THE TIME TUNNEL
IDOL OF DEATH
Writers-Bob and Wanda Duncan
After the opening narration, Tony and Doug fall into a dense jungle. Two Spanish conquistadors chase and one shoots a crossbow into an old Indian man's back. They talk about killing 12 natives. Tony and Doug, after the men leave, check the Native, Tony noting he didn't even try to fight. They figure they are in South or Central America (Doug) in about the 16th century (Tony). They see Spanish soldiers crossing a river on horseback and foot. Doug tells Tony they are in the middle of the biggest bloodbaths in history--Cortez's army will loot and kill the tribes of the area. Tony figures the Spanish are their only chance of getting out of the jungle. He and Doug walk through the jungle which looks thick and very like a jungle (we hear VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA music and the familiar stock music that was also used in THE LOST CIVILIZATION episode of LOST IN SPACE--it was also used in many VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA episodes). They spy a Spanish soldier with a torch--Alvarado--moving it toward an old woman tied to a tree. Doug runs out, Tony follows and they fight and as usual, are overpowered, their arms held back. Alvarado yells, "Kill them!"
In act one, a freeze frame shows us Tony and Doug being held while some music from a period piece movie--Spain against the Aztecs and quite possibly from KINGS OF THE SUN. Hernando Cortez arrives and calls them the governor's spies--Governor Velasquez (who really did exist)--and wants to question the pair. First, he tells his soldiers that the Indian men are hard as iron but the women are not. He tells the old woman, whose husband and son he also has tied up to trees, that he wants the Golden Mask---it will make his job of enslaving or killing off the other tribes easier. It will be his symbol of authority. When she once more refuses, Cortez shoves the torch into the old man's face, the woman screams, and tells them what they want to know--about the signs of how to find the mask. Alvarado, although he promised to free the family of three if they told him what he wanted to know, has his bowmen shoot the two adults, telling Tony that a promise to an Indian means nothing. Tony calls Cortez a butcher. Tony tells Alvarado and Cortez they are here by accident. We also hear the those same jungle sound effects that grace the first few LAND OF THE GIANTS episodes made (THE WEIRD WORLD, THE TRAP, THE BOUNTY HUNTER and others) and also grace many other Fox productions such as DOCTOR DOLITTLE and a WWII war movie (with a very young Robert Wagner).
The tunnel people have a fix. Ray says it is Oct. 1, 1519--no place yet. Ann comes back from the computer with printouts (quite a contrast to BILLY THE KID where she looks through seemingly dusty old library books!): Cortez was in Yucatan around March 1519, founded Vera Cruz and the Indians are what sounds like Ilxytians but must be the Tlaxcalans---more on this later. Kirk orders Ann to get the Mexican Embassy and contact someone who can pinpoint the exact locations they are seeing over the tunnel image projector. Cortez thinks the fleet brought Tony and Doug, that someone in Cuba (Valesquez was there and founded Cuba) and/or Spain is against him--more on this later, too. Alvarado reports that Gomez reported dissension among the ranks of their men. Tony grabs a sword and holds it on Cortez, who calmly tells Alvarado never to underestimate the enemy. Tony tries to make him free Doug and the indian boy (whose name we never really hear in the episode or see in the credits but in the press kit seems to be Qexcotl--a curious choice for a name as this is the Aztec serpant "god" that they believed in). Before Tony can make good this advantage, Alvarado regains the sword; Cortez will have Tony and Doug executed in front of his men to discourage mutiny; and the indian tribes will become slaves or die. Doug tells Tony that Cortez soon will burn his ships. In some references, Cortez dismantled his ships in 1519 but in others, he did, indeed burn his ships behind him! He did do this on the beach in Vera Cruz as well as hanging a couple of men and cut off the feet of another who conspired to return to Cuba.
In the episode, Cortes does burn his ships (stock footage I am sure) and while this occurs, an old man, the Retainer, the servant of the boy, frees him as well as Tony and Doug. Doug takes some of the gun powder and threatens Cortes and his men as they return; Alvarado orders his men to drop their weapons and they do. He orders Tony to get a keg of gunpowder and a torch and take off with the two indians. Doug counters Alvarado's threats by telling him that if Cortez dies, the men under his command will be reduced to anarchy and turn on him. Doug tells Cortez, "I can't just sit back and watch one of the worst butchers in history without doing anything." Cortez tells him it is destiny that he do this and Doug admits he cannot argue about that and realizes he can't fight his whole army. Other men would do the same thing if he, Cortez, did not. Cobert is quite good in this scene, real gutsy and very believeable and even fallible, even if making a mistake, he has to fight this evil. His acting in this scene is quite good and makes one route for Doug all the way. He lights the gun powder but a soldier puts it out as Doug runs off. Cortez orders Alvarado off with three others (hold on here! If the mask were so important to him, why didn't he go himself with many men? And even if he didn't want to do this--why not send a lot of men with Alvarado?). He tells his Captain to kill all of them if he has to but to get that golden mask--the one Doug told him he knows he will never find! By this time, I was getting sick of hearing, "Kill them" or "kill them all!"
Act two opens with Tony calling Doug to himself and the two indians, who finally speak! Tony wonders why the boy--a teenager really and one who looks quite up there in age--possibly 18 or 19--wants to run and that he, Doug, and the Spanish are not gods at all. The boy tells Tony that his father had three sons--the first one was taught the ways of battle, the second the art of raising crops and storing them--both died when the Spanish gods invaded their land. He, the third son, was taught nothing. He asks Tony what to do, Tony mad that the boy saw his parents killed and doesn't want to fight. A bit militaristic here---Tony seems almost like CONAN THE BARBARIAN or some other revenge seeking action hero of the 90s (Stallone, Arnold, Willis, and uh, ho, Segal!) wanting to kill violently while returning an eye for an eye---in your own left hand! The boy knows the marker signs to find the location of the cave where the golden mask is hidden. The first sign is in some ruins.
As they watch on the screen, Ray tells Kirk that it is foolishness for Doug and Tony to fight the Spaniards. Kirk asks him if he would do anything different and Ray admits probably not. Ann returns and tells them that someone is coming that will help them.
At the ruins, Doug tests the gunpowder but it is useless, they need compression for it to be of any good. They find the marking signs--the fish and the water--the cliff by the beach must have a cave with the golden mask in it. Doug finds potassium nitrate which Tony also recognizes. With this they can make the powder more potent and try to collapse the wall on the Spanish when they come. This makes little sense--why wait for them to follow? Why not get to the cave first--they seemed to have quite a lead on them. Security calls Kirk--someone with the name that sounds like Castellano and alternately called Cassiano or something close to that---is here. He knows Vera Cruz and when he enters he tells Kirk, matter of factly, and without shock (unbelievably) that he knows they do some kind of time travel here. He is more stunned to see the image on the screen through the tunnel spirals, at first thinking it a picture or a film. Kirk tells him the Indian he sees on the screen is really there and that he is looking at the living past. When one of the Spanish soldiers finds the ruins, the Indian boy, given a knife by the Retainer to attack the soldier, cannot do it. The older Indian takes the knife from the boy and raises it from behind to kill the soldier.
Act three opens with the old man killing the Spanish one. Tony gives the Indian boy another pep talk about killing, "You forget quickly--you have no stomach for revenge--it was your place to kill--to do what had to be done, to be chief." The old man is sent to watch for any others. He sees birds fly out of the trees and a Spanish soldier fires a crossbow into his chest, killing him. The soldier whoops a signal for the others. Alvarado and two men move in to the ruins. Tony and Doug set the trap and hide at a fallen statue. As Alvarado plots, one of his men says, "Does it not bother you, capitan, that so many people must die for the glory of Spain?" This quote is a rare insight into a different point of view--the Spanish in this episode aren't all presented as just villainous murderers. Perhaps this is a good thing, however, it may also be just saying that only two men are responsible for the entire massacre--Cortez and Alvarado--this is not acceptable as we know for such a thing to take place--many warriors, soldiers, what have you had to follow orders. It wasn't the work of two isolated madmen (if they were named Jason and Freddie I'd might say okay) but the work of many against many--and in reality, there were many Indians who helped Cortez and Alvarado kill other Indians---but, yes, more on this later. Alvarado answers, "You call these savages people?" The explosion doesn't kill the three enemies and Alvarado calls Tony and Doug inglese and tells them of the dead indian man. He taunts them to come out and fight--three vs. three. The teen native wants to go out and kill them but Doug stops him---it is not the right time.
Kirk fills Castellano in about the golden mask. Ann calls Kirk over, discreetly (?) while she is on the phone with security. Their new helper has had trouble with various South American countries--he's removed ancient artifacts illegally. Kirk tells the phone that he'll take full responsibility, then confronts Castellano, who warned them about their laxity. He wants the golden mask and openly admits this--he's known about it all along. He has all the other tribal masks but Kirk tells him time is of the essence (too bad with a something as powerful as the time tunnel, they couldn't use it to give them more time! They seem to be able to move the fix ahead or back somewhat--at least they moved it ahead in REIGN OF TERROR). What is really very silly is that after Castellano openly admits he has been after the mask, Kirk, stupidly, returns to Ann and Ray and says, "I think he's playing games with us. If I only knew what he was after." Whaaa? Why can't Kirk realize what Castellano wants!!!!
Alvarado orders one man to go north to the cliffs to kill them all (again, Bullwinkle!) without warning if he meets the others on the way. In the jungle, the indian boy tells Tony and Doug that a fast runner could get to the cave via the beach. Tony insists they split up even though he says, "Then we're in even worse trouble," when Doug wonders what they'll do if all three Spanish soldiers went via the beach. Tony looks around the jungle and finds a crossbow and shoots at Alvarado, missing. Wild boars ran out of (stock footage I am sure) the jungle, alerting Tony to Alvarado's presence. The crossbow breaks but he hides and knocks out the other soldier. Alvarado tells they soldier, "Weaponless, it'll be like hunting pig, only much more interesting." We hear a great deal of what sounds like VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA second season music. The boy goes into the cave and is immediately knocked down by the already waiting Spanish soldier--the one who seemed to think about why so many have to die for Spain's glory. As Tony and Doug meet up outside the cave on a nice set which actually may be an outdoor one, Alvarado and his man arrive. They move up the cliff but the man inside comes out, tells them the boy has a wounded skull (in the only really bad, fake Spanish accent in the entire hour) and points a crossbow at the two of them!
Act Four begins as Alvarado makes Doug and Tony go into the cave. It is a typical Irwin Allen affair...and an adequate set at that. Kirk tells the others they may decide to kill their men at any moment--Castellano must help them. He wants them to bring the mask back--a request he says. Kirk counters that he was paid a considerable fee to come here...but he will gamble with the lives of two men as Kirk says. Ray tells Kirk they have the power but not the time (why not for Pete's sake!?! They are working with a time tunnel!). They will try to move the mask first. Castellano pinpoints the cliff which is at an inlet.
Alvarado tells the captives that it is only fitting they see the treasure before he kills them and he takes down the curtain. The mask is not the only thing that is there (and it really looks more like a statue and an idol---one of death?---than any kind of mask!!!). There are riches beyond belief--and this marks the beginning of the end of Alvarado's sanity. He moves the mask to an altar but the boy attacks him. This gives Tony and Doug time to fight the Spanish and a chance for us to hear some really good fight action music. Tony sword fights with Alvarado and loses. The sword ends up at his neck, making the Spanish captain call Doug and the Indian boy into line. He will makes the trio carry out all the riches on their backs.
As the tunnel power builds up to full, Ray gets a critical focus, telling them that the energy to get the mask could bring the cave roof down. Kirk tells him to bring the power up in stages, Ray suggests they could always reverse it. The cave shakes, dropping rocks on those inside. The mask glows reddish (the first time we see something like this). The boy says, "It is the vengeance of the gods," just before the mask vanishes (with that clever bell like bit of music used for popping out and in, mostly on THE TIME TUNNEL).
The mask arrives as the power increases more but the cave roof collapses! Ann yells for them to send it back but as they try, Castellano goes mad and attacks the controls. Guards finally pull him off the console. Ann yells that Tony and Doug will be buried alive so Kirk snaps an order, "Freeze everything in time!" They do this and everything is still in the cave. No one can move. There is some type of time lock. Castellano gets one of the guard's guns and holds them off of him, making the other drop his gun. Ray gets behind Ann and holds her arms--this seems to be a protective gesture but it looks as if he is pushing her to be the first one to die ala Dr. Smith pushing Will in front of him on LIS! Kirk tries to reason with Castellano. He picks up the mask out of the tunnel and will allow them to go back to work once he leaves with it. He's lived in the jungle for 20 years, hunting it. Ray whispers to Kirk that without the mask they can't reverse the impulse, nor unfreeze the time lock--Tony, Doug, and everyone else in the cave will remain frozen in time, perhaps forever. The other alternative, Ann tells Kirk, is to place something of the same atomic structure and form into the cave. Kirk figures they just have to get the mask back and figures it should only take a few minutes. Ann complains they haven't been able to focus the fix on Tony and Doug for more than a few minutes (what show has she been watching? We've seen them hold the image for a long time--or at least it seems that way). Kirk wants four minutes; Ray orders three. They break for the madman and he shoots.
A word here about what I saw. It seemed that Castellano shot and perhaps killed one of the guards---it appears, if you look closely, that a guard falls flat on his back---you can see his shoes lying flat out just after the shot. Then, it is as if no one was shot. Perhaps the production crew didn't want even more death in this, for in the next action filled sequence, the two guards and Kirk gun battle it out with Castellano who yells at Kirk that he broke his word (and he did! It seems he would do anything to keep Tony and Doug alive). The music is the fantastic fast beat tempo from THE DEATH TRAP again and it is used to full extent. However, a real complaint here: the action breaks down totally as Kirk asks Castellano to be reasonable (?) and then in the middle of the gun battle, the two guards and Kirk run off toward Ray and Ann, who are ducked behind the console--allowing Castellano (who is raving, "It is mine, mine, mine," over and over) to just walk in front of the tunnel, holding the mask up. Then, for some unknown reason, also ineptly, Castellano tosses the mask into the tunnel--just what Ann, Ray, and Kirk wanted him to do!?!!? Why did he do this? He certainly didn't have a conscience. What happened to what started out as a good sequence? Really bad direction here. Ray also told Kirk that the mask must not be hit since they need the exact mass of it and Ann warned that they were the focus was drifting from the cave.
In any event, they take Castellano away, under arrest (and let's hope they lock him up forever). The time lock is unfrozen as the mask reappears in the cave in 1519. Doug and the others plop onto the floor of the cave and he assumes, "We must have been caught in a time warp." For a time tunnel show, at least they featured one or two time warps. But this really didn't constitute a time warp but then again, what is a time warp and who can really tell if a time warp is really a time warp? Gosh, it's getting late.
Another shake from the cave allows Alvarado to knock the soldier over the back. He and the two scientists from 1968 run out of the area. Alvarado runs his sword through the recovering guard in a most violent scene since the man wouldn't follow his orders to get the riches out. The boy returns for the mask, telling Doug he has to go alone. He wants to fight Alvarado, he cannot kill an unarmed man who will not defend himself: Alvarado tells him this is no time for fighting, not now. He wants only the treasure. The boy raises a sword to kill Alvarado but cannot kill the man who is taken with a blind greed. The boy takes the mask and leaves, just before the cave roof caves in on the Spanish killer. The Indian boy cannot figure out what it is about the yellow metal that made him so sick. Tony tells him he is ready to lead his people now and Doug adds, "Now you are a true chief." The boy leaves the cave and Tony and Doug vanish.
CLIFFHANGER: Tony and Doug fly through time and land on hay in a night town in what seems to be the West. Shots ring out from a gang riding through the street. Doug and Tony run into an office where a happy sheriff sits and shaves. He tells them the gang is just the Triple X (triple X???) boys riding in on Saturday night just having fun. He tells them they are in Lincoln, the pride of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Five men break in, one of them named Wilson, who soaps up the sheriff, making fun of him being prettying up, and pushes his chair at the bars of the jail cell. Inside, a young cowboy gets the sheriff's razor and puts it to his neck, forcing him to give him the keys so he can let himself out. The twenty something year old--21--?--gets out, and sits on a desk, then shoots the sheriff dead, despite Tony's grab to divert the gunshot. The youth asks if Tony was a friend of his but Tony has never seen him before. The youth tells Tony his name, "William Bonny." Tony gasps, "Billy the kid." Billy smiles, "The same."
NEXT WEEK...SEE THIS FANTASTIC ADVENTURE IN THE TIME TUNNEL.
As for IDOL OF DEATH, it was better when I was younger. It is very dark and grim, with more deaths than most other Allen series had. VOYAGE comes close but this episode presents danger and lots of it as grisly deaths occur in every act. Of course, no blood is shown, if any is in any TIME TUNNEL, it is shown as a small cut on someone's mouth or head. What is odd is that the Indians are not really looked into much, if at all. They might be the Tlaxcalans, an independent city-state whose people hated the Aztecs. These were some of the first natives to fight against Cortez (1519), to be defeated by his warriors in 1519 (just barely--they almost won), and then, ironically, to become allies to the Spanish Cortez, helping him and his followers conquer other native tribes including the Aztecs and Aztec subject states. By the end of 1519 or even as early as November, the Tlaxcalans were friends and allies to Cortes which makes a mockery of THE TIME TUNNEL version.
A Mayan girl named Malinal was Cortez's mistress (she was first given to one of his Lts) and even bore him a son but he later married her off to one of his captains--Don Juan Xamarillo. There was a Pedro del Alvarado but he was blond and handsome, chattery, edgy, covetous, and vicious. The last four fit THE TIME TUNNEL Alvarado. He committed heinous crimes against the Maya (hanging women and hanging their children from their legs among these). He had already married one of the Tlaxcala women before his crimes against the Maya. The real Alvarado had to be saved from the Aztec capital. Cortez had already won the city but then left Alvarado in charge. Cortez went to deal with Panfilo de Narvaez--a man sent by Valezques to capture or kill Hernan Cortes (the correct spelling). The stupid Alvarado decided to attack the Aztecs while they danced at a feast of Huitzilopochtli. Narvaez lost an eye and was apparently later killed in another battle. The Aztecs regarded gold of little value. Cortes was supposed to be very religious and credit all of his successes to God. There was also some dissension among Cortes's men and they tried to sail back to Cuba, many were executed, and just after Cortes ordered his ships burned or dismantled.
Of course, there are other versions of all these events but Alvarado seemed to have survived 1519. It may have been a misunderstanding that lead to his attacking the Aztecs at their feast since they dressed as warriors and acted out attacks--which the Spanish may have thought were real. Alvarado went on to ruthlessly and bloodthirstily nearly wipe out the Mayans.
In the later battle (July 1520), Moctezuma was killed as he tried to calm his people from fighting the Spanish. Some claim the Aztecs, his own people, killed him. Others blame the Spanish who had to flee the city, only to return again in December of 1520. The Mayan conquest began in 1527 and the natives repelled the Spanish until 1535.
The highland cities of Utatlan and Iximche fell as early as 1524 with Alvarado using in house bickering between Mayan highlanders against them. Thus, the Alvarado that seemed to be buried and seemed to die in IDOL OF DEATH may not have been Alvarado OR it may be that the writers didn't care about real history and just did what they wanted to.
Ixtapalapa is an Aztec town that greeted Cortez in 1519 and seemed to be allies from day one. It is doubtful the indians in IDOL OF DEATH are these. It is possible the writers simply made up a tribe or it could be they are supposed to be the early Tlaxcalans. Either way there is much to the story of the conquest of Mexico by Spain and Cuba, Cortes, the Aztecs and other natives. It was all very complex with a great deal of politics, personal hatreds, greed, etc. Of these IDOL OF DEATH only succeeds in portraying the greed. As history, it is fairly non descript and at its worst, it is very bad historical action. With so much to chose from, I wonder why the writers and production team didn't follow, as closely as possible, the real events and name the tribe more clearly and define the Indian characters more. It was a missed opportunity to focus on a really turbulent time of history--which if done properly would be entertaining. To tell the entire story of the Spanish conquest or just Cortes, it would probably take a mini series!