Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 3 Episode 11

The Haunted Submarine

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Nov 27, 1966 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • The astonishing thing about this episode is not the ghost. It's the fact that Captain Crane did NOT clap Admiral Nelson in the brig--or go on report himself for threatening a superior officer with bodily harm.

    Nelson's behavior is infuriating all through this episode; all the more so because there is no reason for it. They've had to deal with a ghost before, so it's unlikely that Crane would regard Nelson as being crazy--which is the only explanation I can think of for his stubborn silence.

    Seaview has been on a mission (never explained) lasting 24 days so far--which doesn't seem so very long for a vessel that can go out for months at a time. The implication is that they've only spent the last four days traveling submerged--which seems unusual for a submarine that travels easiest underwater.

    Kowalski has been hearing strange moaning noises coming from an air vent. He brings Sharkey to the source and attempts to explain. Sharkey, with elaborate patience, instructs 'Ski in the workings of a sealed, pressurized vessel--which 'Ski is perfectly well aware of. Giving up, 'Ski leaves the room, and Sharkey hears, not moans, but a laughing sound (which certainly can't be put down to air being forced through the vents). Sharkey hastily scuttles out the door.

    Sharkey and Kowalski bring their story to the Captain. You would expect Crane's reaction to be similiar to Sharkey's, but he listens to them intently. After they leave, his discussion with Chip Morton makes it clear that this is only one of a long line of similar incidents reported by the crew. They wonder if the crew is getting antsy from a long mission. Sonar suddenly picks up a surface ship ahead of them--despite being some 150 miles from the nearest shipping lane. Sparks can't raise them on radio. Crane puts up the periscope for a look-see. (I liked Hedison's jolt of reaction as he focused on the ship--but he then moved the periscope several degrees back from where he reacted.) Crane tells Chip to take a look. It certainly looks like an old-style square-rigger. This possibly explains why they can't reach them by radio, so Crane surfaces, planning to try and communicate by semophore. Putting on a coat (must be in a chilly region) Crane only gets a few steps up the ladder before the Seaview rocks violently from a barrage. They hastily duck back under. It would seem that they'd been hit by cannon balls. Nelson, who's been working in his cabin, understandably wants to know what's been going on. Crane informs him to the best of his ability. Sounding as though he doesn't believe it, Nelson heads for the Control Room.

    He arrives to find everything still and silent--all the crew are standing as if frozen. (The cast did a very good job of this; there was virtually none of the slight swaying effect you expect with people trying to keep still.) Nelson moves through the room, getting more anxious. When he reaches Chip Morton, he acts, oddly, as if Chip, at least, should react to him. Nelson contemplates the situation and decides that he is dreaming. He hears a giggling laugh. He hears more after he leaves the Control Room. He seems to end up down near the nuclear reactor--he passes some emergency anti-radiation equipment. Nelson opens a hatch, spots another frozen crewman, and slams the door on him as though he's seen a monster or something. Turning, he spots a shadow in the corridor--a shadow that appears to be holding a gun. (The profile of the silhouette looks pretty familiar.) Grabbing the anti-radiation foamer, Nelson creeps up to the corner. If it had actually been a gunman waiting to ambush him, Nelson would have gotten shot several times over--the foamer began making noise well before it started shooting foam, and Nelson sprang out to confront the man before it did so. Fortunately, the man is as frozen as anyone else, and Nelson manages to drench him with foam before he realizes that it's Chief Sharkey. (The music has built up ominously, and it makes a serious climax instead of trailing off to a lighter tone.) Nelson can't help smiling at the sight. (Terry Becker has a harder time standing still, but then, he's got the camera directly focused on him alone.)

    Nelson, in the crew quarters, exchanges the foamer for a gun. (These men also do a good job of keeping still.) Back at his cabin, Nelson acts as though he knows for a fact that someone is in there. His door suddenly slams and locks behind him, and there is more laughter. Spotting a figure in the shadows, Nelson fires, to no avail. The figure tells him to put the gun away--not because he's concerned for his own safety, but for the appearance of Nelson's nicely decorated cabin. I was wondering if the DVD showed a clarity that would not have been seen in the original broadcast, because it's quite obvious that it's Richard Basehart standing in the shadows, which made his emergence into the light something of an anti-climax. Nelson himself doesn't look surprised at seeing a duplicate of himself in old-style clothing.

    Life abruptly starts up again, all over the ship. Crane is surprised that Nelson hasn't reached the Control Room yet. The ghost vanishes as Crane calls Nelson's cabin. Nelson comes to the Control Room, and his infuriating behavior begins--he acts as though he knows nothing of what's going on. Crane and Morton are checking to see if there is a restored (or newly built) square-rigger in service, but Nelson can tell them without looking that no such vessel has been in commission for at least a dozen years. Whatever comment Crane was going to make dies as he stares at his chief petty officer entering the Control Room, covered with foam. Nelson has a hard time containing his mirth, even though this would seem to indicate that he had not been dreaming. He suggests that Sharkey's new look might be due to a leak in the reactor controls. Morton is sent to check on this. Sharkey starts to speak to the Admiral (I think he wanted to say something about Nelson laughing at him) but thinks better of it, and goes to get cleaned up.

    Crane tells Nelson that this is just one of a number of inexplicable incidents on board. Nelson tries to put it down to a general case of the jitters, overlooking the fact that they had been shot at and nearly sunk. Crane is concerned that this strange ship might attack other ships as well, but Nelson seems indifferent to the danger and heads back to his cabin--he's got work to do. Watch David Hedison at this point--the side of his face twitches, as if he's clamping his jaw to suppress his angry reaction to Nelson's behavior.

    Wandering down a corridor after taking a shower (their washing facilities must be peculiar--what's he doing running around the ship in a bathrobe?), Sharkey spots the foamer that he'd been drenched with. His reaction seems a little extreme here. He bumps into Morton, who's been checking the reactor controls. When Morton takes a look, the foamer has vanished. In spite of the escalation of unexplained phenomena on board, Morton makes it clear that he thinks that Sharkey was seeing things.

    Acting as though he's forgotten (or is ignoring) the entire incident, Nelson settles at his desk and starts going over some papers. The giggling comes back. Nelson this time seems mildly exasperated, and asks the ghost to show himself. It does so. The heavy Irish accent makes his introduction as Captain Seamus O'Hara Nelson (at your service) a foregone conclusion. Nelson recognizes the name--that of his wealthiest ancestor, who had died in 1822 after making a fortune at the China trade--importing tea, wasn't it? Captain Nelson has come to take the Admiral on board his ship. The Admiral respectfully declines--then, when the Captain makes it clear that it was not a request, but a demand--not so respectfully refuses outright. Nelson, bizarrely, seems totally incurious as to why the ghost wants him to go along. Captain Nelson is a bit peeved with his descendant.

    After twice commenting on the fact that the square rigger does not seem to have depth charges, Crane discovers that it does. Out of control, the Seaview heads for the bottom. Outrageously, she scrapes along the very same outcropping of rock that she hit in the previous episode, and rams into the bottom. Back in the Control Room, Nelson makes a knowledgeable comment about the square-rigger, then shrugs it off when Crane calls him on it. Crane gives him a sharp look, then sets about preparing four heat-seeking missiles to fire at the ship. Nelson says that he can't sink the ship, which Crane at first mistakes for an order not to try and do so. Nelson clarifies that he meant that it was impossible to sink the ship--but still, maddeningly, refuses to explain why. Crane must be getting extremely frustrated with his superior by now. Surprisingly, there's been minimal damage on board, and Crane goes ahead with the missile launch. (Hedison's voice changes as he orders the missiles fired, one by one--it sounds deeper, as though he's making a profound statement.)

    Seconds before the missiles should impact, everything freezes again. Nelson has been expecting this. He confronts his ancestor, who again demands that Nelson join with him. Nelson can then learn the ability to stop time for himself, which could be a useful thing to know. It sounds as if Captain Nelson just wants a companion for eternity to have a rollicking good time across the seven seas. However, he indicates that when Nelson joins him, the Seaview and her crew will be destroyed, and who cares if it is? I found it incredible that Nelson made no reaction to this statement. Captain Nelson would have made a more powerful argument if he had suggested that he would spare the Seaview if the Admiral came with him. (This gives you a clue to the Captain's character, because no captain worth his salt would put his own life above his ship and crew.) He gives Admiral Nelson one hour to think it over. Time starts up again, and the missiles, impossibly, miss their target. Nelson goes back to his cabin, after blithely assuring Crane that they won't be attacked for a while. At this point, you would expect Crane to grab Nelson and demand an explanation.

    Down in the Missile Room, Morton is looking for an explanation for why the missiles missed their target. Sharkey impatiently explains that everything was done as it should have been--and therefore there is no reasonable explanation for them missing. Morton checks the tracking tapes, and finds that the missiles were indeed properly launched. Morton checks the launch tubes--and finds the missiles tucked inside. Surprisingly, he doesn't say anything to Sharkey, or even give him a dirty look. Perhaps he's considering all the other unexplained happenings.

    Nelson has sent an urgent request, via Sparks, for information about Captain Nelson. Sharkey comes to his cabin to ask him something (presumably about the weird happenings). Nelson talks over his dilemma with Sharkey, posing it as a hypothetical situation. Sharkey indicates that he would refuse the offer if he felt that it was wrong, which is probably Nelson's own attitude.

    Crane is tracking the course of the square-rigger, which is moving much faster than it should. Sparks has handed the reply to Nelson's request to Morton, who hands it to Crane--who probably should have opened it up and read it right there. Instead, he takes it to Nelson. Nelson's reaction on reading it confirms to Crane what he's been suspecting all along--that Nelson knows a lot more than he's telling. Nelson still won't say anything. With the safety of his ship at stake, Crane would have been within his rights to assert his authority as Captain--and he threatens to do so--but Nelson asks for ten minutes, and Crane allows it.

    Ten minutes later, the Seaview shudders in reaction to--something. No idea what. Everything on board is functioning normally. The shuddering gets worse, and then everything freezes again.

    Nelson confronts Nelson again--this time calling him a fraud. His wealth had not come from importing tea, but slaves. As a result of his nefarious behavior, he's been trapped in eternity, doing penance. (Hmmm...must be a lot of similar ghosts out there.) Admiral Nelson is convinced that Captain Nelson wanted him, a blood descendant, to take his place. This brings up several questions. Admiral Nelson has been a seaman for, presumably, all his adult life; why hasn't Captain Nelson shown up before this? If he's being punished, why does he have this remarkable ability to stop time, and why does he have the ability to endanger the Seaview? Admiral Nelson again refuses to go along--and the Captain suddenly shows that he is a Nelson, after all--he admires his descendant's wisdom. In spite of all the damage he's already caused, he claims that he could not have destroyed the Seaview without the Admiral's help. (Well, he sure made a darn good try at it.) Captain Nelson vanishes.

    A few moments later (you'd have thought it would be simultaneous with the Captain's disappearance) time starts up again. The square-rigger has vanished from the scope, Nelson is left with a silver snuff-box in his hand, and a frustrated Crane, no doubt, is left banging his head against a bulkhead as the Seaview goes her merry way--because Nelson STILL won't tell him anything!!!

    This was a cute show--and Richard Basehart was apparently delighted with his double role--but it would have been more entertaining without Nelson's incredibly annoying behavior. No doubt the rest of the cast would have preferred a chance to do more than just stand around wondering what the heck was going on.