Who’d a thunk an episode with our handsome heroes, Tony (James Darren) and Doug (Robert Colbert), battling bug-eyed creatures from Outer Space during the battle of Khartoum would be so tedious? Not me, and yet…
We open with our guys dumped in a rocky terrain in the middle of a scene from the 1966 film Khartoum. They’re chased by the entirety of Mahdist Sudan’s forces (three guys) and a donnybrook ensues. Tony and Doug hold their own, but it’s only with the arrival of some British troops that they break free.
Our guys run away – right into the threatening ray gun of a bug-eyed, fish-headed creature who looks like he took a wrong turn on his way to a cantina in Mos Eisley.
“What are you?” Doug demands, amazed and terrified.
“What we are does not matter,” Mr. Fish Head says in perfect English. “We are here to destroy you.” And he proves that by pushing them toward a nearby cliff.
Cut to Tic-Toc control and our core cast, Dr. Raymond Swain (John Zaremba), General Heywood Kirk (Whit Bissell), and Dr. Ann MacGregor (Lee Meriwether), watching this drama. After last episode’s excitement and teensy bit of character development for Dr. Ann, she’s back in her uncomfortable chair and her usual routine of flipping switches and spinning dials – and worrying about Tony and Doug’s safety.
“They’re going to kill them!” she laments. Not on my watch Gen. Kirk grits and orders Dr. Swain to quantum leap our guys away from the cliff as soon as he can.
A nanosecond before our guys are forced over the cliff edge, a disembodied voice rings out, ordering Bug Eyes to stop. It’s the alien leader (Kevin Hagen, who surely had bigger dreams for his career than this) and he demands his minions bring Tony and Doug to him.
Our guys mop their brows in relief, and so does Team Tic-Toc. They try to jump our heroes out of there but – KABLAM! – the console explodes. And what caused this malfunction, besides the console being a hunk of junk that blows up every episode? The alien leader pops onto the Time Tunnelvision to take full credit.
The leader, who has completely human eyes for some reason, warns our core cast not to attempt to move Tony and Doug or try to interfere with his nefarious plans in the next two hours. If they do, they will be destroyed! When Kirk demands to know why, the leader growls, “There is no time for your infantile questions” and disappears. Grr, I hate that line in all its forms. In the time it takes to say there’s no time to explain, you could at least drop a Cliff Notes summary of what you’re up to.
Team Tic-Toc scrambles to figure out a way to interfere with the aliens despite being expressly told not to. The only thing they discover is the time period and location – 1883, the Sudan.
“But those creatures didn’t exist in that time period,” Dr. Swain says in astonishment. Pretty sure those creatures didn’t exist in any time period, Doc.
Cut to 1883. Tony and Doug are taken to the aliens’ honeycomb hideout, a cave in a mountainside guarded by a deadly force field (actually, a couple of super-shiny satellite dishes). Our guys are surrounded by bug-eyed dudes and a horde of green-clad Morlocks or mole people or whatever, who slither out of nowhere.
Tony and Doug meet the leader, who, surprisingly, has time to answer their questions. “I come from the planet Tourista (sp.?) and I’ve been assigned to conquer your Earth,” he says, like he’s announcing that the quarterly sales reports will be available soon. What he doesn’t explain is why he has a pair of fine baby blues instead of bug eyes. And who the heck are the mole people?
The leader gives the guys a tour of his weapons room, noting that his quest to conquer earth is a test, a game, like Cards Against Humanity, only with real humanity.
“Whether humans live or die is of no concern to me,” the leader says. “I only care how you can serve me.” He’d be more sinister if he didn’t look so uncomfortable in his fish/fly head piece that must weigh 200 pounds.
The leader then decides Tony will die by sending him out into the desert with no water. Doug will live, but not for long, as he’s shoved into a mind-reading machine called “the extractor,” which looks like a life size version of Operation. The leader tells Doug he intends to extract all the secrets of the Time Tunnel from his pretty little head.
At central command, Kirk is in a snit, demanding to know how long it will take to fix the console. Swain and Dr. Ann and a couple of extras are hard at work, but I have to wonder – why no backup console? I mean, this facility has 700 floors. Are you telling me there’s not one single other console anywhere in the building? Not even forgotten in a storage room somewhere with that Lost Ark and Citizen Kane’s Rosebud?
Anyway, Dr. Ann has figured out Doug and Tony have landed in Khartoum on the date of the biggest conflict in the Sudan war for independence from Egypt, a British colony at the time.
“What in blazes can that have to do with the mess Tony and Doug are in?” Kirk grumbles. Exactly the question. My humble answer is the showrunners planned a straightforward historical episode. Then a little show about a star trek that premiered the same time as Time Tunnel started to get a lot of buzz and the producers were all, Aliens! All the time! Thus, the bug-eyed creatures from Outer Space were born.
Back to the show… Tony, exiled to die in the desert, is captured by the entire British army (well, two guys), Captain Henderson (John Crawford, making his 4th appearance on the show) and his sergeant (Gil Perkins, a stuntman who appeared in over 200 movies and TV shows, including the original King Kong, mostly uncredited – so we’re crediting him here).
Henderson accuses Tony of being a spy (what, again?), and he knows this because Tony is disguised in “that ridiculous outfit.” Haha, it’s been a while since someone noticed his anachronistic turtleneck and Beatles boots!
The usual argument ensues, with Tony proclaiming his innocence and trying to warn the blustery captain his troops are about to be decimated by buggy fish heads from outer space… Well, maybe not the usual argument, but it falls on deaf ears.
Henderson wants to drag Tony to jail, but our guy talks him out of it, leading him instead to what the captain thinks is enemy HQ, but is really the aliens’ lair. Tony hopes the captain can help stop the buggy fish heads’ nefarious conquer-the-world plans.
Meanwhile, in the leader’s honeycomb hideout, Doug’s brain drain commences. Team Tic-Toc watches, frantic to free Doug before it’s too late. Some copious switch flipping and dial spinning and Doug vanishes!
Cut to Tony with the British dudes outside the cave. They’re convinced Tony’s feeding them a load of poppycock about the space aliens and time travelers, even when Doug materializes out of nowhere.
Doug bellies up to the Brits and is so pissed at their disbelief he loosens his tie. He hurls a rock and activates the force field with a rumbling explosion. “Hell-o. Who are those people?” Henderson asks when he suddenly notices the satellite dishes and mole people outside the cave.
Doug implores Henderson to marshal all his troops (all three of them) and destroy the aliens now. “It may be too late,” Tony says solemnly as the entire alien force (two bug-eyed fish heads) pours out of the cave.
The sergeant goes all hero and rushes the bug eyes, firing his pistol willy-nilly. He’s no match for the force field and gets blown up real good. “You were telling the truth,” Henderson says, stunned. “They are aliens!” Well, duh! He proposes they head to Khartoum for reinforcements.
At central command, Kirk’s sitting at his tiny desk, reading the Sporting News, when Dr. Ann says they’ve suddenly lost the ability to track our guys. Suddenly? Doesn’t she mean predictably?
Turns out, the leader’s back. He appears on the Time Tunnelvision, saying he’s messed with the team’s systems. He forbids the core cast from communicating with anyone about the aliens’ dastardly plan. And to show he’s serious, he sends a giant bomb/device into the control room!
“If you interfere again, you will be killed – immediately!” the leader intones and the screen goes dark.
Dr. Swain decides to test the “immediately” portion of the leader’s threat and instructs a colleague we’ve never seen before to check the bomb/device for radioactivity. I think the guy must be wearing a red shirt under his white lab coat, because he instantly gets blown up, real good. Goodbye, guy we’ve never seen before; you will be missed.
Things are grim in the control room. Dr. Ann can’t get any of the equipment to work. Dr. Swain fears they won’t be able to neutralize the bomb/device before it explodes. Kirk gets on the horn to Sgt. Jiggs in security (ah, Jiggs, you used to be a steady presence, a real badass, now reduced to a mere mention) and discovers all communication has been cut off. The team is on their own.
Back in the desert, our guys and Henderson are headed for Khartoum, an hour away, with no water. They run into a squadron of Brits, but before they can bum a ride, they’re in the middle of another movie scene battle.
The Tic-Toc’ers have called in the heavy guns to disarm the bomb/device – Dave, from the welding division. Even he and his soldering guns can’t break through. Kirk and Swain discuss options. Swain suggests attacking the honeycomb hideout with a reverse energy burst. “Could destroy all of us,” Kirk says. “Let’s do it!”
Some switch flipping and dial spinning later, the energy burst does some damage, but not enough. The leader comes onscreen again, warning them to knock it off or they’re all dead. Kirk orders Swain to cut the bug man off and wanders to his tiny desk to brood.
Cut to Khartoum, where our guys are helping Henderson man the defenses of a British/Egyptian-held fort, pretty seamlessly intercut with lots of action footage. This scene goes on for a while, with Henderson yelling at everyone to move their bloomin’ arses, until the Mahdist forces break through and a hand-to-hand battle ensues.
Tony and Doug realize the battle is lost and urge Henderson to flee with them. They scoop up some grenades on their way out the door, intending to use them to stop the aliens from destroying the world, or whatever their strange plan is.
The trio ride up to the aliens’ honeycomb hideout, ready to rumble. The mole men deploy the force field satellite dish lasers to an explosive effect. Dodging laser beams, Tony creeps close to the cave and lights a grenade. Before he can throw it, he’s tackled by some bug eyes guys and dragged inside the cave. Great, just when I thought this ridiculous episode was wrapping up.
Now Tony’s in the brain drain machine. The leader spins some dials and flips a switch. Tony’s all, if you can go ahead and leech the memory of this dull episode out of my head, that’d be great. Meanwhile, Doug and Henderson dispatch the mole men and the force field shields with a few carefully aimed grenades.
They rush inside and demand Tony be freed. The leader, being a sore loser, threatens to kill Tony rather than let him go. But wait, there’s more, he adds. In roughly three minutes (or, after the next commercial break) he will detonate a bomb and blow Team Tic-Toc to smithereens.
Doug connects to central command through intertemporal bellowing and learns from General Kirk that the bomb/device is about to go off. The connection is broken. Kirk is dejected and so is Dr. Swain, who informs Kirk “there’s no way we can stand against the aliens’ advanced weaponry.” Man, he’s a real downer this episode, but his pessimism gives the general an idea.
Kirk orders some extras to get the bomb thingie into the Time Tunnel. Dr. Ann flips a switch, Dr. Swain spins a dial. The device vanishes in a blast of electricity and smoke – only to reappear in the aliens’ hideout!
Total chaos next. Mole men and bug eyes guys attack. Henderson and the leader have a throw down. Doug frees Tony and they flee with the captain in the nick of time. The device blows up real good and the aliens are no more.
Doug eyes the flames shooting out of the caves. “It all seems like a horrible dream,” he says, a moment before he and Tony vanish, leaving Henderson blinking in confusion – and thinking the same thing.
Next Time: I’m afraid it’s The End for our time traveling time travelers – the final episode