The upcoming sixth season of Discovery’s Deadliest Catch will include Capt. Phil Harris’ final voyage on the Cornelia Marie, and, possibly, footage of his final days. Catch cameras had already filmed the Cornelia Marie during king crab season (mid-October to mid-December), and had been with the crew since mid-January for opilio (or snow crab) season when Harris, who died Feb. 9 at age 53, had a stroke while in port off-loading at St. Paul Island in Alaska. “We were there for the entire time. We were there in the hospital,” Catch exec producer Thom Beers tells EW. Harris hadn’t been expected to awaken from the medically-induced coma he was placed in following surgery, but remarkably, on Feb. 2, he did. “When he came out, he was trying to talk. He couldn’t, but he was motioning with his hand to my producer and camera man. We said we want to give you your space and get out, and he wrote on a piece of paper. It said, ‘No, we need a great finish to this story,’” Beers says, with a laugh. “He’s just come out of a coma, and he’s producing [the show].” The fact that Harris also summoned what his sons Josh and Jake proudly described as “his trademark captain’s bluntness” to tell the doctors and nurses “Don’t f— up” spoke volumes, Beers adds. “That was wit, that was sarcasm, that was sardonic, that was brilliant.” Whether any of the hospital footage will air will be a decision made later with Phil’s family.
This Saturday, Discovery will pay tribute to Capt. Phil with a 15-hour marathon of Deadliest Catch beginning at noon ET covering the best of season 4 and the second half of season 5. Beers expects to produce a new tribute special devoted to the skipper’s entire run on the Emmy-winning series to air during season 6, which premieres in April. In addition to a private funeral, a public memorial and other remembrance events are being planned for the second annual fan fest CatchCon, which Discovery says will be held later this spring in Seattle. Beers, who flew to Seattle last week to meet with Phil’s sons, says they want to spread his ashes out on the Bering Sea when the new crab season begins this fall.