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For those who never saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), my review
summary is a play on words from the end of that film. The Deadly Dolls
is the first of five year four Voyage episodes where a bit of light
comedy was brought in (the other four shows were the two Mr Pem hours,
the Leprechauns and Blackbeard).
The Deadly Dolls deals with a deadly Vincent Price coming on board Seaview and making deadly puppets of Seaview crew members. However, the Nelson puppet (voiced by Richard Basehart) is one of the most amusing creatures to ever appear on American television!
The music score plays on the comedy of the hour, which is great, and we end with some mind-blowing and totally new flying sub effects! The Deadly Dolls should of been the season opener (not Fires Of Death) as this is just a totally unique, totally insane, totally epic hour! Some viewers are surprised to see Vincent Price in a TV show like Voyage, but it should be remembered that Voyage was a Fox series and at the same Fox studio, at this exact time, Vincent was also doing many guest roles on Batman (1966-68). So Vincent was probably at home with the Fox television world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Deadly Dolls" begins with a Punch-and-Judy-like routine performed
by puppet replicas of Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart), Crane (David
Hedison), and Cmdr. Morton (Robert Dowdell), controlled by a master
puppeteer, played by legendary Vincent Price.
It is later revealed that Price has a plan to replace the crew with life-size puppets and use the Seaview as the "host" for an alien life force.
Although there are several lapses in plot logic (which shall remain quiet here), the viewer can still appreciate the pacing and the performances, especially Basehart as he supplies the voice for his puppet doppelganger who pops up repeatedly, either on Price's shoulder or on a set piece.
Basehart really must've enjoyed his "voiceover" because he gets to playfully and menacingly deliver the best lines. He even gets the best of Price on occasion.
I was never a fan of 'Voyage to the bottom of the Sea', and even with Vincent Price as a guest star, it's still boring. This episode which is scripted by Charles Bennett is poorly written bearing in mind he collaborated with both Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s and Cecil B. DeMille in the 1940s. I've never been a fan of his scripts, but he is an experienced writer who has been given an opportunity to earn his living writing scripts. It just shows you that experienced writers aren't necessarily the best writers. Even the performances look lacklustre for experienced actors like Price and Richard Basehart. This is down to poor direction, and the only thing to commend this episode is that it is beautifully graded in post-production.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vincent Price notched up guest-starring roles in several iconic 1960's
shows, such as 'Batman' and 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.', so it is not
surprising he eventually crossed the path of Irwin Allen ( they had
worked together before on the film 'The Story Of Mankind' ). One would
have thought 'Lost In Space' would have been more up his street than
'Voyage', but the veteran horror star played 'Professor Multiple', a
puppeteer who specialises in shows featuring caricatures of real
people, a sort of one-man 'Spitting Image'. When the episode proper
opens, the assembled crew are laughing their heads off at Multiple's
take-offs of Nelson, Crane and Chip. Even more extraordinary is the
fact that the puppets are faceless when not in use. Word comes from
Inter-Allied H.Q. that Multiple has been found murdered, meaning the
one aboard Seaview is an impostor. He is in fact an agent of an alien
creature that wants to use the Seaview as a new home. The fake
Professor sets about replacing key Seaview personnel with life-like
puppets. They are indistinguishable from the real ones, except they are
under Multiple's control.
Price's presence gives Charles Bennett's humdrum script ( basically a reworking of the previous season's 'The Wax Men' ) a bit of a lift. Looking very much as if he has just stepped off the set of 'Master Of The World', he is great value. His sidekick - for want of a better word - is a puppet version of Nelson, which sits on his shoulder like Long John Silver's parrot, doling out comments on the unfolding plot. Voiced by Richard Basehart, the puppet at times threatens to upstage Price ( no mean feat ).
Some terrific SFX in this show, in particular F.S.-1 being attacked by energy bolts from the alien creature and Seaview glowing as it knifes through the murky depths.
In his book on Irwin Allen series, Jon Abbott calls the episode 'drivel' and I suppose he has a point. It is also great fun, for the reasons I have mentioned.
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