Chapmip "Time Tunnel" Critique

This page is a personal assessment of the cult 60s US sci-fi programme "The Time Tunnel" which was repeated in 1995/6 (in the UK) on the Bravo satellite channel.

We would like to make it clear that, although we are fans, we are not the obsessive types who know every episode off by heart or who have taped every episode. Most of the information below comes from memory and may therefore contain errors. We would appreciate any constructive contributions (e-mail to webmaster) which will be credited appropriately.

Scenario

"Two American scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America's greatest and most secret project ... the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time..."

Regular Cast

Dr. Anthony Newman - James Darren
Dr. Douglas Phillips - Robert Colbert
Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk - Whit Bissell
Dr. Raymond Swain - John Zaremba
Dr. Anne MacGregor - Lee Meriwether

General Observations

The usual format is that Tony and Doug arrive somewhere, become involved in historical events, make their contribution, and then move on. At the same time, the Tunnel crew are racing against time (!) to establish contact, get a precise location fix, and build up enough power to try and bring the pair back.

One difficulty with this format is that Tony and Doug often start off in danger, but reach safety by the end of the episode, at which point the Tunnel crew move them on to a different place. Why do they do this? Surely it would be more sensible to wait for precise location information, a better fix, or more power, and make a proper attempt to retrieve Tony and Doug. Of course, this would make it a very short series!


Individual Episodes

Our synopsis is shown emphasised: our comments follow in normal type.

  1. Rendezvous with Yesterday
  2. Tony throws himself into the Tunnel and finds himself on the Titanic in 1912. Can Doug save him?

  3. One Way to the Moon
  4. A tale of sabotage on a spaceship bound for Mars in the 1970s.

    The regular loss of signal from Tony and Doug neatly prevents the Tunnel crew from learning too much about the events in the future. It seems odd to us that the Tunnel crew place greater faith in their 1960s computer than the computer on the 1970s spacecraft (although, as it turns out, they are right!).

  5. End of the World
  6. Halley's comet appears in the 1830s and is interpreted as an omen of the apocalypse.

    Our favourite line is the oft-repeated "It's not the end of the world!". We think it would have been a neat plot twist if the influence of the Tunnel drew the comet off-course at the last minute. The extra two-minute teaser at the end of the episode is a nice treat.

  7. The Day the Sky Fell Down
  8. Tony meets himself as a child at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

    The apparent paradox of meeting oneself is neatly handled, with Tony unable to recall clearly his actions as a child.

  9. The Last Patrol
  10. The pair are almost executed as spies during the war of 1812.

  11. Crack of Doom
  12. Tony and Doug arrive at Krakatoa in 1883 just before the volcanic explosion.

    We paticularly like the sub-plot involving the time-warp.

  13. Revenge of the Gods
  14. The pair witness the legendary siege of Troy in c.1200BC.

    Several odd things happen. General Kirk's idea of sending a bag of grenades and a machine gun to help Tony seems a bit heavy-handed. The objective of the Time Tunnel project - to send a man into Time and bring him back unharmed - is achieved by Jiggs in this episode (but only just). Ray claims that the Tunnel "extends to infinity" - no wonder it cost so much to build! As with several other episodes, we see that Tony and Doug appear back in their original clothes just before being transferred (a useful continuity device) - does this imply that they are returned to their original states? If so, why is this effect be limited to their clothes - shouldn't their memories be erased, and shouldn't it even be possible to bring them back to life if they are killed?

  15. Massacre
  16. Tony and Doug try to prevent Custer's last stand at Little Bighorn in 1876.

    General Kirk states that it's possible to send a person through the tunnel in complete safety. Is he forgetting the piece of equipment which was vaporised in "The End of the World"?

  17. Devil's Island
  18. The pair are mistaken for prisoners and meet Colonel Dreyfus in the 1890s.

    When the prisoner is returned to the island after being accidentally retrieved by the Tunnel, he just re-materialises on his feet. Previously, people sent through the Tunnel "fall" out of limbo. Did he travel first-class?

  19. Reign of Terror
  20. Tony and Doug meet Marie Antoinette, Napoleon and a familar face in France in the 1790s.

    It's a good thing that General Kirk's ring vanishes at the end of the episode. Otherwise, there is a danger of a logical circularity - Kirk obtains the ring from France and sends it back in time to its beginning in France - so nobody needed to make it in the first place!

  21. Secret Weapon
  22. Tony and Doug are sent on a secret mission to the Eastern Bloc in the 1950s.

    When the attempt to retrieve Tony and Doug in the Time Capsule fails, Ray claims that they are stuck in limbo at a time of "point 9 recurring". Mathematically, "point 9 recurring" can be shown to be exactly equal to one. We think it's another example of Ray resorting to technobabble when he doesn't know what's going on.

  23. The Death Trap
  24. An early plot to assassinate President Lincoln in 1865 is thwarted by Tony and Doug.

    When the boy is accidentally retrieved with the bomb, no-one is allowed to go into the Tunnel to help him disarm the bomb due to the residual radiation. So how were the Tunnel crew planning to disarm the bomb on its own? Perhaps the level of danger depends on the mass transferred. In "Revenge of the Gods", General Kirk was worried about the radiation bath setting off grenades, so this business of putting explosives in the Tunnel (see also "The Day the Sky Fell Down") seems very risky.

  25. The Alamo
  26. The pair attempt to survive the siege at San Antonio, Texas in 1836.

  27. Night of the Long Knives
  28. Tony and Doug meet Rudyard Kipling in India in the 1880s.

  29. Invasion
  30. A Nazi scientist is carrying out human experiments in Cherbourg two days before D-Day.

  31. Robin Hood
  32. A merry romp with the legendary hero in 1215.

  33. Kill Two by Two
  34. Tony and Doug are stranded on a Pacific island in 1945 with a demented Japanese soldier.

    In this episode, Ray states that there is no chance whatsoever of carrying out a triple transfer. If this is true, then why did he not say anything when the Tunnel crew prepare to transfer three people at the end of "Massacre". Also, in "Chase Through Time", five people are transferred - have they improved their equipment by then?

  35. Visitors from beyond the Stars
  36. Silver-skinned aliens arrive in Arizona in 1885 with the aim of taking over the Earth.

    We were glad to see these aliens beaten. Firstly, they seem unduly smug - unimpressed by Tony and Doug's arrival on their spaceship, they do a vanishing trick to show off their teleportation technology. However, they show no ability to travel in time - a point reinforced by the appearance of the present-day aliens at the end of the episode. Secondly, we find it amazing that they should come all the way to Earth with only a single "projector" on which all of their power depends.

  37. The Ghost of Nero
  38. The spirit of Nero is disturbed during World War 1.

    When the Tunnel crew attempt to send Nero's ghost back in time, we observe that the Tunnel appears to be able to lock onto any time period, regardless of whether anyone has been sent there. This would have been a useful trick to demonstrate to the US government official in "Rendezvous with Yesterday" - it might have secured quite a bit more funding for the project!

  39. The Walls of Jericho
  40. Joshua enlists Tony and Doug as the two spies sent into the city of Jericho.

  41. Idol of Death
  42. The pair are under threat from the conquistador Cortez in 16th Century Mexico.

    We find it surprising that General Kirk doesn't attempt to double-cross the "expert" who cons his way into the complex - once Kirk has the location information that he needs, surely he can ignore the demands and concentrate on bringing back Tony and Doug.

  43. Billy the Kid
  44. Tony and Doug encounter the gunslinger and Sheriff Pat Garrett.

    General Kirk's confidence in the unchangeability of history takes a nasty dent when Doug appears to kill Billy the Kid prematurely. Perhaps Kirk shouldn't have sent those grenades and that machine gun back to the Trojan War after all!

  45. Pirates of Dead Man's Island
  46. Barbary Coast pirates capture Tony, Doug and the son of the Spanish King in 18??.

    Why is General Kirk so sure that the pirate captain can't be killed when he is brought back through the Tunnel? If Tony and Doug can be harmed outside their own time, why shouldn't this also apply to anyone else picked up by the Tunnel? It seems most unlikely that the death of the pirate captain in his own time would have been recorded by history.

  47. Chase through Time
  48. After a saboteur plants a bomb in the Tunnel, Tony and Doug are sent from 1 million AD to 1 million BC in pursuit.

    This is one of our favourite episodes - probably because it doesn't follow the normal predictable format. We also like the recurring "bee" theme and the satisfying way in which the saboteur gets his come-uppance.

  49. The Death Merchant
  50. The 15th Century Florentine statesman Machiavelli is displaced to Gettysburg in 1863, where Tony and Doug find themselves on opposite sides of the battle.

    As for "Pirates of Dead Man's Island", we don't fully understand why it isn't possible for Machiavelli to be harmed in 1863, although at least in this case we know that his death was recorded in 1527.

  51. Attack of the Barbarians
  52. Tony and Doug arrive amid the Mongol hordes and the forces of Kublai Khan in the 13th Century.

    General Kirk clearly hasn't learnt from his nasty shock in "Billy the Kid". As in "Revenge of the Gods", he shows scant regard for the integrity of history by despatching percussion detonators to Tony and Doug at a time when he could just have transferred them.

  53. Merlin the Magician
  54. Merlin re-directs Tony and Doug to 6th Century England where they help King Arthur to defeat the Vikings.

    We think it's a bit rich of General Kirk to say that his job is to make sure that history turns out right, considering his willingness to send grenades and a machine gun to the plains of Troy (in "Revenge of the Gods") and percussion detonators to Mongolia (in "Attack of the Barbarians").

  55. The Kidnappers
  56. After Dr MacGregor is kidnapped by an alien from 8433AD, Tony and Doug are sent in pursuit.

    As in "Secret Weapon", this episode leads us to believe that the Tunnel can send Tony and Doug to precise time/space co-ordinates. If so, then why can't they just set the precise time/space co-ordinates for the Tunnel complex in the present day? Or would that be cheating?

  57. Raiders from Outer Space
  58. A different set of aliens turn up at the Battle of Khartoum.

  59. Town of Terror
  60. More aliens are intent on draining the Earth's oxygen in New England in 1978.

    No wonder this was the last episode - the script writers must have run out of storylines involving aliens!

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