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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ULTIMATE GEEK FU: seaQuest DSV

“The 21st century…mankind has colonized the last unexplored region on Earth; the ocean. As captain of the seaQuest and its crew, we are its guardians, for beneath the surface lies the future.” (opening credits)

If you put VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, STAR TREK: The Original Series, Aquaman comic books and technobabble mumbo-jumbo in the deep metal bowl of a MixMaster™ and turn it on high speed, you’d get SeaQuest DSV.

More appropriately, you’d get SeaQuest DSV 1, 2 and 3 airing from 1993 through 1996.

Now I need to confess something right now: while I watched every episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series and read practically every Aquaman comic book ever published and (frequently tried to breathe underwater) it should come as no surprise that I was the one who actually invented SeaQuest DSV!

I’m not even kidding – and here’s how it happened:

From the first time I ever watched FLIPPER, I had a dream. I had a dream to colonize the floor of the ocean and the whole wide seas. I had no idea when I started that 76% of the Earth’s surface is water. It was inconceivable to me that the very air we breathed came from algae and autotrophs floating in the upper reaches of the world ocean.

I drew a sketch of an underwater city, a detail of one level (to be repeated on virtually every floor) and a design for a submarine reminiscent of a hydroplane crossed with a rocket ship. Last of all, I have the letters IORA with a stylized fish swimming right on the bottom and the same fish swimming left on the top – this one has a vertical line dividing the body of the fish from the tail. Bound by a circle, there is a feather (I’m thinking it was my 13-year-old attempt at an olive branch) on top going right and up another on the bottom going left and down.

Judging by the stories it was sandwiched with, it was likely conceived some time in 1971-1973. It was during this time that I began to plan to be a marine biologist.

That was it. Nothing more. No background (though the story following it detailed World War III taking place on March 17, 1974 that was instigated by an unnamed, non-human intelligence); no characters and no other technology but the city and the sub.

Ah – and the acronym: IORA. What did IORA stand for? I’m pretty sure “I” stands for “International” and “O” Ocean or “Oceanographic”. “R” probably is “Research” because I was religiously watching every Jacques Cousteau special that aired whenever it aired. “A” most likely stood for “Association”. While the International Oceanographic Research Association doesn’t carry quite the weight of seaQuest DSV, it was all in my head – Humans would colonize the oceans, learn to communicate with the dolphins (who would turn out to be as smart – or smarter – than us a la Dr. John C. Lilly’s work with dolphins (The Mind of the Dolphin: A Nonhuman Intelligence (1st ed.) Doubleday. 1967)

So aside from the fact that I am the completely uncredited inventor of seaQuest DSV, what did I think of the show?

I think it really went where no “man” has gone before.

We talk so much of going into space, and while I am all for that and always will be, I have seen us neglect the oceans to a shocking degree. We are as primally fearful of great White Sharks in this second decade of the 21st Century as we were when the first dugout canoe tried to cleave the waters off the coast of western Africa. We are as unaware of the life in the ocean today as we were when Christ walked the Earth. We do not understand how the biotic and abiotic factors beneath ¾ of this planet’s surface interact to allow life on the remaining ¼ of the surface to exist.

We are profoundly and seriously handicapped when we have to do anything deeper than 200 meters – look at the botched attempts by BP to cap a single oil pipe.

The coelacanth, a FREAKIN’ prehistoric fish thought extinct thought extinct for 65 million years, was caught in the Indian Ocean in 1938!

Oh, yeah, we’ve sure “conquered” and subdued the Earth!

Our WEATHER comes from the oceans, as does ALL of the fresh water found on every continent. We are personally ¾ water and our tears have a chemical composition similar to that of seawater.

Yet, while we claim dominion over the Earth, we are essentially excluded from three quarters of its surface, we cannot predict weather with any kind of long-range accuracy, we can’t figure out whether the climate is in mortal danger or just going through its cycles or what really causes El Niño. Sharks irrationally terrify us – I live in the center of the North America. The nearest ocean is like, a gazillion miles away, yet I’ve had nightmares about sharks since I saw my first Jacques Cousteau special!

So we get all excited about (make sure you say this in a whisper), “Space, the final frontier…” I know, I do all the time.

Our ocean television is limited to lameness like “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, “Boobwatch”, “Hawaii 5-0” (both incarnations), footage and documentaries on the BP disaster and…um…NOTHING.

As lame as it was at times; as fakey as Darwin’s chatting was; as chaotic as the production of the show was; as cloudy as its vision became; seaQuest DSV (Deep Submersible Vessel) was our last, best attempt to really explore the frontier we continue to ignore, abuse, misunderstand and pretend to know.

If the show had continued, found itself (think STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION) and attempted to tackle the real issues we face today as we overlook ¾ of the Earth’s surface, we might have been better prepared for the BP disaster and we might be discussing the knowledgeable colonization of the ocean today rather than overseeing the moth-balling of the space shuttle fleet.

Let the arguments begin!

Image: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_VIsJjJ9mhNw/TPWWhQwP7VI/AAAAAAAABA4/Ys7I_sjGOGw/s320/darwin.jpg

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