Aquaman: The Unaired TV Pilot
Tom Curry...Lou Diamond Phillips
Inspired by the success of Smallville, based on the life of a not-yet-Superman Clark Kent, DC Comics decided to produce another similarly-themed show based on one of their characters: Aquaman. Originally to be titled Mercy Reef, they opted for the eponymous title sometime during production, but it mattered not either way. The show was not picked up by a network, and the pilot was never aired on TV.
Ten years ago, young Arthur “A.C.” Curry and his marine biologist mother Atlanna, are flying over the Bermuda Triangle, when the seahorse necklace that she is wearing lights up, apparently sending a signal to something lurking deep beneath the ocean. The waters erupt in a burst of light, and their plane is taken down. Atlanna tells her son to “Lead a good life”, and then she is gone. A.C., on the other hand, is carried to safety on the back of a whale.
Flash forward to “This Morning,” Tempest Key, Florida, where an older A.C. (sporting his mother’s necklace) is part-owner of a diving shop/restaurant/charter boat company, along with his friend Eva. He finds himself in a spot of trouble when the sheriff (Lemonhead from The Shield) comes around questioning him about some dolphins that were illegally released from captivity. A.C. later tells Eva that he did it because they were calling to him, in some sort of “weird empathy.”
A.C.’s adopted father Tom Curry (of the Coast Guard) rescues a young man from the ocean with “no boat, no I.D., and no idea where he came from.” Strange thing is, he’s wearing a seahorse necklace just like A.C.’s. Stranger still, his dental records seem to suggest that he is Vincent Thompson, a passenger of Flight 19 that went down in the Bermuda Triangle way back in 1945. And he’s not the first missing person to show up all these years later, still as young as the day they disappeared. How can that be? That’s what the mysterious Brigman and his Project Novus is trying to figure out.
A.C. is still completely in the dark about everything until he meets Nadia, an attractive young vixen who turns out to be a Siren—sort of a killer cross between a mermaid and a zombie. She attacks him and A.C. is saved by the big bald bad-ass McCaffery (Ving Rhames, who is playing pretty much his usual character here.) McCaffery tells A.C. that he is heir to the throne of Atlantis, but a group of underwater rebels want him dead, just like his father the emperor, whom they killed. McCaffery, an Atlantean refugee himself, helped Atlanna and her young son escape from the undersea kingdom many years ago. But now that the rebels have found him, A.C. must embrace his True Destiny: “To defend this world which you have embraced as your own, and protect the ocean from which you were born.”
After another minor skirmish with Nadia, A.C. is ready to accept his destiny and McCaffery is signed on to be his mentor.
The showrunners were trying to squeeze an awful lot into the pilot episode, and it shows. This just means, however, that had the show been picked up, there would have been a myriad of story lines to run with. The similarities to Smallville are obvious: both shows start with a disaster scene that solidifies the origins of the main characters; both feature young superheroes slowly discovering who they are and what they are capable of; both raise the same questions—if Smallville is overrun with poisonous meteor rock (Kryptonite), why do the Kent’s insist on staying there? And if the Bermuda Triangle is such a dangerous place for A.C., why did Atlanna and McCaffery keep him so close? There are plenty of other oceans they could have swam in.
Regardless, fans of Smallville probably would have become fans of this show as well, as it maintains the same sort of vibe (although perhaps just a hair less saccharine sweet.) It’s a shame that the show wasn’t picked up for at least a season to give it a shot. Even though Aquaman is a bit of a second-tier character, and an odd choice for his own TV series, it could have been great had it been given a chance to breathe (even though the Ving Rhames character probably wasn’t the best idea.)
I viewed it on AOL some time back, but it no longer seems available there. However, a quick internet search turned up a number of hits where it can be viewed by probably-less-than-legal means.
Do with it what you will.