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Updated: October 12, 2023

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

Lt. General Heywood Kirk ( Whit Bissell ), Dr. Tony Newman ( James Darren ), Dr. Ann MacGregor ( Lee Meriwether ), Dr. Doug Phillips ( Robert Colbert ), Dr. Raymond Swain ( John Zaremba ) Project Tic-Toc is a top secret U.S. government effort to build an experimental time machine known as "The Time Tunnel". With the costs of the project approaching those of the entire U.S. space program, a 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". In an attempt to rescue his younger friend, 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. Episodes always ended in a cliffhanger preview of the next episode. The final episode provides no resolution, as the series was initially scheduled to continue into a second season.

Doug Phillips and Tony Newman in the tunnel complex 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.

The series never really established a consistent time travel model, but for the most part it seemed that while 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 travelers or the Time Tunnel scientists.

Tony Newman and Doug Philips the base for Project Tic-Toc was huge and located underground in the Arizona desert, with no visible entry, similar to the Krell machine in the movie Forbidden Planet some shots in the first episode introducing the facility parallel those in the film. The date at which it was operating was stated as 1968 which would have been two years into the future for the initial TV audience.

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. These were fewer than it appears. 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 premiere episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday" ( based on the series pilot ), was well written, and featured good production values, albeit with a major 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 bestselling 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 quality of subsequent episodes varied considerably. However, some particularly memorable aspects were:

The colorful, dynamic opening credits sequence Tony and Doug always reverted back to the same clothes when they transfer, a green turtleneck sweater and a conservative Norfolk suit, which were magically cleaned and pressed before their passage to the next time. People from the future were always hostile Tony and Doug's random placement in time mostly ( 22 of 30 ) landed them right before an event like D-day, Pearl Harbor, Custer's last stand, Krakatoa, The Titanic sinking, Lincoln's assassination, Biblical events, etc.

The tunnel could send objects and people back and forth to help Doug and Tony, but had a complete inability to do the same with Doug and Tony themselves Wild historical mishmashes, such as Niccolo Machiavelli getting involved in the Battle of Gettysburg.

No matter how hard they tried, they could never change history, despite an obvious ability to do so by, for instance, killing John Wilkes Booth. They almost always landed somewhere prior to 1968, and very rarely in the future. When they did travel to the future, it was hundreds of years into an unrecognizable future.

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 at the beginning of almost every episode, no matter when or where they materialized, they were immediately attacked. At the end of each episode, when Doug and Tony were finally safe, the tunnel transferred them to another dangerous, random place and time for no reason 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 next 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.

The series won an Emmy Award in 1967, for its Individual Achievements!

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