SeaQuest DSV [1993]

An enormously ambitious television series from executive producer Steven Spielberg and series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon (Farscape, Alien Nation), seaQuest DSV made a valiant attempt to present a thoughtful and socially conscious science-fiction series on par with Star Trek to a '90s audience (which had already latched onto Star Trek: The Next Generation), but struggled with mediocre scripts and special effects for most of its three seasons (1993-96). The first season, however, embodies much of the ambition and scope its producers envisioned, starting with the two-hour television movie to introduces retired officer Cmdr. Nathan Bridger (a grim-faced Roy Scheider) to the crew of the underwater vessel seaQuest DSV. The pilot feature is well helmed by Scheider, and offers an agreeable mix of fiction and fact (oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard served as technical advisor for the series), as well as considerable action and excitement for an expensive network series. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the cast (which included Stephanie Beacham as the ship's fetching doctor and the late Jonathan Brandis as a teen science whiz), the show's momentum faltered under the weight of corny embellishments such as its talking dolphin, Darwin (a genetically engineered human with gills would join the fray in the show's second season) and episodes like "Knight of Shadows," which offered a hoary possession storyline, or "Photon Bullet," which hinges on underwater computer hackers. The series would alternate between intriguing stories (like the suspenseful "Games") and ill-advised ones for much of its remaining seasons, which also saw cast changes (most notably, the departure of Scheider) in an attempt to revive audiences' flagging interest. All 23 episodes of the first season are included on this four-disc set, as well as a decent selection of deleted scenes from nine episodes, including the pilot. -- Paul Gaita

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