It is often said that the "real" accessable final frontier is the mostly unexplored oceans of Terra. While science fiction has explored the coldest depths of outer space for over an hundred years, underwater sci-fi is more rare. In 1993, NBC greenlit one of the most expensive sci-fi television shows of all time: SeaQuest DSV. From 1993-1996, SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest: 2032 would struggle to find stories, viewers, and a purpose among the icy depths of Earth's oceans. In this installment of Military Sci-Fi Oddities, we will be exploring and attempting to explain the oddity that was SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest: 2032.
What is SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest 2032?
What is SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest 2032?
In 1993, some big names in the American entertainment sphere pushed out a very different science fiction show on a mainstream American network, NBC. Universal, Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg, and even Dr. Robert Ballard were involved in creating an underwater more-science-than-fiction-television-show that would showcase scientific discovery, the nations of Earth attempting to use the oceans to solve the ills of society peacefully, and different types of stories using the aquatic setting. The first two seasons of the show were set in 2018(!) with the original purpose of the SeaQuest DSV 4600 being an US naval military submarine, the largest and most advanced. Then after the Livingston Trench Incident and the near nuclear war, the United Earth Oceans (UEO) was formed to attempt the peaceful use and settlement of the oceans...and the SeaQuest DSV 4600 was placed under UEO command as their peacekeeper, explorer, and symbol.
Historical Context of SeaQuest DSV
What Happened to SeaQuest DSV?
It's childish trash...I am bitter about it. I feel betrayed." That is a damning indictment of the series and it direction after Season One. The second season storylines had aliens, time travel, an ocean god, and the SeaQuest vehicle being transported to another planet! It could have been interesting to have the original premise of the show being an oceanic expedition to another world, similar to 1990's Expedition by artist Wayne Barlowe. By alas, none of Season Two added up to anything, because Season Three altered the crew, mission of the DSV, and the basic setting of show. While SeaQuest:2032 is much better than Season Two, the damage had been done, and the audience had jumped ship. On June 9th, 1996, SeaQuest aired its final episode, just 13 episodes into the third season. One of the reasons the show was not cancelled earlier was due to some of the people behind it, the popularity of NBC at the time, and that there was no good replacement for the show. If it had been today, an crappy reality show would have replaced it for much cheaper. The network didn't help the show either with football cutting into the show and airing some of the episodes out of order as well. The final episode of Season One also felt like the end of the series all together, and many did not think it would come back after the destruction of the SeaQuest submarine...and it some ways, it did not.
Is SeaQuest DSV Even Military Sci-Fi?
Yes and no. Throughout the internet and this blogpost, much is made of the original founding concept of the show: Star Trek underwater. It wanted to be a show about using the oceans for peace and a positive future for mankind, and not to be an "sci-fi show" with aliens, laser guns, and combat. The original ideas about the SeaQuest DSV submarine, the UEO, and the crew is comparable to Starfleet, where it is an organization of peacekeeping and exploration rather than modern naval organizations. The show throughout Season One & Two flirted with military themes and combat, but it was not until Season Three that the SeaQuest DSV submarine, the UEO, and the crew became more like an aquatic military organization, making the final season in the military Sci-Fi category.
Why is SeaQuest DSV an Military Sci-Fi Oddity?
The very concept of SeaQuest is an oddity in of itself because of the setting. There are few science fiction television series that take place underwater in general, and the setting is rare in science fiction literature, games, movies, and comic books. One of the oddities of SeaQuest is that it is military science fiction at all. The original concept and the first season attempted to show the submarine and the UEO as a peacekeeping organization that used words over laser beams or torpedoes. The basis of the show was to be underwater exploration, not combat. The creators and producers wanted to take the high-minded storytelling of Trek, but change the Enterprise to the SeaQuest, the Federation to the UEO, and outer space to the oceans.
For some science fiction works that fail to find an original audience in the time of their release, they can transition into the status of Cult Classic, like BLADE RUNNER, but others do not, and they languish in obscurity and memory. The interwebs helps with some forgotten works to find an audience, but SeaQuest is not one of them. Even searching today, there is not much on the series. Some site, like this one, devoting some time and space to the series, toys, and unqiue place in science fiction. Even Youtube is devoid of any real videos about the series with a few clips here and there.
My Own Experiences with the Series
Next Time on FWS...