This document is part of the Ocean Girl Archive — Last update: 2009-09-10 — sourcemeta

Source: 1, 2
Author:Jonathan M. Shiff Productions

Ocean Girl – Series One

An extraordinary “New Age” children’s series.

A fantasy action adventure series set in the near future. Ocean Girl is the story of Neri, a mysterious young girl from the ocean who is discovered by the young inhabitants of an underwater research colony. Neri is feisty and resourceful, tempered with a touch of something mystical…for within this girl lies a very special gift – the ability to telepathically communicate with a 40 tonne humpback whale companion she affectionately calls “Charley”.

Neri’s gift is always at threat of being ruined by exploitation – but one which could prove priceless to a world about to enter the new age of the 21st century.

Although the mysteries of Neri’s origin may find rational explanations, one question still continues to remain elusive…will her extraordinary gift allow her to find a place in this new world or will it drive her back to the sea forever?

Set against the beauty of Far North Queensland in Australia with stunning visuals of tropical rainforests, coconut palm tree fringed beaches and the most spectacular coral reef in the world – Ocean Girl features both original humpback whale footage and a lifescale replica humpback whale in superb underwater sequences.

Cast list

Neri:Marzena Godecki
Jason Bates:David Hoflin
Brett Bates:Jeffrey Walker
Dianne Bates:Kerry Armstrong
Winston Seth:Alex Pinder
Damien Harris:Guy Mallaby
Lee Lucas:Andrea McEwan
Zoe Kondelos:Cassandra Magrath
Vanessa Lane:Jacalyn Prince
Jodie Turner:Bryony Price
Jake Reilly:Joel de Carteret
Jack Lucas:William McInnes

Crew list

Created and Produced by:
 Jonathan M. Shiff
Directed by:Mark de Friest
Written by:Peter Hepworth
Story Editor:Peter Hepworth
Executive Producers:
 Jonathan M. Shiff, Jennifer Clevers
Line Producer:Gina Black
Production Designer:
 Tracy Watt
Underwater Photography:
 Ross Isaacs, Ron Hagen
Director of Photography:
 Craig Barden
Editor:Philip Watts
Music Composed by:
 Garry McDonald, Laurie Stone


Marzena Godecki – Neri, the ocean girl

The young actress in the Ocean Girl television series is Marzena Godecki who plays the character of Neri.

Marzena was selected from over 500 young girls who auditioned for the role. She was, until recently, a modern dance and ballet student in Melbourne, Australia. This year she has commenced at a new school which will allow her to concentrate on her studies in between her filming commitments. Polish-born Marzena is 15 years old.

To prepare herself for the complex underwater sequences for the role Marzena undertook an intensive training program of swimming and scuba diving. Underwater photography in Ocean Girl takes place on the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia’s far North. As Marzena is filmed in open-water situations she is always under the close watch of a stunt and dive-safety team who keep a watch out for curious sharks!

Marzena often works underwater along side Charley, a 700kg fibreglass and aluminium life- size humpback whale model. This footage is later combined with footage of actual humpback whales.

Ocean Girl also features sequences with Marzena’s character living wild in a three million year old tropical rainforest. These sequences are filmed in the Daintree Rainforest in the tropical north of Australia.

Marzena superbly portrays the character of Neri, the mysterious young girl who must choose between life in the futuristic underwater city of ORCA or the freedom of the ocean.

crew biographies

Jonathan M. Shiff – Executive & creative producer

Ocean Girl is based on a concept conceived, researched and developed by Jonathan in association with his staff. Jonathan was Executive and Creative Producer of both Children’s series “Kelly” and “Kelly 2” and the first “Ocean Girl” series. Jonathan was also the originator and Producer of Westbridge’s “Secret Animals” series. He was formerly an Associate Producer and legal adviser to the “Carson’s Law” series for Crawford Productions where he also acted as Script Consultant to the New Projects division with credits including the mini-series “Whose Baby?”

Jonathan has been a practising Solicitor and holds a Graduate Diploma in Applied Film and Television from Melbourne’s Swinburne Film School.

Jennifer Clever – Executive producer

The General Manager of the Westbridge group of companies, Jennifer’s credits include “The Search of the World’s most Secret Animals” as well as “Kelly” and “Kelly 2”. A qualified Zoologist, Jennifer also acts as a consultant to the “Ocean Girl” script writing team. Her responsibilities for the production include financial control and supervision of all international distribution activities.

Tracy Watt – Production designer

Tracy is one of Australia’s most experienced and respected Production Designers with credits including “Waterfront”, “Dunera Boys”, “Kangaroo” and “Warm Nights on a Slow Moving Train”. Tracy was the originator of design for the underwater city of “ORCA”.

Mark de Friest – Director (Episodes 1-7)

Mark has been a Producer and Director of Australian television for over 15 years. Producing more than 100 episodes of the Logie, Penguin and Awgie wining series “Carson’s Law”, he went on to produce the mini-series “Whose Baby?” and then the “Chances” pilot in 1988. Mark’s long list of Director credits include “Kelly”, “The Flying Doctors”, “G.P”, “Zoo Family”, “The Sullivans” and most recently “Time Trax”.

Brendan Maher – Director (Episodes 8-13)

Brendan has directed hundreds of hours of high quality drama, with credits including “Carson’s Law”, “Five Mile Creek”, “Dolphin Cove”, “Halfway Around the Galaxy” and “Turn Left” and “Kelly”. He has also contributed as Producer of “The Flying Doctors” series.

Peter Hepworth – Story editor

Peter is highly regarded as one of Australia’s leading writers with over 200 hours of television drama to his name. Peter’s other credits include “Kelly”, “Kelly 2”, “The Henderson Kids 1” (writer), “The Henderson Kids 2” (co-creator and writer), “Zoo Family” and the feature film “Hammers Over The Anvil”. Peter recently completed the manuscript for the book of “Ocean Girl” shortly to be released during 1994 in Australia by Reed International, a division of Heinemann Books.

Craig Barden – Director of photography

Recently Director of Photography on the Network Nine series “Snowy”, Craig is a young and innovative film maker with many years experience as both a camera assistant and a focus puller. His credits include “Halfway Around The Galaxy and Turn Left”, “Flying Doctors”, “Mission Impossible” and “The Henderson Kids”. He was also the Director of Photography for the “R.F.D.S” series.

Ross Isaacs – Underwater photography

Ross Isaacs is one of Australia’s most qualified underwater cinematographers. With over 15 years experience filming whales, dolphins, sharks and coral reef systems, Ross brings enormous expertise to the filming of “Ocean Girl” and its underwater sequences. Ross’ credits include producing, filming and co-directing “Encounter With Whales” a documentary on the Southern humpback whale; the filming of a six part documentary titled “Sea Trek” for the BBC; all underwater filming for “Bush Beat”, a 65 part series for the Nine Network Australia, and filming of all Australian underwater sequences for a series “The First Imperative” for Genesis Film Productions (UK). He completed the underwater sequences for Grundy Television’s production “Boney”.

Ron Hagen – Underwater photography

Ron’s impressive credits as a Director of Photography include the award winning feature film “Romper Stomper”, 13 episodes of “Mission Impossible” for Paramount USA, four series of “The Flying Doctor’s” for Crawford Productions, the recent Canadian/Australian co- production mini-series “Golden Fiddles” plus numerous other mini-series credits including “The Far Country”, “The Petrov Affair”, “Special Squad” and “ANZACS”. Ron has also worked as DOP on several features in the USA with Lorimar Telepictures (“Aarons Way”) and Embassy Pictures USA (“A Place to Call Home” and “The Facts Of Life Down Under”).

Garry McDonald/Laurie Stone – Music composers

Garry McDonald and Laurie Stone of The Music Department composed all music to picture for “Kelly” and “Kelly 2”. Garry and Laurie’s work is well know internationally with credits including original music themes for “Flying Doctors”, and full scores for “Whose Baby?”, “The Far Country” and “My Brother Tom”.

About the Producer…

Jonathan M. Shiff Productions Pty Ltd. is the new flagship of the Westbridge group of companies.

Westbridge have emerged as one of the major producers of high quality children’s programming in Australia. Their impressive catalogue of drama and documentary series has been distributed into more than 60 territories worldwide entertaining an audience in excess of 100 million children.

Westbridge’s previous children’s series, “Kelly”, combines elaborate stunt and action sequences with warm stories displaying positive family values, a formula that has a proven appeal to a worldwide audience. “Kelly” is the story of a retired police dog and two young children growing up in an Australian seaside community. Westbridge has now completed two series of “Kelly”, each of 13 half-hour episodes, on a combined budget of A$6.6m.

Westbridge other credits include the 12 × half-hour series “The Search For The World’s Most Secret Animals”. Shot in six countries this wildlife documentary series introduces young children to over 400 of the world’s most endangered and exotic animals.

Westbridge has developed strong international relationships on distribution of their programming with distributors including Tele Images/ITI (France), Beyond Distribution (Australia) Atlantis Releasing (Canada) and Fox Lobor Inc. (USA).

In the case of Tele Images/ITI, France’s, Frances leading television production and distribution company the on-going relationship with Westbridge has been described by President Simone Halberstadt Harari as “networking with friends in the creation of powerful synergies”.

The owner and controller of the company is Executive Producer, Jonathan M Shiff. Jonathan is also the Creative Producer for all programming of the company. Formerly practicing attorney and Solicitor for 14 years, Shiff is a graduate of Melbourne’s Swinburne film and television school.

Since founding the company in 1988, Shiff has established the Westbridge group as an independent boutique production house staffed by some of Australia’s most experienced production personnel. Based on this experience the company has now commenced development of prime time adult series for television as well as telemovies and feature films.

Episode rundowns

Episode 1

Neri’s island home is revealed as the helicopter bearing the Bates family to the ORCA experimental underwater laboratory flies over. They are unaware of her presence.

As the Bates family struggle to settle in to their new environment, we discover that Neri is more than comfortable on her own. She seems completely self-sufficient and she swims – literally – like a fish. We also discover that she has some sort of strange ability to communicate with the huge Humpback whale that she affectionately calls “Charley”.

Unknowingly, the Bates’ and colleague Dr Winston Seth decide on Charley as the target for an experiment in marine mammal communication. They pursue him at high speed with a crossbow intended to tag the whale with a high-tech underwater tracking and monitoring device.

Neri, summoned by Charley’s panicked flight, springs from the water to intervene, thinking they are trying to harm or kill the whale. Jason’s eyes pop out at the sight of this girl appearing in the middle of nowhere and in the resulting confusion, Neri and Charley slip back underwater and escape, although Dianne manages to grab the crossbow from Jason and make the tag just as Charley disappears.

Jason defensively tries to blame his failure on “the girl in the sea” but since no-one else saw her, nobody believes a word of it.

Back on her island, Neri thinks over the events of the day. There is fear and confusion on her face – but also fascination. It is obvious that Neri and the Bates boys’ paths are going to cross again.

Episode 2

Jason is ridiculed by the Resider children of ORCA for his stories of a “girl in the sea”. Brett, Froggy and Zoe embarrass newcomer Vanessa, who responds by setting Brett adrift in a little boat.

Brett is lost at sea in a storm, out of fuel and with no food or water. He is shipwrecked on Neri’s island and becomes ill after eating poisonous berries. Neri discovers Brett, and takes him to her home in the rainforest. Fascinated by her first “human” contact, Neri tends to him with water and native herbs. As he slides in and out of consciousness, Brett starts to realise the strange girl and her rainforest hideaway are real. Satisfied that he will survive, and made aware by Charley that parties from ORCA are searching for him, Neri tows the sleeping boy back out to where he can be found, surprisingly safe and well, by Winston and the searchers.

Alone, a sobered Brett confides the truth to Jason. The boys agree to keep it their secret. They both now know that Neri is definitely real – and are more determined than ever to find her.

Episode 3

United by a bid to tackle an illegal “Wall of Death” drift net, Neri and the Bates boys finally meet properly face to face. Both sides overcome initial fear and uncertainty to make the first tentative overtures of friendship.

Once she is sure of the boys, Neri shows them the way to her island. She introduces them to her fabulous, free life and the wonders of her underwater domain. To their astonishment, the boys see that her abilities in the water are even more fantastic than they realised.

Brett explores the “badlands” side of the island. He stumbles into a mud-bogged swamp and is rescued by Neri and Jason. In his explorations Brett discovers the remains of what could have been an old boat. Could Neri be the last of some party shipwrecked long ago? It is a possible explanation – but will we one day find out that the truth is even more extraordinary?

Neri introduces the boys to her best friend who realise Charley is not a person but a humpback whale! She swears the boys to secrecy.

On board ORCA, Froggy and Zoe program H.E.L.E.N, the central computer , in an endeavour to secure a supply of chocolate bars. When discovered by Vanessa they are forced to devour the evidence.

Episode 4

Damian is humiliated by a prank played by Vanessa and Jodie. Alerted by Charley, Neri warns Jason of an impending earthquake before ORCA’s computer, H.E.L.E.N, even senses it. Jason vainly attempts to raise the alarm, but finds Lucas unmoved.

When Lee seeks out Damian to cheer him up, the two of them are trapped in a flooded storeroom during the quake but are rescued unharmed when Damian employs his guitar as an ingenious device to trigger their release. Using a musical chord, he wires into the escape door release panel.

Froggy’s computer programming abilities impress all including Lucas the ORCA Commander, as he overrides H.E.L.E.N and releases bulkhead doors to assist the rescue party.

Jason and Brett deduct that Neri shares some strange from of communication with Charley. Aware of their mother’s scientific research they vow to honour the secret of Neri’s existence.

Episode 5

Brett enjoys his first birthday party on ORCA, but later suffers from overindulgence of birthday cake.

Visiting Neri on her island, Jason confides to her, his feelings as a child of divorced parents. Neri sees his sadness and is amazed to discover human “tears”.

When Neri, alerted by Charley, later saves Jason from an approaching school of sharks, she is obliged to respond to Jason with sketchy details of her own past.

She reveals the full truth about her abilities with Charley – that she has a form of telepathic communication with him and that she can “talk” to him using a kind of mental whale song that Charley hears and responds to. We learn the origins of this bonding. Charley saves Neri from drowning when, as a five year old child, she fell into the ocean. Later, she learnt to swim by imitating him and his pattern of diving and submerging.

Neri relates to Jason through memories of her father and his death several years ago. She cannot, however, recall great detail of her childhood, her origins, and the method by which she came to the island remains unknown, even to her. Now witness to Neri’s power of “telepathy” with Charley, the boys understand the possible implications if her presence is ever revealed to outsiders, particularly the scientific community on ORCA.

Much to Dianne’s dismay, Lucas rejects her request for new equipment. Winston’s endeavours to make peace between Dianne and Lucas are brought undone by Brett who mistakenly believes a romantic relationship is developing.

Episode 6

Two uninvited property developers arrive on ORCA, en route to survey Neri’s island for a new tourist resort. Fearful of Neri’s discovery, Jason volunteers his services as guide. The developers, Lambert and Blunt, trample and pollute the island in a manner indicative of insensitive development that might follow. Together Jason and Neri foil the developers’ ambitions by scaring them from the island.

Jodie stumbles upon a wallet left on board ORCA by Lambert. Short of funds for a cosmetics purchase she “borrows” money from the wallet and then, fearful of discovery, must turn to Vanessa for a loan. Vanessa, realising Jodie’s vulnerability, has enlisted a new subordinate in her attempts to discover Jason and Brett’s secret activities.

Episode 7

When Charley and Neri are affected by a leaking dumped cylinder of toxic waste, Neri calls on the assistance of Jason, who in turn alerts Lee to the danger.

Lee unsuccessfully tries to warn her father, Commander Lucas, who dismisses his daughter with the prospect of sending her to boarding school. Jason and Lee, assisted by Brett, Froggy and Zoe succeed in eluding the ever snooping Vanessa, and secure the anti-toxin wash and specialised diving equipment. With Jason grounded on ORCA, Lee insists on diving to raise the cylinder.

Jason secretly conveys some ant-toxin wash to Neri, and is amazed to her speedy recovery.

When the mining company responsible for the accidental dumping is embarrassed by the appearance of the cylinder raised by Lee at an unveiling ceremony, she receives a warm apology from her father.

As Dianne and Winston’s experiments continue to raise questions for them about the mysterious recipient of Charley’s whale song, Neri’s growing curiosity about the world outside takes her to the very potholes of the ORCA habitat. Jason and Brett realise that if they don’t allow Neri a look inside to satisfy her curiosity, sooner or later she’s going to be caught snooping around. Somehow, for everybody’s sake, they’re going to have to let Neri come out and have a look at the modern world…

Episode 8

Jason and Brett, with Froggy’s unknowing brilliant technical assistance, and the “borrowing” of one of snooping Vanessa’s uniforms smuggle Neri on board ORCA on a day pass – she must be off the installation by nightfall. They’re hoping it will be a couple of quick hours while they emphasise how dull it all is, and then she’ll never want to come back again.

Instead, Neri is captivated by the simplest objects of everyday life, things she has never seen before, to say nothing of the hi-tech wonders of ORCA. On top of everything, the boys lose her briefly in the complex and she falls into the hands of Vanessa, who instinctively feels that this new “old friend” of theirs is somehow key to the peculiar things she is sure have been going on ever since Neri arrived.

Dianne and Winston’s research continues, although the adults remain unaware of Neri’s identity even when Dianne meets her briefly in the lab.

The boys manage to rescue Neri from Vanessa just as it seems Neri is going to advertently give something away. They whisk her off the ORCA pontoon just as night falls. Neri goes back to her island – but her taste has now been whetted. She’ll be back again tomorrow. And she lies at night on her island home, dreaming sweetly of her return.

Episode 9

When Neri returns to ORCA she is swept up on an excursion with the boys and other children on a visit to the mainland.

Jason and Brett find themselves daunted by the task of shielding her from not only their inquisitive peers but also the practicalities of life in the modern world. Haplessly they follow her as she discovers the use of money, motor vehicles and, to her surprise, the phenomena of adults “kissing”.

Frightened by a movie sequence Neri flees the local cinema and the protection of Jason and Brett. Neri is collared by Vanessa and Jodie in a local dress shop. Close to revealing long awaited information to Vanessa, Neri is distracted by a young aboriginal boy defending himself from the local bully and his cohorts.

Neri befriends the young boy and at the local marina Jason and Brett arrive to witness Neri humiliate the bully in front of the local children by employing her extraordinary swimming ability.

Neri and the boys return to ORCA, but Neri’s contact with the everyday world has exposed her for the first time to the idea of young romance. Suddenly, when watching Lee with Jason she finds herself experiencing a strange new emotion-jealousy. Neri deals with it in her usual pragmatic manner – but is it a sign that her continued dwelling amongst “ordinary people” is making her vulnerable to their emotions?

Episode 10

Dianne is visited on ORCA by Jan slater, who is responsible for funding of the whale communication research. Dianne and Winston are advised that unless a major breakthrough is forthcoming, their funding will be curtailed.

On the verge of an exciting breakthrough the transmitter on Charley fails. Devastated with the prospect of defeat, Dianne must undertake a dangerous dive on Charley to reset the transmitter. When she gets into trouble, Neri is alerted by Charley, and has to make a choice – if she goes to Dianne’s aid, her secret will be exposed; but if she doesn’t Dianne may drown. Neri rescues Dianne.

Jason and Brett must now disclose to their mother and Winston the true nature of Neri’s identity. They do so, but plead with them to keep the secret. They agree – the last thing Dianne wants is any other scientists becoming aware of the existence of this extraordinary girl who could revolutionise research in all marine sciences.

Episode 11

Dianne and Winston meet a cautious Neri face to face for the first time. To her amazement, Dianne realises the full extent of Neri’s powers. It convinces her more than ever that Neri’s existence must be hidden, particularly from Lucas. At the same time, however, Dianne can’t resist starting to be drawn maternally to Neri. She arranges for an overnight pass and for the first time Neri doesn’t return to her island at sunset, but stays on board as one of the family.

As Dianne and Winston commence testing Neri’s skills, Neri falls increasingly under the spell of modern life with her new “family”, something she has never had before. As the days pass, Charley waits for her at the island but she does not return. Indeed, she seems to grow deaf to Charley’s calls. Are certain of her powers starting to wane with the continued exposure to “civilisation”?

Brett, Froggy and Zoe attempt to unmask an industrial spy who has been stealing information from Dianne’s lab. It is clear that he has taken large amounts of Dianne and Winston’s research material on Charley. The questions is - how is this going to affect Neri?

Episode 12

The industrial spy turns out to be Billy, the young agent of UBRI, a rival group of scientific researchers who are interested in Charley for their own ruthless material purposes. They plan to use tapes stolen from Dianne and Winston to lure Charley inshore and trap him in a small bay.

As the rest of the whales in the area leave for the annual migration, Charley continues to hang around, waiting for Neri. But she is so absorbed in the novelty and delight of being a member of a family that she keeps putting off, for another day, returning to the island.

Charley is lured inshore and made prisoner by an electric “fence”. He vainly tries to contact Neri, who has distracted by preparations for a dance on board ORCA. When Charley attempts to break through the electric “fence” Neri receives the resultant electrical shock. Neri, realising she has forgotten her old friend, races from the midst of the dance to return to her island. She arrives distraught, to find Charley is missing, and she has no way to discover his whereabouts.

At the same time, Commander Lucas accidentally stumbles upon the secret of Neri. Regulations and his sense of duty demand that he reports such an extraordinary discovery to his superiors, which Dianne knows would effectively destroy Neri’s anonymity forever and make her public property.

Jason and Brett arrive to comfort Neri and resolve to assist her in the rescue of Charley.

Episode 13

Neri literally throws off the clothes of her “new” life and reappears in the rough smock she always used to wear, determined to free Charley from the netted bay where he has been confined. Jason and Brett insist they’ll help but say even that they may not be enough – they need all the hands they can muster! At a hush-hush meeting, the whole gang are briefly told the truth about Neri.

One by one the astonished kids volunteer to help in the rescue mission. Even snoopy Vanessa, who finally has proof that, as she always suspected, there is something very strange about Neri, finally quits gloating and throws her lot in with the rest.

The kids make a commando raid on the UBRI rival scientist’s headquarters, and victoriously free Charley. Once he is out of confinement, Neri leads him back out to sea and safety.

On ORCA, Commander Lucas prompted by daughter Lee, announces he has made a decision. To protect Neri from exploitation, he will not report any of what he knows or has seen. For once, the human side of him overrules the stickler for rules.

The Bates family and Winston gather on Neri’s island, and the truth, now evident from Dianne’s tests, is revealed – that Neri is not human.

Neri realises that she must release Charley from their emotional bond for him to go off on the migration. As for herself, she must now decide between staying with the modern world and her new family, or returning to the ocean.

Neri chooses the ocean. But as she bids goodbye to the Bates family, a single tear rolls down Neri’s cheek – she has been touched by her human encounters and will remember them forever.

The characters

Marzena Godecki – as Neri, the ocean girl

Neri: 13 years old. A mysterious girl who seems to spring from the sea and into the alien world of a modern adolescent. Resourceful and feisty, there are times when she seems sage- like beyond her years, and others when she appears lost and bewildered child. Her extraordinary upbringing has resulted in her being independent and self-willed, sometimes to the point of abrasion. Not that she means deliberate offence – she just says and does what she wants without having been taught many social restrictions. Somewhat of a wide-eyed innocent in her first brushes with “civilisation”, she reacts with a loner’s steely resolve when it seems to betray her. But the real Neri always bubbles underneath – a gutsy, funny little battler tempered with a touch of something mystical…for within this girl lies a magic gift. A gift always at threat of being ruined by exploitation – but one which could prove priceless to a world about to enter the new age of the 21st century. She swims as though water were her natural element, with astonishing speed and agility. Aptly, her name is short for Nerida – from the ancient Greek meaning “a sea nymph”.

David Hoflin – as Jason Bates

Jason Bates: 14. Very intent on keeping up his macho “Joe Cool” image, like most boys his age. When the mask occasionally slips, there are glimpses of thoughtful sensitivity – but he is quick to try to cover them up again. At times cocky. While his parents’ marriage breakup six years ago was not acrimonious, Jason was old enough to have been marginally affected by it and when mention of his father does occasionally crop up, it is a sore point for him. Although his father takes an interest in him, it doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s not there with the family and Jason, and to a lesser degree Brett, naturally feels his absence. As a result of the separation he is prone to acting older than his 14 years, especially with his mother who is quick to remind him, and herself, that he is only 14 and perhaps doesn’t know quite as much as he thinks he does.

Nevertheless, there is a strong bond between them. Brett also occasionally bears the brunt of Jason’s parent-like behaviour and he too is quick to bring Jason back down to earth, reminding Jason that his his brother, not his father. Jason sees his sojourn at the Ocean Research Centre Association (ORCA) as “social death”. He will, however, adjust quickly to his new environment and gather a strong band of friends around him. Slightly cynical about he world in general. Computer literate, but lacks the application and patience to reach the level of competence enjoyed by his younger brother, Brett. His contact with Neri will have a gradual and major impact on him. It will alter him from being a somewhat materialistic boy who shares none of his mother’s or Neri’s passion for the sea to realising a growing devotion for the intricate ecological systems abounding in the underwater world in which he has taken up residence. As his interest blossoms, he will turn to books as a source of knowledge. Swims and dives well. Adventurous. A lively competitive spirit exists between Jason and Brett.

Jeffrey Walker – as Brett Bates

Brett Bates: 10. Jason’s younger brother. A permanently dishevelled, knockabout kid who just likes to have fun – no matter what trouble it might get him (or anybody else) into. Has grown up with a less strict hand that Jason. Resents Jason’s attempts at authority. Tends to act before thinking. A rebel. If he is told not to do something, he will immediately do it. Instantly adapts to and revels in his new existence – one huge fun palour-ride. Has a natural aptitude for computers and it is a major source of frustration that ORCA’s advanced computer technology is out of bounds to him. Enjoys laconically one-upping Jason when Jason is stumped by a problem on the computer. As part of the process of growing up in this peculiar yet fascinating world, and through his contact with Neri, Brett will learn the bonds of loyalty and solidarity. He will come face to face with the perilous restrictions of the sea, and marvel at the miracles which somehow manage to survive in an ocean battling against extinction by human degradation. A gung-ho larrikin not without his vulnerable side which surfaces when he gets into situations of unanticipated threat or danger. Swims well.

Kerry Armstrong – as Dianne Bates

Dianne Bates: Late 30s. A noted marine biologist whose speciality – and passion – is animal communication, specifically those of whales and dolphins. Divorced. Sees this new opportunity as being a tremendous leap forward. At her job, she is cool and unemotional, but her fiery temper at times gets the better of her and she will often cross swords with the Commander, Jack Lucas. At home, she is warm and full of rough-house affection for her larrikin sons. She suffers occasional angst about not spending enough time with the boys, but will more often than not find them far too absorbed in their escapades to notice her absence. The arrival of Neri will herald challenges to both sides of her character. As the series progresses, she will have to weight her research and Neri’s sensibilities and right to make her own decisions. In the end, Dianne will form as strong a bond with Neri as that enjoyed by her sons.

Alex Pinder – as Winston Seth

Winston Seth: Mid 20s. Chinese born physicist. Graduate of Sydney University, Oxford and M.I.T. in America. Dianne’s eccentric offsider. Professionally pragmatic, but personally quirky. He likes to quote inscrutable and wise oriental sayings – which makes up on the spot to suit the occasion. His view of the world has room for both Eastern mysticism and Western science, and he is often the one with the insight to propose possibilities others would reject as irrational. Professionally brilliant beyond his years. Although a quiet achiever, one area where he is not shy is in his working environment, and he will often flummox Dianne with his lightning fast and usually accurate appraisal of a situation. His gentle, bi-partisan nature makes him a favourite cohort for the children on board ORCA. Winston doesn’t swim – he sinks.

Guy Mallaby – as Damien Harris

Damien Harris: 13-14. Easygoing, popular and amiable, but would never break any records for intelligence. Soon becomes good friends with Jason. An old hand at the itinerant lifestyle of the moving scientific community. Scorned by Vanessa but warmly accepted by other kids. Always willing to help out, but has an uncanny maddening knack of messing things up. At other times, he is surprisingly logical and arrives at a solution which has eluded the others. Self-conscious in the presence of girls his own age, especially Lee who responds with good-natured amusement. When he meets Neri, he develops an instant crush on her, which, for Neri’s protection, Jason has to quickly diffuse.

Andrea McEwan – as Lee Lucas

Lee Lucas: 13-14. Jack Lucas’s exceptionally pretty teenage daughter. A very normal girl living in very abnormal circumstances. At first Jason mistrusts her, but she quickly proves she is not one to use her father’s position to her advantage. In an early episode, she covers for him so he doesn’t get into trouble from her father. Down to earth, and pragmatic: “You’re going to be living here for some time, so you may as well get used to it”. Slightly more mature than other kids, but still very much a teenager, she enjoys a strong sense of mischief and fun. Unaware of her good looks, she can’t really understand why boys often “go silly” around her. She’s become an expert at putting them at their ease – except for Damien. He never quite relaxes in her presence. We see brief glimpses of loneliness during her interactions with her father, who is insecure in his ability to play both father and mother to her and tends to leave her to her own devices for longer periods than she would like. As contemporary as Jason and the other kids. Reads the latest magazines. Wears the latest clothes.

Cassandra Magrath – as Zoe Kondelos

Zoe Kondelos: 10. Strong-willed tomboy. Always trying to keep up with and preferably outdo Brett and Froggy. Physically aggressive and challenging. Her major frustration in life is that she wasn’t born a boy.

Jacalyn Prince – as Vanessa Lane

Vanessa Lane: 12-13. Highly intelligent and knows it. Not boyish in appearance. Inquisitive. The girl you love to hate. A burning curiosity and hates to be left out. Very little escapes her notice. Inevitably appears just when you don’t want her to. Sometimes arrogant and condescending especially towards the younger kids. An infuriatingly superior air. The one thing she lacks is street cunning. She will be the first to suspect Neri’s presence and her mission throughout the series will be to uncover Jason’s and Brett’s secret. Her quick intelligence and logic will keep her hot on Neri’s tail but Jason, Brett and Neri will manage to outsmart her. She’ll sense how close she’s come and it will drive her mad. Physically adept.

Bryony Price – as Jodie Turner

Jodie Turner: 12-13. Vanessa’s offsider. Patient. Quieter and not as forthright as Vanessa, but strong in her own right. Constantly attempting to temper the more abrasive aspects of Vanessa’s personality, but rarely succeeding. Eventually she will stand up to Vanessa, she will learn that friendship is a two-way relationship which if it is to survive must be treated with respect and consideration.

Joel de Carteret – as Jake ‘froggy’ Reilly

Jake ‘Froggy’ Reilly: 10. Owlish, plump and likeable. A reluctant participant in the pranks and adventures of Brett and Zoe. His quiet voice of reason is invariably shouted down and although he would prefer to play safe, he joins in anyway because, like most ten year olds, he hates being left out.

William McInnes – as Jack Lucas

Jack Lucas: 40s. Commander in charge of ORCA. Physically fit and active. The sea has always been his life and his only real love. Commanding and overbearing at first, but he’s just looking out for number one – the successful, hands-on running of ORCA. Tries to maintain a dignified aura of command under the constant bararge of scientists, but occasionally, when he’s pushed to the limit, he snaps. Underneath his professional exchanges with Dianne lies an interest neither of them wants to acknowledge. One area of his life where he is not in command is with his daughter, Lee. A single parent like Dianne, he is at times at a loss as to how to best meet his daughter’s needs and will occasionally appeal to Dianne for advice.

The underwater research colony ORCA 1. installation

The ORCA installation sits on the ocean floor looking like some gigantic model of a complex atom.

From a central nucleus that is the heart of the structure, tunnelled arms react out in all directions, each terminating in an outlying smaller dome.

The central nucleus, reached by a lift from the landing pontoon on the surface, is the heart, mind and lungs of the installation. It houses the computerised communications and life-support systems that are essential to the safe and disciplined running of the entire Institute. All of these are centred around the Control Room.

The nucleus also houses school and recreation rooms and the central canteen.

The curved tunnels lead away to smaller complexes. These house individual laboratories and living quarters. The whole installation is connected together by sophisticated communications systems that allow people to talk from any one part to another through wall-mounted or hand held transmitter/receivers.

There is in-house television, videos, and the usual distractions in the recreation and games rooms. In fact, there are times the people seem to be living an almost normal existence. Until you look out one of the viewing windows and see the wonders of the deep underwater world passing in parade outside.