8 time-travel television shows that time forgot

One of them only lasted four episodes!

Image: Everett Collection

Time travel has been shown so many different ways in movies and television. It can work just as well in serious dramas as it can in outrageous comedies. It is often used as a way to learn from our past or explore different futuristic scenarios.

Here are eight different shows that all featured time travel in some capacity and are now trapped in the dark void of forgotten TV history. Or maybe they just haven’t been thought about in a while.

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1. Captain Z-Ro (1951-1956)

Image: Everett Collection

“Somewhere in a remote, uncharted region of the planet called Earth stands the laboratory of Captain Z-Ro.” The title flashes onscreen and we know we’re in for an entertaining yet educational retro-futuristic adventure. Captain Z-Ro was a children’s program that originally aired on KRON-TV in San Francisco and KTTV in Los Angeles from 1951 to 1953. The show went national from 1955 to 1956. It was created by and starred Roy Steffens who later worked as an art director on shows like The Bionic Woman and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. The plot of each episode revolved around Captain Z-Ro and his teenage sidekick, Jet, going back in time to learn something about history or to fix something that had gone wrong. They met everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to Blackbeard to Genghis Khan. However, the real highlight of the show were the sets and costumes. Look at that helmet!

2. It’s About Time (1966-1967)

Image: Everett Collection

This science fiction comedy series was about two astronauts who travel faster than the speed of light and land back on earth thousands of years in the past. It was created by Sherwood Schwartz, known for Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Unlike his other successes, however, It’s About Time only lasted one season. The astronauts (played by Frank Aletter and Jack Mullaney) meet a cave-family and try to adapt to their new pre-historic life. The show steadily lost viewers as it went on and was retooled in January of 1967. The second half of the season saw the cave-family traveling with the astronauts back to the 1960s. While more familiar to the audience, the new setting didn’t help viewership and the show was not renewed for a second season.

3. The Lost Saucer (1975-1976)

Sid and Marty Krofft are known for their many outlandish and creative TV shows. The Lost Saucer is no exception. It involves two androids (including Jim Nabors!) from another planet (and also the year 2369) who take along a young boy and his babysitter after briefly landing on Earth. While trying to repair the damaged ship, the foursome encounters many different times both in the future and the past. The episodes usually had some sort of social commentary, like one where a future society has grown lazy because robots do all the work or another where people’s names have been replaced with numbers. Oh, and there’s also a Dorse, a half-dog, half-horse hybrid that’s really just a man in a furry dog suit with a fake horse head.

4. The Fantastic Journey (1977)

Image: Everett Collection

Considering it ran for only ten of a planned thirteen episodes in February 1977, you’d be forgiven for not remembering The Fantastic Journey. The show follows passengers on a ship that get transported to a mysterious island after sailing into the Bermuda triangle. On the island, they encounter, Varian, a man from the 23rd century who teaches them about their surroundings. He explains that people from the past, present and future get trapped on the island in different "time zones" which can only be explored via invisible gateways that teleport characters from one zone to the next. Sound a bit convoluted? Viewers thought so, too. The series was canceled before the last few episodes were even filmed.

5. Time Express (1979)

Image: Everett Collection

This extremely short-lived CBS series followed the format of popular shows The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Each episode followed guest stars as they boarded a train that could take them back in time. Their hosts for this journey were Jason and Margaret Winters played by real life couple Vincent Price and Carol Browne. The rest of the train crew rounded out the main cast. The show was created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, who previously had a hand in creating Charlie’s Angels and Mannix. The success of those previous efforts was not replicated, however. Time Express only aired four episodes.

6. The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980-1981)

Did you know Henry Winkler, Ron Howard and Donny Most all starred in a time-traveling Happy Days spin-off? If that doesn’t ring any bells, it’s probably because the show was a Saturday morning Hannah-Barbera cartoon. In it, Fonzie and the gang, including an anthropomorphic dog named Mr. Cool, meet a girl from the future. After fixing her time machine, the group gets trapped jumping between different time periods. The opening sequence for the show was narrated by Wolfman Jack, the famous gravely-voiced radio DJ. The series ran for two seasons with a total of 24 episodes. 

7. Voyagers! (1982-1983)

This early-Eighties fantasy series followed the adventures of Phineas Bogg and his kid sidekick, Jeffrey. Phineas used a wrist-watched sized device called an Omni to travel through history, making sure everything unfolded as it should. Phineas Bogg was played by Jon-Erik Hexum, who later died in a tragic accident on the set of his show Cover Up. Each episode of Voyagers! ended with a voice-over of Jeffrey encouraging kids to learn more about history by visiting their local library. Though well received, Voyagers! was canceled by NBC and replaced by a news program to compete with 60 Minutes.

8. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures (1992)

This seven-episode series was based on the 1989 movie starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, but it was also a replacement for an animated Bill and Ted television show originally produced by Hannah-Barbera. Fox ended the animated version in 1991 and recast the lead roles for a live-action series that aired in the summer of 1992. The premise of the show was the same as the movies: two slackers use a phone booth to travel through time and learn about history. Unfortunately, the show didn’t see the same success as the movies and was canceled after two months.

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gmccarthy 7 months ago
Please mention James Reynolds in Time Express. He is one of the stars on the soap Days of Our Lives. So excited to see him in that picture!
dojife 12 months ago
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DavidBartholomew 13 months ago
There are 4 writer theories about Time Travel

1) You cannot touch it. This is basic Voyagers.

2) If you touch it, you change YOUR time. Think about Star Trek, City on the Edge of Forever.

3) If you change time, you can't tell because that's what you will remember (Quantum Leap)

4) Doctor Who, You can change at will, except the Fixed Points
RogerClyneIsAGod 13 months ago
Now I need to see Time Express for the Vincent Price factor!

Also Voyagers was pretty good & I'd totally watch Fantastic Journey now. I remember seeing It's About Time on some channel if not on MeTV, maybe Antennae or another "oldies show" channel like that.
TCKirkham 13 months ago
"Fantastic Journey" was an awesome show, made me a lifelong fan of Jared Martin, continued my fan love of Ike Eisenmann, and I was sad to see it fail in just 13 weeks. And "The Lost Saucer" was silly but fun, and kind of had elements of other sci fi shows, most notably "Doctor Who", in it. The original 1970s version of the UK classic "The Tomorrow People" also had a time travel cycle which was awesome. And although not time travel, Nickelodeon made an attempt to launch a kidfriendly sci-fi show (long before the gawdawful "Marvin Marvin") in the 1980s, "UFO Kidnapped", which was done by TP creator Roger Price and populated by the cast of Price's hugely successful series "You Can't Do That on Television", in particular Klea Scott, Kevin Kubucheskie, and Alasdair Gillis, along with Les Lye. It never got past the one off pilot however, which Nickelodeon ran into the ground with multiple airings in 1983 and 1984...
Dwight 13 months ago
I remember seeing some of these, and thought they were good/enjoyable.

It would be nice to see some of them turn up on MeTV on Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night. Possibly on a rotating basis, given the short runs some of them had.
MrsP58 13 months ago
It's about time
It's about space
About two people
In the strangest place....

Really only one season?
Pacificsun MrsP58 13 months ago
Not quite, but here it is: https://youtu.be/r61HINDycZA
The song was better than the show.
Chloe MrsP58 3 months ago
The thing about one of the actors who played one of the astronauts, is that he was virtually a carbon copy of Gilligan.
Utzaake 13 months ago
3. The Lost Saucer was a Saturday morning program on ABC that also starred Laugh-In's Ruth Buzzi as the other android and Alice Playten as the babysitter. As for the Dorse, the writers obviously knew not to use the reverse (hog) for it was way too real to be fictional.
7. "Smart kids give me a pain." Besides going up against the monolithic 60 Minutes, Voyagers! also had some episodes start late because of long late-afternoon American Football Conference games spilling over into prime time. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1982/10/02/vivacious-voyagers/8389058f-2d9e-48ef-8285-0b0c5012a312/
DavidBartholomew 13 months ago
Time Express, with Vincent Price, was not a Love Boat style show! It was more Twilight Zone. A guest star would be taken back to a turning point in their life....high school prom, a parent's death, a missed bus. Given a chance to fix it, they would find that the other path might have been better, or worse, or just different. Then they would choose which life they wanted.
QazWiz DavidBartholomew 13 months ago
definitely 10% of Twilight Zone episodes did some "wish i could" variant ... Burgess Meredith breaking his glasses and Carol Burnett asking to return to the broke, unemployed but fun and klutzy life.... very memorable
DavidBartholomew 13 months ago
Voyagers was a favorite of mine. Bogg, the adult, was a slacker in Voyager Training, distracted by a cute blonde. So, he carries a text book with him so he can look up history as he tries to fix it. In the pilot, Jeffery 's dog takes the book, and jumps out the 3rd story window! Jeffery jumps out after the dog, Phineas after Jeffery, and as Phineas touches the other 2, he activates his OMNI, the time travel device. But the book is gone.

Jerry's parents were both History professors, and so he is a child history prodigy. Jeffery replaced the book, teaching Phineas about history.

The last 2 episodes were mind blowing. Phineas is on trial for screwing up the timeline, by taking Jeffery through time. Turns out Jeffery is actually destined to be a Voyager in the future!
Ric 13 months ago
Greetings. Yes, those shows were great. Time Travel interests me. Please don't forget: The Time Tunnel and Quantum Leap. This Site is Great!
djw1120 Ric 13 months ago
Quantum Leap was on some time ago - although, I wouldn't mind seeing it again.
I might even DVR it.
The Time Tunnel (made by the "Master of Disaster" Irwin Allen) is on Saturday nights at 4:00AM on MeTV - and I saved all 30 episodes on DVR.
dth1971 13 months ago
Not mentioned: For the final season of The Smurfs cartoon series on NBC in 1989-1990 it was a time travel theme.
JeanInTN 13 months ago
I remember It's About Time. I loved watching that show when I was a kid!
kitty19136 13 months ago
I wish you would play "Voyagers" I loved that show!
djw1120 kitty19136 13 months ago
i would love to see Voyagers! again too.
That was an excellent show.
A lot of the other shows I don't even recognize (Captain Z-Ro was made - and canceled - before I was even born, so I can be forgiven for not knowing that one).
MeTV, bring back Voyagers!
You can even get rid of "Stupid"-gan's Island to make space for it.
denny kitty19136 12 months ago
I watched it on Amazon Prime a few years ago.
bdettlingmetv 13 months ago
It's too bad the write-up for "The Lost Saucer" failed to mention the easily identifiable Ruth Buzzi as Nabors' costar. I read that she even recycled her Laugh-In "Gladys" character for the show.
Great characters; Fi and Fum.
Possibly. I do remember she and Arte taking them to a cartoon show,
Baggy Pants & The Nitwits.
Martin 13 months ago
Captain Z-Ro kind of looks like a forerunner to Doctor Who.
MrsPhilHarris 13 months ago
I would like to see some of those shows. A few look like fun.
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