Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 1 Episode 6

The Sky Is Falling

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Oct 19, 1964 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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  • This is the first, and, I think, the best of the alien stories. It's a little heavy-handed at times, but Richard Basehart shines, and the storyline is (unfortunately) all too plausible.

    Something has popped in to visit Earth, uninvited. There are a number of theatrical shots, which unfortunately gives it a dated feel. The thing, a glowing disc, is being tracked by the Air Force, with plans to intercept. It is moving very rapidly down the California coast. Admiral Tobin, who is on hand, advises the Air Force General to shoot it down, whatever it is. They finally get it on camera, as the thing suddenly veers off towards the ocean, where it seems to crash. (It's interesting that these cameras somehow get a full forward shot of the vessel hitting the water, even though it was travelling away from the land.)

    Seaview is on what seems to be a routine mission--collecting water samples. They seem to have missed all the excitement. Sparks brings Nelson a message--the Seaview has been commandeered by the Navy. They are to plot a new heading and rendezvous with a helicopter. Their passenger is to be Rear Admiral Walter "Trigger-Happy" Tobin. This is what I mean by heavy-handedness; we know just what sort of man Tobin is going to be before he ever steps on board. When Tobin arrives, he, Nelson, and Crane go to Nelson's cabin for the report. The flying saucer had dropped down on them in the Aleutians, and made half a dozen passes across the United States before disappearing out to sea. (It doesn't seem to have gone anywhere else, and there is no mention of other countries being concerned.) The ships "Jefferson" and "Madison" had both been sent out to investigate. There's no word on the "Jefferson", but the "Madison" had reported making metal contact before getting sucked into a "vortex" and going down with all hands. The Seventh Fleet is on its way. At this point, Tobin casually settles himself at Nelson's desk before announcing that the Seaview is to be his flagship. It's going to be their job to "get it before it gets us." Nelson and Crane glance at each other, but make no comment.

    Tobin makes the announcement to the crew, making the situation sound dire indeed. Seaview is set to battle stations. As they approach the area where the "Madison" was lost, they start picking up an unknown metal contact. Sonar picks up some blips--whatever they've found, it's not moving. Seaview slows, and Tobin instantly advises them to prepare torpedoes, and Nelson, looking rather reluctant, confirms the order. They activate the outside cameras, seeing a lot of heavy debris whirling past. Seaview is rapidly caught up in the turbulence. They discover that they are heading for a whirlpool that could drag them down to below crush depth, but they don't have sufficient power to break clear. Nelson authorizes placing Strontium 90 pellets into the conversion chambers to give them a boost, which is successful. (These pellets, by the way, will never be heard from again in later episodes, although they seem to be useful little things.) Sonar indicates that they are getting close, but suddenly the radio jams and the T.V. cameras go out. Nelson, Crane, and Tobin rush to the nose. The saucer suddenly ascends to their level and pauses there, lights flashing. Nelson wonders if they're trying to communicate, while Crane wonders how they could try to answer. Chip Morton and the rest of the Control Room crew watch the camera screen, which has miraculously unjammed. In a nice touch, Kowalski seems to be silently counting the flashes. Crane stands by, ready to order the torpedoes, but Nelson remains staring. Tobin urges them to fire. Nelson counters that he's waiting for a reason. Tobin then orders him to fire, which would seem to be within his authority, but Nelson points out his orders were to make contact and defend "if necessary". I'd like to know where he got those orders, because he sure didn't get them from Tobin. Naturally, just as Nelson states that it hasn't been acting aggressively, the saucer starts to glow, the noise level rises, and Seaview lurches. All the power goes out, provoking a natural (if undisciplined) reaction in the crew. Morton bellows at them to stand fast and break out the "battle lanterns". They have to switch to manual plane in order to hold trim. Ominously, there's no ventilation, either. Both vessels slowly start to rise. The crew sit around quietly, waiting. A youngster gets panicky. Morton quiets him, but only for a moment; when the Chief Petty Officer arrives, he starts yelling again. The Chief wrestles with him, and finally punches him, which seems to do the trick. By using a clever camera angle, it's not until Patterson moves aside that we realize that Crane is standing there, having witnessed the altercation. Wisely, he lets it pass. He makes a speech to the men, essentially telling them what they already know, but giving it a hopeful note.

    Back in the nose, the view out the windows clearly shows that they have stopped moving. Tobin is exasperated with Nelson; he's certain that they could have blasted the thing. Nelson points out that the saucer had rendered them helpless with a single ray of light--how would it have reacted if they had been aggressive? Seaview suddenly lurches, and they come to a dead stop. (Well, actually they already had.) Crane, with an expert glance out the window, estimates that they are between 400 and 500 ft down. Suddenly, a mini-saucer detaches from the main body and moves away. (It's a shame that the wires were so obvious.) In a nice reaction, Nelson grabs the frame of the window and swings around, keeping the mini-saucer in sight as long as possible. Tobin naturally thinks that the mini-saucer could be a weapon. It skims over the top of the Seaview and lands on the hull. Inside, they can hear a vibrating noise. Patterson and the Chief crank up the periscope by hand; they can only raise it a short distance. Crane peers out, and looks astounded. Nelson lies down for a look himself. The saucer is right over one of the hatches in the hull. It seems like one of their own escape chambers. Or a bomb. (Tobin, of course.) Nelson asks the Chief for a volunteer to come up with him. Chief Petty Officers seem to have difficulty comprehending the meaning of the word "volunteer"--Kowalski is simply told to go, without giving anyone a chance to do the heroic thing. Crane and Tobin tag along. Nelson tests the upper hatch--it sounds hollow above. Tobin thinks that it might be filled with gas. (There he goes again.) Nelson tells them to leave and seal the hatch behind them--he's going to open the upper hatch. Tobin, surprisingly, insists on staying. Crane doesn't even bother to say anything--he seals the hatch while remaining in the chamber. Opening the hatch, Nelson again thinks it resembles an escape chamber, and takes it as an invitation. Crane wants to go, but there's only room for one. The mini-saucer lifts off and quickly returns to the main ship. Nelson emerges into a large chamber, uninhabited but filled with large counters full of various gadgets. Nelson starts calling out. A suited, helmeted figure comes up behind him. Removing the helmet, we (and Nelson) see that it has Nelson's face. Basehart did not make any real effort to make the alien sound strange; it has a faint, vague accent, just enough to distinguish it from Nelson's voice. They have been studying Earth for a long time, long enough to have learned how touchy we are. This is the reason it took on Nelson's form; its true form would be considered repulsive, and it took a form guaranteed not to frighten Nelson. (Apparently it didn't consider the disconcerting effect of meeting a mirror image that moves and speaks independently of you.) The alien admits candidly that they are fallible; they're stuck in this situation because of a mistake. It's surprised that Nelson considered the power outage as a hostile attack; the effect is temporary, and presumably a cautionary measure. However, the Seaview can't wait for the power to return--she's running out of air. The saucer cannot surface at present--but Nelson tells the alien that they have a snorkle device that can be used at 100 feet. The alien agrees. Going on with its story, it tells of miscalculating the path of a meteor; the resulting collision ruptured a fuel line. The alien is pleased to learn that Nelson is a scientist--he will surely understand their point of view.

    Unfortunately, at the same time, a plane has located the saucer and the Seaview. The General thinks the Seaview is unable to respond (which is true enough) and prepares to attack. On the Seaview, the men are getting lethargic. The Seaview suddenly starts moving again. They excitedly start making plans for when they reach the surface--but then they stop again, at 100 feet. Crane suddenly thinks of the snorkle, and has the Chief crank it up, while Morton relays the information to the crew. Fresh air starts coming in--even better than girls, according to Kowalski. They're also high enough to make use of the periscope, and Crane notes the presence of fighter jets. Back inside the saucer, lights begin flickering oddly. The alien angrily snaps that Nelson lied to them, and leaves the chamber. The jets commence their bombing run, knocking Nelson off his feet and rocking the Seaview. The presence of smoke indicates some damage to the saucer. On the other hand, the plane thinks that it didn't make a dent, and is ordered back, while the General orders out the B squadron, a destroyer flotilla and a super carrier. This man does not think small, and he's prepared to sacrifice the Seaview if necessary.

    The alien returns, still angry, which is unfair--Nelson's been stuck on the saucer, and he certainly didn't give any orders. Nor can they call up the Seventh Fleet; the alien communication system is incompatible with radio. The alien plans to ride out the attack. A second ship is on the way with fuel--and better arms. Nelson points out that a second ship could be taken as an act of war; the alien counters that war has already been declared, by the Earth. He is certain that Earth will take the second ship as an invasion force, just as he is certain that Seaview will attack the moment her power returns--and they cannot shut the power off again, because of the lack of fuel. The alien declares that if they are attacked again, there will be retaliation, and Earth will be reduced to a cinder. Nelson, rather oddly, never tried to make the point that the alien's all-out plan for retaliation is just as ill-considered (and much more devastating) than the Earth's fearful reaction.

    Back on the Seaview, they can see a whole formation of jets overhead. Crane is angry, Tobin even more so--except he is angry that the jets are not doing anything. On the saucer, Nelson has apparently been taken on a brief tour, at least of their engine room. Their fuel system is similar to the one on Seaview. Nelson mentions that the Seaview uses Uranium dioxide enriched with Uranium 235, but the aliens had already analyzed it and found it insufficient to their use. Nelson then speaks of Strontium 90--which grabs the alien's attention. They could convert S. 90, even in Earth's crude pellet form. Nelson offers to give them enough to get them clear of the atmosphere, where they would be safe and could rendezvous with the second ship without setting off reactions everywhere. The alien finally agrees, then seems to disappear. The exit hole opens up, and Nelson leaves. As he sinks out of sight, the shadow of the returning alien moves across the floor, and the camera pans up his legs to the face--which looks covered with crumpled foil. This provides a jolt to the audience, but not much of one--it really doesn't look that repulsive. They probably should have left it unseen--or else shown just enough from the back or side to let the audiences' imaginations do the rest.

    The crew are worrying about the impending attack, as the mini-saucer returns Nelson. Kowalski spots it as it approaches, and Crane dives for the ladder. Nelson plans to explain the entire situation fully when he returns from his errand--but Tobin, of course, thinks that the aliens will hold on to him as a "prize acquisition". He plans to get the Seaview out of range and then blast the saucer. Nelson is incredulous--and so am I. It seems unbelieveable that Nelson failed to mention the little matter of retaliation from the second ship, and harder still to think that Tobin didn't consider that just a little. He casually brushes off the potential destruction of the Earth as a necessary risk. If Nelson persists in his mad idea of giving S.90 to the saucer, Tobin will have him charged with insubordination and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. At this point, Crane arrives with the pellets, all that they have--to be stopped dead by Tobin's counter command. The power suddenly comes on. Now they can get out of range. Tobin orders Crane to arrest Nelson. Crane stares at Nelson, accedes to Tobin's order, and formally places the Admiral in confinement. However, he doesn't actually specify which Admiral, and, not wanting to stay and argue, elects to lock both of them in the cabin. I would love to know if Nelson realized what Crane was going to do. Crane enters the saucer with the boxes of pellets at his feet. The alien comes up from behind again--this time looking tall, slim, and dark haired. Sensing a presence, Crane apprehensively peeks behind him. Presumably he was expecting to see Nelson's image; he stands frozen for a moment before reacting to the sight of himself. The alien, now having proof of the Seaview's friendly intentions (if no one else's) both welcomes Crane and thanks him. Back on the Seaview, the Chief unlocks the door to Nelson's cabin--Crane had told him that they were having some trouble with the door. Nelson is amused; Tobin exasperated. The flotilla is approaching. With the radio finally working, Sparks reports that Crane is missing from the Seaview. The General will allow them ten minutes to get clear of the area--Crane will be given up for lost. Crane returns. Tobin is anxious to get him on board, so that they can attack. By this time, I was wishing that Nelson would smack that man upside the head, or at least yell at him to shut up. Nelson wants to try to contact the flotilla, but Tobin assures him that they wouldn't listen, anyway.

    The saucer has had the time it needed to convert the pellets; it rises to the surface, and lifts gracefully off, safe from harm. Tobin, in a startling about-face, says that it's just as well. They watch it leave, wondering what will happen when they next meet.

    Future encounters with aliens would seem to justify the Earth's paranoid reaction here, but this was a good, thoughtful episode.