I took a stroll down memory lane recently. I love writing because of this show. And I love history because of this show. When I was a boy watching this show I didn’t notice the plot holes you could drive an eighteen wheel truck through. But I did notice the story.
The Time Tunnel was the third television series created by Irwin Allen. First came the film Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea on July 12, 1961. A television series based on the film and utilizing the same name ran on the ABC network from September 14, 1964 to March 31, 1968. Just after the series began to air Irwin Allen turn his attention from inner space to outer space. Lost In Space aired on the CBS Network during the televisions seasons of 1965 to 1968. But in 1964 Irwin Allen started writing a forty-five page outline for a series that would eventually be called The Time Tunnel.
Irwin Allen commissioned Shimon Wincelberg to write the pilot script for the series. Wincelberg also wrote the script for the pilot for Lost In Space so Irwin Allen knew what to expect. Wincelberg also wrote for other series of the era such as Have Gun – Will Travel and Route 66. Only a handful of Allen’s original ideas would survive the re-writing process. He also added a number of new characters that would survive the re-write process and make it to the series, however still another re-write would take place.
The ABC Television network was interested but requested some changes before they would commit to the purchase of the series. The ABC television network was in a three way race and they were in third place. They wanted 1966 to be the year color came to TV. Up till then almost all the shows on TV were filmed in black and white and broadcast in black and white. But with the special effects the script called for the series would be very expensive to produce. Enter Jack Bloom.
Harold Jack Bloom spent most of his life writing scripts for TV. He wrote for The Man From U.N.C.L.E, 12 O’clock High, and Have Gun – Will Travel. He occasionally dabbled with film scripts. The Last of the Pharaohs, and the James Bond film You Only Live Twice are just two of the films he worked on. If you are a James Bond film fan you may be wondering where his credits are. Harry Saltzman and Cubby Brocolli would initially ask Bloom to write the film, but would find the script lacking. Roald Dahl would be brought in to spruce it up. He decided that many of Blooms ideas were worth keeping. Bloom did get some credit – “For additional material”.
Harold Jack Bloom
Shimon Wincelberg only had one time traveller by the name of Peter Phillips. Bloom added a second traveller whose name was Tony Newman. Bloom also changed Peter Phillips first name to Doug. He made other changes too. General Kirk was originally a doctor. The bigwig from Washington who came to kill the super secret project was originally a woman. But by the time Bloom was through making changes this hatchet wielding person was now a man. He also added Dr. Ann MacGregor and Dr. Ray Swain. With these changes the budget could be met, and the series produced. He added Dr. MacGregor and Dr. Swain because as Wincelberg had it “Dr” Kirk would be doing all the work.
With the script now settled on it came time to cast the show. James Darren(Gidget , The Guns Of Navarone , City Beneath The Sea ) was cast as Tony Newman. Robert Colbert (Colt .45, Maverick, Death Valley Days) was cast as the second time traveller.
James Darren Robert Colbert Whit Bissell
John Zaremba Lee Meriwether
Whit Bissell ( I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, The Creature From The Black Lagoon) was cast as General Kirk while the roles of the scientists went to John Zaremba (Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers) and former Miss America (1955)Lee Meriwether. This show was fantastic entertainment for a child of nine or ten years of age, but it was also obvious that the show didn’t place a great deal of emphasis on accuracy. In the pilot episode that was aired (the original pilot episode ran too long but was included in the DVD set that finally came on the market) the name of the captain of The Titanic was Malcolm. History tells us his first name was actually Edward and went by the nickname “E.J.”. The Time Tunnel introduced kids to the RMS Titanic, Halley’s Comet, and the island of Krakatoa. The cancellation of the show is still a matter of debate in some circles. But the fact remains that by early 1967 The Time Tunnel was just scraping by in the ratings. And for one unnamed ABC executive scraping by just wasn’t good enough. He wanted to cancel The Time Tunnel and replace with it with a show called Custer (named after the United States general who did so well at the battle of Little Bighorn). One day in the spring of ‘67 Time Tunnel was renewed. The next it was dead and replaced with Custer. Custer died a quick death, doing far worse than The Time Tunnel and lasting only a handful of shows. But the damage had been done. The Time Tunnel had been cancelled and all actors had moved on. The sets had been struck (demolished), and The Time Tunnel would remain a glimmer in Irwin Allen’s eye. Of all the series he created (there were four) The Time tunnel was his favorite. In the seventies he tried to breath new life into the failed series. Even after his death his wife tried to reboot the series in 2002. Again, the attempt failed. The Time Tunnel will remain a cheesy series with really lousy writing. But it will remain a gem in the heart of its many fans.
Just in case you think the music sounds familiar well…it should. The Time Tunnel was one of his first major jobs. John Williams, the man who wrote the scores for Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind wrote the music for The Time Tunnel. Only as Johnny Williams.