1966, Irwin Allen launched the most expensive television show of its time.
Called The Time Tunnel, the series followed the efforts of two explorers lost
in time and their attempts to return home. Although a theme used in later
series like Fantastic Journey, Quantum Leap, Stargate, and Sliders,
Tunnel was the first series to make the attempt.
the pilot episode, a top secret U.S. Government program is attempting to build a
time machine, a mechanically generated shaft that cut through the past and
future. The theory and equipment are still under development, however.
When a visiting Senator arrived
intent to cut off funds for the $7 billion project. Professor Tony Newman
jumped into the tunnel and found himself in the year 1912 on the Titanic just
hours before it would sink. Professor Douglas Phillips followed him in a rescue
attempt that failed, leaving them both trapped in time. The team left behind was
constantly trying to repair the time tunnel to bring them back, but to no avail.
Each subsequent week, they would either find themselves at some major
historical event or battling aliens in the future.
Strangely, after the filming the first few minutes of the pilot, the supporting
cast never worked with the stars again. While Drs. Newman and Phillips were
traveling throughout the world and time, the rest of the cast were relegated to
dealing with emergencies in the control room. One of the key scientists left in
the control room was played by Lee Meriwether (Miss America 1955).
actual control room was compiled from surplus NASA computers and other discarded
electronic equipment from closed government facilities. Many of the props were
taken from the 1964 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and 1965's Lost in Space,
and concurrently were shared with the 1966 Batman series. Most were again used
throughout the 1968 series Land of the Giants.
most Irwin Allen Productions, Time Tunnel was often criticized for its weak
script dialog and plotlines but the fast-paced action and suspense was what made
Irwin Allen shows successful. Writers were instructed to keep dialog short and
include fist-fight scenes wherever possible!
James Darren, who played Dr. Tony Newman, later had a successful singing career
that he temporarily revived decades later as the holographic nightclub singer,
"Vic Fontaine" on Star Trek - Deep Space Nine.