|Plot Summary: Tony & Doug appear on the lower deck of 1978 Mars Excursion Module as it is about to blastoff. Their presence onboard makes an emergency landing on the moon for more fuel necessary. There is a spy onboard the spaceship and in the 1968 Time tunnel complex but both their plans are thwarted. Tony & Doug are stranded on the moon as the MEM resumes its journey but are rescued at the end by the resourceful time Tunnel staff.
This is actually the third episode of Time Tunnel to be filmed but the second shown. Either this one was completed before "End of the World" or Irwin/ABC wanted a colorful, visually exciting show to follow up the pilot.
It appears that some thought went into making this episode as the two-story MEM set
is a wonder to behold-unfortunately it is not used enough.
The guest cast is excellent-James Callahan (astronaut Beard) was on many TV shows of the time like "The Invaders", "Adam-12" and "The Fugitive" and later co-starred in the 80's sitcom "Charles in Charge". Warren Stevens (Harlow) co-starred in "Forbidden Planet" and appeared in classics like "The Outer Limits" & "Star Trek". Larry Ward (Kane) was in "Lost in Space", "Land of the Giants" and later series like "MASH" & "Buck Rogers" so you can't blame the actors for this debacle.
They should have concentrated more on visual continuity. The stock footage of the MEM-an Atlas missile that magically transforms into the spaceship Luna from the film "Destination: Moon"-is such a glaring error that these scenes murder any credibility the
story may have had. Believe it or not "I Dream of Jeannie" was guilty of the same errors week after week-astronaut Tony Nelson's ship would change from a Mercury redstone to an Atlas to a Titan missile-all in the same scene!
When the MEM takes off Doug observes that "The capsule is spinning-creating it's own gravity." Not in the stock footage shown it isn't, Doughie!!! Tony floats to the ceiling when the gravity is cut off but it looks more like James Darren is sitting on someone's (unseen) shoulders! Look close next time you watch it.
The MEM has an extra weight problem (300 pounds) thanks to the time travelers-
Holy Lost in Space! In fact Dick Tufeld (the voice of the robot on LIS as well as the show's announcer) does the Mission Control narration and countdown here. If you were an astronaut in any of Irwin's TV series' space projects your mission was DOOMED from the start.
There are great shots of rarely-seen areas of the Time Tunnel Complex scattered throughout the show as spies run amok.
The second main complaint I have about this episode is the awful dialogue and plot courtesy of life after death-obsessed scriptwriter William Welch. His contributions to Irwin's series were at times great and at other times confusing at best. These are the WORST astronauts NASA could have ever picked for a space mission! Kane is always complaining and seems to want to stop the mission badly, trying to do so at every turn.
Beard is a spy and saboteur in 1968 and in 1978 votes to put Tony & Doug to death so they can continue on to Mars! Between the illogic of Lost in Space and episodes like this of Time Tunnel it's no wonder NASA ran screaming from Irwin's shows vowing never to return.
Look closely at the next scene of the Tunnel and you will notice the flat end of the Tunnel is missing or unlighted. There's only blackness where the 'real' rings end.
As in the first episode of LIS the radio on the MEM is damaged so they cannot contact Mission Control. Later the Tunnel is damaged as well preventing Swain Ann & Kirk from helping the boys.
The astronauts' flight suits have the "Land of the Giants" emblems on them. These are believed to have first appeared in the movie "Our Man Flint" but this not a proven fact. One of the astronauts carries a .45 calibre pistol. Is this standard NASA issue or could he have snuck it past Mission Control? Either way it's stupid and useless on the moon.
Tony & Doug survive a near-catastrophe thanks to "Destination Moon" re-used spacesuits. This is convenient as the next few scenes are pure DM stock footage. Kane asks the time travelers to space walk and repair the crippled spaceship.
Shot in the 60's Cold War era this story is basically a "Let's beat the Commies to Mars" story. This statement is even paraphrased by Beard at one point.
The moon walking sequence is another low point in the show where logic takes a holiday. An angered TV Guide reader wrote to the magazine in Oct of 1966 and summed it up perfectly: "Without air to transmit sound, the moon is a totally silent world. In this episode, footsteps echoed, doors shut noisily, explosions were very loud and fires burned brightly-all on the moon…such inattention to details in our space age detract from the value of a show. Please, producers of the Time Tunnel, read an encyclopedia." Famed sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov also trashed the show in his 11/26/66 TV Guide article "What Are a Few Galaxies Among Friends?", citing the same examples listed above.
At the show's conclusion, the MEM lifts off from the moon stranding Tony and Doug there with spacesuits and two hours' worth of oxygen left. By the way where is the MEM going after the death of two astronauts-home or to Mars? I may have dozed off from boredom and missed the answer. Luckily the Time Tunnel is repaired in time (pun intended) . The time travellers' spacesuits disappear and they are once again garbed in the clothing they wore on the Titanic and whisked away through the corridors of time. This explains a lot but isn't done again in the series.
In conclusion in case you hadn't realized from my previous comments I didn't like this episode at all. It's total lack of continuity & logic eradicates any chance of enjoying it. My advice if you watch this is to fast forward past all the rubbish and enjoy the scenes
featuring the Tunnel Complex. It will make for an enjoyable fifteen minutes of your time!
WHAT WERE THE WRITERS THINKING? DEPT:
This really applies to the whole episode but I'll just cite two examples not stated previously:
Seconds before liftoff Tony & Doug lie flat on the hard metal floor of the ship in their civilian clothes with no padding of any kind, make the required "G-Force" faces and survive without even blacking out. In reality this liftoff would have resulted in broken bones if not death.
The astronauts vote to jettison the supply/service module at one point. What part of the Atlas missile or spaceship Luna did they plan on dropping? The part with the engines?
NOTE: For anyone wondering who the mystery woman is standing next to the cast in some of these photos, I have a funny story about that to tell. When I met James Darren in the 70's I brought these photos along for him to autograph. I asked James who she was and, after studying the photo intently for a moment he gave me a serious look and said "Barbara Funk." He saw I believed him, laughed and quickly added, "I'm just kidding! I have NO idea who she is!" I later learned her name is Joyce Becker and she did a very interesting write-up on the show for a TV/Movie magazine of the time.