Cancelled Before It Began: Irwin Allen’s City Beneath the Sea (1971)

By | September 27, 2018

Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.

Back in the 1960’s, producer Irwin Allen was king of cheesy sci fi with four separate series that aired from 1964 to 1970: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants.  Shortly after the last of those shows went off the air, Allen took a shot at another sci fi entry and headed back under water like his first series to give us City Beneath the Sea.  This story takes place in the year 2053 and centers around the undersea city named Pacifica.  The pilot film delivers a mostly action-adventure romp that involves an attempt to steal the U.S. gold reserves which have been moved from Fort Knox to Pacifica, and subsequent adventures would likely have a similar action-oriented focus as well.

Allen originally did an hour long pilot which had a different story and and was set in 2068.  Nothing came of that, but he was given the greenlight to do a two hour telefilm which aired as a movie of the week.   That did not result in a series either, but the City Beneath the Sea movie would make a regular rotation on the UHF channels for a decade or more after it aired (and even had a brief theatrical release).

It might have been interesting to see where the series would have gone and they could have possibly tied it to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as existing in a future version of the same world (Richard Basehart guest starred in the movie, but not did not reprise his role as Admiral Nelson, plus the movie borrowed the flying sub from the series).  However, while Voyage started out with a more serious action-adventure tone before descending into high camp in its later seasons, City already had a head start on the camp angle.  With Allen heading the show, it would have likely quickly morphed into arch-villain / sea-monster of the week ravaging the Pacifica.  So perhaps we were spared that.

But for fans of Allen’s particular brand of sci fi, this one is probably worth checking out as a hold-over from the same style of show he did in the 60’s (leaning closer to the camp of Voyage and Lost in Space as opposed to the more straight-forward adventures in Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants).  It has been released on DVD by Warner Archives and is worth a look for some retro-sci fi fun from a simpler era.

Aired: NBC, 1971

Created By: Irwin Allen

Starring: Stuart Whitman, Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Colbert, Burr DeBenning, Robert Wagner

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2 thoughts on “Cancelled Before It Began: Irwin Allen’s City Beneath the Sea (1971)

  1. Henry


    In this entry it says “but he was given the greenlight to do a two hour telefilm which aired as a movie of the week”.

    Could you please clear up a point of confusion (at least for me). A “two hour telefilm” – is that the running length of the film alone or does it also include ads, station id breaks etc.?

    1. admin Post author

      That means it fits within two hours on the Prime Time schedule. So it includes adds, etc. It was released theatrically, but I don’t know if that had added footage that made it longer.


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