Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 2 Episode 25

The Mechanical Man

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Mar 13, 1966 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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out of 10
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  • A pleasant surprise: this episode rises above a missing Nelson, some really over-the-top dialogue, and some other flaws with outstanding miniatures, an intriguing premise, and an actor that plays his part frighteningly well.

    Sometimes the scariest monsters are the ones that look like us....

    The episode jumps into what seems to be a routine supply mission to a drilling station. They never mention just what they were supposed to be drilling for, but Peter Omir and his associate, Dr. Paul Ward, have discovered a unique and extremely powerful element Omir has named Subterraneum 116. Mining the stuff is causing problems, and a Mr. Ralph Vendon, who apparently had been sent to the station as an observer, demands to be fully informed. Omir, quite matter-of-factly, leads Vendon to his reaction chamber, sets two compressed cubes of S. 116 into a device which will bring the cubes together, zaps Vendon with a charge from his hand, and locks him into the chamber. As the cubes come together, the energy reaction evaporates everything in the chamber. Still matter-of-factly, Omir strips off his lab coat, tie, and shirt, and steps into the chamber to bathe in the waves of energy. He turns, and we're given the startling sight of his back packed full of transistors and such.

    I wish they'd been a little more subtle with this. The title, for instance, is a dead giveaway. It would have been interesting if they'd held off the revelation for a while, instead of hitting us with it immediately. In fact, the viewer could almost work out the truth simply by watching James Darren. A lot of androids are only recognizeable as such because we've been told that they are, in fact, androids. In Omir's case, something is obviously not right. Cold, cold, cold. He moves with deliberation, his face is expressionless, his voice is a calm, bland tone. The only trace of emotion is his tone of contempt for the lesser beings he's forced to deal with. Physically handsome, he has no more attractiveness than...well, a bunch of transistors and such.

    Paul Ward sounds like a walking cliche. He casts his gaze upward and declaims, "What kind of a monster have I created?" Not all his dialogue is quite this corny, but it comes close. Possibly when he was alone, he was a decent enough scientist--perhaps even one of Nelson's geniuses--but seeing him dithering around Omir, one can't help but wonder how he managed to create Omir in the first place. Obviously he didn't think to include some sort of controlling device. He's becoming more and more frightened of his creation--and there's not a blessed thing he can do to stop him. Seaview, which is attached to the drilling station with a long cable (really great underwater shots!) has been rocked (yet again) by the aftermath of the energy burst. Crane is informed of Vendon's death, allegedly just as he was leaving the station.

    The drilling is causing increasing pressure, which doesn't concern Omir in the least. He wants the energy the S.116 can give him, and he's going to get it. Period. He alters the gauges to make it look as though the pressure is normal. Coming on board the Seaview, Omir immediately gets Chip Morton's back up with his bland statement of self-genius, proven when he mentally makes an accurate calculation faster than the ship's computer can do so. He also alters the ship's gauges to read normal pressure (and irritates Chip some more).

    After the drilling site erupts, Crane becomes certain that things are off-kilter. He is determined to plug up the site--with or without authorization.

    Omir suddenly gives evidence of telephathic ability--logical if you accept his idea that brain waves are just another energy source that he can tap into. This gives him the closest thing to an emotional reaction he ever shows--when he suddenly realizes what Crane is planning. The telepathy is an interesting idea, but it seems to come and go at the convenience of the plot. Omir is somehow able to reach out across hundreds--perhaps thousands--of miles to tap into the mind of Van Druten and influence him against Crane. However, he can't seem to reach across a few hundred yards of seawater and influence Crane himself.

    Despite his statement that he would work without authorization, if necessary, Crane is a little leery of actually doing so. Faced with Omir's utter indifference to the millions of lives endangered by the drilling, Ward finally attempts to contact Crane and tell him what is going on. Omir, of course, overhears him, and coldly strikes his creator down.

    Omir startles Kowalski no end by suddenly turning up in the Missile Room's escape hatch--neatly dressed in suit and tie, and perfectly dry. Radiant heat can come in handy. He zaps 'Ski down before he can notify the captain of Omir's presence.

    Omir shows up in the Control Room and stands there, cold and implacable in the face of Crane's anger. Crane has been seeing for himself the worldwide repercussions of the drilling. Omir announces his plans for the world--rewarding the good, which sounds utterly ludicrous in the face of all the destruction he's causing. Crane orders the cable released, but, of course, it's far too late. Omir has now absorbed sufficient energy to run everything he needs all by himself. He treats the crew to a demonstration. It's a pretty spectacular light show, as he blasts out all sorts of controls. The Seaview, of course, lurches violently in reaction. Eerily, Omir stands perfectly still as bodies tumble all about him. Having made his point, Omir leaves.

    Chip Morton, for a change, gets to do more than simply relay the captain's orders. He's put in charge of the diving team that will take three mines (one would do, but Crane wants to be certain) to the drilling site. Provided that they can get past Omir. Crane arranges a diversion using the diving bell. Chip is accompanied by Kowalski (and Riley was right, 'Ski really should have been sent to Sickbay) plus a background face (Jensen) that you know isn't going to be coming back.

    Omir can read Crane's mind--but he doesn't read it far enough. He destroys the bell (another chunk of expensive equipment down the tubes) and Morton's team makes it into the caverns near the diving area. During one of the rumblings of the drill site, Kowalski loses his balance (see, that's why he should have been in Sickbay) and falls, setting off the timer of the mines. They have only one hour.

    We discover that Ward was not, in fact, killed by Omir, but only paralyzed. Omir releases him because there is work to be done. Although he had spoken to Crane with the same contempt he shows Ward, Crane apparently had impressed him favorably. He's contemplating bringing Crane onto his team--with a few minor adjustments, of course. Omir finally realizes how Crane had diverted him, and activates some force fields down in the caverns. This next bit is irritating. Seaview is supposed to have pretty high standards for its crew, but Jensen quickly panics and runs straight at one of the force fields, with predictable results. They could just as easily have killed him off by simply having him standing right where the field was activated.

    Trying to buy time for Chip, Crane offers to bargain with Omir, offering him divers who can collect his precious element much faster than straight drilling can. Omir agrees, but only if Crane comes to the station as a hostage. Omir indicates that neither trusts the other, but he does not read Crane's mind.

    Once Crane's on the station, Omir informs him that he is to be the subject of an experiment, and quickly flattens Crane with a burst of energy. This, to my mind, was one of the more horrifying moments of the episode. Crane is concious and being implacably dragged off to an unknown fate, and unable to so much as lift a finger in his own defense. That's the stuff of nightmares.

    Omir makes a rather silly statement when he gets Crane into the reaction chamber. He brings in a sheet of electronic mishmash, looking remarkable like the patch he has on his own back. He's going to implant it in Crane, and states that he does not know if the result will be a complete android, a half-and-half, or a (dead) failure. It's utterly ridiculous to think that a flesh-and-blood man could become a complete android.

    Down in the cavern, Morton and Kowalski manage to disable one of the force fields, and set the mines in place. However, they can't get past the other field. With admirable courage, Chip quietly accepts the fact that they aren't going to get out of there. Kowalski takes his cue from Chip, and stays calm as well.

    Ward suddenly proves that he's not quite the weak coward Omir thought him to be. He threatens Omir with two cubes of S. 116. Crane, who's recovering from the paralysis, pulls out a percussion grenade (or something similar) which actually suceeds in knocking Omir down. Ward yells at Crane to destroy Omir's dark glasses, and then to get out of there. He then sacrifices himself to destroy his creation.

    In spite of the reaction from the energy burst, Crane has the presence of mind to shut off the remaining force field, and they all manage to make it back to the Seaview before the drilling site blows.

    The world starts pulling itself back together. Nelson is on his way back to the Seaview (to the crew's joy as well as the viewers'). I would like to know just how Crane figured out how Omir had used the energy, and why it destroyed him at last. I hardly think that Crane took time to gather up Ward's notes on Omir before the station blew. Perhaps he discussed the matter with Nelson.

    Possibly to make an excuse for why Nelson remained out of sight, the Flying Sub made a surface landing next to the Seaview rather than simply coming up into the hull. I really liked the ending. Richard Basehart had recovered, so Nelson came back--and Crane and Morton both hurried off to welcome him home.