23 March 2001 | joseph t
Kind of fun, but...
We had to watch "Time Tunnel" every Friday evening back in the heyday of 1960s-style TV sci-fi. And this show fit right in. A nice blend of storytelling, fantasy, and early techno-gadgetry.
Much of the appeal of time travel stories relates to, surprisingly, familiarity. We've learned (or at least used to learn) in school about the Trojan War, the French Revolution, the Titanic, Billy the Kid, etc. This show re-lived those tales with a modern-day twist. What would two modern-era men do in these historical events? Would they, could they, effect changes? Should they? The shows depicting historical events were best. When it tried some standard-fare sci-fi things, like trips into the future or outer space, the stories kind of plodded along and floundered.
But...some suspension of disbelief is a must if you watch this show. First, why did the time travellers have to end up in every episode in the middle of some dangerous, terrifying, world-shaking event? Why did they never appear in my quiet backyard back in the 1950s in suburban New Jersey, or out on a farm in Kokomo, Indiana? They would have saved themselves a lot of wear and tear. Oh, but, then we wouldn't have much of a show, right? Ah. Somehow, the stars always managed to get cleaned up and a set of fresh clothes just in time to make their next time leap, no matter how badly tattered and torn they were from their current misadventure. Pretty neat, that. I wish I had one of those when I wake up at 6 a.m. But, hey, if you can make a time machine, its probably no big deal to throw in an instant clothes changer and time traveller touch-up device. Lets not be square, play along with the gag and we'll enjoy the show more.
You'll recognize many of the cast. James Darren of course was the teenage heartthrob of the early '60s as Gidget's boyfriend. Sci-fi stalwarts Whit Bissel and John Zaremba reprise familiar characters. And Lee Meriwether adds some nice eye candy as the comely and brainy project scientist.
For its time, the Tunnel featured some nifty gadgets, although some of them were borrowed for/from and used in contemporary shows like Batman and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Those ancient mainframe-style computer banks look awfully familiar from different shows. But, hey, this was the '60s, and those were pretty modern back then. The Tunnel itself was quite striking, appearing to fade off into infinity when activated thanks to the magic of matte art and decent camera work. I've heard that the show's producers originally tried for a "time vortex" effect, showing clips of stock film footage from different eras speeding by the viewer as the time travelers made another leap in time. But when they tried it the effect looked more like a blurry version of brown pea soup. So they opted for the pop-art Tunnel, with very nice results.
Overall, a good sci fi effort from the mid '60s, for those who remember such a time fondly.