Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 1 Episode 31

The Condemned

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Apr 12, 1965 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • This was quite an exciting episode. It has strong characters, well acted, and an exciting premise. After all, this episode literally lives up to the show's name. But I have to admit, this episode really bothers me.

    Call me old-fashioned. I like storylines to have a satisfactory resolution, and this one definitely does not.

    The conflict between Admirals shows up almost immediately, with Nelson irritated with Admiral Falk, who cannot be bothered to turn up to supervise his own experiment. He's busy with a press conference--before he even knows if his experiment will be a sucess. Nelson, a "pure" scientist, has no use for Falk's headline-grabbing behavior. (Oddly, the DVD set blurb for this episode describes both Nelson and Crane as "dismayed" by Falk's behavior, but actually Crane seems unconcerned by it. More on that in a bit.)

    The initial experiment with the unmanned test hull (which looks rather like a package of dynamite) is a sucess--although you would think that they would have sent a camera down there with it--in which case they would have gotten a look at that bobble-eyed monster parked down there. Incidently, I think that this show would have worked perfectly well without the monster. The hazards of the deep, DEEP sea dive were quite sufficient by themselves.

    Falk finally shows up--well, he has to--he's part of the team for the next stage of the experiment. Four of them will man the test hull--Falk, his assistants Archer and Tracy, and Captain Crane. It's at this point that Nelson shows how cautious he's going to be with this experiment, giving Crane the authority to abort if necessary and provoking the first clash with Falk, who of course expected to be in full control of every detail (when he's not giving interviews).

    Crane, who presumably is the only one of the four who has not experienced the different air mixtures before, starts to react a little, and we see Archer--not Falk--reassure Crane and instruct Falk how to adjust Crane's air mixture.

    They make it to the bottom, somehow missing old bobble-eyes this time, and no one sees it out of the portholes. Falk has been fondling a small silver bull, which Crane identifies as a symbol of Poseidon. The bull belonged to Falk's father, who was a very noted marine scientist (his work got Crane interested in the sea). Falk mutters about having finally beaten his father--red flag up, everyone.

    An accident on the way back leaves them with only three quarters of their air supply left. At this point, Falk panics. The air supply was calculated to a slow ascent, but they were going up at emergency speed, which meant they wouldn't need as much. I don't know how such things work under pressurized conditions, but couldn't they have all tried breathing slowly--or holding their breaths? Before anyone else can suggest anything, Falk cuts Crane's air enough to knock him out--and then cuts Tracy's air off completely. The look in his eyes as he stares across at Archer is rather frightful.

    We get our first look at the Seaview's pressure chamber, as the rapid ascent has put the surviving men in grave peril. There's a little humor with Falk's intrusive press secretary, Hoff, who wants to get everything on film for the press. Nelson refrains from hurling him bodily out the door.

    The first time I saw this episode, I thought Falk was going to kill Archer in the pressure chamber--but he quickly makes clear what we've begun to guess--that Archer is the real brains behind Falk's scientific sucess. Archer's attitude is peculiar. I'd like to know just what sort of hold Falk has over him, because it's plain that Archer despises Falk--but he will not give him away, not even after Falk played God and chose Tracy (the least important man, in Falk's view) to die. It would seem that Falk could kill any number of men with Archer as a witness, and Archer would say nothing, because merely telling would not bring the men back to life. (That kind of attitude would benefit murderers everywhere.)

    The admirals clash again, with Nelson insisting that they delay the next stage of the experiment until they have run more tests. This, of course, will delay Falk's next press conference.

    Crane's attitude at this point is wholly inexplicable. Throughout this first season, he has made it clear over and over that his primary concern is the safety of his ship and crew. He has even clashed with Nelson over this point. (Nelson usually wins out, but Crane at least tries.) Here, where a man has died, and three others nearly died, including Crane, Crane's attitude seems to be "so what?" It's not as though Nelson is cancelling the experiments completely--merely delaying them to make certain that it will be as safe as possible. Nelson has made it clear that he wants the project to suceed, so Crane's implication that Nelson wants it to fail because he's jealous of Falk is pure nastiness, totally uncalled for--and totally out of character. Crane does make what could be interpreted as a gesture of amends. When Nelson clashes (again!) with Falk after Falk goes over his head to the president, Falk turns to Crane and tells him the experiment is back on schedule. Crane stands still, moving only his eyes in Nelson's direction, which could be considered a tacit acknowledgement that Nelson is still in charge. There is also an interesting little reaction immediately after this. Falk is telling Nelson that they are going to make history together. Crane is in the background, quietly making some notations, and occasionally glancing at the admirals. Watch his eyes when Falk states that there is "nothing to worry about." Perhaps Crane is anticipating further clashes with the admirals.

    Seaview goes down, and we get further proof that Archer is the brains of the operation when there is a problem with the temperature. Falk finds Archer unconcious (he has a heart problem) and panics, because he knows that he can't go on without Archer. Archer recovers sufficiently to needle Falk, suggesting that as the person in charge, Falk should be able to deal with the temperature problem. Falk moves away and Archer deals with the problem with the flick of a switch.

    Falk's arrogant comments--including an unnessesary slur on his father, finally drives Archer over the edge. Unfortunately he collapses and dies before he can say anything incriminating. (Come to think of it, it was pretty idiotic of Archer to participate at all, given his heart condition. You can understand Falk ignoring it, but Archer also put a whole sub of men in jeopardy.)

    With Archer dead, and the sudden appearance of old bobble-eyes, it quickly becomes obvious that Falk doesn't know what he's doing. When Nelson accuses Falk of dishonoring his father's name, it becomes clear that Falk's only interest in science is for the purpose of being better than his father. Falk's frantic appeals to Hoff and Crane (who are staring at him, stunned) are well done--he almost looks like a little boy. Nelson demonstrates that he is a far better scientist that Falk could dream of--knowing only what he's observed so far from Archer, he is able to figure things out and get them safely to the surface.

    It's debatable whether Falk was really trying to atone for his behavior, or if he just wanted to go out in a blaze of (well publicized) glory. I suppose that his death was inevitable, but I wish that they had done it more plausibly. Nelson states the truth--that any diver would die instantly if he went out at that depth. Crane suggests that using the special air mixture would make a difference, which is nonsense. In the first place, they never intended to test a diver, so it's not likely that they would have an air tank conveniently full of the special mix. In the second place, I don't care what the man was breathing, it would not enable a soft human body to withstand the pressure of thousands of pounds per square inch. Falk should have turned to jelly the moment he opened the hatch. It would have been slighly more plausible if he had put on the regulation deep-diving suit. And while it was a clever idea to assume that a creature in the darkness of the depths would be bothered by light, surely the bright bursts of electricity should have bothered it a lot more.

    Considering that Hoff got clobbered by Falk the moment he confronted him, it would be interesting to know just when Falk made his noble comments about doing something good for once. Hoff asks Nelson if he's going to expose Falk, and Nelson mutters, "What would be the point?" about the truth? Truth is always a nice point. Nelson had wondered if Falk had accomplished anything on his own, and I wonder, too. Did he attain his admiralcy by claiming credit for other people's work? Were Archer and Tracy the only scientists that Falk used for his own ends? Nelson insists that Archer receive the credit he is due, which is a nice gesture, but the fact remains that Falk: liar, cheat, thief--and killer; did we forget that?--is going to get just what he wanted all along. Permanent recognition as a great scientist. Yeah, I know. Life's like that sometimes. But it still bothers me.
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