Out to SeaQuest

What I found after spending 60 hours of my life watching the full run of a 1990s science fiction show about a submarine 

August 20, 2013 —About a year ago, I was lying in bed at a beachside hotel in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, encrusted in sand and salt, my eyes aching from days of dealing with ocean-reflected sunlight. Suddenly and, I assume, instigated by the dolphins we had seen earlier, I experienced an intense television craving. It was for a show that I hadn’t seen in 15 years and which, even then, I’d only watched a few episodes of: SeaQuest DSV.

Here’s the Twitter proof:

SeaQuest ran for three seasons, from 1993-1996…that short cushion of time where we’d finally gotten over the ’80s and weren’t yet panicking about the new millennium. The concept of the show was simple and brilliant: Star Trek…wet. A bunch of scientists and military men in the future truck around the oceans of Earth in a submarine so advanced it puts all of our modern space programs to shame.

So advanced it could travel through fields, too.

The series was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and starred Roy Scheider. It had a talking dolphin. And that kid from the Cap’n Crunch commercial. It was the perfect fit for a decade obsessed with science fiction television… X-Files, Babylon 5, three different Star Trek series, Sliders, Earth 2, um, Third Rock from the Sun. Heck, this was decade the Sci-Fi Channel itself launched.

Well, I just spent the last year watching all 57 episodes on Netflix Streaming. Well, 56 episodes. Apparently, Netflix neglected to include the Season 1 episode Whale Song. Here’s the Twitter proof when I discovered that:

As far as I can see, now that I’ve basically seen it all, the only problem with the show was…that it was terrible. Mostly, that was due to the writing, which was some of the worst I’ve ever had to cringe and clench my way through. The CGI was also a problem, since the show relied heavily on it at a time when television-budget CGI was a 90-pound man with no arms trying to bench-press a truck axel still on the truck.

What really got me through the series, though, was all the bat-fish-shit SeaQuest DSV craziness. Here, I made a list:

1. Season Personality Disorder

Each of SeaQuest’s three seasons was a totally different show. Sure, they all involved a submarine and the cast changed a little every season just like most series, but the entire tone changed every season. Heck, reality changed every season. There was apparently a lot of behind-the-scenes turmoil and dysfunction in this show, but I’m going to skip all that because the outcome is more interesting than the cause.

Season 1 stayed pretty grounded for a show that took place in the ocean. It was near-future (2018ish) and the only real change in society was that we were populating the oceans. So it was a lot of scientific exploration, rescue missions, political intrigue. Nothing that couldn’t happen today if we were better at ocean technology. There was one episode with an alien and another with ghosts, but they managed to not make the former too earth-changing and the latter was a Halloween episode. Totally different rules apply at Halloween.

Season 2 was drunk. Suddenly, the series went from a somewhat preachy show about preserving and exploring the oceans to outright off-the-wallness. There were aliens and time travel, giant monsters, homicidal plants, past-life possession, people with psychic abilities, genetically engineered humans, ancient demons, even Greek gods (that one gets its own entry on this list). By the end of the season, they weren’t even on Earth anymore.

It's hard to tell, but that glowing thing at the bottom
is SeaQuest getting alien abducted.

Season 3 was the “Let’s Get Serious” season. It takes place 10 years after Season 2, everybody’s back on Earth, the SeaQuest is in the middle of a cornfield, the entire show has been renamed SeaQuest 2032, and Michael Ironsides is now the captain. Oh, and SeaQuest is basically a war vessel now. No more Outer Limits plots, just lots of political alliances and mega-corporations fighting over the ocean.

2. Titanic Finder

A company I worked for once gave him a Rolex. True story.

Since the first season was more about ocean awareness, they brought onboard Robert Ballard, the man who found the wreck of the Titanic and just about every other major ocean wreck. He’d come on during the end credits sporting a crisp SeaQuest ballcap and give a 30-second “Knowing is Half the Battle” spiel about the ocean environment and the technology we use to explore it. By Season 2, they tossed that segment and Dr. Ballard back into the water, exchanging it for cast members with cute ocean animals. I guess they just didn’t need any commentary on demons and aliens.

3. Megatron Underwater

Mostly, Captain Bridger used Darwin to pick up chicks.
One mysterious credit at the end of every episode is, “Frank Welker: Special Vocal Effects.” Basically, this meant he was the voice of Darwin the dolphin. The fact that they had a talking dolphin as a crewmember (he was an ensign) wasn’t too crazy. A computer program translated his dolphin speech into humanese and he swam through a series of tubes in the ship.

What was crazy, was that this was Frank “Frickin” Welker, the voice of just about every cartoon character since the 70s. Scooby Doo’s Fred, Dynomutt, Jabberjaw, Foofer, Dr. Claw, Iceman, Megatron, Slimer. He’s also been just about every GoBot, Snork, Joe, Beagle Brother, and Muppet Baby. And he was the voice of the Gremlins. Seriously, just marvel at this guy’s resume and just hope he never turns his powers to evil.

4. Office Phones

I could have found a better screencap of the phone,
but not an angrier one.

In this world of multi-multi-million-dollar submarines with self-healing skin, computer programs that can decode animal speech, and rampant genetic manipulation, all inter-vessel communications went through…Cisco conference phones. I mean, I’ve seen these triangular, black conference phones at every 9-5 I’ve ever been at, so to see them being used so essentially in a science fiction series was surreal. SeaQuest even had them controlling holograms and they would sometimes bolt them to the bulkheads to make them look more futuristic. I kept imagining Captain Bridger in the middle of an international ocean incident asking mildly for the latest TPS reports.

5. Luke Skywalker and James T. Kirk

"Now, act like you have the sudden suspicion
that there is math behind you."

Back when geek culture was still in diaspora and long before it blandified into mainstream culture, access to the icons of the genre was extremely limited. You couldn’t just read their tweets or go to their personal web page, and there weren’t a million shows and movies offering them roles. So when I say that Mark Hamill and William Shatner both guest starred in different episodes (Hamill in two episodes, actually), that was a gigantic deal.

"Now, act like you have the sudden suspicion
that there is something growing beneath your nose."

And, in typical SeaQuest fashion, they were used crazily. Hamill was an alien hiding in the body of a blind man. William Shatner was a violent dictator with a vague Eastern European accent and a moustache.

Speaking of genre icons, I should also mention that Charlton Heston starred in an episode…as a mad scientist who gave people gills.

6. Jaws Restraint

In the SeaQuest universe, Quint didn't get bit in half by a Great White.
He retired to run a quaint nautical-themed gift shop.

Sure, SeaQuest was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and, sure, it starred Roy Scheider and, sure, it took place in the water, but they seemed to have an executive order from the White House to hold back on the Jaws references. I only noticed two the entire run: a Season 2 and 3 crewmember named Brody and the brief inclusion of a gift shop called Quint’s Nautical Treasures in the background of one of Scheider’s scenes from the episode Sympathy for the Dead (actually part of the Jaws ride at Universal Studios Florida, where much of SeaQuest was filmed). For some reason, I also want to count him facing off against a giant prehistoric crocodile in the Meltdown episode.

7. SeaQuest vs. God of the Sea

What it looks like is happening there is exactly what's happening.

So SeaQuest had science episodes and science fiction episodes and then there was the time they faced off against Neptune himself (Watergate). I mean, they went from solving diplomatic crises to firing torpedoes…at a god. And then the next episode, they just continued on as if that didn’t change everything about their view of the world. I guess that’s because the next episode was the one with the ancient demon (Something in the Air).

8. Lucas What-the-Heck

"Time to crunch off. Later."

What’s a sixteen year-old boy doing aboard the flagship for an entire ocean alliance? As bait for the lucrative younger audiences, of course. And man, did they throw that hook in the water a lot…Lucas Wolenczak, played by the late Jonathan Brandis, was the only character to appear in every single episode of the series. He was the Wesley Crusher of the show (if Wesley had been a heartthrob), and started out as a simple genius computer hacker. But, by the time Season 3 rolled around, he somehow became an expert in submarine navigation, environmental analysis, engineering, microbiology…anything to get him on the screen with that “seriously working on the problem in my head” look that the young ladies loved so much.

9. Stacy Haiduk’s Eyes


SeaQuest didn’t introduce me to the girl whose eyes had sex with your soul. That would’ve been Superboy, where Stacy Haiduk paired her electric blues with the Boy of Steel’s red heaters. I can only assume that she’s a terrible actress since she could have ridden those irises just by themselves to the top end of the B list instead of disappearing into a career of television episode cameos. I still love her.

10. DeLuises, DeLuises Everywhere

Almost got that spinoff. Next time, guys.

In Season 2, the casting director must’ve been offered a family discount because we got brother actors Peter and Michael DeLuise as part of the crew. The former played a genetically engineered, simple-minded super soldier prototype whose role on the SeaQuest was as the ship’s janitor. The latter played a comedic-relief ex-con who could breathe water.

But that still wasn’t enough DeLuises. The Season 2 episode Vapors guest-starred their father, the great Dom DeLuise himself, while a third brother, David, had a brief cameo. Sounds like a crackpot scheme dreamt up over a Thanksgiving dinner. “Hey guys, wouldn’t it be funny if we all got cast on that show SeaQuest…you know, that ‘Stark Trek…wet’ show?”

I could keep going, but this article is way too long already. But, I don’t want you to exit this piece thinking that I hold SeaQuest DSV in disdain. I don’t. I’ll always have a fondness for the show…the cast, the concept, the ship design, that unmistakable 90s vision of the future. I just don’t think I’ll ever watch another episode again.


  1. I had watched it a few years ago in its entirety, missing over half of it as it had aired originally. I am glad I got to finish out the series. But I feel that I won't watch it again either. It will hold a place in my 90's Sci Fi love.

  2. Hey, we *still* have those black Cisco phones where I work in 2013 -- so they probably will still be around in 2018. They nailed the future tech on that one! Actually, what is bizarre is that apparently they existed in 1993...

  3. I always thought the best thing about this show was the glimpses of the future we got, not the hackneyed stories. Some of the interesting ideas:
    - Beef was outlawed because of the methane produces by cow belches and manure
    - The earth needed oxygen generators because of the destruction of the rain forests
    - Barcoded licenses plates that are automatically scanned to give you speeding tickets.

    But yeah, it was a good idea that just didn't live up to it's potential.

    Oh, and did anyone notice how many times it used portions of Disney's Epcot as a stand-in for a foreign country?

  4. Thanks for the fun read; it really brought me back! I was the on-set computer/video playback engineer for the first season in LA and then spent a few months setting them up for Season 2 in FL. It was my first big show, first taste of the Entertainment Industry and quite a wild ride. Now, 20 years later, I find myself working right next door to the seaQuest stages at Universal, and though I've worked on numerous shows in them since, I can't help but to have some seaQuest flashback whenever I walk by them.... Oh, and those are "Polycom" triad-shaped speaker phones, not Cisco... lol

  5. What a fun article!

    I am going through the entire series now myself and can relate to just about everything you've written here. I believe I'll also follow your lead and gently place this one back on the shelf permanently, following the last episode. I think it's best left as a fond memory of my 90's experience.

  6. if only we could get the dolphin speech thing going.

  7. I actually think season 3 was great. But I guess it was too dark and military based for the 90s "one episode, reset in the next" audience (hey, I used to be one of them!) It had a great potential and I recently found out that I used to love Lucas 13 years old, I think he is the best character even 20 years later. The comparison to Wesley is unfair - as cool as Will Wheaton is, Jonathan Brandis was a better actor and his Lucas much more likeable character (more real, despite his "genius" status). I loved Michael Ironside and what he did to the show. I loved the military feel and it is a shame they didn´t get more seasons out of it. But season 2 really had a lots of nonsense, I agree

  8. I actually rewatch s1 pretty often (sans alien ep), sometimes will watch the 3 or so mildly enjoyable eps of s2, and just flat out refuse to accept that s3 is part of the show (or exists) at all.