Dead On Arrival: “The Time Tunnel” (1966)


Tiger Media Network

It is time…for the last review for “Titanic-a-thon”… Today, we’ll review…


Of course, you probably already knew that based on the title of this article. Oh well.

“The Time Tunnel” was a 1966-67 television series created by the master of disaster himself, Irwin Allen. Allen was a leading film and television producer in the 1960s and 70s. In the 60s, he was known for science-fiction television series such as “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and “Lost In Space.” In the 70s, he was known as “The Master of Disaster” due to his producing several high-profile films in the disaster genre, such as “The Poseidon Adventure” (which is a favorite of mine), “The Towering Inferno,” and “The Swarm.” “The Time Tunnel” was not as successful as his other notable TV projects, only lasting one season, but it has a cult following.

The plot for the series is as follows…

It is the future (1968, two years after the show first aired). We are shown a super secret government project that’s taking place in a super secret government facility. It is Project Tic-Toc. Its goal is…time travel. A senator arrived at the base to inform the researchers that the donors wanted some results after 10 years of funding. One of the leading scientists, Tony Newman (played by James Darren), decides to prove the validity of the project by using the time machine to go back in time!!! One of the other scientists, Douglas Phillips (played by Robert Colbert) decides to go on a rescue mission to bring back Newman to the present. They soon reunite, but I guess they can’t return directly to the future. The scientists operating the actual time machine have to zip-zap them across various time periods in the hope that one day they’ll be sent to 1968. Each episode, they go to a different time period or notable historical event, mess around, and leave at the end of the episode. And that’s the show.

What does any of that have to do with the Titanic? Well, the first episode is set on the Titanic. Duh. While on the Titanic, Tony and Douglas attempt to prevent the sinking of the Titanic by straight up telling the Captain (played by guest star Michael Rennie, best known for “The Day The Earth Stood Still”) that they are from the future and the ship is going to sink. Because that’ll work. Some of the other historical events featured in the show include:

  • The Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
  • The Battle of Jericho, 1550 BC
  • The Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863
  • The Eruption of Krakatoa, August, 1883
  • And More!

This show is old-school comic book science fiction, but from what I’ve seen of it, it’s fun enough. The two leads are good. The sets are great. The dialogue is hokey. There’s quite a bit of appeal for fans of science fiction. With this being an Irwin Allen production, there are a lot of imaginative sets and locations. Though, with each episode being a “time period of the week,” I can imagine it could probably get pretty formulaic and repetitive after a while. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the reason the show was canceled after one season. It performed pretty well in the ratings despite the fact that it aired on Fridays (The Death Slot). What happened was that the network ABC decided to drop the show in favor of another historical series, “The Legend of Custer,” which was about George Custer (obviously). Ironically, that show was not a hit and was canceled after one season. Perhaps one day, I’ll review that (but probably not).

As for how they depicted history in the show, going on just the first episode (and from what I’ve heard, what happens later on in the show), it’s not very accurate. Going off just the Titanic episode, all the interiors of the ship that they depict are inaccurate, all the so-called historical figures except for the Captain are fictitious, and the Captain himself was even named incorrectly in the credits (the show says his first name was Malcolm when it was actually Edward). In addition, they depict explosions as taking place on board due to them utilizing stock footage from the 1953 “Titanic.” Later episodes had similar inaccuracies. The show is even inconsistent with its own lore. In the first episode, Tony states that he was born in 1938, but in the Pearl Harbor episode, it’s implied that he was actually born in 1934.

However, despite these flaws, I had fun with this show. I didn’t take it too seriously, and I don’t think that the show takes itself too seriously as well. It’s just a fun, campy show. I love old-school comic book science fiction, and it’s full of that. So if you’re a fan of that genre, you’ll have a good time. In terms of its own merits, I’d say it gets an 8 out of 10. But on Titanic merits, it gets 6 out of 10.