Tuesday, April 08, 2008

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 74: Sea Quest DSV (Playmates; 1993)

Sometimes licensing toys or action figures based on TV shows and films is a real gamble, I suppose. In the early 1990s, Playmates acquired the license to something old (Star Trek) and something new (SeaQuest DSV). It had good luck with the former, not so much with the latter. The Star Trek line of figures, ships and play sets lasted into the 21st century, but the SeaQuest line just kind of...sunk. It was scuttled after a year.

Some background: Sea Quest DSV is the story of a state-of-the-art Deep Sea Vessel, Sea Quest, commanded by Nathan Bridger. Set in the second decade of the twenty-first century, Sea Quest was part of the UEO (United Earth Oceans), and would ofte come to the assistance of underwater colonies, battle pirates, ad conduct deep sea rescue missions.

I watched SeaQuest DSV when it aired originally (on NBC). I made Kathryn watch it too, and it bored her to tears. Literally. She would cry when I forced her to watch it. Personally I rather enjoyed much of the first season. I appreciated the cool metallic, hard-tech lines of the sets; the sparse, science-based stories and I'm a sucker for stories set on submarines. When I was a little boy, my favorite of all books (and films) was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. To thi
s day, I still want to harpoon a giant squid like Ned Land or hop a ride on Captain Nemo's Nautilus.

So I was inclined to watch the series, in reality little more than an update of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and it had a decent filmmaking pedigree. Roy Scheider starred and he wasn't known for crap, and Steven Spielberg was involved behind-the-scenes, which assured a strong production budget-wise. And best of all, the lovely Stacy Haiduk (my wife Kathryn's long-lost identical twin...) was on board too playing Lt. HItchcock. And jeez - SeaQuest (set in the year 2018) featured a talking dolphin as a mai character. Who couldn't love that? And did I mention that William Shatner, Mark Hamill, David McCallum and Charlton Heston all guest starred on the series? That was worth a little good will, wasn't it?

Then the show underwent a mysterious but thorough quality-extraction process called "second-season-ism" (see: Space:1999) and suddenly it was a cheesy underwater adventure show with giant crocodiles and people with gills or something. I stopped watching, but tuned back in for the third season premiere out of morbid curiosi. Roy Scheider was gone because he had derided the show as "Star Dreck" or something, and Michael Ironside was now the stern captain of the ship. I have to admit, I thought the t
hird season was a step back in the right direction...but I still didn't watch it regularly. Someday, when I have absolutely nothing to do, I will go back and watch the show again. In fairness, haven't seen any SeaQuest in fifteen years. Maybe it's something Joel will appreciate when he's allowed to see more than Thomas the Tank Egine. If I remember correctly, SeaQuest had a faintly educational smell about it...

But anyhoo, I really dug the action figures from Playmates, and wish more had been made. I love owning an action figure of Stacy Haiduk....I can't help it, it's like a Kathryn voodoo doll. And a Roy Scheider figure seems even more valuable today given the actor's passing. I also have the figure of the genius kid the late Jonathan Brandis played (Lucas?), and the talking Dolphin, Darwin. I got them all cheap: like 99 cents on the clearance rack sometime in the mid-1990s.

Still...look at those spiffy black uniforms. And they came with spiffy accouterments too: walkie talkies, phasers, harpoons, etc. I would have loved to see a Playmates Sea Quest ship bridge or play set.


  1. Mike De Luca10:03 AM

    My favorite Bridger moment was when rival countries held a summit to decide ownership of an ancient library found underwater. As both countries seemed willing to push themselves to the brink of war, Scheider lifts up ancient vase and smashes it, declaring "I'd rather destroy it, than lose a single a human life!" Bridger embodied both action and a respect for science and the natural world. Like the great John Koenig.

  2. These figures were fabulous! Very detailed and spot on with the show's design.

    Sadly, what I remember the most from buying my first few Seaquest figures (I was in 5th grade) was two of my best friends just laying in to me about how playing with action figures was for babies.

    So when I think of these figures I think of shame first, fun second :(