I was never much of a Star Trek fan in my younger days. I certainly enjoyed the show, but it played distant second in my wide-eyed affections to my true love…
…the film and TV versions of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Both were in heavy UHF rotation when I was a kid, and my acquatically obsessed self took to the show like a mako to chum.
For all the long hours I spent re-enacting the low-budget adventures of the Seaview crew with a stand-in cast of action figures and/or childhood pals, the show fell out of my active consciousness for a good three decades before I recently rediscovered it via late night airings on MeTV.
My adult self was struck by the similarities between Voyage and Trek — militant exploration, cardboard sets, and the “everybody sway violently to simulate a collision” gimmick. As I nodded off in my bed, I found myself contemplating the existence of and alternate world where Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea had become a massive popcult phenomenon while Trek languished in the obscurity of niche fandom.
This would be a world where Richard Basehart became Priceline’s celebrity spokesperson and recorded a cover of Blur’s “Song 2″ with some assistance by Graham Parker. A world where Terry Becker tried to break free of his typecast status by releasing a a book of poems titled I Am Not Sharkey. A world where legions of devoted fans stalked the floor of Comicon dressed in khaki uniforms and speaking in nautical jargon.
A world where massive flame wars were waged daily as fans tried to rationalize the talking puppet people and evil leprechaun who appeared in the original series, and every tumblr feed was full to bursting with animated gifs of Commander Crane punching a lobster man.
A world where a 1990s follow-up series would star Roy Schneider as the new CO and be excoriated by the fans over the presence of an annoying kid in the cast. (Wait, that sounds kinda familiar.)
Not a better world, but a different world — one where stolen brains took a back seat to journeys through the obviously plastic innards of a giant whale.
Alas, such things were just not meant to be.
Recommended listening: Let’s submerge.