Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel!

Science fiction on television in the 1960's was largely the work of one man, a man named Irwin Allen. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea ran for four seasons, Lost in Space ran for three seasons, Land of the Giants ran for two. The least successful Irwin Allen show was The Time Tunnel which lasted only a single season. But it was a season packed with lots of different takes on the classic science fiction gimmick of time travel. 

In this 1966 television show time travel was accomplished with the assistance of a vast underground complex hidden in the depths of the American desert called "Project Tic-Toc" There scientists constructed an enormous device, the time tunnel, which could transport people forwards or backwards in time. The project had been under way for at least ten years when a grizzled congressman threatened the funding, prompting Dr. Anthony Newman (James Darren) to make a desperate attempt to prove the validity of the tunnel. He does but gets himself lost in time, and to rescue him fellow scientist Dr. Douglas Phillips (Robert Colbert) follows him back to the time of the sinking of the Titanic. The two cannot change history, but they do save some people before they are whisked away to another time and place. 

They are not under the control of the Time Tunnel complex, and it takes the nigh constant vigilance of Dr. Raymond Swain (John Zaremba) and Dr. Ann McGregor (Lee Meriwether) under the leadership of General Haewood Kirk (Whit Bissell) to save them time after time after time. The stories involve both our two time-lost heroes and the Time Tunnel staff as well who often come under threat as well. The show whisks us off to the Krakatoa, the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, Troy, D-Day, and many other famous periods in history. The meet famous folks like Napolean, Cortez, Billy the Kid, Mussolini, Ulysses, Custer, Machiavelli, and many more. Tony and Doug always seem to arrive on the eve of some dreadful event and though they often try to affect the events they never can ultimately. Lots of footage from countless Fox movies is used to give the stories a grand scale at time. 

The show even goes into the future on some occasions and the boys are often confronted by classic Irwin Allen-type aliens. In fact the show began to rely on aliens more and more often as the series progressed. This is an indication to his viewer that the creators were already running out of gas in terms of times they wanted to plunder for adventure. So perhaps a single season is all that The Time Tunnel could have been. But that one season is a memorable one indeed. 

The show generated a few novels by Murray Leinster and two Gold Key comic books. The DVD set I enjoyed also included a failed 1980's reboot called Time Travellers starring Sam Groom who had been a semi-regular on the original show, and a failed 2002 pilot for a new version of the show. Frankly I rather liked the more recent one, it had virtues. The 1980's show was pretty tepid despite some good acting. 

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  1. I don't know if The Time Tunnel was shown in the UK back in the '60s but I remember watching it around the late '80s or early '90s. I noticed that everyone spoke English wherever the two scientists ended up - I suppose you must overlook such obvious mistakes for the sake of the drama.

    1. That was a thing in Irwin Allen shows in general. Rarely did they make any reference to translation in Lost in Space either. I'm looking at Rip Hunter tomorrow and in later issues of that run, they did indeed mention translation.