparently Nelson's behavior is catching--Crane at first presents the Doc with a hypothetical situation. (You'd think the doctor would have mentioned that Nelson had done so just a few minutes earlier.) Doc informs him that in this "hypothetical" situation, the outcome would not be good. Crane keeps his reaction suppressed. Kowalski calls and reports that the fire is out--but damage to the FS1 will take (after a practiced look around) a couple of days to repair. Crane orders him to join the search party, which catches Doc's attention. Crane confesses that the situation is not hypothetical, and asks about the danger to his men. Doc warns that a break in the skin would contaminate anyone with the virus, and the results would also be fatal.

    Crane finds Sharkey--who is searching alone--and passes on the warning about avoiding injury. Sharkey goes to pass that on to the crew (why not simply broadcast it?) and Crane continues the seach--alone. We'll see Kowalski searching alone, too, which seems incredibly foolish. Chip Morton suddenly appears--and he's alone, too! Chip's been inexplicably missing this trip (wonder if Bob Dowdell had been ill, or perhaps busy with something) and this scene simply looks like padding. Crane tells Chip not to tell the men in the Control Room what is going on. Considering that the Control Room is just feet away from the nose, where the Admiral caused all heck to break loose, this seems ludicrous.

    Kowalski spots the very obvious werewolf shadow. Confronting Nelson, he fires a trank bullet at him. Coming up from behind, Sharkey fires one as well, but Nelson simply knocks him down and runs. Crane arrives just as Nelson leaves. Crane learns that the stun guns had no effect, but it's Sharkey who vocalizes what none of them want to say--they are going to have to use live ammunition.

    Nelson ducks into the Circuitry Room. Kowalski checks this room out--and barely makes it back out the door. Sharkey arrives on the run and beats Nelson's arm until he pulls it back inside. They then lock the door. Nelson is trapped--but he's in a particularly vulnerable room. On cue, he starts tearing things up, and the Seaview lurches. She scrapes along that (yes, you guessed it) outcropping of rock and slams into the seabed. (You know, that was a very effective shot the first time they used it.) There's some severe flooding, but repairs can get underway--if they can just get into the Circuitry Room. Without hesitation, Crane orders Sharkey to get the room cleared, whatever it takes. The safety of the ship has to come first. Sharkey and 'Ski have to gird themselves up to it--neither of them has noticed how quiet it has gotten inside the Circuitry Room. They burst inside, to find the Admiral lying senseless on the floor. Sharkey's too anxious to notice that 'Ski seems to be giving him orders. He carefully approaches the Admiral, turns him over--and finds that he's himself again.

    Coming to in his cabin (why on Earth didn't they lock him in Sickbay?) Nelson faces Crane. Asked what was going on, Crane perhaps gives Nelson a taste of his own medicine--he reports on the damage to the ship, and cheerfully brushes aside Nelson's inquiry about himself. Nelson knows that Crane knows what happened--and he is also certain that Crane is aware that his case is terminal. He thinks that Crane should have killed him when he had the chance. Crane counters that Nelson should have told him what was going on right at the beginning. Nelson makes the idiotic statement that he thought Crane had enough to worry about with the rescue mission. Running about wreaking havoc wasn't cause for worry? Nelson insists that Crane lock him up and keep him locked up (where have we heard that before?)

    Sharkey arrives with a message. The situation has changed yet again for the Columbine--the gale is ending, the pumps are working, and the captain thinks that they can hold out a few hours more. (In their own way, the people on the Columbine must have been having as exciting a time of it as the Seaview.) Sharkey seems to think that the Admiral is going to be all right--in spite of the fact that the Admiral had changed back previously, and the doctor has indicated that there is no hope. Sharkey's a great one for believing what he wants to believe.

    Seaview lifts off the bottom--she's seaworthy again, provided that they maintain standard speed and don't go below 200 feet. In the Admiral's cabin, Nelson's hand is looking a little hairy again, but this time the camera does not focus on it. Nelson eyes the grate over the ventilating duct, opens it, and climbs up. Down in the Missile Room (one of the few places that has not gotten much damage) Sharkey is still acting as though the Admiral will be fine. A few moments later, Nelson comes into the room and orders Sharkey to prepare the diving bell. Sharkey hesitates, but Nelson exerts his authority. Given the circumstances, Sharkey should have refused, or called the Captain, but he does not. Up in the Control Room, Sparks passes on a message--this time from the carrier Argon. Argon is 100 miles from the Columbine, but is sending helicopters to rescue the men. (This is a quick scene that is surrounded by a lot of activity. In one review that I read of this episode, the writer seemed to think that they had simply dropped the whole matter of the rescue, while with another, the writer could not remember what happened with the Columbine.) Crane calls the Admiral to pass on the good news--but there is no answer. It's hard to say if Crane rushed for the Admiral's cabin, or if he deduced what the Admiral would try to do. At any rate, he shows up in the Missile Room moments after Apple One is launched. Nelson had ordered Sharkey to send it to the bottom. Crane's angry with Sharkey again, but at least this time he understands the circumstances. Crane orders the bell pulled back up. Nelson hits a switch to release the cable (although it looks as though the cable breaks). Apple One slams into the seabed, although Nelson is only jounced around a little. They still have radio contact, and Nelson explains that this is the easiest way to deal with the situation--switching from laughter to anger as he does so. Crane blows the bell's ballast by remote control, sending Apple One bobbing to the surface like--well, like an apple. The abrupt change of pressure could cause Nelson to get the bends, but Apple One, which is, of course, a self-contained pressure chamber, is repressurized the moment it's brought back on board. There's no indication of how long the pressuring sequence takes, but it should have been a fair amount of time. The pressure changes cause the portholes to steam up, so they can't see what's going on inside. Crane has a bunch of men standing by, all armed--all prepared to shoot to kill if the Admiral goes on the rampage again. Crane cautiously opens the hatch--and a shaken, exhausted Nelson looks out.

    In Sickbay, tests show that the Admiral's blood is now clean. Nelson theorizes that the nitrogen in his blood caused by the pressure change had killed the virus. This may seem like an abrupt, convenient "happy ending", but it works for me. No one, least of all the Admiral, was likely to sit down and quietly calculate that nitrogen might prove to be an antidote.

    I just wish the Admiral would stop being so close-mouthed. It could have been an even more tense episode if the others had been aware of what was going on--and maybe they could have had the doctor searching for an antidote while the Admiral was rampaging around, rather than have him sit back and insist the situation was hopeless. But it was still a good show--they made it work.