The Time Tunnel
For my final pick in these ten rounds of fave TV shows, I gave in to my childhood memories and selected The Time Tunnel, a show that had me spellbound as a ten-year old during the 30 episodes of its single season 1966-67 run. After seeing the 1960 film version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine on television, I became fascinated with the concept of time travel which made The Time Tunnel the perfect show for me.
The Time Tunnel was the product of the legendary Irwin Allen who had previously produced and directed two other highly acclaimed TV series: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. Allen, who would also go on to produce two film blockbusters with The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974), cited The Time Tunnel as his favorite television production even though the previous two were deemed more successful.
The sci-fi storyline deals with the U.S. Government’s creation of the technology to allow a person to travel through time. The series follows two of the lead scientists, played by actors James Darren (then still a young handsome heartthrob) and Robert Colbert. After an unplanned initial time transport, the two are stuck travelling back and forth in time while the team at “Operation Tic Tok” are able to hear and view them through the scientific wonder of the Tunnel that sent them on their journey. The team struggles to bring them back, and instead, somehow manage to grab them at the end of each episode, sending them somewhere else in time, just in time, to thwart some kind of danger they got themselves into.
Many years later, I did a revisit to The Time Tunnel via DVD and was surprised how well it held up for a show produced in the late 60s. And, after a recent rewatch of the debut episode, I found the special effects rather impressive for those days, including the recurring graphic segment employed when they were spinning through time. However, I did feel that the show was full of some unnecessary exaggerated nonsense. Would it at all be logical that this project would be so massive to necessitate an underground desert complex that went 800 stories underground and employed a team of 12,000 with Fort Knox level security?
Then there was the overuse of the Hollywood device of coincidence. How could it be that their uncontrolled random time travels would always land them at famous historical event at such precise locations and moments? For example, landing on the deck of the Titanic during its maiden voyage or inside a rocket being launched into space during its final countdown? Wouldn’t they have had as much of a chance to wind up in a bathroom in the Bronx?
Nonetheless, seeing them interact with history obviously made for great suspenseful plots although there was no respect for time travel’s cardinal rule of not altering history and thereby changing the timeline for the future. Allen also made for better television by economically embellishing the historical references with existing footage from feature films. Another interesting aside was that one of the technicians was played by actress Lee Meriwether, the winner of the 1955 Miss America Pageant.
As I young child, I was fascinated with The Time Tunnel and couldn’t wait to see where they would wind up going in next week’s episode. Unfortunately, the one place these two time travelers never made it to was back home since despite the show’s success, it’s future did not include a second season.