Part 1 of this series explored director George Pal’s efforts to follow up his 1960 version of “The Time Machine” with a sequel.
Part 2 will look at the making of a sequel scene within a 1993 documentary directed by Clyde Lucas.
And because this part became longer than I expected, there will be a Part 3 that describes Rod Taylor’s own notes and ideas for a sequel film.
“Time Machine: The Journey Back” (1993) is a 48-minute documentary narrated by Rod Taylor and featuring many of the creative and technical geniuses behind “The Time Machine.”
The project was the brainchild of Clyde Lucas, a producer/director/composer who first saw “The Time Machine” at a drive-in theater at the age of nine. He was dazzled. The allure of the Time Machine remained a constant in his life as he moved toward a career in filmmaking.
The Time Machine also had quite an odyssey, as detailed in the documentary. The prop was sold at the infamous MGM auction in 1970. After years as a traveling sideshow attraction, it was discovered in shabby condition in a thrift store in Orange County, California.
Enter film historian, collector and performer Bob Burns. He had been immensely outbid on the prop at the MGM auction, but the Time Machine was his at last. Parts of the Machine were missing or damaged, but Burns had the aid of blueprints from George Pal and a restoration team that included special effects artist Tom Scherman and renowned “Star Trek” script writer Dorothy (D.C.) Fontana, among many others.
Their work paid off when the Time Machine became the centerpiece for Burns’ annual Halloween show in 1976, with a delighted George Pal in attendance.
One of the people who saw the Time Machine at Burns’ house in the mid-1970s was Clyde Lucas. When they met again in the 1990s, Burns “started to tell me about the places the Machine had been, and that’s how we came up with the concept of making the (documentary),” Lucas said in a Starlog magazine article, January 1994.
The documentary, filmed in June 1992, has three key segments. First, special effects wizards Wah Chang and Gene Warren describe how they achieved the 1960 movie’s Oscar-winning special effects. Next, the film shows how the Time Machine prop was created and the ways it has been put to use over the years, including details about its painstaking restoration.
But third and most endearingly, “Time Machine: The Journey Back” includes a 13-minute sequel featuring three of the original’s actors, penned by its original writer.
The Sequel Scene
To write the sequel scene, Lucas went to the source, locating retired screenwriter David Duncan in Washington state. According to Duncan, “The scene was supposed to be a prologue but ended up as an epilogue.” (Don Brockway’s Time Machine Home page, 2000.)
An epilogue is more fitting, as the scene stars Rod Taylor and Alan Young – 32 years after they appeared in “The Time Machine.”
Filming for most of the documentary took place at the home of Bob Burns. There, Rod did the narration and introductions that connect the segments. The opening of the sequel scene, with Whit Bissell reprising his role from the 1960 film, also was shot at Burns’ house.
Then, production moved to a soundstage in the San Fernando Valley.
Don Coleman, the creator of the Time Machine Project website, has recounted the two-day creation of the sequel scene.
On the first morning, the Time Traveler’s workshop was constructed at the sound stage, replicating the set from the 1960 movie. Shooting began later that day, filming the actor who portrayed “young George” as he invents his time machine. (So, there is an element of prologue to the scene!)
The next morning, the stars came out. First, Alan Young arrived and filming began on his solo part of the scene. Rod Taylor arrived sometime in the morning and was in wardrobe. “He had brought with him the smoking jacket that he had worn in the original film, and it still fit him,” Coleman exclaimed.
Meanwhile, the Time Machine prop was being trucked from Bob Burns’ basement to the workshop set.
After lunch, Rod and Alan performed their scene together. Here’s a brief summary:
The Time Machine materializes just as Filby is reminiscing as he closes up his friend’s house. George has been gone for 30 years, building a “magnificent” future with Weena and the Eloi.
For Filby, only 15 years have passed, but this is a key moment in time. He has his orders and is flying to France in the morning.
Knowing Filby’s fate in The Great War, George implores him to get in the Time Machine and accompany him to the future. “We can leap the years … Leave this war in the past.”
But Filby wants no part of time travel. “I don’t like a device that might alter what the fates have in store for us,” he says. Filby threatens to destroy it, but George calms him and Filby bids his old friend good-bye.
George gets back into the machine, pledging to return. He knows that Filby is destined to die on May 15, 1916. Next time, he muses, he’ll travel to May 14, 1916, to try to persuade Filby again. “Maybe then my friend will come with me.”
“Time Machine: The Journey Back” is easily found. It’s included on the DVD and Blu-ray editions of “The Time Machine.” It also can be streamed on Amazon Prime.
A stand-alone version of the 13-minute sequel scene, titled “Time Traveller: What Fate Has In Store,” also is included in a compilation called “Victorian Tales” available on Amazon.
A Sequel Movie?
After filming this epilogue scene, Clyde Lucas was brimming with enthusiasm for a full-length sequel to “The Time Machine,” as captured in his January 1994 Starlog interview.
“The Time Machine is the Enterprise and Rod Taylor is Captain Kirk. And Alan Young is a combination of McCoy and Spock,” Lucas said, employing some apt “Star Trek” analogies. “Anybody who ever has a chance to do a full sequel to this movie is out of their minds if they don’t put those people in it — not in cameos, but as part of the movie. … Somebody ought to pick up that torch (from George Pal) and run with it.”
That “somebody” turned out to be Clyde Lucas himself, with help from Bob and Kathy Burns, Alan Young and Rod Taylor, and D.C. Fontana of “Star Trek” fame.
“D.C. wrote the first outline,” Lucas said in a subsequent interview. “Then, later, Alan wrote one. Rod, Alan and I had several meetings about story ideas.”
By October 1994, Rod was anticipating co-producing and acting in a sequel.
“The plan is to recreate (the Time Traveler’s) role at a later period in the character’s life and include his former buddy, Alan Young,” Rod said in an Oct. 29, 1994, ActiveTimes magazine article. “This time, the Time Machine will have a passenger seat so I can take my friend along. And we’ll go backward in time instead of into the future.”
Regardless of writer, Lucas’ sequel pitch met the same fate as George Pal’s attempts.
“I, as producer, along with Gross-Weston Productions, made pitches to every major studio, including MGM and all TV networks, including the SciFi Channel,” Lucas said. “But at the time they did not want to do any Victorian time travel movies or series.”
Up Next, Part 3
In Part 3, read ideas for a sequel from the pen of Rod Taylor, including a trip to Atlantis.