Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 4 Episode 14

The Return of Blackbeard

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Dec 31, 1967 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • Avast, me hearties! Settle in for a rip-roaring good time. (And everyone on the show looked as though they were having fun, too!)


    This is one of those episodes that has a specific date locked in: 1982. The Seaview is cruising along, but inside Kowalski is complaining that there are gremlins in the sonar. Chip tells him to keep checking on it. Nelson inquires about the Shah's yacht (we never learn just what Shah this is). Crane hasn't spotted it yet, but approximately half the fleet seems to have shown up to assist in escort duty. Nelson hints at the usual secret orders--if the Shah does not get safely to Washington, it could start a war. Patterson calls Crane over--he's spotted an object flying across the area dead ahead. Nelson scans it with the periscope--it turns out to be a military helicopter, no doubt carrying the president to his pre-conference talk with the Shah. Kowalski mentions the strange patterns in the sonar again. Nelson orders the nose camera turned on, and--oddly--a homing device. What could they need a homing device for? The monitor shows a mound on the seabed. Crane thinks that it looks like a weapons bunker; Nelson opines a missile silo. Crane orders Patterson to send a probe. Patterson starts to show Chip an odd reaction at his station--then his panel starts to spark. Chip tells Nelson that instruments indicate that they are under attack. (I would love to know just what they saw.) Crane calls the Missile Room and tells Sharkey to load the number 1 torpedo. After bouncing between the Missile Room and the Control Room, Crane orders a countdown. (The Missile Room now has a nice lighted "clock" to count down with.) The torpedo is launched...and then circles round back at them. Yikes! Hard left rudder enables them to escape the torpedo "by a seal's whisker", but then it curves around again. Crane slows the Seaview to one third, and they blow starboard tanks, but the torpedo keeps heading for them. After Nelson states that they must destroy it, Crane has Chip hold the ship head on to the torpedo while he uses the laser. The torpedo explodes, followed by a major lurch. Not only are there a lot of sparks going off, but there is a genuine fire blazing merrily above the Radio Shack. As the men frantically try to stabilize, there is a sudden burst. All the men are suddenly in slightly different positions. They are also frozen. And--oh, yes--a pirate has suddenly appeared on the periscope island, stretching. (As we'll soon discover, he was probably in need of a good stretch.)

    After the credits, the pirate looks about. He comments on the "stout ship" and a "lusty crew". (I've never noticed that the crew has ever had much time to be lusty; ghosts and aliens and monsters and stuff like that there keeps them rather busy.) He abruptly vanishes with the comment, "At last!" (Uh, oh.) The men unfreeze, and obviously they were more than simply paralyzed, as they are unaware of the visitor. Crane calls for Damage Control--only some minor damage in Frame 6--and then suddenly notices that Nelson had been knocked out, or at least down. Nelson is obviously rattled, but, as always, refuses to see the doctor. Chip reports that Sharkey does not know what happened with the torpedo. Nelson points out that this often happened during World War II with electronic circuits going wrong. No one is tactless enough to point out that they are a long way from WWII, with greatly improved technology. Chip (not Crane?) suggests that Nelson get some rest, and, remarkably, Nelson agrees--first reminding them to check out that strange mound before the Shah's yacht arrives in the area. Crane tells Chip to send a robot profile analyser to scan it. (Apparently the budget didn't allow for such a prop to be built; it could have been a nifty little device.) For some reason, they don't want to take time to get a full spectrum analysis; just a graphic reproduction. Crane calls the Missile Room to ready another torpedo--and to check it carefully. Down in the Missile Room, the pirate has shown up. He watches as Sharkey sends a man to fetch a sensor, and follows him from the room. The man hears someone following him, turns, and (understandably) stares, before reaching to yank on an alarm conveniently next to him on the wall. General Quarters sounds, causing Nelson to spring up in his cabin, and the crew to start rushing to stations. Up in the Control Room, Crane notes that the alarm is coming from Frame 7, and sends Kowalski to check on it, rather than calling for Security. As Kowalski and another man approach, the original crewman lunges at the pirate and they both vanish. The alarm stops at the same time. Kowalski comes around the corner and finds a red skull and crossbones smoking on the floor. Kowalski laughs it off and moves on. (He should know better.) Nelson, in his cabin, calls to inquire about the General Quarters. He doesn't seem too concerned about the fact that no one knows why it was sounded. He brushes off inquiries about his health, and asks about the mound. (No new information there, either.) Going into his washroom, Nelson splashes some water on his face. He comes out drying himself, looking at the mirror. You just know the pirate is going to pop into view behind him, and he does. He introduces himself with a flourish: Captain Edward Teach, of the Queen Anne's Revenge (at your service). Nelson, of course, recognizes the real name of the pirate commonly known as Blackbeard. (Malachi Throne did a marvelous portrayal, although I suspect that the real Edward Teach was never so clean.) Nelson (after three and a half seasons on board the Seaview) reacts very calmly. He eases back to his desk and grabs for the telephone, but Blackbeard smacks the desk with his sword. There's a lovely little touch, as Blackbeard curiously examines the lamp on the desk, while Nelson speculates as to how this person managed to stow aboard, in costume. He suggests a peaceful surrender, but Blackbeard has no intention of "striking his colors". Nelson points out that Blackbeard has been dead for over 200 years, and was a blaggard--the most villainous, licentious, brawling brute that ever sailed the seven seas. Blackbeard naturally takes this as a compliment. They should properly be having this discussion over a tankard of mulled ale. He wants the Seaview--and her crew--so that he can resume sailing the seas, brawling and plundering and terrorizing the populace. There is a world full of treasure waiting to be plundered--notably one specific gold treasure. Nelson glances at his desk, and Blackbeard admits that he read the secret orders. The Shah of Whatever has aboard his yacht the legendary golden throne of Solomon. (Don't recall ever hearing of such a thing, but Solomon did have a liking for gold-coated things.) Nelson calls Blackbeard a lunatic, and gets a shove in the face for his pains. Blackbeard backs up to the door, then leaves to gather up his crew. If he'd simply vanished, Nelson probably would have been more inclined to believe in him, but instead he simply ran off down the corridor.

    Down in the Missile Room, Crane calls to check on the torpedo, and Sharkey lamely puts him off. Irritated at the missing crewman, he goes to fetch the sensor himself. In his cabin, Nelson arms himself (from the desk, not his safe) before leaving. He bumps into Sharkey and draws his gun. He asks if Sharkey has seen Blackbeard, and, receiving a negative, moves on, leaving Sharkey to stop and think about that one. Sharkey enters a supply room, manned by a rather lackadasical crewman. The crewman he had sent, Yablonski, had not been there. Sharkey doesn't even consider that this might mean that something's wrong; he simply asks for the necessary sensor, and the crewman slowly fetches what looks like a tool box. Sharkey snatches something and runs. The crewman packs up the box, returns it to the cabinet--and Blackbeard appears, sword at the ready. Out in the corridor, Sharkey realizes that he has the wrong thing (and naturally blames it all on the crewman) and returns to the supply room, where he finds the crewman gone and a red skull and crossbones smoking on the floor. Up in the Control room, Nelson reports an "imposter" who is on board to get the golden throne. Crane puts this down to the knock Nelson got on the head, but Nelson insists that they have a lunatic on board, and they can't leave him running loose. At this point, Patterson comes up with the graphic reproduction of the mound interior. It is a perfect image of an old sailing vessel, and the name is clearly marked: Queen Anne's Revenge. Nelson acts rather "I told you so" in spite of the fact that this does not tally with his own idea of the man being a live stowaway rather than a two hundred year old ghost. Chip thinks that it is a fantastic coincidence. (Fantastic doesn't begin to cover it.) Sharkey comes up at this point and stuns them all by asking Crane if he can be relieved of duty. He's having hallucinations, having seen a skull and crossbones on the floor and a bearded pirate. (This must have been edited out, because as far as the audience is concerned, he saw no such thing.) Kowalski comes up and belatedly admits that he saw a similar skull and crossbones, which he had taken for a joke. Crane concedes that someone had slipped past Security and had gotten on board (which doesn't explain the ship in the mound). He calls the Master at Arms, reports an imposter in pirate costume, armed with a cutlass, and presumed dangerous. A search commences. Two men in the search party find Blackbeard, who whips his sword and makes them vanish. (Vanish where, I'd like to know?) He enters the Circuitry Room and makes two more men disappear. Crewman Marco and another man confront him and open fire; another sword flourish, another two men gone. Blackbeard hears a broadcast from Engineering; all the repairs are complete. Blackbeard sprints around the corner--but then he "pops" into Engineering. Two more down, just as Kowalski enters the room. 'Ski opens fire, and keeps coming despite the fact that the shots are not doing anything. Blackbeard apparently admires his tenacity (or thickheadedness). He touches 'Ski with his sword, and 'Ski is suddenly clothed in pirate garb, complete with his own sword. 'Ski stands frozen as Blackbeard states that he will make a proper First Mate. He also notes that Kowalski's looks will no doubt attract the ladies, and 'Ski, with a broad grin, begins to laugh.

    Crane and Chip speak of a force field protecting the pirate sloop inside the mound. (Presumably this accounts for Kowalski's "gremlins".) Crane speculates that the sloop is a cover for some special weapon, perhaps intended to attack the Shah's yacht. Chip points out that Nelson has already alerted the yacht, but then we see Nelson, looking disgusted. The force field is apparently jamming communications. Crane calls the Missile Room. Even if the torpedo isn't ready yet (and this has to be the longest prep time for a torpedo in the history of the show) Crane wants it ready to fire at the mound. Sharkey assures him that there will be no more accidents. Blackbeard and Kowalski overhear this--Blackbeard states that he arranged for the ship to be knocked out, and Kowalski "lustily" agrees. Blackbeard admits that knocking out the sloop would finish him. He sends Kowalski to arrange another accident--threatening to keelhaul him if he fails. (That would be interesting, keelhauling someone on a submarine.) This is as good a time as any to wonder just how (and why) this 200-year-old dead pirate has been granted such fantastic powers. Why should he be able to make living men disappear, change their clothes, and take over their minds? Up in the Control Room, Crane calls for reports on the search--and gets an ominous silence. The Reactor Room, Engineering, and Sickbay are equally silent. (I would like to have seen Richard Bull as a pirate ship's surgeon.) Crane arms himself, and goes off to investigate. Nelson pulls off a strip from a panel, and tells Chip absentmindedly that he's heading for the lab to make a counter for the force field. (Nelson's motto seems to be, When in Doubt, Head for the Lab.) In the corridor, Crane hears eerie laughter. He enters the same supply room that Sharkey had entered earlier; there is more laughter. Blackbeard's shadow appears on a stack of boxes, and Crane fires at it. He walks over to the boxes, which promptly topple over him. Down in the lab, Nelson is already well along. Blackbeard pops in to tell him to take care--he wants Nelson in good shape. Nelson keeps calm. Nelson, in fact, acts rather like a parent refusing to react to his child's misbehavior, knowing that the child is only trying to get attention. He mentions that men are looking for Blackbeard. Blackbeard doesn't mention that he's been making them vanish. He tells Nelson to call off the search because he cannot be destroyed by mortals. He goes on to say that as long as he holds his cutlass, he cannot be harmed--and no one can disarm him. Nelson abruptly whips an electrical wire over him. Blackbeard looks confounded, and vanishes. Nelson looks smug, but only for a moment--Blackbeard pops back in on his other side, thereby destroying all hope that Nelson had that he was dealing with a mortal man. Blackbeard is annoyed with Nelson, but also impressed. He is now ready to make his demands, but Nelson wants nothing to do with him. Blackbeard suddenly bursts out with a cry of admiration for Nelson's spirit, which is the reason Blackbeard has chosen him, from all other possible ships. He offers Nelson a co-captaincy. Their plunder will begin with the golden throne. The Seaview will blast the yacht, then pick up the throne from the seabed. Nelson states firmly that they will stop him--he just doesn't know how, yet. Blackbeard vows that Nelson will come crawling. He wants Nelson's scientific knowledge (even ghosts want Nelson!) as well as his seamanship. After all, things have changed in 200 years. Nelson states that he cannot be forced--but Blackbeard says that he could take over Nelson's body--just as he's already done with some of the crew. But he also needs Nelson's brain, which he can only get with Nelson's willing cooperation. There are ways to persuade Nelson. Nelson scoffs at this. They hear Chip call Crane to the Control Room. Blackbeard vanishes on a final threat--strike colors, or die.

    Up in the Control Room, the torpedoes are nearly loaded and almost ready to fire. (Sure taking their own sweet time about it, aren't they?) In the supply room, Patterson and another crewman find Crane under the boxes, just coming to. All three leave the room, Crane looking rather battered. In the Missile Room, they load the torpedo under Sharkey's supervision. Sharkey prepares the panel, and Chip starts a ten second countdown. Blackbeard comes down the stairs and jumps into the Control Room. The sensible thing would have been to keep going, but Chip calls to abort the firing. Blackbeard waves his cutlass and freezes Chip and the sonarman, then steps to the helm and freezes those two. Nelson comes down the stairs to find the Control Room manned by pirates, although Chip is still in uniform. He orders Chip to fire the torpedo, and Chip tells him to strike his colors. Blackbeard states that Chip is a strong body that he will trade for Nelson's mind. He whips his cutlass, and Chip is suddenly himself again. Nelson grabs up the mike and orders the torpedo fired. Down in the Missile Room, Kowalski stops Sharkey a fraction away from hitting the button. Sharkey notes that Kowalski is out of uniform. Sharkey has a talent for understatement. Nelson calls down again, and Sharkey attacks, followed by his fellow crewmen. Kowalski, of course, manages to fend them all off. Sharkey reaches again for the firing button, and Kowalski again just manages to stop him. In the Control Room, Blackbeard orders Nelson (and Chip?) "lashed to the deck". I'm not sure just what deck he's talking about. Crane comes in, Blackbeard orders him attacked, and Crane promptly fires into one of the control panels, putting Seaview into a lurch. Down in the Missile Room, a barrel of explosive comes loose, sparking at one end. Sharkey calls to evacuate the Missile Room. Crane yells an order to take her up before she hits bottom--but he, Nelson, and Chip all leave the room--who's going to follow his orders? Someone must, because Seaview does go up. Blackbeard orders his "swabs" to go after them. Down in the Missile Room, Kowalski flees the smoking barrel of explosive, but Sharkey and his men calmly extinguish it. He has the men police the area, including popping the torpedoes back out to check. Nelson, Crane and Chip reach the lab. Nelson tells them that Blackbeard really is Blackbeard. His power is in the forcefield, which extends to his cutlass. He sends Crane to get the crew (what's left of them, anyway) and fire the torpedo. Chip is to take the FS1 and laser the mound, while he, Nelson, works on the cutlass problem. Crane and Chip slip down a corridor. Crane asks Chip if he had been aware of being "taken over". Chip states that he felt like a pirate, and would have killed Crane if he had been ordered to do so. (He's forgotten that Crane wasn't in the room at the time.) Crane realizes that there will be no point in trying to "reach" his crew. Chip heads for the Flying Sub, while Crane continues on his way. He slips into thatsame supply room just before Kowalski and his party walk past (ignoring the open door). Crane spots someone, hiding in the room, and confronts Patterson--but Patterson is still himself. (It boggles the mind to think of the unflappable Patterson as a pirate.) Chip gets to the FS1 and launches (without any outside assistance), but then Blackbeard pops in. Rather than just taking over Chip (perhaps he didn't want to waste energy?) he orders Chip to come about. Chip revs up the power, the shoves Blackbeard aside and grabs for the laser, only to be frozen. Blackbeard takes a swing at a control panel, cursing as he does so, then vanishes. Sparks fly, and the FS1 heads for the bottom and the regulation rock. In the lab, Nelson hears men trying to get in. Kowalski orders him to open up, but Nelson (that's Admiral Nelson) is not taking orders today. He calmly continues working. Kowalski orders explosives brought. Crane and Patterson enter the Missile Room to find Sharkey and the crew. Sharkey starts to tell about Kowalski, but Crane interrupts. He wants an atomic warhead "slapped" onto the torpedo. Well, what's one more delay? At the lab, the pirate crew fit the explosive on the door as Nelson completes his finishing touches. The door bursts open. Nelson takes up his device as Kowalski theatrically springs in: Surrender or Die! Nelson irritably tells Kowalski to come to his senses. Kowalski orders him run through (Blackbeard might have been a little annoyed if he had actually done so) and Nelson activates his device, which seems to form a force field of it's own. Kowalski and Co. rush off to get Blackbeard ("I'm telling my big brother on you!") In the Missile Room, the warhead has been installed (in quite good time, considering) and Crane tells Sharkey to find Nelson and warn him. In the lab, Nelson has left offwith the device and is now working on a cylindrical something. Blackbeard and Kowalski head down a corridor. Sharkey reaches the lab, and tells Nelson that the torpedo is ready. Nelson casually states that his device is an anti-force field device based on ultrasonics. If it works (If? This is Nelson we're talking about!) they will "teach Teach" about modern science. It will change Blackbeard into loose atoms. Sharkey nervously asks about side effects; Nelson doesn't know. That's comforting. He prepares to test it, even though it might blow a hole in the Seaview. Nelson secures the device, aims it at a beaker, and breaks it.

    Blackbeard and Kowalski, whom I had thought were heading for the lab, spring into the Missile Room. Blackbeard looks over the slim, handsome young captain, and decides that he wants to fight him. He hands his cutlass to Kowalski (which I thought would lead to something, but it didn't). If Crane can stay upright, he will join Blackbeard's crew. If not, he'll hang. Crane responds calmly (all of the men not under control conduct themselves with admirable restraint) but accepts the challenge. The fight commences. They are fairly even. Just as Crane is getting the upper hand, a voice calls Blackbeard; the yacht is on the horizon. Blackbeard stops the fight (a cynic might think that he was relieved to have an excuse) and orders Crane and the others tied up, while he and Kowalski head for the Control Room. (He'll deal with Nelson later. More fool him.) Nelson calls down to the Missile Room, and slowly comes to the realization that Crane must have been captured. In the Control Room, Kowalski checks the periscope. He tells the Missile Room to ready the torpedo. Crane protests, to no avail. Blackbeard orders the shot, and Kowalski sets the ten-second countdown.

    In the lab, hearing the countdown, Nelson and Sharkey quickly stop to a control panel at the side of the room and pull it open before Nelson takes a good swing at it with an ax. The torpedo is fired--and nothing happens. The Missile Room reports that someone jammed the power. Kowalski notes that the main circuit cable is out, and Blackbeard is certain that Nelson is responsible. (Brilliant deduction, Holmes!) This, of course, means war. Nelson will be drawn and quartered, while Crane will walk the plank. Kowalski sensibly points out the difficulty of doing this on a submarine, but Blackbeard has a variation in mind. In the lab, Nelson and Sharkey contemplate their temporary triumph. Blackbeard will be after them again, and Nelson's device has had it's power cell smashed--and there's no replacement. (Tsk, tsk.) However, Nelson casually states that all they need is another power source, and they trot off to find one. Kowalski returns to the Missile Room and unties Crane--he's going for a little swim. Meanwhile, Nelson and Sharkey enter the Circuitry Room (for a change, it's the good guys who are going to wreak havoc in the Circuitry Room) and set up Nelson's device. Blackbeard stomps into the lab, finds it empty, and starts smashing things. (It's not really a good idea to go smashing chemicals at random.) In the Missile Room, Crane suits up (if he's being sent to drown, why waste time with a suit?) and is ordered into the escape hatch, with a tank with one minute's worth of air. Patterson shouts a protest, but Kowalski fills the escape hatch. Crane exits, and swims purposefully off. Experienced viewers know exactly where he's headed. Blackbeard finally tracks Nelson to the Circuitry Room, and demands that Nelson strike his colors. (He's very fond of that phrase.) Nelson, of course, declines. Blackbeard mentions Chip Morton, out on the seabed, and Crane, who is going out to join him. Nelson turns on his device, and Blackbeard starts forward before pausing--he seems to be caught in something. However, he manages to throw his cutlass aside, into a panel, which shorts things out, and Seaviewgoes into another lurch. (I wonder if Chip was watching this from the Flying Sub: "There she goes again. I bet someone's messing around in the Circuitry Room.") After things settle down, Blackbeard snatches up his cutlass--and finds it broken. He seems very oddly unconcerned by this. Before he gets around to blowing up the yacht, he's going to have it out with Nelson; he draws two daggers and tosses one to Nelson. (Sharkey apparently was knocked cold during the lurch.) The knife fight proceeds rather slowly. Blackbeard kicks Nelson's dagger away. Nelson heaves Blackbeard over a table and wrestles with him. He pushes Blackbeard away, punches him, retrieves his dagger, and they start circling again. Nelson gets thrown into a side panel, and manages (being the star) to avoid getting electrocuted. A voice again intervenes, telling Blackbeard that the torpedo is ready (that torpedo must be getting tired of all this poncing about). Blackbeard decides to call it a draw, tosses Nelson the other dagger, and leaves. Nelson wakes up Sharkey, then goes to one of the panels at the far end of the room and shorts out something. Meanwhile, Crane, as expected, comes up through the hole in the Pressure Room. Blackbeard rushes into the Missile Room and orders a broadside. (Don't they need to aim or something?) and Kowalski heads for the firing panel. Crane (who, in this dire situation, has paused to change back into uniform) runs in and tosses a flat grenade, which causes some sparks. Crane is knocked down. Kowalski reports that the firing power has been knocked out. Blackbeard eyes the nuclear missiles, which will do the job and then some. Kowalski is utterly indifferent to the hazards. They prepare the missile (ignoring Failsafe, which is right next to the panel). In the Circuitry Room, Sharkey can see by a set of lights that they are activating a short range missile. Kowalski gets the missile prepped, and Blackbeard has him fire. Seaview lurches on cue. Crane gets up as everyone staggers, and punches Blackbeard (who is remarkably corporeal for a ghost). Kowalski grabs him, and Nelson and Sharkey come in, armed with Nelson's device. Blackbeard is preparing to slice Crane up (with Kowalski's cutlass) as Nelson warns him to stop. Blackbeard freezes in mid-slash, then disappears in a burst. All the men are suddenly back in uniform, looking confused. Blackbeard, however, managed to leave a skull and crossbones behind him (perhaps indicating that he was not destroyed?) Crane immediately prepares to start retrieving survivors, but Nelson assures him that the missile did not hit the yacht. Nelson had reprogrammed the circuits, and the missile hit the mound instead. (So why didn't Blackbeard react right then?) Kowalski wonders (wistfully?) if Blackbeard will return, but Nelson doubts it. But there was that skull and crossbones.... As an afterthought, Chip calls in ("Hey, remember me?") Good thing he wasn't caught by the blast. Crane tells him that they will pick him and they will swap pirate yarns--over tankards of mulled ale.

    This ghost story wasn't creepy in the slightest--it was just good fun.