Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Season 3 Episode 24

The Wax Men

Aired Monday 7:30 PM Mar 05, 1967 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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out of 10
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  • And aggravating. The marvelous Michael Dunn adds a unique factor, and the filming is good, but the absurdities, inconsistancies, and lack of explanations override what could have been an intriguing takeover plot.

    It starts in a surprising way--Seaview is at a public dock, taking on cargo. Sharkey is a little peeved at this high-tech sub being so used, but it turns out Nelson is doing a favor for the State Department. They're transporting wax statues, allegedly from Atlantis, to Washington. I suppose they had to give them some special status to justify using the Seaview, but they should have just called them statues--the idea of wax images surviving thousands of years is just the first of many absurdities. Here's another--we've got a general idea of the size of the Missile Room, and they would have us believe that they could spread over 100 crates out on the floor. Another mistake was showing Kowalski testing the crates for metal or foreign objects--his scan came up clean. As we will see, either his gadget was broken or a scanning block was in use. Seaview is to get underway as soon as all crates are loaded and Captain Crane has returned from wherever. Kowalski has a last look around, then leaves the Missile Room. Immediately, one of the crates breaks open and a little clown emerges. Going to another crate, he lifts the lid (which is not nailed down; they surely would have slid open during the transfer) to reveal an image of Admiral Nelson. The clown holds up a little (and obviously metal) gadget to his face, and silently mouths a command for the image to open its eyes. An interesting idea, and a practical one for a covert operation; either the gadget is sensitive enough to pick up a sub-whisper, or the vibrations of his mouthings.

    Crane seems to be taking his own sweet time getting back to the Seaview--and we're never told the reason for the delay. Sharkey and Kowalski wander back into the Missile Room and discover an opened crate. Looking around, they discover the little clown (definitely not looking like an Atlantean statue) and return it to its crate. (For whatever reason, the underside of the crate lid looks like it's stamped "SSRN".) They then go off to report that someone's been messing around with the cargo. The clown, looking quite pleased with himself, somehow manages to get ahead of them--and his wax Nelson is already out stalking the corridors. Sharkey and Nelson come up behind it and start to report the problem, only to watch, disconcerted, as "Nelson" silently walks through a door and closes it. Sharkey should have reported to Chip Morton, but probably did not.

    Crane still hasn't shown up yet, and Nelson's getting annoyed. The little clown and Nelson's doppelganger turn up at his cabin. The facial makeup was quite good, but the hands were a mistake. In the first place, it's very obvious that Basehart is wearing plastic gloves--you can see the edge of the wrist on one hand. The gloves give his hands a greasy look, which, while admittedly looking waxy, does not match the dry appearance of the face. Nelson is startled when his image enters the room, but acts as though it's some kind of stupid joke--until he gets shot with a dart. The clown enters, takes the gun, and bids his Nelson to sit down and the desk and "work". The wax Nelson moves the lamp back into place--which would seem to require independent thought--and proceeds to make vague movements with a pencil.

    An unbelieveable amount of time and effort is neatly dispensed with a flick of the camera--the next scene indicates that the clown has taken out the entire crew and replaced them with duplicates. It would have been nice to show him perhaps sending a knockout gas through the ship, because it's ludicrous to think that he worked his way through one by one without SOMEONE noticing! The Control Room is fully manned--or dummied; everyone is perfectly still. Crane finally shows up, in dress uniform (so presumably he wasn't visiting a lady friend, but we'll never know) angry because there are no guards posted outside. (And just what happened to those guards, by the way? How were they enticed inside?) "Chip Morton" is suddenly moving, after being still; but he makes no response to Crane's questions. Crane pulls him around, and stares at "Chip's" pasty complexion. (The Makeup crew must have worked like dogs on this episode, and they did a nice job, but one effect is that all of these sailors look as though they have a severe case of seasickness.) Crane moves away and tries Sharkey, with the same result. (One might think that portraying dummies would be a simple job, but I think it would be hard maintaining a single expression throughout the episode, and they all did a fine job--I especially like Sharkey's look of vague puzzlement.) After checking Kowalski at Sonar (for some reason Patterson missed out on this one) Crane turns back to Chip, who is the only one moving at all. Crane relieves him of duty, and orders him to his quarters--a supremely silly statement. A trip to Sickbay would seem more in order. The clown suddenly makes an appearance, and takes a shot at Crane, who ducks. You could call this the turning point of the episode, because the clown's precisely laid plans now go askew. He manages to shut Crane off in the nose before Crane can shoot him. "Chip" suddenly produces a dart gun, but his movements are very slow. Failing to talk him out of dropping the gun, Crane finally shoots--and "Chip" is not even jolted by the force of the bullet. "Chip" fires and misses, (at point-blank range!) then methodically reaches for a new dart. Crane scrambles up the stairs. Crane reaches Nelson's quarters, and finds "Nelson" still tapping away with the pencil. The clown listens in from the Control Room as Crane tries to explain what is going on. The clown holds up his gadget and speaks silently to it--and "Nelson" responds with the same words. Not only does this thing look like Nelson, it has a matching voice box, as well. Incredible. In spite of the flat tone, Crane takes a while to get the point. (In fact, Crane shows incredible obtuseness throughout this episode; in spite of blowing a hole through "Chip's" chest without any reaction, he still seems to think that the crew really are the crew.) After Nelson twice denies the existance of the clown, Crane looks as though the truth is dawning, but perhaps he just doesn't want to accept it. Sounds indicate that the sub has gotten underway. I'd like to know how. The wax crew seem to be just making a series of motions by rote--most of them, in fact, just stand in place--so how can they be actually piloting the ship? The clown calls Crane over the intercom, and courteously invites him to give himself up. Crane reacts as you would expect. (Obtuse, yes, but still strong, brave, and heroic.) In spite of the fact that the clown makes it clear that Crane is alone, Crane has the forlorn hope that maybe some of the crew have not been affected, or can overcome whatever was done to them. He makes a shipwide appeal to any such men to join him in the Missile Room--apparently forgetting that the clown can hear this, too.

    Members of the crew start silently trooping through the corridors, all armed with dart guns. Crane cautiously follows after, and enters one of the Crews' Quarters, to find everyone frozen in place (including a man we just saw up in the Control Room). Crane's still acting as though he expects the men to jump up at his command. He makes his way to the Missile Room. Sharkey enters, exciting Crane's hope, but only for a second; he's joined by a mass of other blank-faced crewmen, all armed. (They have a remarkable number of extras for this episode.) It may be that the greater the number of wax men in motion, the less control the clown has over them--Crane could have been shot a dozen times over, but none of them made any move to do so. After Crane empties his gun, the clown approaches, very amused, as well as admiring of Crane's efforts. (The clown's character seems to be pretty much identical with that of Dr. Miguelito Loveless of "The Wild, Wild West".) Crane asks who he is, but the clown is not very forthcoming. He's a former circus clown (and apparently a very wealthy one). Rather than explaining his actions, he comments that he "neglected to provide for you" because Crane had not been on board when the clown arrived. This makes little sense, because the Nelson image had been made in advance; surely a replica of the Captain would have been a priority. Also, this statement somewhat implies that (aside from Nelson) the crew images were crafted after he got on board, which is piling absurdity on absurdity. That would take days to do. Possibly because Crane now Knows Too Much, the clown elects to simply kill him--although his dart gun looks the same as all the others. Standing at point-blank range, just a finger twitch away from shooting Crane, the clown...doesn't. Perhaps they thought it would look unsportsmanlike for Hedison to do the sensible thing and kick the gun out of Dunn's hand, but having the clown just stand there while Crane reached down and yanked on a cable was...oh, well. After the ensuing lurch, Crane hightails it out of there, followed by the clown, who's screaming at his wax men to find Crane and kill him. The men all respond at the same slow, steady pace, which the little clown can easily outrun.

    Crane resumes the game of hide and seek, which is easy enough, despite it being 125 to 1. I wish they'd taken some of this time to have the clown converse with Crane enough to present some explanations--the clown obviously feels complacent and superior enough that he can afford to tell Crane what's going on. Crane strips off his jacket in the now-emptied crews' quarters (all that charging around is probably warming him up) and to pick up a crowbar--and why would they have a crowbar in the crews' quarters, anyway? Several of the "crew" enter, tramp around in a circle, and then leave, without glancing around the corner where Crane was hiding. Just how do these wax images operate? Do they see? Do they hear? If so, how? Crane goes to the Reactor Room, and, for no discernable reason, attempts to jam the door with the crowbar. Now, if he'd been inside, trying to keep them out, or if some of them were inside and he was trying to keep them in, this would make sense, but anyone could walk up and pull that crowbar out! And he couldn't have been trying to unjam the door, because he never tried it, and why would it be locked, anyway? Sharkey comes stalking up, and Crane shoves him back, then clobbers him with the crowbar. Sharkey makes no reaction at all (it would have been rather nifty to show him with a big dent in his back) and quickly disams Crane, but he still moves slowly enough that Crane can scamper off.

    Crane makes it to his cabin--which I suspect was actually Nelson's cabin, unless he got a wall safe last time they remodeled. We get a glimpse of the washing facilities; a washstand tucked into a little closet space. You'd think the Captain would rate a full bathroom like the Admiral. He sits at his desk (first bit of rest he's gotten since coming aboard) and pours a drink of water. Presumably he's trying to gather his jumbled thoughts together, but there's no time--someone is coming. The clown cautiously enters his room, which seems empty. One door (either a closet or the second half of the bathroom facilities) is locked. Crane's not in with the washstand. The clown does not check the opposite side of the room. Nor does he make any attempt to check the locked door, which would seem the logical place for Crane to be hiding. He sees the wet glass on the desk. This actually only proves that Crane had been in the room, not that he was still there, but the clown assumes that he is. He talks to the room at large, offering to spare Crane's life if he gives up immediately. The camera moves to the vent. The audience knows those vents are used for more than air circulation, but the clown overlooks it. Getting no response, the clown promises no mercy, and leaves the room. If Crane's in the room, why would he leave, and if Crane was not there, he could not have heard either the offer or the threat, which could either indicate the clown's madness or lack of common sense. Crane pops out of the vent, and goes to the door. (Also a lack of common sense; he should have figured the clown would be waiting outside. Why not just travel by vent?)

    At some point (the passage of time is not clear) "Kowalski" suddenly turns up as Crane is passing through. The clown apparently recalled Crane's hope that some of his men were not affected, and thought that his "Kowalski"--pasty-faced and flat-toned--would fool Crane. Del Monroe must have had a hard time keeping a straight face during this scene, especially when his mouth moved silently while the clown was thinking up responses to Crane's statements. Crane's not having any of it, but "Kowalski's" mention of escaping the sub entirely puts him in mind of the Flying Sub, and he hastens off. Crane's still not thinking clearly; after he tries to sneak past the men standing silently in the Control Room, he comes back for a second try. Why not enter the sub from the back hatch? He has to dive for the topside hatch, and narrowly misses getting hit with darts. Crane finds that the FS1 has been sabotaged, and apparently the damage is such that it can be fixed with a welding torch. (Flame--Wax--Aha!) "Nelson" suddenly gets into the act, entering by the back hatch. Crane kicks away the ubiquitous dart gun, then rams into "Nelson"--and bounces off. He throws two of the most glaringly fake punches I've ever seen, and "Nelson" naturally shows no reaction--and really he should have rocked back just a bit; after all, this is wax, not granite. Crane kicks him away twice; the second time "Nelson" lands near the fallen torch. It's clear that Crane still thinks that the crew is really the crew--he reacts with horror, and yanks the torch away, before turning "Nelson" over--and finding his face melting. Quite a good effect.

    At this point, oddly, we see a sort of "Voodooesque" connection between man and duplicate--the real Nelson suddenly awakens in a crate, trembling badly and wincing. He makes his confused way out of the Missile Room (I would have taken a peek in some of the other crates). Crane recognizes the melted goo as wax, grabs the torch, and heads up to the Control Room (rather than the back way). The wax crew, who up to this point have made movements by rote or by instruction, now suddenly show a sense of self-preservation and cringe away from the flame. Crane looks like he's running a gauntlet of vampires armed with a cross.

    Back out in a corridor, Crane notices a floor hatch jiggling, and Nelson emerges. It's a charming scene, with Nelson conversing from the hatch like a prarie dog from its burrow. The dialogue could have been better. Nelson yells, "Has everybody on board this ship lost his mind?" which implies that he's interacted already with some of the other wax men--which he has not. Crane, for his part, confronted with an easy-moving, normal-speaking, good-colored--and unmelted--Nelson, says "You seem to be yourself again", which would seem to imply that he STILL thinks that the crew are the crew--just dipped in wax, and Nelson managed to touch up the whole side of his face. Obtuse isn't the word for it. (This may explain why they never had a scene with Crane confronting his own doppelganger; even the most obtuse man would have to recognize the truth then.) Nelson, understandably, is rather disbelieving, but, having woken up in a crate, is willing to make concessions. He comments on having woken up with the sensation of heat--more "voodoo". Crane asks him how to raise the temperature of the ship--but shouldn't a ship's captain know such things? It would have been better if he had asked Nelson the quickest way to go about it. The clown checks out the Flying Sub (the melted Nelson is nowhere to be seen). Giving up on his dart gun, he grabs a gun nearly as long as he is tall, and goes back to the Control Room. Down in the Reactor Room, Crane has apparently been explaining things. Nelson turns up the heat. Up in the Control Room, first "Chip", then the others, stand up or otherwise move from their positions before slowly collapsing. The clown looks frantically about, grabs the microphone, tosses it, and snatches the gun again. There is a rather gruesome shot of a bunch of waxy puddles, surrounded by uniforms and bits of hair, on the floor of the Control Room. Down in the Missile Room, the crew starts to awaken. Considering that Crane seemed to think the crew was the crew, he shows little reaction to finding them a mass of congealing blobs on the floor. The clown springs out on cue and opens fire, but he's clearly badly shaken--the gun is not aimed anywhere near Nelson or Crane, unless he was trying to shoot them in the shins. The random shots cause enough damage for a major lurch, and the clown, not tall enough to grab hold of anything, backs up into a sparking panel and gets electrocuted, tumbling into a pathetic huddle on the floor.

    We're left with no decent explanations. Over a hundred wax statues moved, reacted and spoke with nothing more than a slightly oversized metal pencil. Yup. Nelson seems certain that the clown intended to collect brilliant minds (starting with yours truly, perhaps?) for a future power grab, but it was sheer speculation on his part--it would have sounded better if the clown had at least dropped a few hints. He could have just planned to use the Seaview for his power grab.

    They could have done so much more with this.
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