In 1976, there's an outbreak of a disease that no one has seen before. All what they know is that resembles a disease that existed at around 1871 in Chicago, and that a Dr. Henderson was able to save most of his patients but the Chicago Fire destroyed his records. Dr. Earnshaw the doctor looking for a cure was approached by a man, Jeffrey Adams, who believes that he could help him. It seems that a Dr. Amos Cummings has perfected the art of time travel, and the plan is for Earnshaw and Adams to go back to 1871 and learn how Henderson cured his patients. But a glitch in the machine's computers sends them the day before the fire not four days as intended. And when they meet Henderson, he says he doesn't know how his patients survive. So they go throw his papers and analyze what he uses to treat them to find out.Written by
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" series.
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.
22 of 25 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this