The Time Tunnel

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Time Tunnel co-stars, Dr. Tony Newman and Dr. Doug Philips.

The Time Tunnel was a 1966-1967 color science fiction TV series produced by Irwin Allen that lasted for one season and 30 episodes. It was produced by 20th Century Fox for the US ABC television network.

"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."


The plot situation was that the US federal government had funded a secret, experimental time machine that cost as much as the space program. To prove that the money was not wasted, a young researcher turned the machine on and sent himself back in time. To get him back, an older scientist prepared himself to be able to change history. But the machine was not built to handle two people travelling in time -- so it cannot retrieve them. The time travellers are swung from one period in history to another, allowing episodes to be set in the past and future, but always ending in a cliffhanger as a preview of the next episode.

The principal characters were:

By luck the travellers, Tony and Doug, frequently found themselves thrown onto the precipice of major historical events: onboard 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 officer), who once gaining a "fix" can view through the Tunnel the action taking place in the different timeframe, would try to rescue the travellers before the historical calamity befell them too.

The series never really established a consistent time travel model, but for the most part it seemed that while these major historical events could not be altered or prevented (although Tony and Doug rarely stopped trying), the lives of individual people caught up in those events could indeed be changed by the actions of the travellers or the Time Tunnel crew.

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, but then neither were the original films.

Some episodes featured aliens who wore costumes and carried props originally created for other Irwin Allen television and movie productions, and some sets were similarly re-used. These were fewer than it appears, since these episodes were later re-run often on secondary market. 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 Time Tunnel was not really a commercial failure, as it got more viewership than many other shows of the network. Yet it was not picked up for the next year. A loosely-based novelization was written by Murray Leinster.

The Titanic-based premiere episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday" (based on the series pilot), was well-written and featured good production values. The quality of subsequent episodes varied considerably. Nevertheless the number of websites and fan reminiscences attest to the series having made an impression on its audience despite only being on the air for one year. Particularly memorable were:

  • the colorful, dynamic opening credits sequence;
  • Tony and Doug always reverting back to the same clothes when they transfer, a mod turtleneck green sweater and a more conservative jacket and tie respectively;
  • wild historical mismashes, such as Machiavelli getting involved in the Battle of Gettysburg;
  • 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;
  • the morbid overall premise that no matter where you go in time, you'll almost immediately be beset upon by nasty characters wanting to do you in.

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. It was shortly parodied by Alexei Sayle on British television.

In 2002 Fox showed interest in remaking this series. The storyline, setting, and cast roles were updated to reflect recent times. A pilot episode, in which a government team goes back in time through a time tunnel (represented by a series of huge metallic rings) to World War II in order to retrieve a medieval monk misplaced by a time storm, was filmed but later turned down due to similiarities to Stargate SG-1.


  • Rendezvous With Yesterday
  • One Way To The Moon
  • End Of The World
  • The Day The Sky Fell Down
  • The Last Patrol
  • The Crack Of Doom
  • Revenge Of The Gods
  • Massacre
  • Devil's Island
  • Reign Of Terror
  • Secret Weapon
  • The Death Trap
  • The Alamo
  • The Night Of The Long Knives
  • Invasion
  • The Revenge Of Robin Hood
  • Kill Two By Two
  • Visitors From Beyond The Stars
  • The Ghost Of Nero
  • The Walls Of Jericho
  • Idol Of Death
  • Billy The Kid
  • Pirates Of Deadman's Island
  • Chase Through Time
  • The Death Merchant
  • Attack Of The Barbarians
  • Merlin The Magician
  • The Kidnappers
  • Raiders From Outer Space
  • Town Of Terror

Movies Excerpted

  • A Night to Remember
  • Destination Moon
  • How Green Was My Valley
  • Khartoum
  • Krakatoa, East of Java
  • 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


  • Emmy Award INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS IN CINEMATOGRAPHY - 1967: The Time Tunnel - ABC - L.B. "Bill" Abbott, Photographic Special Effects

External links


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