Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 3 Episode 12

The Plant Man

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Dec 04, 1966 on ABC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Plant Man
Telepathic twin brothers are conducting important undersea research on the growth rate of edible sea plants, but one of them has a sinister hidden agenda.

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  • This one, despite some flaws, was pretty fun to watch. All they needed was a giant economy sized bottle of weed killer. Either or that or a few gallons of salad dressing....moreless

    I'm not sure how common the premise would have been back when this first aired. Nowadays, of course, the idea of the good twin/evil twin is pretty well known. William Smithers did a quite good job with it--in both parts.

    Dr. John Wilson is working alone in a sealab--Hydroponics Station Able. We will quickly learn that the purpose of his experiments (the stated purpose, at least) is to try and develop high-yield crops of edible seaweed using radiation. (Back then, I suppose, the idea of growing more food by dowsing it with high levels of radiation didn't have the "ick" factor it would have now.) The lab is full of plants, but John's attention is on a larger plant that's outside the sealab (looking remarkably like a large bunch of lettuce). John turns on an energy source (radiation, presumably) and the plant writhes in reaction. John is interruped by a call; Seaview is turning up earlier than scheduled. Nelson is startled when John tells him that he already knows that his twin, Ben, is aboard the Seaview. The two apparently share a telepathic link. (Another common premise.) When Nelson leaves the room, Ben takes the opportunity to communicate with his brother, and we learn that something is seriously wrong. He demands that John finish up the experiment before the Seaview arrives. John protests, but to no avail; as Ben points out, John is the weaker twin. We see clear evidence of this--while Ben communicates in complete silence, John apparently has to vocalize in order to get his thoughts across. John caves in and turns the power up full. A sudden shock wrenches at the entire sealab, and John is knocked down and out. Ben reacts instantly, doubling over and falling to the deck. The plant, which had been of some indeterminate size, is abruptly towering over the sealab.

    As Crane and Nelson are discussing the Wilsons' seaweed experiments, sonar becomes aware of an approaching belt of turbulence, source unknown. Crane orders the crew to brace for impact--but bracing never seems to work on the Seaview, at least not in the Control Room. Surprisingly, the Seaview only sustains some minor hull strain. However, Sparks cannot raise the sealab on the radio. Ben turns up, claiming that his brother is dead (and not looking too terribly disturbed at the fact). He states that there was a radiation explosion at the sealab. Nelson listens to him politely, but has Sparks continue to call. Meanwhile, John has started to revive. Ben looks startled, obviously picking up on this fact--but for some reason he refuses to tell the others that his brother is actually still alive, even though that knowledge undoubtedly would have hastened them on. Chip Morton reports that hull sensors have indicated that the turbulence that hit them had a lot of radiation. Ben seems more concerned at being vindicated in his claim than about the harm done to the sealab and his brother. Nelson decides to take the Flying Sub to get the sealab faster, and Ben volunteers to go with him.

    On the way, Ben communicates with his brother, telling him to stay unconcious. ("O.K, John, pass out again--that's an order!") FS1 arrives--with yet another lovely underwater miniature shot as the Flying Sub floats past the damaged sealab and settles on the seabed. No idea why Nelson didn't park it closer. As they prepare to suit up and swim for the sealab, the radiated plant shows up (now looking like a big, BIG head of lettuce) and grabs FS1. By the way it was twisting the sub about, Nelson and Ben should have ended up on the ceiling, but of course that would have been difficult to film. Nelson manages to report to the Seaview. He starts up the afterjets, hoping to burn his way out of the plant's grasp. It works--sort of. Just as Nelson reports that they're returning, the plant bats at them, sending FS1 tumbling end over end and down again. This time, the sparks fly, and Nelson and Ben, by rights, should have been knocked senseless, if not killed outright, but they're just shaken up a bit.

    Crane had poured on the power the moment the Admiral mentioned a giant plant. We learn that FS1 has an automatic homing signal, and they lock on this when Sparks can't raise the Admiral. Nelson and Ben revive sufficiently to make contact again. Ben suggests that Seaview blast the plant with a laser. Nelson is afraid that the individual pieces of the plant would be able to regenerate. Unfortunately, he doesn't think to warn Crane about this. He simply orders the Seaview to ram the plant. That was a well-shot sequence. Inside the Seaview, there is the regulation lurching about and sparks flying from the panels. (I understand that every cast member who worked in the Control Room got burned by sparks sooner or later.) Nelson and Ben (who, judging by the sequence of shots, got suited up extraordinarily fast) leave FS1, Nelson taking an ultrasonic gun with him. Ben, who was ordered to head for the Seaview, instead goes to the sealab.

    Ben revives John (obediently unconcious all this while) and we learn the extent of Ben's nefarious plans. John had seriously been attempting to do good for the world by growing more food--but for Ben, that was only a cover for his real purpose: creating an army of giant heads of lettuce (er, seaweed) to take over the world. There's no explanation for why Ben wants to do this; apparently he's just inherently evil. You would think that John would have picked up on this facet of his twin's personality long ago. Perhaps, as Ben points out (repeatedly) John is the weaker of the two, and he simply can't read his brother with the ease that his brother reads him. Or perhaps he simply didn't want to believe it. Ben, of course, considers his brother a fool for not knowing. Interestingly, while John is identified as a doctor, there is no clear indication that Ben is a formally trained scientist. While Ben seems to have gotten the idea of controlled plant monsters, he clearly states that the business of creating them was entirely his brother's work. There's more than a hint of the attitude "you may be smarter, but I'm stronger!" coming from Ben. John had already created a small control unit for the plants (if they're just supposed to be large food plants, why would he need a control unit for them?) Ben aims it outside at the large plant, and it somehow moves across the sea floor. (You can't really see how--it doesn't seem to have feet as such.) Nelson shoots at it, but the ultrasonics are ineffective. A diving team comes swimming to the rescue. Crane (you KNOW it's Crane) shoots at the plant with a laser pistol, and it vanishes utterly--which makes the resulting pieces of plant floating about very confusing. They should have used an explosive effect; then you would expect to see pieces. Finding Nelson unhurt, Crane and Sharkey head for the sealab, while Kowalski is detailed to gather up all the loose bits of plant. (Seems to me that would be a job for a large team, not one man.)

    Inside the sealab, Ben has inexplicably gotten hold of some pieces of the plant. This cannot be pieces of some other plant, because he needed the one that had been irradiated. If he'd gone back outside to gather pieces, the others would have spotted him. Crane shows up at the sealab. Demanding to know why Ben had not returned to the Seaview, Ben shows him that his brother is still alive, but badly hurt. Crane's not thinking too fast here, or he would have asked Ben why he hadn't called the Seaview to get help--or why he took the time to remove his suit and get into dry clothes. While Crane is calling Seaview, Ben uses the control device on the bits of plant--right where Crane can see him, yet Crane doesn't notice. Nelson, who by now has returned to the Seaview, sends a mini-sub to collect John, and orders Crane to collect all of John's experimental notes. Ben orders John to stay unconcious. He also mentions, off-handedly, that everyone else is going to die.

    There's unconcious, and there's unconcious. In this case, John is somehow able to walk across the floor (well, it would be hard to carry a man in full diving gear). Crane and Sharkey have somehow managed to find uniforms to put on. (Gallivanting about in wetsuits looks rather undignified when you're not in the water.) In Sickbay, Nelson learns that there seems to be no viable reason for John to be unconcious (in spite of the fact that Sharkey reported him to be nearly dead). Ben orders John to wake up, find the pieces of plant brought aboard, and take them to the Seaview's Reactor room. John tries to protest, and again caves in. Ben decoys Crane and Sharkey into a storage room and locks them in. He casually tosses a chunk of plant on the floor and aims his control device at it. The plant moves, emitting squeaking noises that put me in mind of the little plant-like critters seen at the end of the Star Trek episode "Catspaw".

    In Nelson's lab, John starts to struggle against Ben in earnest, but Ben is still too strong. Nelson shows up. As ordered, John distracts Nelson, then knocks him out and grabs the seaweed.

    Crane and Sharkey manage to get the hatch lock loose, step out into the lab...and beat a hasty retreat when confronted by an agitated, man-sized plant. (It's very prettily colored--which wasn't very noticeable out in the water.)

    John leaves the bits of seaweed in the Reactor Room. Apparently he knows his way around, because he knows just what buttons to push to boost the power. Up in the Control Room, Sparks cannot reach Crane (poor Sparks spends a great deal of time calling people in vain) but Chip Morton learns that Ben has arrived on the Seaview--alone. He claims that Crane and Sharkey are retrieving some intrumentation, but Chip is suspicious. He calls for the Admiral--then sends a crewman to look for him when Nelson doesn't answer. The Seaview suddenly lurches. The cause is apparently a dangerous upsurge from the Reactor Room. Two crewmen arrive on the run. Although the room appears to be full of plant, only one actually emerges. Unfortunately, one of the two crewmen doesn't move fast enough. Back at the sealab, Crane and Sharkey stealthily open the hatch, then dowse the plant with sulphuric acid. Incredibly, it doesn't seem to have any effect, except to slow it down sufficiently for them to grab their gear and head for the exit.

    Nelson comes to, and immediately orders John to be confined. He learns of the new crop on the Seaview, while we learn that, as we suspected, the one crewman has been killed. Despite the fact that just minutes before, Chip had shown that he was suspicious of Ben, he leaves Ben unguarded. Some crewmen take shots at the plant shuffling through the corridors. Although it reacts to being hit, it's not harmed.

    John, who is wandering the corridors, is suddenly confronted by his brother, who orders him to get a laser and blast the plants remaining in the Reactor Room. John flatly refuses--he knows that this will only result in many more plants. Ben could obviously fetch a laser and do the job himself--but he clearly enjoys forcing his brother to do it for him.

    Crane and Sharkey arrive back at the Seaview and inform the Admiral what happened. Nelson is startled to learn that Ben is also working against them, but he doesn't think to order him confined. (Well, he was a little preoccupied at the time.)

    Ben finds the control device that he apparently tucked away when he came on board. Opening the hatch, he's confronted by the plant. Hastily bringing the control device up, he quiets the plant and makes it sit down. (You wouldn't think a head of lettuce would have a place to sit, but it does.) John comes in, armed with a laser pistol. He seems surprised that Ben has the plant under control, although he seems to be the one who created the control device. John's apparently been struggling some more, because otherwise he would have been at the Reactor Room. Ben orders him to go there, and when John balks, threatens him by allowing the sitting plant to move. John swiftly shoots it, leaving quite a mess on the floor. Ben thinks it will grow again, but John points out that without additional radiation, it will just die. Ben again asserts his control over John--but John abruptly turns and shoots him. This scene didn't work well for me. We had seen Ben react instantaneously when his brother had been injured earlier. Even if John has a weaker telepathic link, he surely should have reacted instantly to his brother's death--not to mention his mental reaction to the act of fratricide. Instead, he collapses quite slowly, looking more like a case of simple exhaustion. Back at the Reactor Room, Nelson, Crane, Sharkey and Kowalski line up like the Earps facing off against the Clanton Gang. Why would they think bullets would work against plants? No, guys, bullets don't work against plants. Spotting some handy cylinders nearby (liquid oxygen, or some other chilly mixture), Nelson suddenly realizes what he should have figured out before, grabs a cylinder, and lets the plants have it. They don't seem to react much at first, but Nelson presses on, until he's suddenly yanked into the Reactor Room. The others stand, looking somewhat perplexed (even though there's more of those cylinders right there). Crane belatedly dives into the Reactor Room and hauls out Nelson, looking a trifle frosty. Sharkey and 'Ski go in to turn the reactors down (everyone seems to have forgotten that the radiation level is dangerously high). Seaview quickly quiets down, and all is well again. John has been found unconcious, although Ben is nowhere to be found. Nelson is certain that John can tell them his whereabouts once he wakes up. John, in fact, is going to have a great deal of explaining to do, and he can only hope that Nelson will believe him.

    An exciting show, but it could have been better. I wish they had gone into the Wilsons' relationship more. Was Ben's desire to take over the world, for example, his way of getting back at his smarter brother? It seems pretty pointless. And where did he pick up his utter disregard for human life? I don't mind monsters when they're handled well, but you need to have some decent motivations.moreless
William Smithers

William Smithers

John/Ben Wilson

Guest Star

Terry Becker

Terry Becker

Chief Sharkey

Recurring Role

Del Monroe

Del Monroe


Recurring Role

Arch Whiting

Arch Whiting


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions