For a writer trying to avoid comparisons with Star Trek, Rockne S. O’Bannon’s original vision to have Darwin the Dolphin already established on the SeaQuest like ‘Spock on the Enterprise’ doesn’t seem to help the cause.
In the continuation of Joe Nazzaro’s conversation with the SeaQuest creator in Starburst #188 however, we learn this was the least of his problems back in the day, and that many of his ideas went adrift thanks to studio nervousness and the inevitable pressure caused by maintaining the quality of a ‘Television Event’.
Indeed, O’Bannon’s insights about TV series slow-burn popularity is still as valid today as it ever was, and the burden of expectation generated by the name ‘Spielberg’ had made it nigh-on impossible to overcome (just as it had with his small screen debut Amazing Stories years earlier. )
Apart from the further explorations of the characters, however, its interesting to read the original plans for what became the isolated episode ‘The Stinger’ where O’Bannon confirms the intention was to have the ‘undersea motorcycles’ deployed like the Colonial Vipers in Battlestar Galactica (a concept later resurrected as the Specter Squadron in SeaQuest 2032).
Whatever grand ambitions O’Bannon had for the future of the show were swallowed by the knee-jerk reaction to ratings and the ushering in of new producers to fix what probably wasn’t broken. The audience was not to be fooled, however, and in a useful comparison to Star Trek, (for once) pointed out the Next Generation’s first season was inconsistent at best and that patience could be rewarded. As if that wasn’t enough, William Shatner himself would guest star in the first season episode ‘Hide & Seek’ (bottom pic) only further highlighting the similarities.
With O’ Bannon’s premature departure SeaQuest was deprived of its creative source way too early and soon meandered off course as a consequence. Far from ‘letting imaginations run wild’ as advised, ‘unfulfilled potential’ would become words that were not only synonymous with SeaQuest at the time, but would sadly define it for decades to follow…