ATTACK OF THE BARBARIANS
Writer: Robert Hamner
Could you fall asleep during an attack of barbarians? I couldn't, only because my attention kept wandering away from this episode, one which I really liked when I was younger. Back then, action was important and there was a bit of it in this episode or perhaps this is the one episode I missed when I was younger, therefore my imagination took over--and compared to the actual episode was much better. Anyhow, in my teens and the present, I became more interested in the real background to the historical figures presented. Therefore, most of the Tic Toc scenes which I couldn't wait to be over when I was a child, I relished--since these supposedly gave us more information about the time period. Well, they did point the way for anyone interested in finding out more about the time period from the library. Could this have happened? Well, as Ann says, "Information is sketchy," as many records of the Khan's great family are incomplete. I am sure with more digging I can find out if there really was a Sarit and if she was Kublai's only daughter in 1287. Marco Polo tells Doug that about 12 years ago he was in the service of the Khan. That is about right. Some research mentions Batu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, one of four that includes Kublai. The date I found for his death is 1255 and he lived from 1241 as Khan of his uncle's area--Karakorum, Mongolia until his death. He was said to have lived during these years in luxury (so he didn't need to be jealous of Kublai's riches) until his death in 1255 but perhaps history is wrong. Or THE TIME TUNNEL is. Of Sarit, I could find no information. I did find the fact that Marco Polo did transport a princess and met with a great deal of tragedy but he, his uncle, and the princess, the only three survivors of the troop, made it to Kublai's area--where the princess was to marry the son of Kublai Khan. Of the rest, more research is needed.
The story starts off with no narration, as the later episodes do not have the narration. It begins with the Tic Toc personnel watching Tony and Doug fly through the time vortex up on the scanner screen of the time tunnel itself. Kirk seriously tells Ann, "Refine your locator, Ann!" An interfering impulse causes the tunnel not to have a stable fix on Tony and Doug (there's a surprise). Both roll down a hill this time and witness some kind of battle going on (again!?). We also hear THE LAST WAGON action music as they see the battle. Finding a shield, Doug recalls it was a long time ago that he studied Oriental history. Tony wonders if they are in the time of Genghis Khan. Before they can find out, they have a fight with Mongols (of which Kublai's men are also)--a fight which ends with Doug knocked down and a Mongol standing over him with a sword (this is where the cliffhanger ended in the last episode THE DEATH MERCHANT ended). The teaser then continues until Doug saves himself from the sword wielder but another warrior keeps him knocked down and is about to kill him but Tony steps in and fights with them but he, too, is knocked down. End of Teaser.
Tony, awake, is taken to Batu who is played by Arthur Batanides with flair. He not only looks like a Mongol (unlike poor Paul Mantee and Vitina Marcus as Ambahai and Sarit) but he adds some depth of humor to the character. Almost no one else looks Oriental even in the most remote way. I like the way he picks littler Tony up after Tony is knocked down a second time. He thinks he is with Polo and when Tony cannot tell about him about some fort Polo is at, he stretches Tony on the rack. What no torture? Of course, this is THE TIME TUNNEL. Seriously, more suffering in store for the boys, mostly Tony this time out. Doug, having been taken as well but still unconscious, wakes up and saves him just before meeting Marco Polo (competently played by John Saxon). By this later episode, Doug had better be able to smooth things over with people of the past. I gave up on Tony being able to do that but Doug handles Polo and his questions well-with Polo telling Doug he is smooth and his words come too quickly. Later, he tells Doug he can touch him...as Tony can touch Sarit.(?) Huh? The dialogue gets really bogged down later on in the story as you can tell. Polo makes believe he is leaving Doug behind with Tony to face the Mongols alone but then reappears with his men, hiding on the Mongols, leaving Doug as bait. Marco kills two men--it is bloodless but still violent (as most Irwin Allen shows are--bloodless).
Back at the tunnel, Ann could not watch Tony on the rack, then blames herself when they lose the fix but Ray tells her it wasn't her fault. Their initial fix was not too strong to begin with. When Doug asked how Tony is, he responds with, "A little stretched," in what must be one of the only jokes in the entire series. Then Tony and Doug get into a little tiff. Tony seems to be falling in love with Sarit--love at first sight, I guess. Doug warns him not to but Tony brushes him...and Polo off several times. Tony tells Doug he doesn't have to stop living just because he is in the past. Doug goes on to complain that he and Sarit was from different worlds. What is that? The show seems anti-interracial or something. Marco echos Doug's sentiments. Even though arguing or disagreeing and not too happy with each other right now, Tony and Doug make a good team at this point. When Polo is asked by Tony for a warrior uniform, Doug raises his fingers, "For two." This to save a kidnapped Sarit who was kidnapped as a guard was knifed in the back. This episode abounds with stabbings. En route to save her, Tony and Doug have a talk (for an episode with barbarians and battles, this episode has more talk than most of the others). Tony wonders if it is such a bad thing if he never gets back to the tunnel. Doug warns him again, "Our time is 1968. Sarit doesn't exist for us. These people are dead, they've all been dead for 700 years." Tony argues the opposite, "Our time is here and now...it's always been here and now."
In Tic Toc in 1968, Ann argues for Tony, wondering if they have the right to switch Tony away from Sarit--if Tony is happy should they do it? Tony stays mad at Doug for most of the rest of the episode as Marco notices. Doug tells him that this is the first time in history that both men who love Sarit will lose (what exactly that means is beyond me). Anyhow, Tony and Doug with the black powder Marco has save Sarit (using the powder as an explosive). While Polo may not have known it could explode when lit up, certainly the Chinese had already found this out.
General Kirk, not really caring if he changes history, wants to send back cannons and shells, mortars but Ray nixes the idea, especially if they weight 1000 pounds or more--the time space coordinates are not set to do that. Ann, continuing to argue for Tony's staying, has some research---Sarit in the year 1287 will marry to someone who fits Tony's description.
There is a great deal too much standing at the fort walls before the attack. Tony is saved by Doug during the first attack and the pair reconcile. Tony still isn't sorry for how he feels but he and Sarit (who is to be married to another man in another area for the good of the Khan's empire and for peace) realize they cannot stay together. Sarit asks if there is still hope but Tony seems to evade the question.
Kirk is ordering Ann to switch Tony and Doug and she is about to until he sees the dilemma: Doug's makeshift bombs need better fuses. Kirk sends percussion igniters to them using the tunnel. It doesn't work right away so Kirk has a technician go up the usually unseen or blocked and hidden tunnel towers. We get a good look at the tower this time as a tech climbs it and fixes it. The bombs work, Batu is killed and Doug and Tony are transferred. No last longing shot of Sarit, who, earlier, could see the Mongols through the window on the fort (?). To be fair, there are some good scenes with Tony and Sarit but they come off rather flat. Frankly, with all of Marco Polo's travels to chose from, I wonder why they picked this--certainly it could be a cheaply made adventure and that is probably the reason but to have Polo and the others holed up in yet another fort under siege (I re-viewed this just after watching THE ALAMO and that could be part of the problem) is really boring--at least as it plays out here. There was so much more that could have been done and frankly, I doubt this particular event ever took place, thus calling this the last "true" historical may be wrong (the rest after this had supernatural Merlin or aliens). Also, when watching the soldiers fighting the Mongols, it is difficult to tell who is who: I can see Mongols all right but then there are these soldiers with helmets, long spears, and armor! Who are they? Other Mongols? Not a very bad episode but not really very good either, just barely entertaining and couldn't hold my attention long.
CLIFFHANGER: The tunnel crew watch on the screen as the image of Tony and Doug flying through time suddenly freezes stiff. They are getting bad feedback which will burn them to death if they don't fix it soon. Kirk orders them to send the pair back to where they were, reverse them. Ann and Ray think they can but a voice calls, "No," a voice they don't hear. They too are suddenly frozen. An odd man with grayish-white beard and moustache is holding onto one of the towers. We see down from his viewpoint before we even see him. This look down at the tunnel complex is rare and it is hardly ever seen from another vantage point such as this one. The man jumps down from the tower, his black cape flowing...or was he flying down (this short jump was filmed in slow motion and is very effective). The being looks at the tunnel computers and machinery, "Such ado about a common place bit of magic." He commands that the time travellers Tony and Doug appear before him and after several blasts the two appear, standing stiff, in the tunnel mouth! The tunnel never looked better and it seems very big and imposing, impressive. The complex is well lit in this upcoming story. The man, calling himself Merlin, smiles, "Welcome gentlemen. Welcome home." End of cliffhanger.
ATTACK OF THE BARBARIANS (This cliffhanger was also tagged onto the repeats of CHASE THROUGH TIME)-Feedback freezes Tony and Doug in the time vortex. As the others try to unfreeze them, to send them back to where they came from (the beehive in the far past? No, back of Marco Polo's time in ATTACK OF THE BARBARIANS), Merlin makes Ann, Ray, Kirk and all of Tic Toc lab to freeze in time, then he summons Tony and Doug to the Tic Toc lab from the limbo of time. They appear, also frozen. Merlin smiles, "Welcome, gentlemen, welcome home." (This is picked up in MERLIN THE MAGICIAN).
NOTE: DOCTOR WHO had visited MARCO POLO in its first season. VOYAGERS! has MARCO POLO AND FRIENDS. Both are very good.