Captain, My Captain…

Today marks the 88th Birthday of Roy Richard Scheider, known to many as the Police Chief from Jaws, to movie buffs as a leading icon of 1970’s cinema, to fans as one of the most underrated actors of all time, and to his grandkids as simply ‘Grandpa Big Fish’.

To describe Scheider as an ‘urban everyman’ would be to grossly understate the range of the twice Oscar-Nominated performer.  Was he a vulnerble, relatable leading man that audiences rooted for?  Undoubtedly.  Was he also a versatile actor just as capable of headlining a musical as he was in the shoes of a thinking man’s action hero?  Definately.  Yet many believe that he failed to live up to his full potential despite leaving behind a vast body of work and countless box-office receipts.

For anybody interested in Scheider’s life & career I can personally recommend Diane C. Kachmar’s definitive volume Roy Scheider, A Film Biography but to chronicle the story of the only TV series he made in his career, the seaQuest VAULT picks up his story around 1992 with the super-rare piece taken from the UK edition of Hello magazine shown above.

By all accounts during the early ’90’s Scheider’s star appeared to have dwindled.  Despite a filmography peppered with commercial and cult hits alike, Scheider entered the new decade tentatively, with suppporting roles in such fare as ‘The Russia House’ and ‘The Naked Lunch’ as his personal life had apparently taken precedent.

To date, Scheider had always maintained a balance between mainstream and modestly budgeted projects based on what had interested him.  In 1992 he had just finished shooting four-part mini-series ‘Wild Justice’ based on the novel by Wilbur Smith, an international production shot on location in the UK and starring Scheider in a role as close to James Bond as he would ever get.  Response to Wild Justice was indifferent and it would eventually be re-cut and released as ‘Covert Assassin’, a straight-to-video quickie that would sadly foreshadow much of Scheider’s later work.

By his own admission more mature, wiser and slower, Scheider was in a better place than he had ever been by the time he was contacted by his old friend Steven Spielberg.   Finally heeding his call for a bigger boat it seemed like he was on course to Captain one all his own in a TV show with the working title Deep Space…

ML


 

The Trials Of Rockne Concluded…

The SQV closes the file on series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon with this compelling piece (again from Joe Nazzaro) published in Starlog #204 – chronicling the young writers career and ultimately – the creation of seaQuest DSV.

For whatever conflicts that arose behind the scenes leading to his premature departure after delivering the series pilot, O’Bannon’s candid responses here indicate that at the time of writing (midway through the first season run) he seemed reasonably content with his creation but frustrated at all the unfulfilled potential.

O’Bannon also offers some good insights as to why the critics were seemingly lying in wait to savage the show from the outset, due to the association with Spielberg and his uneven track record for television.  One wonders if the show may have endured less scrutiny in Spielberg’s absence, but conversely, would the 22-episode order ever have been placed without Amblin’s clout?

Regardless, by all accounts it seems that the lack of Spielberg’s involvement hurt the show early on and disillusioned producers and cast members, in particular star Roy Scheider, who (according to a recent interview with Stephanie Beacham) repeatedly demanded to know Spielberg whereabouts.

The answer, of course, was in Poland, directing Schindler’s List, only ever managing to visit the LA set on one occasion.  Later, by his own admission, Spielberg regretted not delaying the production of seaQuest for a year so he could give it his full attention (and even direct some episodes) but it never came to pass.

Also intriguing are some of O’Bannon’s original concepts for Darwin and characters such as Dr. Shimura and one Gabriel Harpe, best friend and closest rival to Captain Bridger.  Both characters would never see airtime but the character of Harpe especially had been planned as a recurring foil – his profile first outlined in the seaQuest Season 1 Bible and subsequently (as Geoffrey Harpe) in the novels Fire Below and The Ancient.  Thanks to the diligence of seaQuest fans, however, an unfilmed script featuring Harpe’s debut is now available for the first time.  ‘The Agony And The Ecstasea’ turns out to be an ambitious but fairly routine episode, with Harpe, for all the investment in his creation, a somewhat uninspiring villain.

As a footnote, O’Bannon didn’t go on record about seaQuest for decades until last year, where he penned a heartfelt tribute to arguably the best-known of his creations.  It really is a touching piece and offers great closure to the show – found exclusively in the liner notes of the recently released seaQuest DSV Deluxe Edition Soundtrack and available for purchase here

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Surfing The Lightwave…

The SQV is overjoyed to be once again bringing you both exclusive material and firsthand accounts from those who actually worked on the show.

SeaQuest was pioneering in its use of CGI for most all of its Special Effects work.  Though the technology and software used was primitive by today’s standards, Sci-Fi themed TV shows like Babylon 5, Star Trek, Voyager and Space, Above and Beyond had nonetheless moved beyond traditional model work for vehicles and environments generated entirely by computer by the 1990’s, setting the standard for what was to come.

One of the upcoming young visionaries responsible was Fred Tepper – a VFX artist who managed to put his stamp on SeaQuest from the very beginning, working on the pilot under director Irvin Kershner.  Fred recalls his experiences developing experimental CGI and the pressure of meeting deadlines for a big-budget Primetime Sci-Fi TV show at length here.

Fred has also exclusively uploaded two of his showreels from his personal archive featuring his work on SeaQuest and other projects. The first is  an Amblin Imaging VFX Reel –

Followed by an Amblin Reel of Playback Screens, showcasing Computer OS type displays as seen on the SeaQuest bridge and beyond…

My sincere thanks to Fred for sharing this content with the SQV and SeaQuest fans across the globe..!

ML