In 1976, NBC commissioned 4 two-hour TV movies, 'Man From Atlantis' to be shown between March and June in 1977. Produced by Herbert Solow of 'Star Trek', Patrick Duffy described 'Man From Atlantis' as a "sea-going Star Trek". On 'Man From Atlantis', Patrick's character, Mark Harris, possessed cats' eyes to see in the dark beneath the ocean just as Mr Spock had pointed ears on 'Star Trek'. As an amphibious fish-man, Mark was also equipped with gills instead of lungs and had webs between his fingers and toes. Because Mark Harris was a water-breather and not a surface-dweller, he could not stay on land longer than 12 hours at a time. Mark could also communicate with other sea life such as dolphins and killer whales. 

The first 'Man From Atlantis' movie attracted 46% share of the audience and the last of the 4 movies was the No. 1 program of the week, attracting a rating of 25.1% (about 17.9 million American homes equipped with TV sets were counted watching at the time). Based on its popularity the network decided to order for 13 weekly hour-long episodes to go up against 'Laverne & Shirley' and 'Happy Days'. The regular series however only attracted about 19% share of the audience. 

Some 159 actors were tested for the part of Mark Harris, the last surviving Atlantean from the lost underwater civilization of Atlantis. Patrick recounted, "The competition among young leading men out here (in Hollywood) is fierce, much worse than the cattle calls for readings in New York. I auditioned for it, as did countless others, and the casting director, Ruth Conforte, told me I wasn't right for the part. A few days later she saw me on an episode of 'Switch' which I'd done 6 months earlier. 

"I had only about 8 lines but it changed Ruth's mind. She called me in to audition and said what she saw on film didn't fit the first impression I’d made in her office. She thought, 'That's not at all what I thought he'd be like!' That night she called the producer, Herb Solow, and said they'd have to call me in for an interview." Herb Solow made known, "We wanted somebody who was a little bit ethereal." Patrick continued, "My screen test was sent to the networks. That was when I was very thin; I weighed 160 to 165 … Anyway, we did another test the way it should have been done for the first time … They liked the test better. Two days before we were to start shooting I was signed to do the role. Right down to the wire." 

On 'Man From Atlantis', Victor Buono (King Tut on 'Batman') played a former oil geologist, Mr Schubert, who was hell-bent on conquering the world by starting a nuclear war to "cleanse the Earth's surface" while the marine scientists whose brilliant minds he had enslaved through the use of "obedience bracelets", bred a new species of man – one capable of living and breathing in the undersea world. Belinda Montgomerry played Dr. Elizabeth Merrill of the Foundation for Oceanic Research  told 'Copley News Service', "The show is very hard on my hair. I have to give it a lot of conditioning."

The "dolphin kick from the butterfly stroke, but without the arms" swimming style was invented for 'Man From Atlantis'. Patrick told 'Starlog', "Paul Slater worked it out with his son who is a competition swimmer. Paul has done just about every water epic … He's never stopped working … We just got in a pool one day with the director and a few other people and developed what we wanted to establish as the swimming capability. It's the easiest way to swim under water.

"It came from the dolphin or butterfly kick. That whole thing of using the body as a projectile was developed just for 'Atlantis', though. It came from watching dolphins. In the original script, it said, 'swims with a side-to-side eel-like motion.' That's just not logical. Fish swim that way because of the structure of their backbones, but not mammals, like dolphins. Since I am a mammal, Paul said I'd have to do it vertically."

Of filming the underwater scenes, "The longer shots are done in a tank at MGM. We also shoot on location at Catalina Island – where the water is so cold you just have no control over your breathing; 35 or 40 seconds is about all you can do. I hyperventilate (take deep breaths to retain an excessive amount of oxygen) and it seems useless. It's very hard to let go of the mouthpiece, swim into range, and then do a trick. Immediately you're going: 'I've got to have a breath of air!' And it's already panic time. But there are divers all around me with tanks waiting for me to come back for air.

"We generally go to between 20 and 60 feet – fairly deep. When 2 cameras are working we can get 2 totally different angles – for stock footage for 2 different shots. Then you can flop the negative and it's a right-to-lefty rather than a left-to-right as shot. That water stuff is very hard to do. You get down there and the surge can stir up the bottom … and you've suddenly wrapped for the day. You have a whole crew sitting on their butts waiting for tomorrow and hoping it will settle down. You have to time your shooting for tide-in and tide-out. You have to make sure that the currents do not so affect me that I look awkward under there where I'm supposed to be at home."

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