This episode may actually work better without Richard Basehart. Those of us who know and love Admiral Nelson would have a hard time imagining him knuckling under to Borgman as readily as Park did--even with an electrode jammed into his head.
They could have had the dark and stormy night for the first laboratory scene, but it worked pretty well without it. Borgman injects 5 ccs of human pineal gland fluid (taken from a "volunteer") into a fish. A bit of radiation added, and bingo! A miniature Creature from the Black Lagoon, swimming about in a rather nifty aquarium shot.
The scientific Powers That Be, not being aware of just how Borgman is accomplishing his goals--or why--authorizes his experiments to be continued on board the Seaview. Richard Basehart's absence (not even any voiceovers this time around) is explained by Nelson being called to a special conference at Washington. His old friend and colleague, Admiral Park has come aboard as a replacement. We quickly find that Park had been responsible for sending Borgman to prison for certain unethical practices. Borgman learned nothing from the experience. His assistant, Hansjurg, is an example--having been crippled, apparently permanently, by Borgman messing around with his pineal gland. I wish they had gone further into the relationship between Borgman and Hansjurg. In spite of being crippled by him, Hansjurg obeys Borgman without too much question. And yet, as Borgman points out (with a smile that gave me the shivers) Hansjurg is afraid of him.
Quite possibly Nelson had some misgivings about Borgman--he had Crane set up a makeshift laboratory in the Missile Room, rather than giving Borgman access to his own lab. Borgman demands absolute privacy, which should have given Park some cause for concern. Borgman, in tried-and-true mad scientist fashion, plans to use his menfish to take over the oceans. ("And tomorrow, the world!")
The first little manfish did not survive the transfer to the Seaview, so Borgman quickly arranges for another "volunteer" from the Seaview crew. He does this knowing that he cannot afford (as yet) to let Crane know what is going on--which means that he will have to kill the crewman once he's extracted the necessary fluid. Hansjurg protests, but ends up backing down. The implication is that a number of men have already died because of Borgman's experiments, leaving one to wonder just how he covered them up.
Shortly after Borgman arranges the crewman Bailey's "accident", Park shows up in the Missile Room, even though by now it's quite late. Possibly he still mistrusts Borgman, and wanted to come upon him unexpectedly. He's awed by the new little manfish--until he learns just how it was created. Why Borgman told him, I don't know, unless he figured that Park would learn the truth sooner or later and better to get him under control right away. Perhaps it didn't occur to Park that Borgman would have had a great deal of trouble explaining just how he ended up shooting Admiral Park (I'm sure Nelson would have thought of it and attempted to fight). Park stands still for the sedative shot, and has an electrode implanted in his head to allow Borgman to control him.
Park first shows the result of Borgman's tampering when Bailey is found dead, with a large set of shelves toppled on him. (Crane orders the shelves fastened up--I'd like to know why they weren't fastened in the first place.) Crane wants to delay the experiment until he's investigated the death. Borgman, with his electrode control in close proximity (this almost could have originated the phrase "talk to the hand") makes it clear that there will be no delays, and Park acquieses. He suggests that it was a simple accident, caused by heavy weather or hard maneuvering. Crane is incredulous, as well he might be--he knows what kind of maneuvering they've done, and a sub underwater escapes heavy weather--but he can't argue with a superior.
The little manfish (which looks like a model or dressed up doll) is taken outside and set in a box for more radiation treatment. This time it somehow stimulates the thing to grow to human size. The three divers sent to retrieve it are in for a rough time, and there is quite a lengthy fight before Crane belatedly demands that Borgman get the thing under control, which he does in a matter of moments. The human-sized monster is quite effective (except that the eyes are quite clearly showing through holes in a mask).
Just as there was no explanation for how human pineal fluid could suddenly make a fish develop arms and legs, there is no explanation for how it suddenly developed lungs, as well. It's brought inside and fastened to a "wet mattress" which will keep it from drying out. You wonder what the creature thinks of all these radical alterations to its person. No wonder it's hostile.
The next scene is rather annoying. The room where the manfish is secured has been declared off limits--and yet a crewman walks right in. From the expression on his face, he's obviously leery of being in there--so why was he? Was he taking a bet or a dare, or did he just want to see the creature for himself? Let him have a reason, even if it's a stupid one. He quickly pays the price for his mistake, and Crane (who must have gotten the shock of his life when that thing busted through the door like it was tin foil) nearly paid as well. Hansjurg happens on the scene, grabs up the control device, and very nearly kills the thing before Borgman snatches it back and turns the power down. Crane, naturally, wants the whole mission scrubbed then and there, but Borgman, quite reasonably, points out that it was the crewman's fault--which it was. Admiral Park (with Borgman again talking to the hand) concurs. Crane does manage to insist that the thing be put back outside. (We don't know if Borgman ever did get to his close-up examination of his specimen.)
Borgman takes Park to the Missile room for the next stage of the experiments--and the ship's doctor arrives with the disquieting information that Bailey had been dead before the shelves fell on him. Crane authorizes a post-mortem--and instructs the doctor not to inform the admiral of his findings. Crane has been getting more and more concerned with Park's odd behavior.
Borgman orders Park to bring him two more crewmen so that he can create two more menfish. This time Park balks, and is swiftly brought under painful control. The two crewman, while not "name" players, are familiar enough that it's quite upsetting to see them wrapped up and frozen. By this time Crane has learned Bailey's fate--and bursts into the Missile Room to find two more of his crewmen in Borgman's hands. This scene is quite good, with Park painfully acknowledging his helplessness (I do wonder how Basehart would have managed this). Crane really should have shot Borgman at this point--he could have then grabbed the control device and turned it off. Despite Park's own urging, Crane drops his gun--and Hansjurg almost--almost--turns it on Borgman. Borgman, with casual contempt, reaches out and takes it, stuffing it loosely in his pocket. Ordered to prepare for a dive, Crane brushes by Borgman. If he'd brushed a little harder, he could easily have disarmed the man in a matter of moments.
With classic "famous last words" Borgman gloatingly comments that his menfish can only be affected by pressure and temperature--and Crane cannot control either. This, of course, gives Crane the clue he needs, as tanks of liquid oxygen are right before his eyes. After suiting up (he really needs a new suit--his yellow one is looking pretty battered) he slips a tank into the escape hatch, and, as Park watches approvingly through an observation window (which I never knew was there before) freezes the two menfish.
Crane takes the now dead creatures outside, warily passing by the larger creature (who must be under control at this point, as it leaves Crane alone). Borgman doesn't think to get the full-sized creature away from the radiation box, and it receives a further dose.
Having discovered what Crane did to his precious specimens, Borgman is about to kill him, when Park interposes himself. We'll never know if Borgman would have forced him away or not--they're all distracted by the manfish outside, now grown to gigantic size. As usual with these oversized creatures, it sees the Seaview as a toy to play with. The first lurch knocks them off balance. As Crane rushes for the Control Room, Hansjurg--finally realizing the extent of Borgman's evil--rushes at him...and kills him. (It would be nice to see the full close-up of this scene, before Irwin Allen trimmed it down.)
We've all seen the crew get tossed around before, but this time is done quite intensely. There is a nice outside close-up shot of the Seaview, where you can actually see little persons through the windows in sprawled stances (too still, unfortunately, but still a good effect for the time). There's a little more human reaction thrown in, as well. It was a very nice touch when Crane, yelling "give it everything we've got!" suddenly had his voice jump as he was thrown sideways. Kowalski (in his one and only shot on this episode) screams that the hull is giving way. Chip Morton desperately points out that they're on the verge of breaking apart, while Crane scrabbles angrily for the microphone.
The good admiral rises to the occasion and takes off in the Flying Sub, which, after nearly a full season, has finally been fitted with some weaponry--a laser gun. Chest shots having failed to affect the creature (Crane thought he was aiming for the heart, but how could he be sure that's where the heart was?) Park aims at the head and neck, and this time succeeds in knocking it down (but are we really sure that it's dead?)
Hansjurg further redeems himself by assisting the ship's Doctor (Wayne Heffley's final appearance) with the two crewmen. It's done rather oddly. Borgman had seemed certain that freezing all but a certain section of the skull would enable the pineal gland to replenish itself, but Hansjurg states that they had stopped the freezing in time, and he had replenished the glands himself. (With what, may I ask? Someone else's donation?)
Park is left wondering just how he will explain matters to Admiral Nelson. Crane assures him that Nelson will understand--but Park doesn't look too sure.