Well, my time traveling friends, this is it. Episode 30, the final installment in The Time Tunnel’s one and only season. Let’s see what’s in store for us, shall we?
We open with our heroes falling into what looks like a rustic building’s basement, chock full of fancy and futuristic-looking machines. Tony (James Darren) and Doug (Robert Colbert) are so busy gaping at the blinking lights and other doodads, they don’t see the guy sneaking up behind them.
The sneaker-upper attacks with a bull whip, but Doug and Tony are seasoned fighters after 30 episodes brawling with Roman Centurions, marauding gunslingers, and the like, so they quickly take him down. What they don’t expect is for the guy to fall down dead. Shocked, they rush up the stairs to go for help, only to see the guy get up.
“He’s a walking dead man,” Tony breathes, providing some future TV showrunner with a dandy title for the project they’ll pitch when they grow up.
The zombie shambles across the room, flips a switch and presses a button then ka-blam disappears! For once in their chaotic journey through time, our boys don’t try to figure it out. They book it out of there, passing through a mad scientist’s lab into the homey parlor of a “small town hotel,” as Tony puts it, beyond confused.
Doug bangs on the desk bell and an older woman in an apron pops around the corner. “You don’t have to raise the dead, young man,” she chides, asking if our guys have stopped by looking for rooms or vittles. I’d jump at the chance for vittles since constantly kaleidoscoping through time must build an appetite, but Doug and Tony get right to the point, telling her there’s an entire space shuttle launch control room in her basement.
“Poppycock,” she retorts, tossing in a withering sneer. This snarky, snooty, and shady character is expertly rendered by Mabel Albertson, actress known for playing judgmental, tut-tutting old biddies like Darrin Stephens’s complaining mother on Bewitched.
True to sneering form, she takes great pleasure in bringing our guys into what they thought was a lab, now a pantry. Before they can utter WTF? she bops them on the head, freezing them, then morphs into… Well, I’m not quite sure what. Some kind of purple-headed creature with Lisa Simpson spiked hair and wearing a black cape stolen from The Phantom of the Opera.
We check in with Tic-Toc command. Our core cast, Dr. Raymond Swain (John Zaremba), General Heywood Kirk (Whit Bissell), and Dr. Ann MacGregor (Lee Meriwether), are trying to hold the signal but getting interference. They ramp up the power, going for a lateral space transfer (whatever that is).
Cut to a purple-head alien, operating his own control board. He’s Andro-1 (the voice of Bart LaRue, one of Irwin Allen’s regulars) and he calls Andro-Leader (Vincent Beck), who’s hanging out in a spaceship far above Earth. Andro-1 reports Tony and Doug had penetrated their security defenses. “I’m aware of that,” Andro-Leader sniffs, then runs through the plot before signing off – the aliens are going to drain Earth’s atmosphere of oxygen in 8 hours, and everything better go smoothly or purple heads will roll.
Team Tic-Toc’s ready for the transfer. Dr. Ann announces the interference will make it impossible to quantum leap our guys more than a few feet. It’s enough to unfreeze Tony and Doug, but they’re unable to escape the locked room. Tough luck, because Andro-1 has received orders to eliminate them both.
The sound of what the guys think is gas hissing alerts them to the danger, but though they try to smash the window and force both doors, they’re trapped. As they weaken, Tony and Doug figure out it’s not gas killing them – the aliens are draining the hermetically sealed room of oxygen. Oh no!
Desperate, Tony and Doug grab a heavy metal shelf off a table, sending beakers and other glassware crashing to the floor, and apply it directly to the window, breaking through to freedom. Andro-1 sends out an alert to all alien personnel to find our heroes – and kill them!
Now free, our heroes skulk through the backlot version of a New England seaport town. “There’s not a sign of life,” Tony notes, taking in the creepy setting. An alarm wails, like a high-pitched foghorn, which is even creepier. Tony and Doug dash across the boardwalk and the camera pans to a frightened young couple cowering behind a stone wall.
The couple, Pete (Gary Haynes) and Joan (Heather Young), have been unable to escape Creepytown. They duck when two zombie townsmen race past their hiding place, chasing after Tony and Doug. The couple decides to follow, thinking our heroes might be non-zombies like them and can help.
The zombie-townsmen chase Tony and Doug to the edge of town and directly into an electrified force field. Though dazed from their shocking experience our guys have enough strength to knock out their pursuers, who transform into purple-head aliens and promptly disappear (Why?).
While Tony and Doug try to figure out what’s going on and Pete and Joan stalk them, Andro-Leader is warning his underlings Earth’s oxygen must be ready to teleport to their planet in 20 minutes “or it’ll be too late.” For what, he doesn’t explain.
Doug and Tony run down the Creepytown’s deserted Main Street. They enter Town Hall, where they find several townspeople frozen like statues. Putting the pieces together, they figure out the aliens are inhabiting the humans’ bodies and using them for some nefarious purpose.
Pete and Joan come into the town hall and meet up with our guys. The two couples compare notes and lots of info is revealed, including the plot to drain Earth’s oxygen and the fact that the year is 1978, which I’m not buying – there’s a decided lack of polyester and leisure suits adorning this crowd.
The gang cooks up a plan to stop the aliens. “We need weapons, guns, and dynamite,” Doug says. Pete says all of those things can be found at the General Store (because, why not?). The quartet rushes to the store. The shrilling foghorn/alarm sound that follows them can only mean on thing – the purple-head aliens are on the hunt for them.
Team Tic-Toc is hard at work doing something that’s bound to fail since it’s only halfway through the episode. A curly-haired extra gets his 5 seconds of fame as he plunks down at a desk to work on some calculations or write a letter to his French pen pal. A purple-head pops in behind him, extends his arm, points a shaking hand like the Ghost of Christmas Future and zombies his victim.
Curly-haired extra takes the doodad the alien has left behind and hides in one of the control panels, unseen by the core cast and the dozens of extras loitering on set pretending to push buttons and flip switches. The extra returns to the desk, alien pops in again to de-zombify the sucker, then vanishes. And the extra is never seen again.
Suddenly, all communications are down, all exits are mysteriously sealed, and Dr. Ann is feeling faint. She slumps in her chair. Gen. Kirk goes all fatherly and fusses over her, though she brushes him off with a stoic, “I’m fine.”
Soon, everyone’s caught whatever she has (wear a mask, people!), and they’re all droopy. Kirk is stumbling around. Dr. Swain is half asleep. It takes some mental gymnastics, but the Tic-Toc gang finally figures out what’s happening – their oxygen is being sucked into the Time Tunnel!
At the general store, Tony and Doug are bagging up the dynamite. They call out to Gen. Kirk trying to establish communication, to see what the Tic-Toc’ers know about the aliens. And we thought the aliens were weird, Joan and Pete think, eyeballing our guys with “what are they smoking?” confusion.
Doug and Tony notice the young couple slinking away in terror and chase them down. Pete threatens them with a prop anchor, accusing our heroes of “talking with them.” Hasty explanations ensue, mostly unconvincing, because, come on, a tunnel through time?
Pete drops the anchor and he and Joan book it. Tony’s ready to give chase, but Doug’s all, “Let ’em go, we’ve got dynamite to pilfer and an explosion to plan.” A purple-head pops into the store and zombifies a plaid-clad townsman, who attacks our guys but is quickly defeated then disappears (again, why?). The guys grab their loot and head out to do whatever they planned to do several scenes ago that I’ve forgotten.
Meanwhile, Pete and Joan walk straight into the clutches of one of the aliens. He zombifies Pete, but Joan manages to escape, with purple-head in hot pursuit. Cut to the Alien-Leader announcing that Operation Air Drain is underway and soon, all of Earth will be O2-free.
The scene is dire at central command. Kirk circles the control room, telling everyone to get down on the floor so they won’t have far to fall when they asphyxiate. Haha, no. He uses up precious air supply to explain that oxygen is heavy, and everyone will breathe better closer to the ground.
He grabs a microphone and calls out to Tony and Doug. Though he’s gasping for breath, he launches into a windy explanation of how the Time Tunnel is locked into 1978 and losing oxygen too.
We check in on Joan, shrieking and cowering from a purple-head at the Clam Shack. Our heroes race to her rescue, taking the alien out with a swift kick to the solar plexus. The alien disappears (why, why, why?), then reappears moments later – with a twin! Another fight, ending with the twins defeated and Tony, Doug, and Joan on the run.
A thunderstorm kicks up, caused by the oxygen-draining low pressure. The trio struggles to find a safe place to hide, struggling for breath too, intercut with Kirk falling to the control room floor, gasping like a guppy out of water.
Tony and Doug shove a terrified Joan into a storeroom and abandon her, er, I mean, leave her there for her safety, then push back into the storm with the dynamite, heading for the hotel/alien lab to plant the dynamite charges. Though suspenseful music plays, no amount of soaring trumpets, trombones, and flute thrown in for good measure, can make this tension-free scene exciting.
Meanwhile, Pete – remember Pete? – meanders around the docks, shouting for Joan. She stupidly opens the storeroom door and lets him in. Some hugging and snuggling occurs as Pete tries to convince her he hasn’t been zombified, but as soon as she reveals Tony and Doug’s plan to blow up the purple-head’s Operation Vacu Suck facility, his inner-alien comes out and he freezes her. Tsk, tsk. And here I thought he was such a nice boy.
Back at the hotel/lab, Tony and Doug are taking their sweet time planting the explosives. They’re caught by Andro-1, who morphs back into the grandmotherly hotel owner just as Tony busts out the karate chop action. He runs away before he can be charged with elder abuse.
Zombie Pete shows up and fakes that he’s in trouble. Doug’s not falling for that booshwa. He aims a karate chop Tony would envy at Pete and down he goes. He disappears (for pity’s sake, why?). That’s the good news. The bad news is, Tony’s been set upon by Andro-1 and is now running around the basement lab, shouting for Doug (how big is this lab, anyway?)
Doug’s quandary: is Tony real, or is he Memorex…I mean, an alien? Only one way to find out. Doug does something he’s probably been wanting to do since Tony foolishly ran into the Time Tunnel and got both of them enmeshed in this ridiculous quantum leap through time – he belts him. Tony falls, stunned and a little hurt that his bestie walloped him like that, but he doesn’t disappear, proving he’s not an alien (I guess that’s why!).
Our guys rush out of the hotel as the dynamite goes kaboom! They hurry back to Joan, who is now unfrozen. And so is everyone else in the town and at Tic-Toc command. Kirk and the others pull themselves off the floor, finally able to breathe again. Dr. Ann has questions, but Kirk puts her off with an It’s complicated, then tells everyone to hit the showers.
In Creepytown, the citizens are wandering around, looking dazed. Joan and Pete have a kissy-faced reunion (how Pete didn’t get blowed up real good in the hotel/lab explosion, I suppose we’ll never know). Tony and Doug give themselves a “job well done,” pat on the back before they blink out of sight.
The end. Or is it? A quick trip through the Time Tunnel kaleidoscope and our guys land back on the Titanic, where it all started 30 episodes ago. Are Tony and Doug trapped in an eternal time loop, or just a preview of next week’s (rerun) episode?
Next Time: I’ll discuss those questions and more in my Time Tunnel wrap-up, cleverly titled: EPILOG. Stay tuned!