Nathan Bridger

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Nathan Hale Bridger
seaQuest DSV character
Bridger-season2.jpg
Roy Scheider as Captain Bridger
First appearance To Be or Not to Be (09/12/1993)
Last appearance Good Soldiers (12/20/1995)
Created by Rockne S. O'Bannon
Portrayed by Roy Scheider
Information
Gender Male
Occupation Commanding Officer in the Navy
Title Captain
Spouse(s) Carol Bridger (Deceased)
Children Robert Bridger (MIA)
Nationality American

Captain Nathan Hale Bridger was a character on the television series seaQuest DSV and was played by Roy Scheider. Within the canon of the series, Bridger was not only the commanding officer of both UEO submarines named seaQuest DSV, but was also the designer of the boats.

Early career[edit]

Bridger's backstory claims that he had served in the U.S. Navy for over thirty years; during which time he served with William Noyce and Manilow Crocker.[1] The character also trained at the Naval Academy with Scott Keller, however, Keller elected to head for the space program while Bridger remained in the navy [2] (Keller would appear in several first and second season episodes). In the episode "Good Soldiers", Bridger is revealed to have been a part of the early G.E.L.F. (Genetically Engineered Life Forms) experiments; something that he always regretted.[3] Upon reaching the rank of captain, Bridger was subjected in an extensive set of brain wave scans designed to impress human personality traits onto a computerized submarine. However, the experiment failed and the Navy elected to develop the Martenson Screen; a hologram designed to counsel the ship's captain in times of crisis. The hologram was modelled after Bridger's long-time friend, Professor Martenson.[4] Bridger soon set to work on designing a revolutionary new kind of submarine, which he called the "seaQuest", which would measure approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) in length and would be the undisputed ruler of the seas. While planning the new type of ship, Bridger also served as an instructor at the Naval Academy teaching students such as Marilyn Stark, whom he would face-off against in the series pilot, "To Be or Not to Be."

Death of a Son and Exile[edit]

As revealed in the pilot, in the early wars of the 21st century, Bridger's son Robert attended the naval academy with Benjamin Krieg (who later came to serve aboard the seaQuest under Bridger's first tour), however, Robert was apparently killed in action, although Bridger was never able to confirm his death.[2] With his son dead, Bridger retired from the navy and retreated to a deserted island in the Yucatan with his wife Carol, to whom he promised he would never serve the military again after the death of Robert, leaving his work on the seaQuest unfinished, laid out in a drydock. On "Bridger's Island", the captain devoted the majority of his time to science, away from the violence and brute strength of the navy. It was on this island where Bridger found a dolphin caught in a fisherman's net in a lagoon. He rescued the dolphin, nursed it back to health and named it "Darwin." Soon after, he set to work on developing a rudimentary communication system with the dolphin. Shortly thereafter, Carol died, leaving Bridger widowed and alone.

Back in Action[edit]

By 2017, the seaQuest had been completed and roamed the seas as part of the NORPAC fleet. Following the Livingston Trench incident in which nuclear war could have easily broken out thanks to the trigger-happy captain of the seaQuest Marilyn Stark, NORPAC was dissolved and a new world peace was instituted under the banner of the new "United Earth Oceans Organization." (UEO) As part of the new peace, NORPAC turned control of the seaQuest over to the UEO. William Noyce, now with the rank of admiral, sought Bridger to assume command of the boat, feeling that his isolation from the recent world problems would give him a cool head to command such a powerful ship. Initially, Bridger resisted, citing his promise to his wife never to return to the military, however, once aboard the boat he built and realizing his vision come to fruition, Bridger remembered what the service had meant to him and eventually signed on as captain of the seaQuest, which sets up the rest of the first season.

Death of a Dream[edit]

In the season finale (set in 2019), World Power, a global power company's revolutionary underwater power exchange plant, accidentally causes the Earth's crust to split open allowing molten lava to spill into the sea, which raised the ocean's temperature and threatened to melt the polar ice caps. Realizing it would be the only way to avert a global flood, Bridger ordered all hands to abandon ship and dove the seaQuest into the heart of the lava well, while simultaneously detonating her nuclear weapons. The one million megaton explosion was enough to seal the rupture and save the world.[2]

New Ship[edit]

During the hiatus between season one and two, it is implied that with the boat gone, Bridger rallied the UEO to grant him the funds to construct a new seaQuest, and the UEO, pleased with the original ship's success, quickly agrees and the seaQuest DSV 4600 II shoves off from New Cape Quest in 2021 with Bridger back in command.[5] However, the second seaQuest seemed to be as doomed as the first as it disappeared without a trace in 2022, with all hands presumed lost.

In actuality, the ship had been forcibly abducted from Earth by the KrayTaks from the planet Hyperion in the second season finale, who used Bridger's friendship with Scott Keller to lure the boat into their clutches. While on Hyperion, the seaQuest was apparently destroyed and Bridger's away team completely cut off. With no choice, Bridger chose to sacrifice himself and his crew to destroy the Hyperion mothership and lead the rebels to victory.[2]

Return to Earth[edit]

With the second season completed, Roy Scheider had opted not to remain with the series for the third season. In the season premiere (set in September, 2032, ten years later), the seaQuest and the majority of its surviving crew complete their return journey to Earth, sent ten years earlier by the Hyperion rebels. Upon returning to Earth, Bridger discovers that he has a grandson named Michael, proving that Robert had faked his death. With new responsibilities to uphold and with the rising climate of conflict in the world in the ten years since their disappearance, Bridger decided that his place was no longer aboard the seaQuest and relinquished command to Captain Oliver Hudson and retired, however, he intended to continue his scientific relationship with the UEO and seaQuest, which would allow Roy Scheider to continue to appear as a recurring character.[6]

Relationships[edit]

Lucas Wolenczak[edit]

Perhaps the strongest dynamic on the show was the pseudo father/son bond between Bridger and Lucas Wolenczak. When he first arrived on the seaQuest, Bridger was not overly impressed with Lucas' brash and cocky attitude, however, he soon discovered that he was a brilliant person and soon developed a deep relationship with him. With his own son out of his life, Bridger comes to look at Lucas as somewhat of an adopted son, and conversely, Lucas, having been all but abandoned by his own father, came to look at Bridger in the same regard. When the captain ultimately decides to retire, Lucas was deeply saddened, but Bridger reassured him that they would remain in contact. Months later, when a viral outbreak inadvertently caused by a seaQuest mission twelve years earlier threatened an ecosystem, Bridger encountered the seaQuest again and was shocked to find that Lucas had enlisted in the navy; something he never believed he would do. Putting even more strain on their relationship, Bridger believed that taking no action would result in the natural breakdown of the pathogen. Lucas disagreed, causing a rift to form between the two. However, Lucas' solution was not as effective as intended and threatened the lives of the seaQuest crew. Fortunately, the two were able to put aside their disagreements and work together to find a cure. With the crisis averted, Bridger resumed his search for his son, claiming that he wished he and Lucas could meet one day.[7] However, such an episode was never filmed due to the abrupt end of the series later that season.

Kristin Westphalen[edit]

Before joining the seaQuest, Westphalen had attempted to contact Nathan, however, he proved to be incommunicado. Signing aboard as captain, Bridger was able to provide backing for Westphalen's science contingent aboard the ship against the military officers who were annoyed at the prospect of their formerly military vessel turning into more of a science ship. Working together on many scientific experiments, the two quickly developed a deep-seated bond, which eventually blossomed into romance. As Bridger, Westphalen and Lucas had been all separated from the real families, the trio came to care for one another as somewhat of a surrogate family; each drawing strength from the other. However, when actress Stephanie Beacham did not re-sign for the second season, the character could not sign aboard the seaQuest II, leading to the end of their relationship.

Manilow Crocker[edit]

Having served together in the past, Bridger and Crocker had a natural friendship aboard the seaQuest. Crocker was always backing the captain's decisions and giving him moral support in times of need. Upon the conclusion of the tour of duty, Bridger thanked Crocker for delaying his retirement to come aboard the seaQuest, however, Crocker claimed it was worth it to serve once again with Nathan.

Wendy Smith[edit]

Having dated her mother years earlier, Bridger found he had similar feelings for Wendy as well when she signed aboard as the chief medical officer of the new ship. At first, Wendy was nervous about the prospect of a shipboard relationship with the captain and considered transferring off the seaQuest, however, Bridger was able to convince her to stay. Unfortunately, Wendy was killed during the "Hyperion Incident" after actress Rosalind Allen was released from the show.

Darwin[edit]

As part of the lure to get Bridger to sign on as captain of the seaQuest, Admiral Noyce arranged for Darwin to be taken aboard as well, where, via the hydropressure system, he had access to the entire ship. Bridger and Darwin had a very deep friendship, with the dolphin calling Bridger family, and vice-versa. A very intelligent creature, Darwin saved Bridger from bacterial infection by diving at him, knocking him away from an infectious sample container. The dolphin was also able to rescue Bridger from a forcefield set up by biochemist Dr. Rubin Zellar. When Bridger finally decided to retire, he allowed Darwin to remain aboard seaQuest, but missed him, nevertheless.

Background[edit]

Captain Bridger was portrayed by actor Roy Scheider. Though the character was the central driving force of the show during the first two seasons, Scheider had become displeased with the direction of the series during the second season, as well as the "episodic" nature of the series (he believed that the show should contain long-running story and character arcs) and chose to exit the series at the end of the second season.[8] He was replaced by actor Michael Ironside, who portrayed Captain Oliver Hudson for the remainder of the show's run. Scheider would reappear in "Brave New World", "Equilibrium", and "Good Soldiers." His absence was explained as Bridger learning that his son, long-believed to be dead, was actually alive and had fathered a son, and setting out to find him.

During the course of the season, Bridger would have eventually found his son, however, as seaQuest 2032 (as it was now known) had been canceled in June 1996, such a script was never written. "Good Soldiers", which was the character's last appearance, originally did not include Bridger at all; Scheider's character was written into the script in order to fulfill contractual obligations.[9]

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