Despite a lot of retooling and a continuation of high-quality writing, acting and visual effects, “seaQuest DSV” seems destined to remain on patrol in the lower depths of the Nielsen charts (albeit with decent demographics).
And if that’s indeed the fate of this impressive vehicle, it’ll be partly because of a rugged timeslot and partly because “seaQuest” still hasn’t mastered the tricky chemistry it’s going for as “pro-social” programming with an attitude.
This season there’s a little less pro-social and a little more attitude, and the Nielsens will likely inch upwards as a result. For example, there’s a new emphasis on science fiction, as opposed to science fact, with enough of a spooky , menacing tone to possibly get the show building toward a loyal audience like the one hooked on “X-Files.”
But the two-hour season premiere suggests “seaQuest” is back where it started: It’s an ambitious, noble, handsome series that hasn’t quite stumbled onto the formula that would make it a mass-audience success.
The series couldn’t ask for a stronger lead than Roy Scheider, and it’s not without good reason that Jonathan Brandis has emerged as a hot teen heartthrob.
From there the cast, like the series itself, boasts a lot of talent but sometimes a lack of chemistry. Second-season additions may change that, but at first blush most of the newcomers deliver more attitude than creative substance.
For example, Edward Kerr plays Jim Brody, a cocky, mouthy hunk who could have crawled out of the same Petri dish that produced Scott Bakula’s tiresome Peter Hunt on “Murphy Brown.”
Most other new characters are of similar pedigree. Rosalind Allen is the bright, pretty, mouthy Dr. Wendy Smith. And Michael DeLuise is a street-tough, rebellious, mouthy parolee named Tony Piccolo. After two hours, all this mouthiness is enough to tempt viewers to abandon ship.
The most agreeable and non-mouthy of the cast additions is Peter DeLuise’s Dagwood, a naive, slow-witted super-soldier, sort of a Forrest Gump with the strength of Popeye.
The involving season premiere starts at a prison camp filled with Dagwood’s super-soldier siblings, who’re being dealt with as criminals because of the threat their superior physiques pose. The super-soldiers rebel against suspicious, hateful mankind, kidnap the bigoted, inept commander of the United Earth/Oceans Organization and start destroying oxygen-generating facilities (since the super-soldiers can survive on less oxygen than humans need). For viewers who accept this misanthropic view of the future, the rest of the story flows fairly credibly, with a few elegant twists.
Effects are top-notch and fun, though occasionally the seaQuest itself could be presented more clearly and quantifiably, to reinforce the illusion that there really is a ship that these actors are riding around in.
Other tech work sharply creates and enhances “seaQuest’s” glossy, believable world of the future.