THE PRICE OF DOOM
WRITER-HARLAN ELLISON AS CORDWAINER BIRD OR CORD WAINER BIRD
MUSIC-HUGO FRIEDHOFER and ALEXANDER COURAGE
PRELUDE: Adrian Samish was the man in charge of looking over scripts from the network. It was he who made Harlan Ellison angry--and Harlan had a right to be angry. Adrian Samish has been called a total terror by OUTER LIMITS director Gerd Oswald; was thrown out of Joseph Stefano's office; Samish was over Dorothy Brown--censor of THE OUTER LIMITS aka--"the real monster on THE OUTER LIMITS." Brown was bothered by THE OUTER LIMITS--THE INVISIBLES. Ben Brady, who took over THE OUTER LIMITS, seemed to get along with Samish but Leslie Stevens felt ill at ease with Brady being handed THE OUTER LIMITS when he and Stefano were thrown out by ABC (probably part of a plot by the network to get rid of what they considered to be "trouble makers"). The show degenerated in a Monster of the Week, which is what ABC wanted all along--a quote by OL director Robert Justman. The new Brady had an assistant named Robert Payne, who had this to say, "Samish was a fellow who could, quote, command. He was one of those schizophrenic network personalities who could be charming, generous, and wonderful one moment, and the next, be willing to conduct a personality castration of you right in front of God and everybody. When he walked into a room, you got the impression that he was in charge of something. When you heard him speak, you got the impression he did not like to be disagreed with. When he was dissatisfied with costs or ratings and called Ben, the conversation would be less than warm and understanding, and Ben would be in a lousy mood for the next two days. Samish was not a stupid man; he came out of Princeton, if I'm not mistaken. But he had a commercial personality quite different from his regular one. He produced half the shows at ABC but never wrote or directed one damned teleplay." Oswald was told by Ben that "I'm going to have trouble using you for the first few shows because Adrian Samish had said to me, "Oswald? Forget it" --or in other words, "Forget him!"
Story editor Seeleg Lester said this about the moving and emotional THE OUTER LIMITS-I ROBOT: "When I told ABC the story, I'll never forget Adrian Samish saying, "Who the hell cares about a pile of tin?" Lester also had many, many problems from Samish on another excellent THE OUTER LIMITS-the only two parter called THE INHERITORS. When Ben Brady called Lester into his office to talk to Samish about this two parter, Samish said, "You know, this could make a damned good story, let's not fuck it up." Samish later became head of programming for ABC in the mid 60s. Samish's name also graced THE FUGITIVE season four credits as "in charge of production" and possibly in other Quinn Martin Productions. Samish approached former THE FUGITIVE producer Alan Armer (who was working on THE INVADERS) for story ideas which Armer gave him. Harlan Ellison also worked for THE OUTER LIMITS--writing SOLDIER and DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND. Ellison, full of himself, went to pitch ideas to OUTER LIMITS during the first season...and wasn't hired. He then said, "The first season was garbage, the usual monster bullshit. It was a lot of funny masks and silly ideas. Until Brady came in, there were no science fiction writers working on the show." He went to discuss how no one really watched what they were doing after Stefano left and that the good stuff slips by on accident. Ellison started out on TV doing stories for ROUTE 66 (an interesting show), RIPCORD, and BURKE'S LAW (which briefly starred Gary Conway of LAND OF THE GIANTS). Ben Brady said this of Ellison: "He got as close as a TV writer can get to having complete control over his material. He was truculent, extremely difficult; he vanished all the time. It took him weeks and weeks to deliver a script; but once we got it, it would be pretty damned good and exciting. If we wanted to change it, he'd be dying to do it, and what are you going to do with such a talented writer--let someone else screw around with the dialogue?" Lester said: "Harlan could pitch ideas but he couldn't get the script in on time. He thought the concept of SOLDIER was novel and earth shattering, and the whole thing was just about a guy who becomes an automation and follows orders. The production company was entitled to one rewrite; if we wanted more we'd have to pay Harlan and when I turned in the second draft, Brady would have shot me if I'd called Harlan back. It still needed work!" Ellison said: "In TV, they don't understand subtleties of character. When a script runs long, or has production problems, the first things cut are scenes that deepen characterization. Those changes tore the gut out of SOLDIER. That's why, for me, it was a less attractive or interesting show as DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND. One of the things that pissed me off was Qarlo's serial number which was changed to serial letters, which is stupid. You can't have an army with serial letters. And they thought they were being very modern, very futuristic and I had nothing to say about it because I was off writing DEMON." THE OUTER LIMITS COMPANION mentions Meal Time--the original story name for THE PRICE OF DOOM. Ellison was involved with 17 rewrites of it!!! Ellison has also mentioned that to find out the time it took for a character to jump from a landing to beat an elevator (in DEMON) was by doing it himself! Quite clever and very dedicated. Harlan also wanted Robert Culp for the character of Trent in DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND and wouldn't hear of anyone else doing it.
I wrote all that for many reasons. There are strong connections between VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and the show it replaced, THE OUTER LIMITS. There are also strong ties between the production crews, casts, and guest stars of THE FUGITIVE, THE OUTER LIMITS, Quinn Martin Productions, and all four Irwin Allen series of the 1960s. In addition Ellison had a major argument over Meal Time aka THE PRICE OF DOOM with Adrian Samish. Samish insisted Ellison change the woman saboteur into a man and when Ellison refused to do this, then insisted he make a crewman pull off a mask from the beautiful woman revealing an ugly woman beneath. Samish took this from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, which Ellison pointed out to him and which had been done already. Ellison had to be held back from attacking Samish who threatened Ellison would write whatever the network wanted him to write. Ellison, perhaps due to coincidence or not, did little work on TV after this. These two men were destined to be in conflict but whatever the case (many rumors and false stories about this have circulated), VOYAGE lost a great writer when Ellison was barred from VOYAGE by Samish. All future VOYAGE scripts by Ellison were pulled from being made. Never the less, the following PRICE OF DOOM, was one of VOYAGE's best "monster" episodes and contains some of the best sounding science in science fiction, both within and without Irwin Allen's series.
South Pole snow-ice station Tick Tock (the name of the organization in THE TIME TUNNEL) calls Seaview. It is 45 below zero outside. Robert B. Pennell is restacking atoms (?). His wife, Karen Joyce Comstock, returns from outside and turns on the extra heaters. She was a parka that looks like the one Penny Robinson wore in LOST IN SPACE in the unaired pilot and THERE WERE GIANTS IN THE EARTH. The Pennell's are nice people who love each other. He teases her about supposing to be from pioneer stock. She goes to bed in a bunk on the wall. He continues his taped notes: bacteria and enzyme separation (including properties beta delta kappa--?--sounds more like a fraternity club!). As he does this, the plankton in jars rise to the surface of the water they are in. It is dark in the lab but the plankton come out of the jars and move down. Light and heat play a new part in the photosynthesis process on the micro organisms rather than when the plankton were deeper down. The deeper the layers they were at, the more time needed for the plankton to grow. Bubbles come from the jars and hair-like tentacles come down. Soon, the plankton is a giant, tentacled monstrosity, filling the room, separating the Pennells from each other. He tries to rescue her from the bed but it covers it and presumably eats her. He calls out something that is difficult to hear, then yells as the plankton crush him, "The plankton! Nelson! The plankton!" The plankton kills him.
Sparks is calling Tick Tock but gets magnetic interference. Aboard Seaview are Dr. Karl Reisner, Dr. Julie Lyle, and Philip Wesley, all with strong personalities. An agricultural information department specialist, Julie feels the Pernells were closer to an answer than they were. Nelson tells her that this experiment is part from his Institute and part private industry. Reisner yells at Julie. It has been 24 hours since they heard from the Pennells. Reisner calls Sparks, "Radio man" and snaps orders at him, yelling at him over the mike from the lab. Nelson snatches it back and tells him from now on to ask information from either himself or Capt. Crane. Reisner feels anxious since it has been 15 years of his life; Julie--five years. He has seen people starve to death, asks Julie if she has ever starved. Plankton could feed the world. Philip Wesley barges in behind Crane who calls to Nelson, "We have a problem," meaning Wesley. Wesley yells at Reisner--he represents the company investment which without which the research would be impossible. Reisner laughs, "It is not easy to share a cabin with a scientist." Wesley snaps, "With a Nazi!" Julie tells Reisner, "He didn't mean that." She takes Philip out for some coffee in the Wardroom. After they go, Reisner stares--no one will ever forget that he lived and worked in Hitler's Nazi Germany. After he leaves, Crane sees Nelson is upset, "You dislike him so much, why'd you pick him for the project?" Nelson tells him, "I don't have to like everyone I work with." He is the best for the job. Crane wonders how they run the sub with so much tension underfoot. Nelson apologizes to him--they are all tense due to the work on the plankton problem. Crane says, "I hope you find a solution before something blows." Foreign country: gates in front of a mansion: possibly Russian or Mid Eastern (Iran ?): inside are many computers and a foreign man--skinny, bony and thin; a more heavy set, round faced soldier, and a man at radar and sonar. A magnetic storm makes them lose contact. They have an agent on the Seaview who will activate a homing signal. The leader says, "Rule the bellies of the people and you rule the people, rule the people and you rule the world. The Plankton is the key." He and a general drink. Seaview is continuing (Seaview-VOYAGE theme). Suddenly, it shakes and there is a fire in frame 85. Crane rushes in and pulls Reisner out. A fire detail follows. Reisner is surprised that a simple compound mixture caused this. Crane and Nelson order that there are to be no experiments when they are running submerged. Seaview surfaces to scrub the smoke. Crane calls to Chip to dive. We see the dive sequence which is partly from the movie. Crane watches the bow go under. They go to 90 feet. Missile Room: Ski reports he has visitors. Crane snaps, "There seems to be some question as to who makes the rules on this ship!" He runs down to the Missile Room. Phil and Julie are there even though Ski tells them it is out of bounds. Phil says, "Not to us." Ski shows them the mini sub. Crane arrives and tells them it is a restricted area and is off limits. If it happens again that they break the rules, Crane will order them confined to their quarters. Sparks calls Crane. Nelson is looking into a microscope in his cabin. He lights a match for Dr. Reisner. Lee comes in and needs to speak to the Admiral alone. Reisner leaves. They are picking up a strange signal on top--a sub perhaps. A slave circuit will be put into the Seaview power source. The enemies are getting a homing signal now. They will obtain the synthesing plankton; Seaview will be sunk; and their agent rescued.
The Seaview is having no luck with finding the source of the homing signal. It is something on board. Crane tells Nelson, "Admiral, you have three guests aboard, one of them almost blew us out of the water, the other two were snooping around a restricted area--they're all suspect." Wesley catches Reisner outside Nelson's cabin, listening to the conversation. He grabs Reisner's arm behind him and opens the door, telling the pair Reisner was ease dropping, calling him a Nazi again. Nelson tells Crane to take Wesley forward. Reisner was coming to talk to Nelson about Wesley, whom Nelson tells Reisner they need--unfortunately they cannot do the project without money. Nelson says, "Money is necessary. That is a fact of life." He goes on to tell Reisner the scientist has managed to alienate every person aboard the sub. Reisner tells Nelson, "You know me for 20 years, Admiral, but you do not know me." Nelson says, "I know you had a chance to leave Hitler's Nazi Germany and you didn't take it." Reisner asks him, "Have you never made a mistake, Admiral Nelson?" Reisner came to them after the war, sick of war and killing and more killing--he now wants to save lives. Nelson tells him he has to trust people and give them time to trust him...he needs patience and time. Reisner cannot do this--there was a reactor failure in his lab--he took a massive dose of radiation, "In 6 months I will be dead." Seaview is under the ice but surfaces nose up (movie clip and quite nice but the move is sure to knock everyone off their feet). This clip, in still frame, is also used as the end credit visual. Phil lets Reisner go ahead of him as they ascend the ladder. They, Nelson, and Julie (all wearing snow gear parkas with hoods) go in the Snow Cat which is off the deck on the snow already. They find a hole in the side of the base of the Pernell's. Julie says, "Oh no." Inside, everything is demolished. They find slime on the walls and floor which Reisner thinks is plankton. A radioman (who looks like Paul Z) tells the General that the ice station has been reached. Sparks gets a jet fighter which wants to land. It is JKS149 sent to pick up "some egghead" on the sub; piloted by someone with a Brooklyn accent calling himself Smiling Jack. Chip, Sparks, and Crane laugh at his quick wit and on the cuff rough man attitude. Crane asks him for full info on his mission. He responds, using the term Pixie Heart and ending with, "a very cold over." He asks them to send a beam he can home in on. Crane gets Sparks to get Admiral Nelson. Nelson tells Lee, "Find some way to check it out." Crane calls Smiling Jack back. Jack tells him he is from the Bronx near Bellem Parkway and 172nd street, South Boulevard. He uses the terms pappy and birdmen. Crane asks about Col. Tom Washburn from Bathem or Bellem (?). Jack claims he plays pinnacle every Friday night with Washburn. Crane tells Chip to blast that plane out of the sky, "Tom Washburn's been dead for six years." From its top port, Seaview fires a torpedo but it misses due to the magnetic storm. Chip suggests tracking it manually. The plane goes into attack trajectory. Crane calls Nelson and gang, "Take cover!" It fires bullets at the remainders of the base. Nelson says, "We got to get back to the sub." Julie lags behind, screaming. Nelson runs to her and Wesley has to punch her jaw to stop her tantrum. Curley manually fires number 2 torpedo. The plane blows up. Curley says, "Scratch one boogie." The others return. Nelson warns there may be more planes. He orders Ski and crewman Parks to help with Julie. The rope is pulled from the Conning Tower. Dr. Reisner has plankton in a jar in the lab (good music which is used later in THE PLANT MAN). He leaves. A doctor is there giving her a sedative and checking her jaw with Wesley. NOTE: This man who appears to be a doctor may only be a corpsman but he has on a tie and appears to have one or two stars on his collar--he also looks like but isn't Dr. Baines from SUBMARINE SUNK HERE. There is no jaw dislocation (too bad, eh?). Wesley comes in and apologizes for hitting her and tells her they are under the ice now and heading home. Julie acts afraid and doesn't want to be sedated, "No! Captain Crane, help!" In the lab, the plankton rises from the jars (excellent music).
Nelson and Crane listen to a tape of the Pernell's deaths. Seaview shakes--a blast inside and out. All main controls are smashed. They are blind and dead in the water and can just maintain trim. Crane looks at Dr. Reisner. The depth gauge was booby trapped, below 400 feet, the bomb went off--someone rigged it on the surface. The lighter of Dr. Reisner was found near the booby trapped area. A secret switch reveals an elongated aerial (which to me, at first, looked rather like a knife blade). Reisner finds his own blade missing. He says the one Crane found is not his. He doesn't know where his is. Nelson tells Patterson to arrest Dr. Reisner and confine him to his cabin. Plankton rip through a wall. The men might be able to jury rig control systems. Wesley asks about the explosion and is nervous and causing more panic. Crane tells him to go to his cabin. Nelson's yell at Wesley, "Get out of here!" makes the man go. All engines stopped. They can use manual pumps to work the ballast tanks clear, radio for parts from Baffin (?). They have lost the generator, the gyro stabilizers are out, and they are now losing trim. Switching to manual doesn't help. Curley sends Ski and Parks (or it sounds like Foxx or perhaps even Pocks!?!) to gyro control room where they find Plankton. Parks runs right into it and it starts eating him. Ski has Parks' arm but the thing pulls him into it and finishes eating him. Ski closes the door and runs to the Control Room, in a panic, "It grabbed him. It got him." Ski cries. Curley, Lee, and Nelson run to the area and see the ever expanding plankton mass. Lee suggests the CO2 tanks. Nelson realizes the Pernells never had a chance against these things. They still need to get to the manual gyro controls. Nelson gets to it as the others spray the creature or creatures with the CO2 tanks, knowing it won't hold it off for long. Nelson tells a crewman to get Dr. Reisner. There is a big, large crewman, watching Nelson escape. The men sweat. Curley pulls Lee out of the monster from the other side of the room where it has cornered the two of them and Patterson. They run aft, dogging all hatches behind them as the monsters advance, busting down the hatch doors and tearing through walls. Nelson and Reisner go through the Pernell's records. The plankton regenerates on a primitive level. A crewman is watching the plankton on the Control Room side. Seaview is floating downward. Wesley goes to Julie's room, "We're all going to die," he says in his best Dr. Smith fashion. Julie coldly says, "I'm not--I planted the bomb." She goes on to tell him they have one way out--for two people--the mini sub which is easier to run with two people than one, "You and I will be the two people who use it." She takes out a gun.
The plankton whistles and growls which sounds ludicrous but is very scary all the same. Curley, Pat, and Crane run; bulkheads are breaking under the creature's movements. Crane orders via mike to secure all water tight hatches. As the things advance again, Curley grabs Crane, "C'mon Captain, hurry up!!!" He pushes Crane away. Missile Room: several men are there--trapped. Nose: Dr. Reisner figures radiation may have been added to the plankton and perhaps some chemical. The records of the Pernell's were incomplete and the tape was damaged. Nelson finds the wedding license of the couple--which Reisner dismisses as being helpful. Nelson doesn't: Robert B (or V) Pernell married Karen Joyce Comstock---but on the tape he was yelling Anna, Anna, not Karen. He called this out as part of the message to Nelson: anaerobic. Bacteria lives on air. Without the bacteria to limit the plankton--they already realized bacteria was missing from the plankton---the plankton will grow unchecked... growth runs wild. Heat destroyed the need for bacteria (and perhaps the plankton no longer needed air to live and grow--thus becoming anaerobic--although the episode seems to say the heat destroyed the anaerobic bacteria--anaerobic is without oxygen--oh, it's all very confusing in this episode, isn't it!). Nelson figures they should use cold on the plankton to stop it...bringing back the need for bacteria. You see, if the plankton became anaerobic due to the heat, they didn't need the air, thus the aerobic oxygen containing the bacteria (which would keep the plankton in check) would not be used by the plankton. This would make the plankton grow unchecked, making the plankton anaerobic. Reintroducing cold would reintroduce the need for air, thus bacteria returns---I guess.
Nelson orders the heat off and to freeze the plankton---it will make them go dormant. Then they can blow it out to sea like ballast. Missile Room: in a tense scene, the men are looking at the door---the things sound off right behind it, applying pressure to the door. Electrical systems are dead so they cannot cut out the heat. Someone would have to go into the flood control chamber and open the emergency hatch by hand and the inrushing water would freeze the plankton. Crane says, "Anyone that goes into that room is dead!" Crane gets another idea and tells Nelson, "I have an idea--don't let any..." the mike goes dead. Crane suits up into scuba gear, taking off his shirt first. Curley tells him he won't have long--ten minutes at the most at this depth. Crane is taking his chances at this depth. He doesn't want to die but there is no other choice. Seaview shakes--another bulkhead has gone. The monsters are on their way to the control room. Reisner tells Nelson he is dying--he has the least to lose and the most to gain. Nelson tells him he cannot throw his life away...even what is left of it. Reisner says, "You still don't know me, do you?" Nelson admits, "No." But perhaps he was telling Reisner he won't permit him to do this--go to the flood chamber control himself. Pat tries to tie the intercom in on another circuit to let them know what Capt. Crane's plan is. He reaches Nelson before Reisner can make his move to save them all. Crane will open the hatch from topside. We get a rare look at the whole control room as Julie and Wesley come in from the nose. Julie points her gun at them all, backing them away from the hatch. Nelson says, "I've just about decided that you were the one." The one for him? No, just kidding. Julie and Wesley want to get off the sub. Nelson warns them not to open the door--plankton is all over the halls. Reisner and Nelson ask Wesley about himself. Julie tells them he just wants to live--he's not unlike the rest of them. Wesley tells them this is true. Nelson says, "I can understand that completely." Julie mentions the men she works for. Reisner tells her he knows the kind of men she works for--the all end up the same way. Julie opens the door, bidding them goodbye as Nelson warns her again, not to go that way. He yells for them to close the door and moves at her. She shoots him in the shoulder. Chip helps him back. As the plankton devour Julie--as she literally walks backward into them, Wesley is continuing to move out also. Reisner pushes Wesley back from the hatch and shuts the door as Julie is finished up by the hungry plankton, screaming. Reisner is shocked, "I had to or they would have come in here." Wesley falls, crying. Lee opens the flood chamber, allowing the sea to take the plankton out. They hear it. It's over. They look for a hole in the ice. Wardroom--a crewman found Dr. Reisner's lighter under a table--his real lighter. It is just a lighter as he lights a cigarette for Nelson who is smoking (ecchhhh!) and couldn't open a match book correctly (see when you smoke you can't do much). Reisner hopes what they found out was worth the cost. Nelson says they have opened the door to research and they won't see the future results of what will happen but it was worth the cost.
REVIEW: Despite Harlan Ellison's apprehension, his story made an excellent VOYAGE, despite the changes made (or not as the case made be--his original want of the girl villain spy--to stay pretty and evil---stayed the way he wrote it in the story). The monster is very scary, almost as scary as THE BLOB from the three classic science fiction BLOB movies---and when the plankton kills the Pennells, it is horrid in thought alone. In Seaview, the monsters are shadowy--we do see a lot of them but they are filling the halls, again a claustrophobic feel helps create even more of a scare factor. Excellent guest VOYAGERS help: Jill Ireland is wonderfully cold as the killer, John Milford very good as her aide and a frightened man, and David Opatoshu wonderful as a sympathetic (?) ex-Nazi German. Reminding one of the very frightening THE BLOB, PRICE OF DOOM is unsettling and atmospheric...and even more scientific. Some of the explanations seemed muddled (allowing for all the anaerobic and trick lighter stuff) but it was a valiant attempt and perhaps one of the tightest VOYAGES. The characterization is at the forefront of the story as well...so anyone who says VOYAGE or Irwin Allen productions did not have characterization...is not watching. It is ironic that Riesner saves Wesley who kept calling him a Nazi. I was not sure if Julie was a scientist or not. It is also brave to have Nelson admit to not liking someone, someone who may have deserved some compassion. I also like the fact that Nelson sees money as a fact of life but later, kicks Wesley out of the control room in classic "Nelson" fashion.
THE PLANKTON TAPES: Phytoplankton are the most important marine life. Tiny, floating plants grow wherever sunlight penetrates the water. Huge clouds of them drift in the upper layers of the ocean but they are too small to see with the naked eye. Floating alongside and feeding upon the phytoplankton are tiny animals called zooplankton. This rich mix of plant and animal life, called plankton, is the foundation of all marine life. Many of the tiny plants that make up the phytoplankton join together to make chains and bracelets. Others float alone and look like small pill boxes, sea shells, pencils, ice picks, or ribbons. Some members of zooplankton are simple, single celled life forms but many are the tiny larvae of fish, crabs, starfish, and other sea animals. Zooplankton can live very deep while phytoplankton live on the surface; zoo plankton rise to the surface. THE PRICE OF DOOM seems to mix these two up (due to no fault of Ellison I am sure) just as it seems to mix up aerobic (air) and anaerobic (without air) respiration. Sailors crossing the ocean at night often see a soft glow on the water's surface. This is due to some plankton producing flashes of blue-green light when they are disturbed. Very early lifeforms probably looked similar to today's phytoplankton. The largest animals in the world feed on plankton. Blue whales (150 tons and over 100 feet) sieve krill (tiny plankton animals) from the ocean through a curtain of whalebone inside their mouths.