not exactly a sequel to the Pathfinders
in Space series, City Beneath the Sea
and its follow-up Secret Beneath the Sea are
very much of the same ilk, reuniting cast members Gerald Flood,
Stewart Guidotti and Peter Williams – though in new roles
– and having much the same mix of action, drama, mystery
and pseudo-educational dialogue.
1962 series City Beneath the Sea sees scientific
journalist Mark Bannerman (Flood) and his assistant Peter Blake
(Guidotti) abord a submarine that is hijacked by renegade Boat
commander Kurt Swendler (Denis Goacher, sounding more Swedish
than German) and taken to an underwater base, where kidnapped
scientists are working on something or other (quote what most
of them are doing isn’t exactly clear). The base is run
by Professor Ludwig Ziebrecken, who is played by Aubrey Morris
– so you know his claims about wanting to share
his discoveries with the whole work are dubious. Bannerman and
Blake do their best to alert the outside world to their location,
as well as persuade others in the base that Ziebrecken’s
stack of nuclear warheads are not held for peaceful purposes.
Secret Beneath the Sea appeared a year later,
and had Bannerman and Blake returning to the undersea base, now
controlled by the United Nations. Swendler, who is written out
early in the opening episode, has somehow or other obtained a
rare metal that can absorb heat without getting hot itself, and
which is found beneath the base. A corrupt mining company wants
to sabotage the base’s operations so that the UN will allow
the company in to take over – and mine the precious, but
apparently undiscovered metal (how Swendler and the company found
out about it is never really explained). As Blake and teenage
sidekick Janet (Ingrid Sylvester) investigate, they find themselves
blamed for the acts of sabotage, and it’s down to Bannerman
to clear their names and uncover the identity of the mole.
Like it’s predecessor, City / Secret Beneath the
Sea is solidly entertaining, though often clunky –
again, it was filmed ‘as live’, so various performers
get tongue-tied delivering their lines. It’s notable –
and regrettable - that none of it was filmed underwater. Instead,
an unconvincing mix of swirly light and plastic sheeting stands
in for the ocean.
Still, it’s lively enough, and Guidotti seems to have learned
to contain the perpetual sneer that marred his performance in
the earlier series, making the lead characters more agreeable.
John Lucarotti would go on to write shows like Dr Who,
The Avengers and Star Maidens,
and this pioneering work is certainly on a par with two of those
shows. As a historical slice of TV sci-fi, long forgotten, it’s
well worth seeking out for telefantasy fans.