WRITER-WILLIAM REED WOODFIELD
A missile takes off. Two men at St. Matthew's Tracking Station track it and discover it is not geese. It moves at 5000 miles an hour and cannot be identified. The government calls the President, verifying their code 420047. A general tells the President confirmation absolute on this firing. It is near the due line for return fire. The President puts the government on war alert, ordering the missile to be destroyed and its source, and adds, "And may God be with us."
VOYAGE main theme as Seaview is seen. The men watch the clocks tensely. Nelson puts the scope down. Sparks, Clark, and other men look at the clocks and each other, nervously. They are at latitude zero and cross the equator, Chip says. Suddenly, all laugh and make merriment. Crane calls all polliwogs down to the 1973 crew initiation ceremonies. Everyone is light and joking and proceed to the Mess or the Crew Quarters for the King Neptune ceremonies. Men hit the new crew members as they pass under a line of hitters. Crane tells Nelson he was polishing his sword all night (huh?). Pat is dressed as a pirate. We hear what is possibly the cutest music VOYAGE ever used. Men paddle other initiates. Nelson and Crane have on large old time sailing officer hats with feathers. One man is thrown out into the hallway. Pat puts paint on a bare chested Clark, then feathers. I thought I saw a barber in the background. A ship's barber? Chip is dressed as Neptune; Curley as the Queen (in drag); and Ski as the Royal Baby who uses his pacifier to squirt Nelson, Chip, Curley, and Crane at various moments. Another man, Lt. Commander Bill (William, indeed!) Corbett, is on the ship, evaluating its failsafe, missile methods, and as to whether or not it is a fit missile carrier. NOTE: This is not very clear at all--is Corbett one of the Seaview crew--apparently not--but he is taking part in the initiation rites. Nelson jokes he is to blame for Corbett--the boy is good in marine biology and chemistry and was in Nelson's class where Nelson gave him good marks in both. Alarms bring the joyous occasion to a halt. Crane calls all hands to stations, telling them it was slow and sloppy, "I'd hate to see our fitness rating for this one." They see a standby on fail safe. Ski is still dressed as a baby; Corbett has feathers on his face; Clark, Curley, and others are shirtless, covered in paint and feathers or one or the other. Nelson and Crane remove their swords and hat; Chip his pitchfork and beard. A short in an instrument board blasts into Kowalski's face, mostly getting glass in his eyes. Nelson asks to see but can't get to; Doc comes in and when Ski asks if he is blind, responds with, "An old girl watcher like you, Kowalski?" Crane wants to get him to a specialist--the glass exploded right into his eyes. But Nelson doesn't believe this is an exercise. Crane asks, "You don't think there's actually going to be a war." Nelson isn't sure--it could be a flock of geese or a plane off course but explains if and when they see the war alert light go on on the failsafe, they should worry. It is in the President's hands. Nelson claims, "Right where it should be. Only he can open failsafe--an unpickable lock on the mightiest arsenal ever created." The alert alarm for war goes on. Crane prepares the crew for war. Seaview moves flank down to 2000 feet. He orders all men to man their failsafe units. Chip and Crane are in the Control Room, Nelson in his office, Corbett in the Missile Room. All wear keys around their necks. Crane checks with each one but has to call Commander Corbett several times until finally, the unsure man answers. Chip, Nelson, and Crane unlock their units. Corbett doesn't. Nelson calls several times and then runs down to the Missile Room. Corbett says, "I cannot destroy the world!" Nelson holds his hand out, "Leave it to me." Corbett won't give it to him but Nelson punches him and takes it and activates the failsafe. All the units open and we see a scary zoom in on the light on the failsafe that reads: WAR.
Seaview has bubbles coming from its bubble shape. Nelson paces in his cabin. Crane comes in--15 minutes to launch coordinates. They talk about Corbett. Crane tells Nelson, "Everyone who went to war knows that," it is hard to pull the trigger and that hesitation--some couldn't pull the trigger. Nelson says Corbett is not a coward but Crane says, "No one of us, none of us, knows how we'll act when we have to pull that trigger--give him another chance." Lee opens the door for Nelson. They cross the fail safe line and raise the antenna--it is not an abort--it's happening. Pat and Clark talk. Pat says, "Sure we have all these bombs and missiles and stuff but so have they." Clark tells him, "I don't like much looking like this when it happens." Pat talks out how his mother told him not to go out when he was dirty--if you're dirty what will the ambulance guy think (NOTE: This is a more sanitary telling of the "don't go out with your underwear dirty" nonsense). Pat says, "Don't worry, nobody's gonna see us again." Clark asks Crane about home and asks if he knew about what was happening home would he tell them. Clark tells him he has a wife and couple of kids, brothers, sisters, parents. Nelson sensitively says they are wondering about him, too. Chip tells them they are in enemy waters now, naming Lee by the moniker Captain. Sickbay: Doc shines a light on Ski and asks if he can see it any. Ski laments--what's the difference now anyway. He figures they all have an hour, maybe an hour and half and then BOOM. Doc can't answer him with any comforting reply so says little except, "The next hour and a half are crucial to whether you will see again or not--if there is no BOOM." NOTE: An aide helping Doc looks a great deal like Del Monroe--could it be his brother or another relative of some kind? Nelson goes to Corbett and stares at him in the Missile Room. Destroyers are picked up. Nelson asks Corbett, "You alright?" The Admiral tells him he should be--he is Annapolis Navy trained. Nelson tells him he has practiced this a hundred times. Corbett calls those, "games" like when he was a kid. "This is no game, Admiral, this is for real, this is DOOMSDAY, Admiral, DOOMSDAY." Nelson tells him if it is--we didn't start it. Corbett says, "What difference is it who started it?" Then he stares at Nelson, "You could do it, couldn't you?" Nelson tells him, "You think because I could do what I had to do--I don't feel for the millions who...the bone and muscle of our country's deterrent is failsafe." He tells Corbett by not firing back, they will leave their country defenseless and he tells Corbett he failed his country and not to fail her again. Seaview stops. Crane asks Nelson if there is any reason to delay firing. Nelson can't give him one, "that has any military relevance." Crane orders Missile Room to release the failsafe antenna. Nelson says, "I spent all of my life trying to find answers but there's no answer for this, nothing to say." The sonar man tells them the destroyers are close, the antenna reaches the surface, and there is no abort signal. Nelson orders Lee to start firing procedure. As Lee starts his failsafe, we hear some great stock music (from some movie obviously and that is used in THE TIME TUNNEL often--it is tense and mysterious all at once and sounds like old-time atmosphere--perfect for THE TIME TUNNEL). Suddenly the failsafe doors shut. Nelson laughs and Crane tells all the attack is canceled--there is no war alert. Everyone laughs. Ski tells Doc to continue on his operation. Pat and Corbett shake hands in the Missile Room. Corbett looks at his failsafe--it reads STAND BY again! Radar calls Crane---who issues a loud quiet to the men. Destroyers are above but they can surface to tell them what has happened--why not use the radio? Number Four Missile won't deactivate--the fuse will detonate at zero degrees, Corbett calls, "Whatever you do--don't surface!" Nelson tells Lee to make a run for it, "Let's get out of here!" They are still in enemy waters. Destroyers release alarms to signal their men to drop depth charges. Doc has a needle near Ski's eyes when a depth charge blows off and they shake. The fuse on the missile is jammed--it will blow when the Seaview reaches the surface. There are more blasts against Seaview.
Sonar tells Crane, "The whole fleet if after us, Captain." Crane asks for more speed. Curley tells Crane, "She's breaking records now, Skipper!" Water shoots on Curley and a man. The main vent in the ballast is damaged and trim will be sloppy. Corbett and men shake as more charges go off. They can't deactivate the fuse so they will have to find a lonely place and fire it. Only the President can reopen failsafe. Doc operates as the ship shakes. Nelson wants to rely on the hydrophone and jam the Destroyers' sonar to lose them. Nelson runs to the Missile Room again and order them to start up the Mini Sub and reduce the speed of it gradually and the hold. Pat launches it on auto. The sound effects of the Mini Sub are well known and heard, at times, on Irwin Allen shows (such as the first season Jupiter II door sound effects on LOST IN SPACE). Sonar gets the mini sub but Crane calms the man, "Don't worry, it's one of ours." The fleet follows the mini sub. Seaview gets underway again to 4500 feet. Nelson does not want a surface blast at 1000. He wants to go to 4700 feet and fire the missile. They wonder if Seaview can go that deep. Nelson want to do this to prevent the world from knowing that failsafe is fallible and Corbett calls him on this. Nelson also does not want the world to know they are violating the Test Ban Treaty by firing the missile and he won't pollute the atmosphere with the radioactive mist (hey, what about the water being polluted? Remember THE BLIZZARD MAKERS).
Nelson would rather risk the crew than generations to come: "Long ago under conditions less stressful than we faced this morning, strategists and statesmen came up with a plan, a plan as military man you're sworn to follow. If plans made during calm are not followed to the letter we can only face chaos, our survival as a nation as individuals, requires we rely on reason not on emotions."
Corbett tells him about an informed public--they should know that "we should throw away these monstrous toys before they destroy us." Nelson tells him to sound the trumpet if he wants but not on Seaview and not in that uniform. He calls the President. The President cannot open Nelson's failsafe units without opening the entire system---and during the time the failsafe is open, any General, Admiral, or Colonel can fire weapons at under their command. Nelson has cut the time from 30 seconds to 5. The exact moment will be known only to the President and Seaview. Not even the Pentagon, who is on line also, will know nor will the Pentagon know the site the President and Seaview have selected. It will take place in 24 hours. The President tells "Nelson, you know what I'm risking to save your ship--get in touch with me when you reach your destination." Nelson hangs up. The President stares out his window in the Oval Office.
Seaview: Nelson is in sickbay hounding Lee to keep Seaview steady as Doc finishes on Ski's eyes, removing glass, "Steady Lee." Doc says, "Real steady, Admiral." Seaview tilts and shakes--some excellent shaking sequences. The helm holds. Doc is getting all the glass out--there is no corneal damage, "You'll be up girl watching in a week or two." Nelson leaves Sickbay with, "Get him back as soon as you can, we need him." Depth is 200 feet. Nelson orders to 90 feet--periscope depth. They must make sure the area is clear before they fire. Nelson puts the scope up after Seaview rises. Nothing on radar. Seaview goes down. Nelson tells Sparks to call through the scrambler. Seaview goes down--bubbles. Nelson in his cabin, calls the President--in five minutes exactly, he will open the failsafe, and adds, "If I permit it." Bastard. He has given the failsafe thing some thought and is worried about THE HUMAN FACTOR. Yesterday, the Russians launched 25 missiles which were not harmful--nothing more than satellite equipment but their one mistake was not to notify the US. A human error. The President is leaving on room for human error in releasing the failsafe. He will open it in 5 minutes for 5 seconds. "Good luck to you and your men." Nelson looks at Corbett again. We see the stocky crewman again. Corbett stares at Nelson. We then see a nice, rare shot close up of Seaview. Failsafe position are retaken. Nelson does a countdown and the system opens. They unlock their units. The missile is now under manual control. Nelson tells Lee to be at 4700 feet. They dive past a canyon (a gritty, murky, and dark look as most of the first season's sea scenes are). They are in the red zone for pressure--4000. Nelson calls fire but Seaview shakes again. Corbett and all the men fall--he couldn't fire...and now the angle is wrong. The main vent jammed and they are ballooning---upward. Chip counts--3 minutes to detonation depth (good stock music). Missile Room--Nelson comes down and wonders if they have some kind of a plan to resolve this. Corbett tells him, "Plan? We've had it!" Nelson insists he will not be the cause of a nuclear accident. Nelson wonders if they could magnetically or electronically defuse the missile. Corbett says, "If we could, then so could the enemy." Nelson guesses--the fuel. 1800 feet. Corbett bleeds off the expellant gas from the missile, Nelson asks what he is doing. The missile will blast clear of the sub and sink to the bottom--fizzling out. 1400, then 1200 feet. Corbett tells Nelson he disobeyed orders---"I didn't change it. I set it for a surface blast." There is enough fuel for it now and it will break the surface and let the public know. Nelson asks on what authority and he says, "On my authority as a man--as a human being--I just discovered I have a commitment that takes priority over this uniform--people have a right to know what happened." He fires and asks them to all to pray. Men bow their heads and pray. The missile slows and stops at 200 feet, out of fuel, beneath the surface, and drops to the bottom. All cheer but Nelson and Corbett. Chip calls--they are at 820 feet, and to Lee says, "That's cutting it close." Crane puffs, "Too close, Chip, much too close."
Con Tower: Chip and Crane: bubble is on the artificial horizon (whatever that means? Perhaps the way the hand scope to find their direction and location). They get a sighting on the pole star--2:04 AM, angle 18 degrees 22 minutes and 3 seconds--verify sighting--mark accurate and confirmed. Chip will confirm it with the inertial navigator and log it. Chip goes down. Nelson comes up. Good music occurs. Crane says, "You want to talk about it?" Nelson says, "What's there to talk about?" Crane says, "Well, you gave him a second chance--he blew it." Nelson says, "Ahh, now I have to order a court martial, testify against him." Crane adds, "He'll be dishonorably discharged." Nelson says, "It's ironic, Lee, if he obeyed orders, we'd all be dead now--by disobeying orders, he inadvertently saved our lives but he wrecked his career." NOTE: It was not really clear but if he left more fuel in the missile, the blast would probably have destroyed Seaview. Lee says, "It could have been worse." Nelson nods, "Yeah, it really could have been DOOMSDAY."
REVIEW: I recall showing this episode to a friend of mine who only recalled and saw the third and fourth season. He was astounded by this tightly developed storyline and the acting. It wasn't even like the same show. The fact that Commandeer Corbett, by disobeying orders saved all of the men, didn't save him from Nelson's wrath. Even though the men are supposed to be civilian volunteers, Nelson plans to court martial Corbett and dishonorably discharge him. The failsafe thing was scary because it was so real, yet this episode seems a lot like a movie that starred Richard Widmark and Sydney Portier in the mid or late 50s. A good performances permeate DOOMSDAY all around. On hindsight, though, it is a bit heavy handed. Nelson claims in other episodes, not to be military and not bound by them any more, yet here, he follows the letter of the law and at times, I found myself siding with Corbett against Nelson, who almost seemed like the villain here. Crane, usually more military minded, was for the human side of things---he knows what it is like to pull the trigger or not but in the end he feels Corbett blew his second chance. Nelson had many reasons, many good ones, but Corbett and his panic stricken mind set...are also correct---these weapons are deterrents but are still monstrous and will destroy if used and the public should know...on both sides. There are probably many more things the government hasn't told us about a great many things and there have been computer errors, not human ones, made during nuclear missile firings--one which almost caused a war with Russia in the early to mid 80s--which was hushed up when a computer almost fired missiles at Russia. Also--a deterrent is of no good unless the threat can be backed up with use. All of this is too scary to think too long about. One feels like saying to Nelson, "Aw, let the poor Corbett guy off the hook and give him a third chance. His second chance may have been blown but what a good way to blow it." One also feels the President should owe Seaview after they've saved his life at least once before.