Original air date: September 19, 1999. The second episode of seaQuest ramps up the emotional stakes when a valuable member of the crew becomes ill--Darwin.

Raleigh Young, a passionate biologist, is onboard to study hydrothermal vents. Played by Roscoe Lee Browne (the narrator in Babe, as well as actor and voice talent in too many projects to list), Young’s desire to investigate the vents is his primary concern, regardless of what else is going on around him. 

But Dr. Westphalen is concerned that the vents (referred to as black smokers) are more like opening Pandora’s Box. They have no idea what microorganisms exist inside. And Darwin was out there swimming. When he returns to the vessel, O’Neil somehow senses that something is wrong with him, and he and Bridger leap into the water to guide Darwin to the moon pool where Dr. Westphalen can examine him.

Lucas tries to use the translator, but Darwin only says that he’s sick and “Light is dark and one.” Nathan and Darwin have a touching exchange where Darwin says Bridger is his family. He knows he must find some way to heal his friend. It's only the second episode, but if anyone else watching this show was like me, they were already in love with this dolphin. There were some tears in my eyes even though I saw this episode before. 

 

Running out of options, Bridger decides to contact  Malcolm Landsdowne (Robert Engels) to see if his friend can be of any assistance. Malcolm urges them to bring Darwin to him, but the news isn’t good. Darwin’s getting worse, and Bridger sadly realizes that Lucas and the dolphin have already started to form a strong bond.

They try to decipher Darwin’s cryptic message, and Malcolm correlates Light to knowledge. And one being alone. So somehow they work out that Darwin doesn’t want to die alone. They concoct a plan to try and match Darwin’s vocalizations to other dolphins to find his family so they can release him back into the wild to be among his own kind.

Amazingly, they locate not only his pod but his mother. Awww. And after thinking that is the last they’ve seen of Darwin, just as Bridger is about to open a container they pulled from the vent, Darwin tackles him, saving Bridger and the crew. His mom is right behind him, carrying a mysterious algae that grew in the vents and saved Darwin. Chicken soup for a dolphin’s soul. Or something. He returns to his human family, and Young’s research continues, without endangering any more of the crew. Darwin is safe, and Young feels slightly bad about not really caring about anything but his work.

Where are they now?

Stacy Haiduk is currently appearing in Days of Our Lives as Kristen DiMera, taking over the role from Eileen Davidson. I had no idea until I looked this up, and now I think maybe I should go back to watching. But they'll never top the storyline where Carly was buried alive by Vivian Alamain. Haiduk also appeared in an episode of HBO's recent Sharp Objects and has appeared in a variety of television shows since seaQuest including True Blood, Heroes, Longmire, and Hawaii 5-0..

 

The Science

Bob Ballard (from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and known as the man who discovered the sunken remains of the Titanic) often talked about the science of the episode over the end credits. He states that the black smokers were discovered in the 1970’s and are hot enough to melt lead, as well as contain “toxic gas which support exotic bacteria.”

From the National Ocean Service: “Scientists first discovered hydrothermal vents in 1977 while exploring an oceanic spreading ridge near the Galapagos Islands. To their amazement, the scientists also found that the hydrothermal vents were surrounded by large numbers of organisms that had never been seen before. These biological communities depend upon chemical processes that result from the interaction of seawater and hot magma associated with underwater volcanoes.” 

As with anything, questions arise over conservation and exploitation of this unique ecosystem. There's still much to be learned. But always remember "beneath the surface lies the future." 

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Tags: darwin , seaquest , steven spielberg , roy scheider