The Time Tunnel

In 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, The Time Tunnel was the first series to make the attempt.

In 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).

The 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.

Like 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!