Space, the final frontier. These are the voyagers of the … oh wait, that one’s been used. But you’d be excused for thinking of shows like “Star Trek” when watching NBC’s big-budget, bigger-expectations sci-fi adventure “seaQuest DSV.” This derivative but technologically advanced series has a sufficiently interesting premise and enough high-tech toys to perhaps survive the hostile waters of Sunday night programming.
The series kicks off with atwo-hour movie setting up the story of the giant seaQuest Deep Submergence Vehicle. A combination military/scientific research vessel, seaQuest is charged with keeping the peace and boldly going where no show since “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” has gone before in the year 2018, when nations have begun to colonize and exploit the oceans, often with violent results.
Much of the pilot is devoted to the wooing of Nathan Bridger (RoyScheider) — who retired from the Navy six years earlier — to take command of the ship.
Meanwhile, the series introduces the ship’s crew — few of whom make much of an impression aside from conniving Supply & Moral officer Benjamin Krieg (John D’Aquino) and chief science officer Dr. Kristin Westphalen (Stephanie Beacham, doing her best Bones McCoy impression).
Viewers also learn about the ship itself, an imaginatively conceived futuristic vessel that at once mixes classically inspired architecture and the latest computer toys. Many of the latter are designed by wunderkind computer genius Lucas Wolenczak (Jonathan Brandis), who is clearly designed to draw in younger viewers.
The best of these toys is a hologram character, a computer program designed to be part friend, part Obi Wan Kenobe to Bridger. The image is projected on a free-standing wall of dry ice smoke. Very impressive.
With all these introductions, there’s little room for plot, and even less time spent in Rockne O’Bannon and Tommy Thompson’s script with original ideas.
Suffice it to say a Eurotrash entrepreneur doesn’t like the do-good mission of the seaQuest, so he enlists the sub’s renegade previous skipper (played by Shelley Hack) to blow the vessel out of the water. You’ll probably guess who wins the anticlimactic underwater battle.
The competition Sunday nights is tough, but the show’s creators may just have found success in the dark, mysterious, and still largely unexplored waters that cover most of the planet. More original plotting and better use of the underwater setting — too much of the pilot is devoted to interiors, rather than aquatic effects — will help quite a bit.