Grand designs
Television, style and substance in The Time Tunnel
in Substance / style
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This chapter argues that the US science fiction adventure series The Time Tunnel (1966–7) is about television: about the capabilities of the medium, the experience of watching it and the technological apparatus that television comprises. Visually, the series often adopts a grandiose, excessive visual style, especially in the opening episode focused on here. Key images are characterised by a sense of scale and visual spectacle, and the format seems calculated to advertise the attractions of colour television and the episodic adventure narratives that television offered in the US in the mid-1960s. The opening episode introduces the viewer to a massive underground base hidden beneath an American desert, in which an extraordinarily costly government project is being secretly carried out. At the heart of this technological facility, a physical apparatus, the massive Time Tunnel itself, acts as a portal for the protagonists to move to any moment in the past or the future, though without control over their destination. This premise is a self-reflexive representation of what television can do, transporting its viewer to real or simulated places and times beyond his or her experience, and engaging the viewer in thrilling narratives of exploration and peril. The style of the series, I suggest, articulates the substance of what television might be.

Substance / style

Moments in television


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