What makes it especially interesting is that there are several different versions of the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea pilot to choose from. The Region 2 season four DVD boxed set includes as extras the original unaired version of the pilot, the also unaired recut version and the original broadcast version.
Eleven Days To Zero, the pilot episode of Voyage, was interestingly enough shot in colour although the first season would be shot in black-and-white. That first version of Eleven Days To Zero now seems to exist only in a slightly battered black-and-white print. The episode was subsequently recut and that recut version survives, in colour and in excellent condition.
Eleven Days To Zero was written and directed by Irwin Allen and it gives us a fine taste of what is to come in the first season - plenty of action, big ideas, the fate of the world in the balance, good special effects and extremely good acting.
It’s a dangerous plan and they only have eleven days in which to accomplish it but there’s another problem - a sinister international force is determined to prevent the Seaview from carrying out its mission. They have already assassinated the Seaview’s former captain and they narrowly missed killing Nelson as well.
With a new captain, Commander Lee Crane (David Hedison), the Seaview sets off on its mission.
It seems that the odds are stacked against the Seaview. They face a depth charge attack from the air, they’re stalked by a hostile submarine and subjected to drone attacks. And that’s without mentioning the giant squid.
The recut version also adds the suggestion that even Admiral Nelson is not at first entirely sure he’s made the right decision in accepting Crane as commander of the Seaview.
There’s a definite Fu Manchu vibe to this episode (something I thoroughly approve of) although the chief villain also has, somewhat bizarrely, just a hint of a kind of malevolent Noël Coward about him. Either way he’s a fine super-villain.
Irwin Allen obviously realised he’d need some fairly impressive visual effects in the pilot if the series was going to have any chance of being picked up by the network. And the effects are generally extremely good, especially when you get to see the episode in colour.
Of course when you’re almost at the end of season three watching Eleven Days To Zero serves as a reminder of just how terrific Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was in its early glory days. The combination of fairly plausible science fiction with spy thriller elements was uniquely effective and made the first season without question the best American sci-fi television of the 60s.
Whichever version you choose Eleven Days To Zero is worth seeing again.