(This article was originally published on April 9, 2012)
In honor of James Cameron’s recent jaunt into the depths of the Pacific, I’m sharing my favorite sci-fi submarines. The oceans are nearly as much of a fascination for me as space. It’s a virtually unexplored frontier. Far fewer individuals have been to the bottom of the ocean than have walked on the Moon.
If you think about it, the vast majority of the Earth (two thirds) is covered with water — deep water! Where we live, on dry land, is not the norm — down there is. I’m almost as excited by the idea of living and working underwater as I about space. In fact, these days, it seems more plausible.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into a few cool submarines from the past that might point the direction to our underwater future.
1. The Nautilus
Seen in the 1954 film adaptation of Jules Verne’s landmark 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, this amazing design was way ahead of its time. Today, it might be called ‘steampunk’ in its aesthetic. Regardless, it’s gorgeous. Check out the trailer, which features a young Kirk Douglas.
2. USOS Seaview
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was an Irwin Allen-produced TV series from the mid-1960’s. It featured a privately–owned nuclear submarine that traveled the ocean on various scientific and military missions. Riding all of the thrilling real-world naval advancements of the time, the ship and the program’s sci-fi stories seemed just over the horizon.
As a kid, I thought the Seaview was cool because — unlike real nuclear subs — it had windows on the front! Also, it came with a elegant Flying Sub that was seen in quite a few episodes.
3. SHADO Skydiver
Speaking of flying subs, it does not get any cooler than the submarine from the 1969 British sci-fi series UFO. Sky One — a plane that docks at the fore section of the vessel — can blast out of the ocean from its Skydiver mothership and fly anywhere in the world in its quest to defend from alien invaders.
UFO was set in a far more futuristic 1980 with routine travel to the Moon, and very sleek cars and fashions. Check out the opening credits to get a sense of what I mean. Everything about this show was hip. I sure wish things had turned out this way. Well, without the evil abducting-aliens part!
4. S.S. Cetacean
Okay, while I don’t subscribe to being a nerd or a geek for simply liking science fiction, the accusation might fit when it comes to Man From Atlantis. The show was about a team of oceanographers who discover a man with gills, webbed fingers and toes, and a forgotten past.
I just happened to be taking swimming lessons at the time it premiered, and I constantly tried to emulate actor Patrick Duffy’s dolphin-style stroke. I still do it to this day (shhh, don’t tell anyone!). In addition to him, the show also had the baddest submarine and underwater base I’d ever seen.
The Cetacean seemed like a combo of the Discovery from 2001: A Space Odyssey and a real sub. It was way cool. Check it out in the opening credits of the show.
5. seaQuest DSV 4600
NBC’s 1994 attempt at doing Star Trek: The Next Generation underwater fell flat. It was sad, too, because I had very high hopes for this show. Unlike the above Top 5 entries, seaQuest was the only one to have effects created with computer graphics. And the squid-like submarine was fun to watch week to week.
The ship was supposed to be over 300 meters long — attaining a speed of over 160 knots with a crew of 200. I liked how it traveled the ocean with automated satellites called ‘whiskers’ that gave it constant data on the surrounding oceans.