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As a youngster, I was a fan of Irwin Allen's works. "Lost in Space" and
"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" were afterschool fixtures on New York
stations WNEW and WOR. To me as an adult, these shows don't hold up
well. "Voyage" in particular degenerated into episode after episode of
rubber-suited monsters, alien invaders, evil doubles and mind control
in the later seasons, due mostly to chief writer William Welch, who
also destroyed any semblance of logic in Allen's "The Time Tunnel"
Allen tried to revamp and revive that 1966 time travel series with this 1976 TV movie and pilot, going so far as bringing back Sam Groom as a cast member (he was a regular as the control room technician, Jerry). "Voyage" alumnus Richard Basehart likewise became a Special Guest Star. Trish Stewart later became better known to science fiction viewers as the female lead of "Salvage 1."
As it was, 1976 was a good year for television in general, and ABC reserved Friday nights for science fiction. In the doldrums before Star Wars burst onto the scene and changed the world, science fiction fans weren't very picky, but "Time Travelers" was surprisingly good. The acting wasn't Oscar caliber, but it was certainly serviceable. The plot actually made sense, unlike much of Allen's sci-fi. Also, unlike the Time Tunnel series and more recent shows, it didn't depend on a lot of action. No fistfights or car chases (or rather horse-drawn carriage chases) here. These men were thinkers, not fighters. Nevertheless, the story moves along at a snappy but not frenetic pace.
This was Allen at his best, a fine example of '70s vintage TV science fiction. There's little to no forced humor and precious little technobabble. Morton Stevens's theme is rather dated now, being very "mod" with synthesizers, but still somewhat catchy to those of us who don't care for today's bass-rich, melody-poor music.
Allen had a penchant for economizing, so there really wasn't much in the way of special effects here to distract from the story. Mostly fire footage recycled from the Fox film vaults. There were also the "modern" computers that reused panels of flashing lights, straight from the Irwin Allen warehouse. At least the set design in the period segment, with its ornate Victorian look, seems convincing enough to this layman's eyes.
As far as TV science fiction goes, you can do a lot worse. This is probably due in no small part to Rod Serling's original story. Alas, given Allen's track record, it's a foregone conclusion that this would have slipped very fast and far had the show been sold to a network. As it was, this was far superior to its ancestor, "The Time Tunnel," and also easily outshines Gene Roddenberry's failed TV pilots of the era, "Planet Earth," "Genesis II" and "Questor Tapes."
This movie was shown on the SciFi Channel occasionally, at least until recent years when the channel moved away from showing older movies. It's worth catching for anyone who's sick and tired of recent Star Trek and their "reset button" subgenre of time travel stories.
Update: This, along with the 2002 Time Tunnel pilot, is available on the last disc of the Time Tunnel series DVD box set. Finally, a chance for more people to see just how good this was.
Okay, Irwin Allen made this film after his enormous success of the Towering Inferno. It stands to me as a really good TV movie. the plot is some what strange, but you loose track of that after you really get into the movie. You watch it and are amazed at how fine the acting is. The characters are loosely based on the original Irwin Allen TV series the Time Tunnel (1966). I recently bought the series on DVD and was glad to see this was included, I can only hope that they will include other telefilms of Allens with the releasing of his other series on DVD. This film is watchable with the whole family and is worth watching.
This is actually a superior TV pilot coming from Irwin Allen, which is a big surprise. Allen is known to many sf fans as producing some of the most horrendous sf series ever to be broadcast.While his shows did have imaginative sets,fx, & good actors, they also had silly plots, little logic & no character development.Like some, I have fond memories of his series while growing up,but to sit through them as an adult is awful. Rod Serling was involved in the writing of this TV movie & that would explain the quality that comes through. And to Allen's credit, he did not tamper much with it creating a solid, intelligent story. For once. Time travel stories can be fun when dealing with the past because like the travelers, we know what is going to happen. We have knowledge that nobody else does from that era. The problem that crops up is that the accepted rule regarding time travel is that one should not tamper with past events.No matter how good the intentions are, they could spell disaster in the past & on through to the present timeline. I f that's the case do we want to watch the heroes go back in time each week only to have their hands tied? If they cannot take action for fear of altering events, then what can they do that would be of interest to the viewers? Standing by to only observe history unfolding without becoming a part of it would make for a dull series. But this movie manages to keep our interest with an intriguing plot. As a weekly show though, I doubt they could have kept it up.
Irwin Allen's "The Time Travelers" is a surprisingly good TV film. As
previously mentioned in other reviews, Allen's record with sci-fi might
lead the casual science fiction enthusiast to bypass this film. That,
however, would be a mistake.
Without going into too many details, the film's slow moving story about present day doctors (in 1976) seeking a cure for a deadly flu virus outbreak just prior to the 1871 Great Chicago Fire (believe me, that is not an insult) builds methodically to its satisfying, if not a bit predictable, conclusion.
Based on a Rod Serling tale, this is the stuff of old style SF that is sorely missed in a lot of today's productions.
The cast is top-notch. The four lead actors, actors Sam Groom (an alum from Allen's "The Time Tunnel," Trish Stewart *, Tom Hallick and especially Richard Basehart provide a warm, thought provoking charm to this small scale but involving tale. One of the nice touches are the bit roles filled by relatively unknown, but experienced actors one might recognize from many of the TV/film productions of the 1970s.
*Stewart played Jane Henderson-- in another review here mistakenly identified Francine York filling that role.
This reviewer highly recommends this small, somewhat obscure film. Fortunately, it can be found on the boxed DVD set to Allen's "Time Tunnel." Incidentally, on that same DVD is the 2002 filmed pilot, an attempt to revive "The Time Tunnel." It too, is VERY satisfying. It is really too bad this production didn't make it as a new TV series.
This time travel yarn was well done. The story was compelling and the acting was fine. Sam Groom (an alumnus of the Time Tunnel) plays a doctor drafted by the government to search for a cure to a flu virus that apparently had previously presented itself around the time of the Great Chicago Fire. Research indicated that a doctor (played by Richard Basehart) back then had cured scores of people but this cure was lost to time. (It was also good to see Basehart adding gravitas to the production.) The special effects were understated and the period clothing and sets were serviceable, both were believable. My only quibble with the show was that there did not seem to much to the time travel apparatus itself. There were a few computer flats with blinking lights and a room with a staircase that lead to the past. Adequate, but not awe inspiring like the Time Tunnel. The Time Tunnel set was massive in reality and also in the terms of the show. It created a true sense of wonder. Too bad they could not have married the two concepts. Good show nonetheless.
This is the second attempt by Irwin Allen to do a series about time travel. The only thing that would have been different about this proposed series is that the travelers wouldn't have been lost in time as they were in the "Time Tunnel". All in all this was a pretty decent show, too bad it never did make it to series. I would have loved to have seen what interesting stories they would have come up with.
I was really captivated by this wonderful pilot.
I am an enormous fan of the time travel genre, and intelligent sci-fi genre (not the cyber cowboy-cum-Star Wars-action-shoot-em-up kind of sci-fi)...and an avid fan of history and historical chronicles on film.
I should probably give credit where it is due, and that would be to ROD SERLING whose story was the solid germ which inspired this pilot/movie. We can't ever go wrong with SERLING, his was a great and yet in his time, woefully under-appreciated talent. Had the rest of the stories of this potential series been principally from his mind, I would venture to say it would have been a big hit.
I am so disappointed that it never went off the ground and I am perplexed at this fact after seeing this today. Another reviewer said that it would become dull eventually. I disagree vehemently. Was Quantum Leap dull? It was not and never jumped the shark! I am writing this just because the industry really needs to revisit this genre in a big way. We are bombarded all the time with time travel movies these days...and there must be a writer out there with deep knowledge of this genre and its foibles-to-avoid enough to make for intelligent television! We need MORE INTELLIGENT SCI-FI around. Not what the present SYFY garbage channel churns out in the past few years. SCI-FI is being DUMBED DOWN instead of lifting us up like the greatest OUTER LIMITS, TWILIGHT ZONE, OUT OF THE UNKNOWN, JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN, SCIENCE FICTION THEATER, TALES OF TOMORROW, ONE STEP BEYOND and a few others.
We need more INTELLIGENT TV, period! I recommend this movie for all ages.
This film was actually based on a story written by my father, author Charles W. Byrd, not Rod Serling. My father wrote the story in the late 1950s and it without his knowledge it ended up on ABC in 1976. Immediately upon seeing the film my father knew it was actually based on his original story. After some time (and litigation), a financial settlement was reached between ABC, Irwin Allen, and others and my father was given the rights to claim it as his work. Unfortunately, the film was never re-cut to include him as the creator of the story. In retrospect these events probably doomed the pilot from becoming a series. Its a shame my father was not given his due in creating this interesting and entertaining story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The "Time Travelers" appears to be a failed attempt by producer Irwin
Allen to revive his old "Time Tunnel" TV show in the 1970s. The plots
are very similarthough in this latter version there was no fancy
tunnel nor the facility that housed itit was more of a 'poor man's
version'. Now this is not to say that it's a bad film at allit's a
very good made for TV movie and I wish it had resulted in a new series.
In this film, two doctors from the present go back in time. The reason is not because of idle curiosity but because there is an outbreak of a deadly fever and doctors of 1975 are so far powerless to cure it. However, back just before the Great Chicago Fire, an obscure doctor did seem to have some success in treating this same illnessand these two men are determined to discover his secret (which had, incidentally, burned up with him in the fire.
Richard Basehart stars as this 19th century doctor and the rest of the cast was made up mostly of unknowns. The production values are decentabout what you'd expect for a made for TV film or pilot. Most importantly, the writing was quite goodwith an intriguing story, decent dialog and a few nice twists. While it's not brilliant or super-original, it is a nice look into what might have been had the film gotten the attention of the network big-wigs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Irwin Allen made one last attempt at a weekly sci-fi series, and used his premise of time travel (used in his 66-67 series "Time Tunnel") as the center piece. This movie was an attempt at a more serious show, as Allen's earlier sci-fi attempts (Lost in Space, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) were very juvenial. Time Travelers (this movie) looked to be far more adult, using time travel to find a cure for a modern day (in this case 1976) epidemic devouring New Orleans around Mardi Gras time. Apparently similar symptoms were reported and cured in 1871 in Chicago. All in depth records of the illness (Woods Fever) and the doctor involved (played by Richard Basehart) perished in the great Chicago fire. The two lead characters; played by Sam Groom and Tom Hallick (two very competent actors--I wonder what has become of them?) travel back to Chicago, but due to a computer glitch they return the day before (instead of the planned week before) the great fire. They frantically search to find Dr. Henderson (Basehart) and question him as to how he has cured his patients. Alas, the cure is found to be the wine that Dr. Henderson brews himself, but by that time the fire has broken out and has destroyed his supply at his home, save half a bottle a drunk patient leaves with. The bottle is found and Groom and Hallick return to modern day just as the fire is about to destroy their return portal. The movie touchingly ends with Hallick (at a cemetary in modern day Chicago) finding the graves of Dr. Henderson, and his niece (played by Francine York) who did infact die during the fire as the hospital they worked in exploded. It would have been interesting if ABC had picked up the show and if it could have stayed as of a high quality. The writing and direction were top notch. This movie remains to this day a favorite of mine.
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