Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 2 Episode 17

The Phantom Strikes

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Jan 16, 1966 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • It's a shame this one was first broadcast in January. It would have made a perfect Halloween episode.

    Seaview takes a radical detour into the supernatural for this episode. This one was interesting enough that it inspired a sequel some weeks later.

    Seaview's current mission seems to be a simple and tedious one: charting the sea bottom in the Pacific area. They calculate only three more days before they can head in for a well-deserved break. The simple mission gets abruptly turned on its ear when sonar suddenly indicates a vessel of some sort in front of them. Hydrophones can detect no sound, so it would seem to be a derelict, and it certainly looks like one: an old, crusted-over submarine with a gaping hole in its side. Nelson marks it as being of historic interest once the current mission has been completed--but suddenly the Seaview will not move. The reactor has inexplicably shut down. The derelict sub (U444) lifts off from the bottom and rises until it's on level with the Seaview. Nelson speculates that bottom currents have knocked the sub loose, but you can see from his expression that he's just groping for an excuse. There is no excuse, however, when they suddenly start hearing a rythmic tapping sound coming from the U444.

    One by one, all the equipment in the Control Room shuts down. The U444 suddenly (everything's sudden in this episode) disappears in a burst of bubbles that gives the Seaview a pretty good lurch. All the equipment comes back on. Rather than hanging about dwelling on the curiousness of it all, Nelson opts to get the heck out of there. I was surprised that no one offered the possibility that the crew was just under the strain of a long and tiring mission.

    Nelson quietly sends in a request for information on the U444. As he had thought, it's a German WWI submarine, commissioned in July of 1916, and destroyed two years later. was sunk in the North Atlantic, 5,000 miles away as the plane flies, and 30,000 miles away as the ship sails.

    Some time later (at night, of course) watchers spot debris in the water, along with one survivor, who is brought aboard. It is a creepy introduction: as the man looks down from the topside hatch, the main lights go out. It's not clear whether the red glow is from emergency lighting or from...something else, but it's a very effective moment. If you take note of relative positions, it's clear that the man is staring straight down at Crane.

    The man introduces himself as Captain Gerhart Krueger, commander of the S.S. Eidelweiss. He claims that his ship was rammed and sunk by an old WWI submarine. In spite of their own experience with said submarine, no one takes this part of his story seriously. As Kruger prepares to go to his cabin, he catches Nelson's gaze and holds it for a long moment.

    Kowalski, on guard outside Krueger's door, spots him standing in the well as inside his own door. The following morning, Crane discovers that, rather than being a few hours away from Honolulu, the Seaview had altered course in the night and is now some 300 miles further south. He has also found out that there is not, and never has been, a ship called the Eidelweiss. In spite of the fact that a guard had been at Krueger's door all night (Kowalski doesn't have the nerve to report his odd experience) Crane is convinced that Krueger must be responsible. Oddly, it doesn't occur to anyone that Krueger might have slipped out through the ventilation system. It will not be until later, while conduction a shipwide search, that Sharkey will bring up the possibility.

    Krueger starts to work on Nelson--he had "willed" Nelson to understand the truth about him the previous night, but the stubborn scientist refuses to acknowledge it. For whatever reason, Krueger will not say directly that he is a ghost, even though that's quite obvious what he means. He leaves Nelson some time to assimilate the idea.

    This is where Nelson's behavior becomes inexplicable, not to mention annoying. He refuses to tell Crane or anyone else what is going on. Even if he didn't quite believe it, and even if Crane would not believe it, it would have been helpful for Crane to know what KRUEGER believed. Not only does Nelson keep silent, he seems amused and contemptuous of Crane's attempts to find a logical explanation for what's going on.

    Crane locks Krueger in the brig--or at least tries to. He decides to get rid of Krueger at once, escorting him to land in the Flying Sub. Nelson derisively accepts this decision, and goes to inform Krueger--who is not in the brig. In the meantime, the Flying Sub is somehow sabotaged, leaving Chip Morton injured. Crane orders a search made for Krueger. Nelson receives an answer to an enquiry he's made, and goes to his cabin to read it. For some reason, he elects to turn off his overhead lighting, instead straining to read the information by the light of his glowing earth globe (which is quite a nifty looking desk accessory). Krueger appears in the cabin which has just been thoroughly searched. He's lost patience with Nelson, and makes his demands clear: kill Lee Crane, or lose the entire ship and crew. Because his own career was cut so short, he wants the chance to live again--using Crane's body. As with the sequel, Nelson makes no arguments about CRANE'S career being unfairly cut off, or about how Crane might feel being a prisoner in his own body, presuming that he would have any awareness at all. There is also no comment on all the other young lives tragically cut short on the U444. Crane catches up with Krueger, and puts him in irons this time. Nelson STILL won't tell Crane what's going on. Krueger easily slips out of the brig again, and the guarding officer (Marco Lopez, who bounces back and forth between common crew and officer) shoots directly at him, to no effect.

    There is now a mad scramble to find Krueger at all costs. There's a rather amusing bit when Krueger pops out of a room immediately after a crewman has checked it, but the fun stops when Kowalski spots him and shoots him. For some reason, Kruegar plays at being hit, collapsing to the floor before abruptly disappearing. Kowalski, who's already had some experience of Krueger's comings and goings, flips out completely, endangering his fellow crewmen before they're able to disarm and subdue him.

    Moments later, Riley and Patterson corner Krueger (so they think) in a closet, and open fire. This time Krueger falls and stays down. The body is quickly prepared for sea burial. As hasty as it was, the ceremony was quite moving (and very effective with the foggy background). I loved the simple, necessary touch of holding a flashlight over the captain's shoulder so that he could read the service in the dark. In spite of all the hassle Krueger had been giving them, it was all conducted with the utmost respect.

    Thinking that it's all over, Crane follows Nelson back to his cabin, where Nelson spots his gun lying on his desk chair. He was probably fairly certain that Krueger was still around, but this clinches it. Nelson asks Crane several times over if they are crossing the 16th Parallel (Krueger's deadline for killing Crane.) Crane has suspected all along that Nelson knew more than he was telling, and he cannot understand why Nelson keeps harping on the 16th Parallel--and Nelson will not tell him. Crane has been getting more and more frustrated with Nelson's behavior, and even when Nelson aims his gun at him, seems more confused than concerned. Crane finally erupts in the face of Nelson's stubborn silence.

    Crane probably went topside to give himself the chance to cool off. Sonar picks up an approaching craft, and Crane spots it in the fog with the use of an infra-red searchlight. You can't really tell if he recognizes Krueger standing on the deck--at any rate, he makes no comment. Realizing that the sub intends to ram them, he orders a magnetic missile fired, which homes in and destroys the U444. Crane goes back down to the Control Room--to find everyone gaping at the sight of Captain Krueger. (It's very obvious that everyone in the room now knows just what Krueger is, which will make the plotline for the sequel very irritating.)

    Krueger has waited for decades for the chance to live again, only to find that the world has moved too far ahead for him. He makes a moving, lonely speech to the men, makes his apologies, and exits straight out the nose. Nelson believes that he will not return, although the popularity of this episode ensured that Krueger would change his mind. (It's not just a woman's perogative, you know.)