The name Irwin Allen often brings to mind movies like The Lost World (1960) The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974). However, he also produced and/or wrote a number of 1960 science fiction television programs.
Four of them were Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was actually first a major motion picture released in 1961. It was written, directed and produced by Allen.
The TV series started in 1964 and continued until 1968 on ABC, with 110 episodes being produced. The program followed the adventures of the crew of a futuristic submarine called the Seaview.
Early episodes had many stories involving Cold War and espionage themes. Later episodes brought in more "monster" themed stories. It was an exciting program with good special effects for the era, and starred Richard Basehart as Admiral Harriman Nelson.
Lost in Space ran from 1965 to 1968 on CBS with 83 episodes being produced. The earth is overpopulated and the Robinson family is selected to go to another planet to start a colony where humans can then settle. However, the crew becomes lost in space and must continuously battle hostile aliens and other threats to survive.
Major characters included:
- the commander of the expedition, Professor John Robinson (played by Gary Williams of TV's Zorro)
Robinson's wife, biochemist Maureen Robinson (played by June Lockhart of TV's Lassie)
- the Jupiter 2 spacecraft's pilot, Major Don West (played by Mark Goddard)
the Robinson children Judy (Marta Kristen), Penny (Angela Cartwright), and Will (Bill Mumy)
Doctor Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), an enemy agent who tries to sabotage the mission and ends up trapped on the ship with the crew.
- The Robot (performed Bob May)
A motion picture version, also titled Lost in Space, was released in 1998.
The Time Tunnel ran on ABC from September 1966 to April 1967 with 30 episodes being produced.
This series concerned a top secret U.S. government effort to build a time machine known as the Time Tunnel. However, the system was not fully developed and two scientists become trapped in other times, both past and present.
James Darren (pop star singer and co-star of the 1959 Sandra Dee film Gidget) played one of the scientists, Dr. Tony Newman. Robert Colbert played the other, Dr. Doug Phillips. Meanwhile, Army Lt. General Heywood Kirk (played by Whit Bissel) and Dr. Ann MacGregor (played by Lee Meriwether) were both back in present time trying to bring the men back
Newman and Phillips tried to warn people in past history about impending events and sometimes tried to stop the events from occurring. Among the places they ended up were the Alamo, on the Titanic and on the volcano Krakatoa before its eruption. They also landed in future worlds. Each episode ended with the opening to the next episode. Because the show was short-lived, the two men never got back to modern time.
Land of the Giants ran for 51 episodes from 1968 to 1970. This science fiction series followed the crew and passengers of a sub-orbital aircraft (called the Spindrift) that gets pulled into a space warp. The people become stuck in a world where all life forms, both human and animal are huge in comparison to themselves.
Gary Conway starred as Captain Steve Burton. Other stars included Don Marshall as Dan Erickson, Don Matheson as Mark Wilson, Stefan Arngrim as Barry Lockridge and Deanna Lund as Valerie Scott.
Land of the Giants was the most expensive show of its time.
All four of these Irwin Allen programs provided great escapism and adventure. And three of the four (Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants) featured theme music by John Williams, the same man who later became famous for his music in such blockbuster films as Star Wars, Jaws, ET, Jurassic Park and Schindler's List.
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