The Time Tunnel

The Time Tunnel

Infobox Television
show_name = The Time Tunnel

caption = "The Time Tunnel" intertitle
format = Science fiction
runtime = approx. 52 minutes
creator = Irwin Allen
starring = James Darren
Robert Colbert
Whit Bissell
John Zaremba
Lee Meriwether
country = USA
network = ABC
first_aired = September 9, 1966
last_aired = April 7, 1967
num_episodes = 30
imdb_id = 0060036
tv_com_id = 5861

"The Time Tunnel" is a 1966–1967 U.S. color science fiction TV series. The show was created and produced by Irwin Allen, his third science fiction television series. The show's main theme music was "Time Travel Adventure". "The Time Tunnel" was released by 20th Century Fox and broadcast on ABC. The show ran for one season of 30 episodes. A pilot for a new series was produced in 2002, although the pilot was not picked up. It currently airs on AmericanLife TV Network and on Fact|date= September 2008

The series


Project Tic-Toc is a top secret U.S. government effort to build an experimental time machine known as "the Time Tunnel." When the costs of the project approach those of the entire U.S. space program, a United States Senator Leroy Clark (Gary Merrill) launches an investigation of the project. The Senator feels that the tunnel has cost too much money for too little reward. At his request the Senator is allowed to visit the project base and be given a tour. Once he reaches the central control room the Senator explains his complaints to the project heads. The Senator then says that he wishes to close down the project as a waste of time and money that has not worked.

Key Time Tunnel scientist, young physicist Dr. Tony Newman (James Darren) turns the machine on and sends himself back in time in an attempt to prove that the Time Tunnel project funds were not wasted. In so doing, Newman becomes "lost in time." The Time Tunnel top personnel can see through the Tunnel that Tony Newman is aboard the soon to sink Titanic. They can also see that he cannot escape before the sinking, and they cannot retrieve him.

In an attempt to rescue his younger friend, another key Tic-Toc scientist Dr. Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert) enters the Time Tunnel as well. However, the system was still being developed and tunnel operations was never able to bring them home. As the series progresses, the two time travelers are swung from one period in history to another, allowing episodes to be set in the past and future. Each episode begins with the following narration:

:"Two American 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."

By luck (or lack thereof) the travelers, Tony and Doug, frequently found themselves thrown onto the precipice of major historical events: on board the "Titanic" before it hits the iceberg, in Pearl Harbor before the Japanese attack, on Krakatoa before it erupts, and so forth. They would try to warn people about the event, or try to prevent it from happening, while the Time Tunnel crew (led by two scientists and a military general), who once gaining a "fix" can view through the Tunnel the action taking place in the different time, would try to rescue the travelers before the historical calamity befell them too. Sometimes, when rescue was impossible at the time, the Time Tunnel scientists would often try to help Tony and Doug in other ways or in some cases, communicate with them whenever possible. The final episode provides no resolution, as the series was initially scheduled to continue into a second season.

The series used a precursor to the Novikov self-consistency principle as its time travel model. Recorded history could not be altered because all attempts to do so were destined to fail. In other words, they will not change history because they haven't. However, sometimes Doug and Tony’s actions were essential to cause history to unfold as recorded. The lives of individual people could be influenced by the actions of the travelers or the Time Tunnel scientists. The base for Project Tic-Toc was huge and located underground in the Arizona desert, with no visible entry. The only way in was a very big secret panel that when it opened a car could quickly go through the entrance. Once the panel closed all any one could see was ordinary desert. Tic-Toc base was a futuristic series of complexes 800 floors deep and employing over 36,000 people ("12 thousand people in each of those complexes"). It was under the command of General Heywood Kirk (Whit Bissell). The center of the base was The Time Tunnel control room where the tunnel was located. In charge of operating the Tunnel were Dr. Ann McGregor (Lee Meriwether) and Dr. Raymond Swain (John Zaremba). The date at which it was operating was stated as 1968, which was two years into the future for the initial TV audience. ["The Time Tunnel: Volume One" and "The Time Tunnel: Volume Two" DVD sets]


The production basis of the show was 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 to fit them into this color production. Only a few actors were costumed for a given episode, interspersed with cuts of great masses of people similarly dressed from the original features. The plots were not noted for historical accuracy.

Certain episodes featured aliens who wore costumes and carried props originally created for other Irwin Allen television and movie productions. Prop sets were similarly re-used. Only in episodes 18, 24, 28, 29, and 30 did aliens appear; only the second and third of these were set in the far future.

The "Titanic"-based premier episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday" (based on the original series pilot [ [ Original, unaired pilot] ] ), was well written, and featured good production values, albeit with an error in that the Captain Smith of the Titanic was called "Malcolm" rather than "Edward" or "EJ". The names of the secondary officers are also fictitious and do not reflect the actual officers of the Titanic, though Walter Lord's best-selling book "A Night to Remember" had been available for nine years.

The prop computer looked realistic because it was actually an array of memory modules from the Air Force's recently-decommissioned SAGE computer.

The soundtrack for "The Time Tunnel" was composed by John Williams (credited as "Johnny Williams"), who would go on to become one of film's most celebrated composers.

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.Fact|date=November 2007

"The Time Tunnel" was not a commercial failure, as it received higher viewer ratings than many other shows of the network. It was picked up for the following year, and four episodes for season 2 were scripted (and falsely rumored to have been filmed) before an abrupt cancellation - after the "cast renewal party" had been held. Fact|date=November 2007

Recurring themes and cliches

Themes particularly characteristic of this show include:
* The colorful, dynamic opening credits sequence.
* A short "teaser" from next week's episode was shown at the end of each episode, as Tony and Doug arrived at their next destination. This device was later used in Quantum Leap.
* The impressive introduction to the scale of the project (over 36,000 people and huge underground buildings) is rarely seen(possibly only once) after the first episode.
* At the end of every episode, Tony and Doug always magically reverted to the same cleaned, pressed clothes: a green turtleneck sweater and a pair of gray slacks for Tony, and a conservative Norfolk suit for Doug. Doug never takes off his tie (although he loosens it occasionally). Doug's clothes originally, were definately were meant for the 1912 "Titantic", even though the suit changes and looks more contemporary later.
* Often, when something is wrong with the main control panel, we see Dr. Swain (a man) pushing Dr. MacGregor (a woman) away from it so he can do her job himself.
* In more than two out of every three episodes, Tony and Doug's random placement in time landed them right before an important historical event, and right where the event was about to occur (D-Day, the attack on Pearl Harbor, Custer's last stand, Krakatoa exploding, The Titanic sinking, Lincoln's attempted assassination in 1861 (not the one he finally died in, in 1865, although that one is briefly glimpsed), Biblical events, etc.)
* The tunnel frequently sent objects and people back to help Doug and Tony, and even brought other people from the past, but it never could retrieve Doug and Tony themselves.
* Wild historical mishmashes, such as Niccolò Machiavelli getting involved in the Battle of Gettysburg.
* Mixing history and mythology, such as Robin Hood being involved with the signing of the Magna Carta, and Merlin the Magician appearing in the tunnel forcing Tony and Doug to help a very Young Arthur, etc.
* No matter what they did they never changed history, even though they clearly could have.
* Tony and Doug almost always landed somewhere prior to 1968. When they did travel to the future, it was, with two exceptions (both in 1978), hundreds of years into an unrecognizable future.
* Everyone in a group of aliens or people from the future all dressed identically, often in aluminum foil.
* Classic 1960s "action" sequences, such as hand-to-hand fighting in which the protagonists fall onto their backs and kick-flip their adversaries over them.Fact|date=October 2007
* No matter when or where they materialized, they were almost always immediately attacked.
* Doug and Tony knew they were being monitored by their colleagues, but rarely spoke to them or asked for help.
* At the end of every episode, the tunnel transferred Doug and Tony to another dangerous, random place and time -- usually for no obvious reason, since they were finally safe.
* Though there are fistfights in virtually every episode, they never result in any bleeding or bruising.
* When people are hit on the head they get amnesia, always temporarily.
* A guest character decides that he has nothing left in 1968 and agrees to enter the past to help Tony and Doug, knowing that he will spend the rest of his life there.
* Implausible physics. For instance, in episode 2 ("One Way To The Moon"), Doug and Tony were fighting in space suits on the moon using earth-like punches and kicks, without feeling the moon's reduced gravity. Also, a loud explosion in a lunar fuel depot ignites a massive fire -- impossible in the silent vacuum of the moon.
* Everyone everywhere, in every time, spoke 20th-century English.


While the episodes were first shown in 1966, the show's setting begins in 1968, two years ahead of when the episodes originally aired. ["The Time Tunnel: Volume Two" and "The Time Tunnel: Volume Two" DVD sets]

Movies excerpted

* "Titanic (1953)"
* "Destination Moon"
* "How Green Was My Valley"
* "Khartoum"
* "Pearl Harbor - Now It Can Be Shown"
* "The Story of Ruth"
* "The 300 Spartans"
* "Prince Valiant"
* "Taras Bulba"
* "A Farewell to Arms"
* "The Buccaneer"
* "To Catch a Thief"
* "The Day the Earth Stood Still"

Novel versions

Prolific science fiction author Murray Leinster had published a 1964 Pyramid Books novel titled "Time Tunnel" with cover art somewhat similar to the television series' Tunnel. [ [ "Time Tunnel" cover art] ] , although the actual plots were quite different — the 1964 novel was set in France, the tunnel was built by a professor, and it only established a fixed connection between 1964 and Napoleonic era 1804. [ [ "Time Tunnel" review] ]

In any case, in 1967 Leinster wrote a loosely based novelization of the television series, entitled "The Time Tunnel" and also published by Pyramid. This was followed later in the year by Leinster's "TIMESLIP! Time Tunnel Adventure" #2.Fact|date=June 2007

After the original run

In 1967, a feature length film, "Aliens from Another Planet", was produced using a compilation of three of the TV episodes. [ [ "Aliens from Another Planet" plot summary] ]

Despite the series having only been on the air for one year, the number of websites and fan reminiscences concerning it attest to the series having made an impression on its audience.

The series was re-shown on American television in the early-mid 1990s, and it was re-shown on British television after the success of the 1997 "Titanic" movie due to the "Titanic"-related content of the first episode. It was also parodied by Alexei Sayle as "Drunk in Time" on British television. In the U.S., it can now be seen on the Encore Action cable network at various times.

The first 15 episodes were released on DVD in North America on January 24, 2006. The second volume, containing the final fifteen episodes, was released June 6, 2006. It also includes the unaired 2002 pilot and the made-for-TV film "The Time Travelers" as special features.

"The Time Tunnel" is being shown on the American Life cable channel, as of September, 2007.


Two attempts were made to resurrect the show. One produced a pilot episode, but neither resulted an a new series.

2002 Remake

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. Executive Producers were Kevin Burns and Jon Jashni. Sheila Allen was credited as one of the producers. It was not picked by Fox, in order to make room in its schedule for Joss Whedon's "Firefly".

The new series had a much much darker, serious tone. Doug Phillips (David Conrad) is the main character, and Tony Newman is now Toni Newman, a female minor character. The unaired pilot episode is available on DVD from Fox Home Entertainment on "The Time Tunnel: Volume Two", Disc Four.

In this remake, the (21st century) Time Tunnel is a Department of Energy research project into "hot fusion", which produces nearly limitless energy. When they initiated the reactor (an event not shown in the episode), it caused an unintended "time storm". For four hours—240 minutes—the time storm was uncontrollably whipping around in the past and changing 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 Phillips has been recruited because he has a detailed knowledge of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. The head of the Time Tunnel likens their team to FEMA, in that 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 amount of time in which to fix what is wrong and to be retrieved by the Time Tunnel.

The team (Doug, Toni, Flynn, J.D. and Wix) must go back to WWII in 1944, to the Battle of Hürtgen Forest in Germany. They are to retrieve a person who was moved there by the time storm from 1546. During the mission, Doug Phillips meets his grandfather, a soldier who will be killed in this battle. Doug knows this, but cannot tell him and save his life because it would change history. Toni Newman tells him that she used to have three brothers and two sisters before the time storm accident, but is now an only child. They find out that the displaced person is a (very confused) medieval monk who is carrying bubonic plague. A number of the team have to pretend that they are Germans and switch uniforms. Two of them say they are Colonel Klink and (Sergeant) Schultz. 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 that Phillips was a bitter man before the "240", but he now has a family. Flynn told Phillips this information to give him incentive to keep the timeline the way that it is. ["The Time Tunnel: Volume Two", Disc Four, side B]

Reality changes due to the time storm

There are some notable differences between the series world and the real world: ["The Time Tunnel: Volume Two", Disc Four, side B]
*Traffic lights use red for "go" and green for "stop" while yellow retains its meaning.
*There are 49 states in the USA. The title sequence shows New Jersey disappearing and the territory being divided between New York and Pennsylvania.
*The title sequence shows the USSR winning the race to the moon as the American flag dissolves into the Soviet flag.
*The New York Yankees are now the Boston Yankees.

2006 Remake

The SciFi Channel (a US cable network) announced in 2005 that it was going to 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. [ [ IMDB link for 2007 series] ] The series never materialized.


External links

* [ General fan site]
* [ Yahoo fan group]
* [ Time Tunnel scrapbook]
* [ Time Tunnel fan club]
* [ Fan discussion forum]
* [ Episode list]
* [ Episode list noting time travel model issues]
* [ Episode summaries emphasizing cliffhangers]
* [ The Irreverent Guide to The Time Tunnel] funny episode reviews
* [ Irwin Allen News Network] (The Irwin Allen News Network's Time Tunnel site)
* [ The Tunnel Photo Vault]
* [ Timeline of TIME TUNNEL episodes]
* [ The AN/FSQ-7 on TV and in the Movies]

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