Seaview is at home, getting loaded up for another cruise. Some of the off-duty crew are being entertained with, of all things, a puppet show. It seems a ludicrous pastime for adult men. Considering this, it occurred to me that we have never seen, on board this state-of-the-art submarine, anything resembling recreational facilities, something that would surely be of paramount importance on a vessel that might spend days, weeks, even months underwater. They seem to maintain the mental health of the crew (in between skirmishes) with chess and cards, and the occasional book. I don't know if it was a matter of lack of time, or simple ignorance of an important psychological issue, but they never so much as hint at any facilities even in passing.
The show goes over well with the crew, and even with the officers being lampooned by the cleverly caricatured puppets. The show is a little disturbing for my taste. It puts me in mind of a Punch and Judy show. Punch and Judy shows were extremely violent, the excuse being, presumably, that they were "only puppets". Near the end, Professor Multiple himself appears on stage and interacts with his puppets (which he refers to as dolls throughout). Oddly, no one seems to notice that the puppets continue to speak and move, although Multiple has no assistants. So...who is manipulating them? Afterwards, Nelson and Crane come forward to offer their thanks and admiration for the puppets. Professor Multiple, however, shows that his puppets are completely blank-faced, rather than the caricatures of Nelson, Crane, and Chip Morton. He claims that the caricatures were simply a clever make-up job (that he wiped off in the blink of an eye, apparently). They leave him to finish packing his props--with the Seaview leaving in 30 minutes, they have work to do. As they exit the crew's quarters, one of the puppets, suddenly looking like Nelson again, slowly rises from the pile of limp forms, looks up at Multiple, and asks if it's time yet. Not quite. There is something very creepy about the way that doll slowly lifts up.
After the credits, Multiple is in the Control Room, saying his goodbyes. His crate of belongings has already been transported ashore. Nelson is away, checking on some problem circuits. Multiple looks a little concerned, but Sharkey mentions that it's no big deal. He himself thinks it might have to do with some new conduits near the Armory. As Sharkey leaves, Multiple looks up at the intercom and moves his lips slightly. Nelson's voice suddenly orders Crane to report to the Circuitry Room. Crane acknowledges the command, bids Multiple farewell, and leaves. Down in the Circuitry Room, Nelson is working with Patterson. He tells Crane that he did not call him for anything, and Crane, oddly, does not protest, "But I heard you...." Another oddity: when Crane acknowledged the order over the microphone, why didn't Nelson call back asking what the heck he was talking about? Crane reports Sharkey's theory about the conduits and leaves.
Presumably having fixed the glitch, Nelson returns to his quarters and is promptly clobbered by Multiple. He takes Nelson's keys, opens a closet door, and extracts a plan of the Seaview. With the Seaview underway, Sharkey starts examining some circuitry down in the Armory (so maybe Nelson hadn't fixed whatever was wrong). Spotting an open locker door, he opens it further to find a pile of Multiple's blank-faced dolls, dressed in various uniforms. Rather diffidently (would you want to report a bunch of dolls to your CO?) he informs Crane, who sends Chip to deal with it. Chip has Sparks send a message to Professor Multiple before going down. Back in the armory, the pile of dolls starts to heave. Sharkey starts to approach, only to get knocked down by a burst of light and noise. Chip arrives, starts to report to the Control Room, and is interrupted by Multiple. Chip is then clubbed down from behind--by another Chip Morton. The Nelson doll again slowly rises from the pile. Now, it's time. Time for the others to grow. He calls to the other dolls to wake up. Shadows of full-grown men are seen leaving the Armory. Crane, who seems not to have heard Chip's comment of trouble in the Armory, calls down, gets no answer, and heads down there himself. Multiple looks at Chip and Sharkey lying on the floor, lifts his hand--and they vanish. The Nelson doll, now perched jauntily on top of something, praises Multiple. He also somehow knows that Crane is coming into the room. Crane is astounded to find Multiple, who claims that he somehow got lost on his way off the Seaview. (Considering that he was in the Control Room, just a few steps from the exit, that's quite an accomplishment.) Crane looks in the locker and finds that all the puppets are gone. Multiple is quite anxious that they be found. Sparks calls with a report from Inter-Allied Headquarters; Professor Multiple had been found murdered, shot in his apartment, just ten minutes previously. Multiple acts astonished, but Crane looks quite suspicious and determined to find some answers.
Up in the Control Room, a set of dolls matching the duty crew come down the spiral stairs and confront their living counterparts. (BTW, crewman Lopez, who had been in the "driver's seat" with another crewman when Crane left the room, is now suddenly seated at another station on the other side of the room.) "Sharkey" comes forward and Patterson, not seeing the others, starts to ask about the dolls in the Armory, before "Sharkey" clubs him down. Kowalski and the others gaze in astonishment at their own selves, before "Sharkey" lifts his hand and makes them all vanish. The dolls move in to take their places. Back down in the Armory, Crane's suspicions of Multiple seem to have subsided. He decides that Headquarters can figure the matter out. After he leaves the room, the Nelson doll (which Crane did not notice) makes a wisecrack and vanishes. Up in the Control Room, "Sharkey" addressed by Crane, responds slowly and in a monotone. On the other hand, "Sparks" having seen Multiple, has the presence of mind to react to seeing the "murdered" man. Do some of these dolls come equipped with some initiative, while others are little more than obedient automatons? Crane orders "Sparks" to contact Headquarters, but--surprise, surprise--"Sparks" can't seem to get through. Suddenly there is a loud noise, like Seaview is blowing all her ballast at once, and everyone is thrown about. (You didn't think they were going to have a lurch-free episode, did you?) Nelson suddenly comes to in his cabin--leaving us to wonder why Multiple didn't make him vanish with the rest. Crane orders the "drivers" (what would the word be? Steersmen? And Lopez has jumped back again, I believe) to level off; they ignore him. Somehow the lurching has caused the intercom to turn on, Nelson in his cabin hears Crane's frantic commands. "Sharkey" stares at Crane, who might by this time have started to realize that something is a bit off, here. Nelson, quite certain that something is off, arms himself with a gun and one of those flat grenades that they've used before, then leaves his cabin. Seaview suddenly levels off by itself. Multiple announces that it was not a dive; the sub is caught in an "irresistable current". The ship is "ours". Crane tries to call for assistance outside the Control Room, but Multiple assures him that, while they can hear him, they will not obey him. The Nelson doll suddenly appears on Multiple's shoulder, repeats Multiple's message, and vanishes. Faced with the utter certainty that something is way, way off kilter, Crane nevertheless still attempts to give orders. (I've said it elsewhere--he can be slow on the uptake.) Multiple again refers to "us". He suddenly turns his head sharply, staring at nothing, then jerks back to Crane. The "crew" slowly start to advance, and Crane slowly begins a retreat. Nelson appears on the stairwell, moves across to a table without anyone noticing, peels the grenade, and throws it. This grenade seems to be just a bit of percussion and a lot of smoke. Nelson and Crane make their escape. As they start up the stairs, Crane suddenly sees "Crane" standing with the rest of the crew. The Nelson doll is also back on Multiple's shoulder. He states that it's now time to kill them all dead, dead, dead. Multiple orders the dolls to pursue Nelson and Crane, and they slowly start to do so. He calls the "Master-at-Arms" for Security details to arrest them. "Arrest" seems a bit of an understatement. It would appear that the smallish pile of dolls in the locker--which seemed sufficient for replacing the Control Room crew--somehow multiplied to 120 or so men. (Maybe that's where Multiple gets his name.) Crane and Nelson begin moving cautiously through the corridors, dodging various blue-suited crewmen. As they reach the Armory, the Seaview lurches again, and Crane tells Nelson of the "irresistable current", likening it to a magnetic force. Nelson observes that the sub is still descending and will reach crush depth shortly. They can hear Multiple still issuing orders to search parties. Crane tells Nelson that Professor Multiple had been reported dead; so just who is this man? Crane heads for the Circuitry Room to try and get control of his ship. Nelson plans to find his crew. He finds them sleeping in the crew quarters (all 120 of them?) The Nelson doll pops in on top of the door. Yup, the whole crew is asleep, all but the captain and Nelson. They've all been replaced with dolls. There is no explanation why the Nelson doll doesn't simply become a full Nelson (if you'll pardon the pun). After all, Crane's doll is now up and running, even though Crane hasn't been taken out of the game yet. Perhaps, once full sized, the Nelson doll would no longer be able to pop in and out. And, of course, it's a lot more fun seeing a Nelson puppet making wisecracks than Richard Basehart doing the same thing. Nelson tells the doll about the impending descent to crush depth. It's hard to tell if the doll is unconcerned, or simply ignorant of what "crush depth" means. It disappears as Nelson grabs for it. Nelson then joins Crane in the Circuitry Room. Considering the current circumstances, Crane did not react much to having someone open the door behind him. Me, I'd have the gun out and pointed before the door got halfway open. He's not made any headway with the circuits, and the current is getting stronger. "Sharkey" and "Kowalski" enter the room. Once again, there are some discrepancies between the dolls; "Sharkey" doesn't react to being punched, yet Crane easily overcomes "Kowalski" and tosses him over a control panel. Crane jumps to Nelson's assistance, and "Sharkey" manages to throw them both off. All the struggles, naturally, set the circuit boards popping, and something somehow catches fire. The dolls react in alarm, and Nelson and Crane get out of the room, leaving the dolls sealed inside. Having noted their panic in the presence of fire, fetching the flamethrower will be next on the agenda, after they make some plans. A nameless crewman comes walking through, and somehow gets knocked unconcious. How do you knock out a doll? They reach Nelson's cabin and slip inside just before "Crane" and "Chip" walk by. Nelson thinks that something is causing the current (brilliant deduction, Holmes!) and somehow concludes that it--whatever "it" is--can be destroyed with a laser beam. Unfortunately, the laser is up in the observation nose. Handing Crane a communicator, Nelson sends him to decoy the dolls out of the Control Room. (As they exit his cabin, Nelson casually rounds the corner without the slightest concern that something might be on the other side. A little more caution seems to be in order.) Crane reaches the Missile Room and knocks out the doll on duty. (Notice how easily they can take out these dolls when the plot calls for it?) Crane calls Multiple over the intercom, and announces that he's going to destroy the sub. Multiple immediately suggests a truce. Rather absurdly, he seems to think that Crane should trust him because, after all, he hasn't put him to sleep yet! Multiple orders the Control Room crew down to get Crane. "Crane" reacts a little faster than the others. Just before they reach the Missile Room, Crane takes to the ducts. "Crane" looks as though he's one of those dolls with initiative; he looks around rather thoughtfully.
Nelson slips into the Control Room, and closes off the nose. As he activates the laser system, Multiple suddenly leaps out at him. The Nelson dolls pops in, parroting Multiple's words, as usual. Nelson again tries to explain about crush depth, but Multiple points out that dolls are not alive, and therefore do not fear dying. He opens the nose, to show the "crew" all lined up on the other side. Nelson insists that the Seaview will implode in a minute, but Multiple is indifferent. Nelson fires at him, to no effect, and it dawns on everyone that Multiple is a puppet just like the rest (with a lot more initiative). The current is under control; after all, they don't want to damage the Seaview. (Crane, in the ducts, is now close enough to hear all this.) The Seaview is needed by the "Masters of the Future". Machines, that had long since outgrown the living beings that created them. (An idea that "Star Trek would tackle theatrically many years later.) Nelson finally gets a look at the source of the current; a vast multicolored light, making noises like an angry cat. The Nelson doll suggests that they tell Nelson why they are there. The outer hull of the "machine" outside had dissolved in the process of coming to Earth; it needs a new shell, like a hermit crab moving to a larger home. (They do not, however, mention just why they came to Earth in the first place!) Nelson grabs for the laser, which the doll is sitting on. He jabs at it, and it promptly disappears. Nelson then gets knocked down by a burst of light and noise. The Nelson doll then sits on him, making mock-sympathetic comments.
Seaview comes to a halt, more or less. Oddly, the Nelson doll states, "Don't give it another thought--he isn't dead" before disappearing, as though he were responding to some comment from Multiple. Perhaps it was edited out. Multiple points out that Nelson was hit by the faintest hint of power from the machine outside. Nelson is only still around because (man, this comes up a lot) they need his knowledge of the Seaview. Apparently that was why they hadn't put Crane to sleep yet, despite several opportunites. They have now decided that Crane isn't going to cooperate (as if Nelson will?) and should be found and put to sleep. (Come to think of it, why was the crew only put to sleep--the Nelson doll spoke of killing everyone?) Nelson is locked in his cabin, with the key left in the door so that he can't unlock it from the inside. Nelson pulls his spare gun from the safe, and also a set of keys, but, as stated, he can't unlock the door. Two teams--"Chip" and "Kowalski", "Patterson" and "Burns"--go in search of Crane. (Hey, wait a minute--weren't "Kowalski" and "Sharkey" left to burn in the Circuitry Room?) "Patterson" and "Burns" hear a sound from the grating, and stand by while Crane pops it open and jumps down without much of a look around. Getting caught at this point isn't part of the plot, however, and Crane easily knocks both of them down before hopping back in the ducts. "Patterson" and "Burns" go after him, but they don't move any faster in the ducts than on foot--Crane gets well ahead of them, entering a storage room. Opening the door, another "crewman" jumps him. Crane throws him out and jams the door just as "Patterson" and "Burns" exit the duct. There's a quick, brisk fight, and Crane manages to get back into the duct. Nelson finally calls Crane on the communicator. Crane starts to leave the duct again, but pauses as "Chip", "Sharkey" (also unburned) and "Patterson" (for a slow moving doll, he sure moved quick here!) pass by. "Patterson" passes the grating without a second glance. Crane finally reaches Nelson (and why didn't he just go there by duct--and why didn't Nelson escape his cabin the same way?) Nelson shows Crane the multicolored machine light on his television monitor. He still thinks that a laser will work, this time using the one on the Flying Sub. Crane points out that the machine could easily freeze the sub, but Nelson says that the remote control could break him free (and how would remote control work any better than the controls in the sub itself?) The remote control, like the main laser, is in the observation nose. Crane needs to get there and play "Crane". (No concern about whether or not a doll can recognize a fellow doll.) Nelson goes on his way, Crane takes to the air ducts again--and "Chip" discovers Nelson's door open and Nelson missing. (Guys, all ya had to do was shut the door and put the key back!) He reports to the Control Room. For the first time, instead of parroting Multiple, the Nelson doll sharply tells him that he needs to get on the ball, an indication that Multiple is possibly not the one in charge. The "crew" is once again sent in search. Seeing "Kowalski" and "Crane" pass, Crane makes a challenge "Captain to Captain", and the pair split up. Crane makes it to the Armory and collects the flamethrower, then calls "Crane" over the intercom and mentions where he is. Multiple also hears, and orders his men there. "Kowalski" is the first to arrive, only to meet Crane's flamethrower. "Kowalski" slowly sags down, reduced to a small, burning doll on the floor. "Crane" arrives when Crane had foolishly set aside the flamethrower, and a major fight breaks out. Hearing this, Multiple takes "Sparks" (how often do we see him outside the Control Room?), leaving "Chip" in charge. "Chip" quickly gets knocked out by Nelson on his way to the Flying Sub. Back in the Armory, it's hard to tell who is who. Someone grabs the flamethrower, which sets off several other weapons. Crane finally flames "Crane". (Not only do we know that Crane would win the fight, "Crane" sags under the flame without a sound.) Nelson powers up FS1, as Multiple reaches the Armory. Crane staggers out, stating that the real Crane was gone, as well as one of "ours". Luckily for Crane, Multiple does not recognize him as being "real". Multiple gazes as the two piles of ash (and doesn't notice that one is a lot smaller than it should be). Nelson exits the Seaview as "Chip" awakens. He quickly reports to Multiple, and they all hasten back to the Control Room with Crane in tow. Nelson approaches the light, which looks pretty nifty in a side view. Given that it had been likened to a hermit crab, the streaks of light had an interesting "clawlike" effect. Balls of light begin erupting from the main mass and striking FS1. Multiple complacently announces that no vessel could survive, and the Nelson doll pops in to agree.
FS1 bobbles under the impact, and finally shoots its laser in a red cone shape. This opens a clear space in the light. The Nelson doll seems to admire Nelson's efforts. FS1 enters the cleared area. Crane, taking the risk of coming out of character, says that he's won, but Multiple states that Nelson will get no further, and he seems to be right. Crane asks "what now?" and Multiple loftily says that that is not for them to say. The Nelson doll says that he'll be back--the first time he's made any such comment before vanishing. Crane eyes the remote control switch over on the wall. The Nelson doll pops in on Nelson, asking if he's had enough. The crew will sleep forever, and Mankind, having nothing to offer, will sleep as well. (Still no mention of just what they wanted on Earth.) Nelson calls Crane on the radio. Crane is told to "humor" him. Nelson tells him to open box NC5. Multiple has second thoughts at this point, but Crane points out that they need to learn about the ship, and what's the harm? Crane opens the box, makes some adjustments, then suddenly slams the lever, causing an odd green flash. The outer hull of the Seaview glows. Inside, rather than a good lurch, the "crew" sways a little. Crane had put a nuclear charge into the hull, which is now heading for their "hermit crab". "Chip" can't get the box open. All of the dolls start chanting at Crane to open the box. Crane just stands there, looking bored. On FS1, the Nelson doll points out that before the Seaview hits the machine, it will hit the FS1 and kill Nelson. Belatedly, it realizes that IT will die too, and instantly pops out. This is one of the dolls described as having no concern about death. I beg to differ. Multiple yells at Crane. Parroting again, the Nelson doll pops in--this time on Crane's shoulder--yells, and leaves. (Fidgety thing, isn't it?) Nelson calls to Crane to throw the remote control switch--but Crane is surrounded. He suddenly makes a dive for it, but the others quickly surround him and beat him down.
The battered Crane finally agrees to open the box, then suddenly dives opposite to the remote switch. The green light flashes again, this time longer. Nelson suddenly moves clear as the Seaview hurtles through the light, which explodes and disappears.
Seaview stops glowing. Crane is unconcious on the floor, and for one moment, I thought it was going to turn out to have been a dream, as Nelson and Sharkey try to revive him. Crane rises up and reacts before Nelson assures him that the crew is real--they all woke up when the "crab" vanished. All that is left is a pile of blank-faced puppets. (It would have been interesting to show one of them in a dark suit, like Multiple's.) Apparently there was a little surcharge of energy left--eerily, the Nelson doll once again lifts up from the pile. It regrets that it didn't have the chance to properly take Nelson's place, and keeps babbling "too bad" as it slowly sinks down again. Perhaps it was concern that there just might be something left in those puppets that prompted Nelson to suggest burning them. Weird episode all around, and I wish they had given a proper explanation of the machine's motives, but Vincent Price was, as usual, marvelous, everyone else turned in their usual fine work, and that Nelson doll...priceless.