The Time Tunnel is a U.S. color science
fiction TV series starring James Darren and Robert Colbert. The show
was inspired by the 1964 movie The Time Travelers, and was
creator-producer Irwin Allen's fourth science fiction television
series, the others being Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the
Sea and Land of the Giants. Time Tunnel was released by 20th Century
Fox Television and broadcast on ABC during the 19661967
television season. The show ran for one season of 30 episodes. A
pilot for a new series was produced in 2002 but not picked up.
Tic-Toc is a top secret U.S. government effort to build an
experimental time machine, known as "The Time Tunnel" due
to its appearance as a cylindrical hallway.
The base for Project Tic-Toc is a huge,
hidden underground complex in Arizona, 800 floors deep and employing
over 36,000 people. The directors of the project are Dr. Douglas
Phillips (Robert Colbert), Dr. Anthony Newman (James Darren), and Lt.
General Heywood Kirk (Whit Bissell). The specialists assisting them
are Dr. Raymond Swain (John Zaremba), a foremost expert in
electronics, and Dr. Ann MacGregor (Lee Meriwether, right), an electro-biologist
supervising the unit that determines how much force and heat a time
traveler is able to withstand.
The series is set in 1968, two years into
the future of the actual broadcast season of 1966-67 (because having
a time machine in 1966 is improbable but the technology would surely
have been developed by 1968).
Project Tic-Toc is in its tenth year when
United States Senator Leroy Clark (Gary Merrill) comes to investigate
in order to determine whether the project, which has cost 7.5 billion
dollars, is worth continuing. Senator Clark feels the project is a
waste of government funds. When speaking to Phillips, Kirk, and
Newman in front of the Time Tunnel, he delivers an ultimatum: either
they send someone into time and return him during the course of his
visit or their funding will cease. Tony volunteers for this endeavor,
but he is turned down by project director Doug Phillips. Defying this
decision, Tony sends himself into time. Doug follows shortly after to
rescue him, but they both continue to be lost in time. Senator Clark
returns to Washington with the promise that funding will not be cut
off to the project, leaving General Kirk in charge.
scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages,
during the first experiments on America's greatest and most secret
project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble
helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the
infinite corridors of time."
- opening narration
voice over by Dick Tufeld
and Doug become participants of notable past events like the sinking
of the Titanic, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the eruption of Krakatoa,
Custer's Last Stand, and the Battle of the Alamo among others.
General Kirk, Ray, and Ann in the control room are able to locate
them in time and space, observe them, communicate with them through
voice contact, and send help.
After a single season of
good reviews but mediocre ratings, ABC offered to renew the series if
producer Irwin Allen would cut his budget by one-third. While Allen
refused an ABC executive was gathering support for a series entitled
The Legend of Custer that he lobbied for to replace The Time Tunnel.
In the summer of 1967 Time Tunnel was cancelled not giving the
producers time to film an episode in which Tony and Doug are safely
returned to the Time Tunnel complex. Each episode of the show ended
with a cliffhanger to the next episode. In the final episode they
inserted a cliffhanger leading to the repeat of the first episode.
Thus each episode had its own unique cliffhanger - both coming and
going. Even though it lasted one season The Time Tunnel was Irwin
Allens' favorite show. As a side note: Time Tunnels' replacement, The
Legend of Custer, was quickly cancelled after airing only 17 low
rated episodes, skewered by critics it performed worse than The Time Tunnel.
Time travel is facilitated by time being
portrayed as a static continuum, accessible at any point through the
Time Tunnel as a corridor spanning its infinite reaches.
When Senator Clark sees an image of the
Titanic on the image screen in the course of episode one, he is told
by Dr. Swain that he is seeing "the living past", and
Althea Hall is told by Tony Newman that the past and the future are
the same. The Time Tunnel is also a portal connecting the Time Tunnel
"complex" with the same time periods in which Doug and Tony
Other persons in time can also be
relocated by the Time Tunnel from their time to another time as
Machiavelli is switched from his own time to the time of the
Gettysburg Campaign of 1863. Bringing people (other than Tony and
Doug) back to the future happens continually in the series.
In the course of the series Doug, Tony,
and the Time Tunnel personnel discover that events of the past can be
altered to some extent by the intrusion of the time travelers, and in
a few cases their historical research allows for it. Episode 26
("Attack of the Barbarians") explores the scenario of one
of the time travelers falling in love with someone from the past:
Tony and the Princess Serit, daughter of Kublai Khan. Marco Polo
tells Doug, "Can they not touch each other?" History itself
hints at the possibility of Serit marrying Tony as Ann informs
General Kirk. The historical information on Billy the Kid's victims
alarms Ann, Ray, and the General as it records that he killed two
strangers near Lincoln, New Mexico in April, 1881, just when Tony,
Doug and Billy the Kid are brought together.
The production used sets, stock footage
and props left over from the large number of period dramas made by
the 20th Century Fox film company. Even black-and-white shots of the
Titanic sinking were tinted for use in this color production. Only a
few actors were costumed for a given episode, interspersed with cuts
of great masses of people similarly dressed from original features.
Only one set was constructed for the show, that of the Time Tunnel
main control room. For the pilot episode, a large control room set
was built, and a longer Time Tunnel was created using optical matte
shots. After the pilot episode, location changes occurred for the
production of the series; Colbert and Darren shot their scenes in
another studio, on the 20th Century Fox backlot, or on location,
while those who portrayed the Time Tunnel personnel filmed all their
scenes on revised and smaller (due to the production having to
utilize a smaller sound stage than used during the pilot filming)
Time Tunnel control room set. Some episodes featured space aliens who
wore costumes and carried props originally created for other Irwin
Allen television and movie productions. Prop sets were similarly
re-used. The prop computer looked realistic because it was an array
of memory modules from the Air Force's recently decommissioned SAGE computer.
errors and errors in historical facts occurred in the series. In the
series premiere episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday",
Captain Smith of the Titanic is called "Malcolm" when his
name was Edward historically. The names of the secondary officers are
also fictitious, though Walter Lord's best-selling non-fiction book
about the event, A Night to Remember, had been released nine years
earlier. Tony states that he was born in 1938. A few episodes later
in "The Day the Sky Fell in", he states he was seven when
Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, which would make the year
of his birth 1934.
The theme song for The Time Tunnel was
composed by John Williams (credited as "Johnny Williams").
GNP Crescendo later released an album featuring Williams' work and
the score composed by George Duning for the episode "The Death
Merchant". The series won an Emmy Award in 1967, for Individual
Achievements in Cinematography. The award went to L.B.
"Bill" Abbott, for his photographic special effects.
In 1982, five feature-length TV movies
were put together from 10 complete episodes with portions of the
first episode as introductory material. Aliens From Another Planet,
was produced using episodes 24 ("Chase Through Time") and
18 ("Visitors From Beyond The Stars"). Revenge Of The Gods
was a compilation of episodes 7 ("Revenge of the Gods") and
20 ("The Walls Of Jericho). Old Legends Never Die edited
together episodes 27 ("Merlin The Magician") and 16
("The Revenge Of Robin Hood"). Kill Or Be Killed comprised
episodes 4 ("The Day The Sky Fell In") and 17 ("Kill
Two By Two"). Raiders From The Moon was compiled from episodes
28 ("The Kidnappers") and 2 ("One Way To The Moon").
January, 1967 a promotional novel, The Time Tunnel, was published by
Pyramid Books. Murray Leinster was the author, who had previously
written a novel of the same name in 1964, completely unrelated to the
Leinster used four of the main characters:
Tony Newman, Doug Phillips, General Kirk, and Ann MacGregor as well
as the initial antagonist Senator Clark. Unlike the television series
Project Tic-Toc is secretly begun and financed through the Defense
Department without the consent of Congress. General Kirk is a retired
Air Force General rather than an active duty Army General. Senator
Clark, rather than urging immediate human time travel as he does in
the TV series, demands that Project Tic-Toc refrain from going
forward with it.
He does this in the interests of humanity,
which, in his view, would be adversely affected by a person from the
future intruding into the past: ancestors of persons now living could
be killed by a time traveler resulting in their descendants now
living ceasing to exist or inventions and developments of the past
being changed resulting in the wiping out of what exists in the
Tony and Doug's relocation to Johnstown,
Pennsylvania just before the Johnstown Flood of May 31st, 1889 allows
them the opportunity of saving the life of Senator Clark's
grandmother, Julie Bowen. If Tony and Doug had not gone back in time
and saved her, Senator Clark would have ceased to exist.
second time and place Tony and Doug are relocated to is the Texas
prairie near Adobe Walls, Texas, June 26th, 1874. They are picked up
by a traveling group of hunters tracking bison at the scene of the
massacre of another group of bison hunters by Comanche warriors. Tony
and Doug travel with them to Adobe Walls just in time for the
historic battle on June 27th. Knowing about the impending attack and
the incident of the cracking of the ridgepole of the sod roof of
Hanrahan's saloon where Tony and Doug were staying, they caused the
cracking themselves by shooting at the pole. This effectively
awakened the sleeping hunters, making them ready to repulse the
attack of the Native American warriors. Tony and Doug were able to
assist the historic Bat Masterson in his exploits in the battle.
Tony and Doug's final adventure before
being returned to the Time Tunnel took them to Saint Louis, Missouri
sometime in the distant future. The American populace is menaced by
aliens setting up a force field. Tony and Doug were able to utilize a
vehicle capable of moving in both time and space developed by the
Time Tunnel while they were in Adobe Walls. It is a floating platform
with rails operated by Ann MacGregor back in the Time Tunnel control
room. They appear to anyone seeing them as people riding on a flying
carpet. In the Saint Louis library Doug finds out that he will marry
Ann MacGregor, who is in love with him, and they will have three
children. With the help of the "time traveler" platform
they are able to destroy the flimsy alien craft and return to the
Time Tunnel complex.
This was followed later in the year by
Timeslip: Time Tunnel Adventure #2, the last novel based on the TV
series. The front and back covers feature photos from the series. In
the novel, an experimental nuclear missile was sent through the Time
Tunnel (who would think that would be a good idea?) and of course
something goes wrong, and it wound up at the bottom of a pond within
Mexico City, in the 1840s. In the present (1968), excavation
equipment was moving toward the site - any day a bulldozer blade
might set it off, destroying a mighty city and plunging the world
into war. Time travelers Tony Newman and Doug Phillips had only one
chance to head off disaster - to go through the Time Tunnel and make
the accident "unhappen." The trouble was, there was a war
on in the past - and the bomb was in enemy territory.
There were two issues put out by Gold Key
Comics (Western Publishing Co.) in 1966-1967. These were reprinted by
Hermes Press in 2012.
In Issue #1:
The Time Tunnel: The Assassins - April
14th, 1865, Abe gets a second chance.
The Lion or the Volcano? - August 24th, 79
A.D., Pompeii. It's the lions or Vesuvius for Doug & Tony - which
will it be?
Mars Count-Down - 1980. Will the US make
it to Mars? Will Doug & Tony make it back to Earth?
In Issue #2:
The Time Tunnel: The Conquerors - D-Day
1944. The Nazis get a second chance, this time with weapons from the future.
The Captives - June 25th, 1876,
mid-America. Custer gets a second chance.
There was a Japanese Time Tunnel book with
record album that was licensed and manufactured for exclusive release
in Japan by Asahi Sonorama company and was released during the show's
original airing in 1967. The record is pressed in blue-vinyl and
contains the time-travel drama "Adventure in the Lost
World." The highlight of this package is the colorful 12-page
booklet which showcases original storybook artwork of the record's
episode with the intrepid time travelers being terrorized by
rampaging dinosaurs and angry cavemen.
album of music from the series, featuring the episodes
"Rendezvous With Yesterday" (tracks 2-4) and "The
Death Merchant" (tracks 5 and 6) was released by GNP Crescendo
as part of the collection The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen.
Other spin-off items included a coloring
book and The Time Tunnel 1966 boxed board game from Ideal Toys. The
playing board design shows characters and events from the prehistoric
era into the future. The box insert has a spinner board and other
parts include playing cards, token, and marker disks. The second game
is The Time Tunnel: Spin-To-Win, a 1967 boxed board game from
Pressman Toys, which features a box insert playing board that has a
tunnel-like design representing different past years in history and
plastic tops are spun on the playing board to determine "Time Travels."
Bally Manufacturing created a pinball
called Time Tunnel in 1971 based loosely on the TV series, but
production was stopped due to copyright infringement. The game was
re-released with revised artwork as Space Time.
The Time Tunnel Viewmaster set was
released in 1966 featuring three Viewmaster slides from
"Rendezvous With Yesterday" and a 16-page story booklet
that tells the pilot episode.
Two attempts were made to resurrect the
show. One produced a pilot episode, but neither resulted in a new series.
In 2002, Fox showed interest in remaking
this series. A pilot was produced by Twentieth Century Fox
Television, Fox Television Studios, and Regency Television in
association with Irwin Allen Properties (1966 tunnel pictured above,
2020 tunnel below). Kevin Burns and Jon Jashni were executive
producers. Sheila Allen was credited as one of the producers. The
series was not ordered by Fox so as to make room in its schedule for
Joss Whedon's Firefly.
The pilot had a darker and more serious
tone than the original 1966 series. Doug Phillips (David Conrad) is
the main character, and Tony Newman's character was replaced by Toni
Newman, a minor female character.
In this remake, the 2002 Time Tunnel is a
Department of Energy research project into nuclear fusion, which
produces nearly limitless energy. When the reactor was initiated (not
shown in the episode), that caused an unintended "time
storm" which uncontrollably changed history. The DOE was able to
anchor one end of the storm by using the Tunnel like a lightning rod.
On their way into the tunnel complex,
Flynn tells Doug Phillips, a former friend, that the latter has been
recruited because he has a detailed knowledge of the Battle of
Hürtgen Forest. The head of the Time Tunnel project likens their
team to FEMA, they don't send a team back for a rain storm but they
do for hurricanes. However, they can only go through time to where
the other end of the storm is at the current moment, so they have a
limited period to fix what is wrong and to be retrieved by the Time Tunnel.
The team (Doug, Toni, Flynn, J.D., and
Wix) must travel to the Battle of Hürtgen Forest in 1944 Germany
during World War II. They plan to retrieve a person moved there by
the time storm from 1546. During the mission, Doug Phillips meets his
grandfather, a soldier who will be killed in the battle. Doug knows
this, but cannot tell his ancestor and save his life because it would
change history. Toni Newman tells Doug she used to have three
brothers and two sisters before the time storm accident but is now an
only child. The time travelers learn the displaced person is a
now-confused medieval monk who carries bubonic plague. When the team
is almost captured, two members switch to German uniforms and pretend
to be Colonel Klink and (Sergeant) Schultz, complete with fake
documents. Everyone who came in contact with the monk is given an
antibiotic injection and the time ripples stop. But Flynn has been
fatally stabbed, so he reveals Phillips was a bitter man before the
time storm, but he now has a family. Flynn tells Phillips this
information to give him an incentive to keep the timeline intact.
There are some notable differences between
the series world and the real world:
Traffic lights use red for "go"
and green for "stop" while yellow retains its meaning.
There are 49 states in the United States of America. The title
sequence shows New Jersey disappearing and the territory being
divided between New York and Pennsylvania. The title sequence also
shows the USSR winning the race to the moon as the American flag
dissolves into the Soviet flag, and the New York Yankees are now the
The SciFi Channel announced in 2005 it
would create a new pilot for its 2006/07 season. Allen's wife,
Sheila, and two producers of the 2002 FOX remake (Kevin Burns and Jon
Jashni) began work on the new pilot. John Turman (Hulk) wrote the
script. The series never went beyond a pilot script.