Irwin Allen spent close to a million dollars on the Time Tunnel pilot

No expense was spared for the sci-fi set.

If you had your own time tunnel, would you use it to check out the Time Tunnel set? If so, you might just find yourself a little bit overwhelmed by the gadgetry in the laboratory. After you step through the smoke that surely billows out of a time machine, you'll be surrounded by computers, monitors, time-warp machines, and all matter of things that blink, buzz, and glow. 

In 1966, ABC gave Oakland Tribune writer Bob MacKenzie a tour through the physical sets that were built to film The Time Tunnel. An unnamed publicity representative guided MacKenzie through the expensive practical effects that made up the laboratory. 

"That's a hundred thousand dollars' worth of stuff there," the ABC rep told MacKenzie, pointing out all sorts of pseudoscientific, but believable-looking machines. The pair passed a giant computer tower, "designed like the huge telephone company circuits," (or at least what those looked like in 1966). "They are real," said the guide, "Those circuits really work. We'd never be able to get fake machines to make those patterns of lights."

Irwin Allen, the producer of the series, spared no expense in creating a world that was as magnificent as it was convincing. He had the budget; Allen was the creator-producer of shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space.  

"Irwin Allen spent nearly a million dollars on the pilot alone," said the ABC representative. 

MacKenzie was also able to speak to Robert Colbert, who played The Time Tunnel's Dr. Douglas Phillips.

"It's to be a fantastic show," said Colbert. "It's science fiction, believable because the special effects are so beautifully done. You know, the time tunnel is supposed to be a top-secret government project, with a fantastic underground factory going down 100 stories into the heart. Through the genius of these special effects men, you'll be able to see down into this incredible underground city and see men and cars moving on different levels. It's amazing."

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33 Comments

Snickers 10 months ago
Always wondered why they couldn't bring back Doug and Tony but managed to bring a Indian, a devils island inmate, a pirate and a cowboy but not Doug and Tony.
ColorTVisapassingfad 10 months ago
Irwin Allen's shows always came on with high production values and good scripts but got cheesy very fast. He seemed more interested in quantity over quality.
BenSobeleone 10 months ago
Of all the Irwin Allen shows, I like The Time Tunnel the best!
Snickers BenSobeleone 10 months ago
Fan of Lost In Space until they brought in the talking carrot. Land of The Giants wasn't bad and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea had it's good episodes. Liked Time Tunnel at first but when the stories were about aliens trying to take over earth or steal our oxygen I was done.
BenSobeleone Snickers 10 months ago
I like the black and white episodes and some of the color episodes of Lost and Space. Warren Oates was the first guest star. Season 1, episode 6: "Welcome Stranger." He played US astronaut Jimmy Hapgood. They could've done a spin-off with Hapgood. A few nights ago, I watched the black and white episode "The Sky Pirate" with Albert Salmi as Captain Alonzo P. Tucker, another character from Earth. That was a good episode. They brought him back for another episode shot in color.
Snickers BenSobeleone 10 months ago
I remember the episode with Warren Oates. And didn't Captain Tucker have a robot parrot?
BenSobeleone Snickers 10 months ago
That's right, he did.
Pacificsun 10 months ago
My original impression of using "time travel" as a convenient trope, made the story kind of cluegy. In other words, every visitor (or plot) started with trying to prevent Lincoln's assassination. So it wasn't much fun already knowing the outcome. And the angst was kind of pointless. But Quantum Leap really turned around that premise. By focusing on the heart and soul of people. And by doing that, the stories alternated between imagination, humor, pathos and adventure. By widening the storytelling, gave it more depth. I've not been able to warm up to TTT. IA, certainly a genius in foreseeing a premise (possibility) fell a little short on characters (except LIS). And there, he got lucky because of such identifiable (theatrical) personalities who "imagined" those characters to life! A viewer really has to watch Voyage, continuously, to recognize those supporting characters, better. I don't think it would've lasted without RB and DH.
MrsPhilHarris 10 months ago
Haven’t seen The Time Tunnel for years. Would like to though.
BenSobeleone MrsPhilHarris 10 months ago
It's on the late Saturday night schedule of MeTV. You can check the schedule with your time zone and set the timer on your VCR, DVD recorder, DVR or TiVo whatever ya got. Good show. It's on for an hour.
MrsPhilHarris BenSobeleone 10 months ago
I didn’t realize it was part of Sci-Fi Saturday Night.
GOOSEYGOOSE9 10 months ago
Please ask ABC 20th century fox television distribution to buy 4 unaired pilots
Voyage to the bottom of the sea unaired color pilot
Lost in space unaired pilot
The time tunnel unaired pilot
Land of the giants unaired pilot
Please show TV movie time travelers
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Pacificsun cperrynaples 10 months ago
If Disney has it's fingers on it, they'll never see the light of day.
Bricat2001 Pacificsun 10 months ago
and thats sad, too many hollywood hoarders :(
Mike Pacificsun 10 months ago
CBS/Paramount DOES own the Mannix pilot; you can find it in the Mannix DVD set (which I own, which is how I know).
Pacificsun Mike 10 months ago
Wow. You have the whole set? Does the pilot look & feel the same?
Bapa1 10 months ago
Always liked Time Tunnel. I read that one of the main reasons it was cancelled was not because of the ratings (which were good, but not great) but because of the cost of producing it. One thing I did notice, during the course of the season, especially during the later part, utilized a lot of Alien stories. Writers running out of ideas?
Bapa1 10 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Cougar90 Bapa1 10 months ago
What I read in the late sci-fi film magazine STARLOG, was that there was a turf war between people in charge of programming at ABC. One guy won and to get back at the losing side he cancelled all the show they greenlit.
Cougar90 Cougar90 10 months ago
It should be "all the shows they greenlit."
A lot of shows were using historical figures back then, even Bewitched. Star Trek and I Dream of Jeannie. Hollywood is a small town and these people all went to the same parties.
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Irwin Allen spent close to a million dollars on the Time Tunnel pilot
"No expense was spared."

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Great article. Thankfully Irwin Allen wished to give his productions the air of believe-ability.
His style, legacy is surely not forgotten, many years later.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 10 months ago
In my case, being too vague about something, isn't very informative, granted. But in looking up some trivia about another under water adventure. Came across a site featuring a specialty craft (business) famous for producing meticulous replicas of sea-crafts (incl: submarines). The site shows pictures of the replicas themselves, and also as they appear in a movie or a series. And they are indistinguishable. Their skills are very well regarded, and as I read it. It seemed every production on need of that service, used them. Some day I'll relocate that link!!
MichaelPowers 10 months ago
According to The Time Tunnel: A History of the Television Program by Martin Grams, JR., The total cost of the show's pilot, "Rendezvous With Yesterday" (September 9, 1966), came in at $575,920. Irwin Allen's pilot for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was $292,639, and Lost In Space was $395,170. Voyage was able to take advantage of the fact that its sets and miniatures of the Seaview were reused from the 1961 feature film of the same name.

While I enjoyed TTT as a kid, I can now see how problematical it is as an adult. Allen did not give a darn about historical accuracy for the series according to the scriptwriters. That's rather a big darn deal if your series involves time travel throughout history. Allen was a true believer of never letting the truth get in the way of a story.
Was that in 1966 dollars? If so, the factor to today's dollars is 9.43 making it 5,430,925.60
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