8 time-defying tidbits about 'The Time Tunnel'

You don't have to go back in time to learn more about this cult classic.

It may have been short lived, but it was certainly beloved by many. Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel only lasted one season in the late 1960s, but it's left its mark on pop culture as one of the best examples of a plot where people travel through time. 

The series revolves around Project Tic-Toc, an expensive — and top secret — U.S. government program funded to build a time machine. When the funding is threatened, the directors of the project jump into the Time Tunnel to save the project. From there, they bounce between some of the most important historical events, from the sinking of the Titanic to the Battle of the Alamo. 

The plot of The Time Tunnel and the real-life story behind the show have some overlapping elements — aside from the time travel, of course. Time travel is not real. That being said, let's buckle up and go back to 1966…

1. It's Irwin Allen's shortest-lived series.

In the 1966, Irwin Allen was one of the biggest names in television. He had already pioneered science-fiction hits like Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, so he decided to put another program on the air. Compared to the multiple season runs of his other shows, including the subsequent Land of the Giants, the 30-episode arc of The Time Tunnel makes it his shortest-lived series. 

Image: Wikipedia

2. It was almost renewed for a second season.

Just like Project Tic-Toc, The Time Tunnel had a pretty hefty budget. It was rumored to be the most expensive series on television at the time. Although the show was critically acclaimed, the ratings were too low to justify such a massive budget. TV executives told Allen they would renew the show only if he cut the budget by one third. Allen refused, and the show was canceled.

3. The replacement didn't fare much better.

The Legend of Custer went on to replace The Time Tunnel on Friday nights, but the new series only lasted 17 episodes. Ironically, an episode of the sci-fi series took place during the Battle of Little Bighorn, a.k.a. Custer's Last Stand. 

Image: ABC

4. It recycled props.

If viewers squinted hard enough, they could see props from other shows were being used in The Time Tunnel. The program borrowed from Allen's other shows in the 1960s, and even Batman. 

5. John Williams composed the theme song.

Today we know John Williams as the legendary composer who's been nominated for more Academy Awards than anyone except Walt Disney. Back in 1966, he was known as "Johnny" Williams and composed the opening theme for many of Irwin's television programs, including The Time Tunnel. 

Image: AP Photo/Charles Miller

6. It was used by teachers.

Actress Lee Meriwether revealed the cast received a lot of fan mail from teachers who said they used the show to stimulate an interest in history with their students.

7. There are some historical inaccuracies.

In the premiere episode that has Tony and Doug going back to the night the RMS Titanic sunk, the show says the captain's name is "Malcolm." Historically, the captain's name was Edward Smith. The show also missed some important dates in history by a day or two. 

8. It was almost remade 18 years ago.

Despite only lasting one season, The Time Tunnel became a cult classic. In 2002, network execs decided to produce a pilot episode for a slightly darker remake in which a time storm altered everyone's present and future. Alas, the pilot wasn't picked up.

Image: YouTube

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johnmacn 30 months ago
The penchant for dark more sinister versions of old classics is an insult to the great stories that they represent. I have tuned out and turned of the modern garbage that has a dark theme to it. Good Story telling has been lost in recent decades.
Marcelo johnmacn 24 months ago
The modern version of Time Tunnel was a worthy effort. It's was a pity that it wasn't picked up.
MickeyGoins Marcelo 22 months ago
I think the feeling was that it was too similar to Sliders which was still on at the time.
Bob 49 months ago
Another great show from my childhood. This was a favorite. I remember watching a couple of episodes of Custer, too.
HerbF 49 months ago
It's worth noting that another factor in ABC not picking up THE TIME TUNNEL was a change in senior management at ABC - which were the ones that cut the budget, and were the ones who almost cancelled BATMAN. Although they did pick up LAND OF THE GIANTS the FOLLOWING season (1968-1969 After the 4-year run of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) Irwin pitched that series as early as 1967, a year before a pick-up.

Irwin Felt bad about the show's abrupt Cancellation and made sure to cast many of the TIME TUNNEL cast in future projects - cast members turn up in guest spots in LAND OF THE GIANTS, The TV Movie (unsold pilot) to CITY BENEATH THE SEA (Robert Colbert was the co-star) to even SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON!
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