Russia--a rocket is ready. At the base, it appears Irwin Allen is at the controls. The rocket lifts off; it is May 27th, 1973. The Russian Chairman (John Banner, aka Sgt. Shultz on HOGAN'S HEROES) is given the message that the satellite will fall to Earth: the control systems and the abort systems will not respond. He is told where it will land and detonate--and he goes wide eyed. He goes to a phone and asks to speak to the President of the United States.
The White House---military music; hotline rings and a skinny presidential assistant answers--a skinny Scotty from STAR TREK! President (Ford Rainey) is given the news and he calls his top secret security council; he also answers the phone. We see an underbelly shot of Seaview. In the nose, Nelson is told Seaview has to rendezvous submerged to a Russian trawler (which is a Russian tracking station) in the Mid Pacific. There Mr. Gregory Malinoff will come aboard. Kowalski says, "A Russian aboard Seaview? What gives?" NOTE: This is ironic or odd since in year two's THE CYBORG, Kowalski knows how to translate Russian and may be a Polish-Russian or Russian himself! Mr. Montgomery Scott, the presidential aide, goes to the President, informing him that the satellite going off course is sabotage among the ranks of the Russians. The reactor of the satellite will destroy San Francisco. They can't bomb it since the fallout would kill many people. There is no time to evacuate. One Russian will enter Seaview via sea; the other flown to LA by jet. Seaview will go to the sunken satellite and render it harmless. Airport: two men steal a cart and meet Gronsky, telling him they are taking him to a helicopter. They jab him sharply with some needle, knocking him out; then take him to a truck. He is put into a crate (dead?). The men drive out with a fake Gronsky. They take him to a helicopter and it flies off with him. Seaview dock: the fake Gronsky arrives and talks to Greg in Russian. Crane wonders which one is the boss. Seaview heads out and we hear the theme. Nelson gives Chip papers. The satellite is near the coast. Greg is a space expert, not a swimmer. He and Gronsky speak in Russian (in front of Nelson and Crane, which is rude to say the least). Gronsky wants to abandon the project but Nelson tells him no. He assigns a man to teach Greg to dive. Sparks calls--Nelson has a call from the President who has further data. Chip is on the computer, receiving it. The satellite will land only 50 miles from San Francisco--and two hours earlier than expected. We see the rocket on its way.
Seaview is on the surface (Seaview theme). Crewman Clark wants to send his wife and kid a message. Crane tells him, "Sorry, no messages." They figure the perigee and apogee of the rocket--62 degrees in final orbit. The two Russian on board were told the satellite mishap was an accident, not that it was tampered with. Nelson tells him the truth. It will reach critical mass in five hours; they need two and a half hours to disarm it. Greg feels it would take less time. Nelson orders full emergency power beyond the safety margin and they go flank speed. Crane tells the crew the truth about the mission. They have to reach the satellite and disarm it before the nuclear pile can destroy San Francisco. They observe radio silence. Ski tells Clark to shut up and the two fight. Chip comes in but no one will tell him what happened...no one will rat on fellow crew members. Chip warns them, "This isn't a pleasure cruise. If this happens again, heads will roll." Night: a full moon: Conning Tower: Nelson and the Russians see the satellite dropping. Seaview, with them aboard, dives. At the nose is water bubbles. Gronsky tells Nelson this is their ordained purpose--their destiny. When Nelson asks if he means their religious destiny, Gronsky tells him he is not religious. Nelson says perhaps religion and destiny are one and the same. They are not to Gronsky. Crane calls from Control (one of the annoying things about the first season is that when the voices are calling from above or wherever, the voices sound tinny, echoed, and distorted--as on a real life sub--which is not what a futuristic sub intercom system should sound like). They are in the target area. Gronsky tells them they will have less time once they open the capsule. Seaview goes one third slow; the capsule is 8000 yards away. Clark closes the radio shack curtain--entering from the hallway behind it (rarely seen in any season or episode and slightly modified in seasons two, three, and four). Clark bugs Sparks to call his wife and kid. Sparks tells Clark to "beat it" not acting very nicely toward the nervous wreck of a man. Clark attacks Sparks but Curley stops him; Crane stops Curley from putting Clark in the brig but will do so if he repeats this type of behavior. Crane tells Clark that a panic, if the news spread out, would kill thousands and Clark's family could be killed in that panic. Crane tells him, "We're all in the target area." He lets Clark go with a warning. When Curley reminds him a lot of the men have families in the bay area, Crane orders him to put an armed guard on the radio shack.
Seaview lands on the bottom at 400 feet. The two Russians are in scuba gear. Greg tells Crane and Nelson he's had expert diving instruction. Two hours and 35 minutes to go. Sparks gets a message to DC on code 13. Nelson and Crane go to the nose as the Russians swim out passing bottom plant growth. They swim to the rocket where they find the access hatch has been settled on when the rocket landed. They have to cut it open which is dangerous since the torch might trigger it. We hear some excellent music (much of which is used in THE INVADERS episode later) and the diving sequences are well done. Sparks calls Sea Lion to President. The Russians cut through and talk in Russian some more. A fish swims by them. Curley told Crane that Gregory was a good swimmer and a quick learner in diving. Crane tells Nelson that Gregory, despite that, had some trouble clearing his mask. Nelson asks, "Why didn't you tell me?" Crane tells him it is too late to do anything about it now. They and the crewmen in the control room and all over Seaview, worry. Clark sweats and sees his own face reflected in the glass of the timer clock. 41 minutes to go. Greg calls--they are finished and Nelson calls them in. They swim toward Seaview but as they do Gregory has trouble. Curley wonders if it is the bends but Gregory recovers and returns. Lee is happy they are 35 minutes ahead of schedule. The US President calls. Moscow called him--the Kremlin captured and broke one of the ring leaders of the sabotage plot--one Russian on Seaview is an imposter! The ring leader they had, died before they could learn which one. Crane realizes the truth: "The satellite isn't disarmed...it's still going to blow." Nelson adds, "That would be their only reason for sending an imposter." He looks down at the time--a half hour left.
There is a half hour before the satellite blows up. Nelson tells Crane to get the Russians down to the nose, not to let on that anything is wrong. Then the Admiral calls Sparks and tells him to call down lie that Nelson has a call on Code 13 from the President. Nelson also tells Sparks to disregard everything he says after that and to have the Master At Arms standing by. Gronsky returns and wants to get back as quickly as possible. Nelson stalls--he wants to plant a buoy to mark the capsule site. Sparks calls; Nelson fakes that the President is on the other end. He tells the Russians that DC has relayed a message from the Kremlin for the Russians to salvage the brain from the capsule which will take one hour but Nelson will let them do it in the morning. Gronsky gets nervous, telling them the brain is worthless but Gregory disagrees. Nelson will send Gronsky with Gregory to recover it. Nelson smiles, "Mr. Gronsky, you seem, a little upset, are you not feeling well. Perhaps you'd like to lie down?" Crane asks to call him a doctor. Gronsky tells them, "We've got to get away." He tells the truth: he recapped the fuse and connected the wires. Nelson tells him they cannot get away in time and they must disarm it. The wires are crossed at the magnetic cap. Master At Arms takes Gronsky. Gregory wants to help--to go out again but Crane and Nelson feel he wouldn't survive this time. Nelson goes out. Code 13 to Sea Lion--President--Crane reports. As Nelson works there is a short in the capsule which activated the circuit and this could trigger the whole mechanism. One minute left: Nelson finds the short and corrects it. Nelson returns (happy uplifting music--with bell like sounds). Crane calls direct line to White House from nose---he is choked up as is the President---the satellite is disarmed. Crane gulped. Everyone hears this news. The Russians in the Kremlin shake hands (one looks suspiciously like Irwin Allen). All are happy (all are welcome--go into the light--no just kidding--a passing reference to POLTERGEIST). Crane remains grim. Seaview is on the surface. Chip, Nelson, Crane, and Gregory open a bottle of champagne which Gregory feels is better than even vodka. Gregory once thought they afforded themselves too many luxuries on Seaview and America in general--but now he tells them he appreciates this. The officers tells him to be careful. Gregory says, "Why should I be careful, who can hear me? To our homes gentlemen, where ever they are."
REVIEW: Almost prolific in nature as SKYLAB would fall from the sky in the year 1982. The orbit deteriorated and it burnt up on reentry into the atmosphere; however some debris fell into Australia--and quite large bits of debris. While it is not the same exact thing as in this episode, it does remind one of it. SKYLABs I, II, and III began in 1973, oddly enough, about the time this episode takes place. While knowing Gronsky is the saboteur spy from act one reduces the mystery quite a bit, it is nice seeing how he manipulates everyone; also seeing Nelson manipulate him, with Gregory almost as an unknowing accomplice (his each and every remark makes Gronsky more nervous in act four as Nelson pulls his con on Gronsky) is quite nice. This would have been lost if we had not known which was the true spy. Also, since there were and would be other whose-the-spy stories on VOYAGE, this one could afford to reveal who was the spy right away, giving us a twist. The diving scenes are quite nice and this season's undersea sequences are almost unequaled on the show and on any other (including both BAYWATCH and SEAQUEST). Although, I still feel the first season as well as the first season of LOST IN SPACE would have benefitted from being in full color, there is a quality the first season of VOYAGE has, that seasons two, three, and four do not. This is mostly due to the black and white: the sea sequence are darker, more murky, grim, and somewhat scary...as if the other world below is too dark to venture into without some surface light shining brightly or some heavy equipment. There are also, in long shots, canyons, mountains, lots of plants, rocks, etc--which do show up in the later seasons but the effect is different---in black and white it is more mysterious, in color, it is more fantastic. Both feelings work for the show but the black and white give this season a very different feel from anything in the later seasons and also on any other underwater show (SEA HUNT) or above water show (FLIPPER) ever done. HOTLINE's third and fourth act evoke a lot of this. Ski may have been Russian or may have learned how to speak it--as he does seem to understand it in THE CYBORG in year two. He may be Polish Russian. This was never made clear. Mike Ansara does a very good job making us like Gregory. I also liked the other Russian scientist Gronsky, who acted so nice, you almost forget he is the one wanting the bomb to go off. Everett Sloane does a great job as the old spy, which is another turn-around from another VOYAGE--that of THE FEAR MAKERS, where it is the young scientist, not the older, that is the spy (and again, we know from the beginning he is the creepo). HOTLINE is not the best episode but it is by far the worst and is difficult to forget some of its very realistic images, especially of Clark trying to warn his family and of the rocket streaking through the sky toward dooming others. I also like the way the Russians felt such horror at the announcement of where the rocket would land---on a series that usually shows enemies as in a Russian mold, this is rare--although it would happen again, several times on VOYAGE if not the other spy shows that happened in the 60s and 70s. To see the horror on the faces of the Russians--sincere care came off well here. Also, Gregory's cooperation and likability is a nice touch. He was not a cliche Russian character, nor was Gronsky. Gronsky even fooled us into thinking he was "nice" by revealing he was not a religious man but could understand and accept Nelson was.