Produced by Steven Spielberg, SeaQuest DSV aired for fifty-seven hour-long episodes over two-and-a-half seasons on NBC, and ultimately sailed through some very choppy waters. In broad terms, the series is a kind of update and re-imagining of Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964 - 1968) concerning a state-of-the-art submarine on missions of scientific exploration, political intrigue and even, from time-to-time, the fantastic.
The SeaQuest DSV pilot, "To Be or Not To Be" lays the groundwork for the series proper. Directed by Irvin Kershner, it is set in the year 2019, as the newly-formed UEO (United Earth Oceans) attempts to police the seas, which -- because of resource scarcity on dry land -- have become a kind of underwater wild west. Farmers, settlers and miners have set up facilities all over the ocean floor, but are menaced by "non-aligned" countries and "warrior subs."
The highest rated new program of its premiere week (with 16.9 million viewers watching), SeaQuest DSV started off very strong, and attempted a very delicate alchemy that, eventually, became unbalanced with the second season.
It wasn't until relatively late in the first season, episode 21, "Such Great Patience," that SeaQuest DSV left behind pedestrian stories of rescues at sea ("Bad Water") and high-tech intrigue ("Photon Bullet) for more overt or "far out" genre story telling.
On SeaQuest DSV, Bridger's ship would study the polar ice caps (Games") or hydro-thermal vents -- mother nature's "birth canal" ("The Devil's Window") -- at length, and the narrative was always pretty much about the science and wonder of such mechanisms and locations.
To further support this aspect of the series, each and every episode ended with a brief epilogue and lecture from the show's science advisor, oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard. His monologues would frequently point out how elements of the preceding episode were based on fact; and then encourage viewers to learn more about the subject.
Darwin the dolphin is probably SeaQuest's Mr. Spock...the resident alien. In the first season, Darwin nearly dies from a mysterious disease ("The Devil's Window"), plays tag with a warrior sub ("To Be or Not to Be") and finds a way to inhabit the dreams of his crew-mates ("Hide and Seek").
In "Such Great Patience," he is also the object of the alien creatures at the ocean floor. They came to Earth all those years ago...to talk to dolphins.