This story had its origins in June of 1966. The pilot episode and seven more stories were either filmed and in the can or ready to shoot. More were needed of course to complete the season. William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, a prolific team of scriptwriters who penned many stories for Allen's television series already, submitted a hand-typed and undated two and a half page "springboard" idea for an episode of The Time Tunnel set during the First World War. Titled "The Brave Die Once," this abbreviated outline had no names for the guest starring characters yet or a definite ending.
The authors cite several sources for the story idea including a 1958 Adventure Magazine article and an Encyclopedia Brittanica entry about a now-forgotten skirmish called the Battle of Ypres. There were two battles there during World War One but as this one features Canadian troops and a new type of gas mask this is presumed to be the second conflict which occurred in 1915. In the abridged version the two travelers in time are captured behind German lines and sentenced to death as spies. Thrown into a jail cell they encounter a terrified Canadian solider who confesses that, under torture, he gave the Germans information about his division's battle plans. Unless Tony, Doug and the scared soldier can escape, hundreds of his Canadian comrades will die!
Of course the three escape and thwart a gas attack by the advancing Germans, during which, to quote William and Allan, "the cowardly young soldier finds his courage and saves his comrades by sacrificing his own life." End of springboard.
For the more detailed re-write, dated June 6, 1966, the title was changed to "Rendezvous With Death." The story was now divided into Acts and the supporting cast was given names.
Materializing behind German lines in 1915 our heroes are captured by the evil General Kronendorf and sentenced to be shot as Allied spies!
Thrown into the makeshift jail, Doug and Tony encounter the cowardly soldier, named "Jack Langdon, a rugged Lee Marvin-type whose sole ambition is to survive the war so that he can get a crack at The World Heavyweight Crown." He is now an 'evil coward' who blabs to Kronendorf the Allied Plans in an attempt to save himself-but it backfires. The disgusted German General orders Langdon shot as a spy as well. Thrown in the cell with Doug and Tony the three manage to escape via a tunnel underneath the cell (how's that for irony?).
Back at The Time Tunnel Complex, the screen flickers with the image of the German supply depot where General Kronendorf is busy inspecting a newly-arrived shipment of gas masks and gas artillery shells. Realizing that this is indeed the Battle of Ypres Kirk orders Ann to get the boys out of there! However the co-ordinates of the two time travelers has changed (they have moved out to steal a German biplane) so instead they retrieve General Kronendorf and pop him in the Tunnel, still clutching the battle plans!
Tony, Doug and Langdon have made their escape in a German aircraft. As they fly over Allied territory the plane is shot down and crashes. The boys are about to learn of Langdon's treacherous abilities first-hand!
Climbing from the wreckage of the downed plane, Doug and Tony plan to hook up with the Allied Forces but Jack has other plans. He refuses, declaring the comrades "doomed," then is forced by the boys to accompany them to Allied headquarters where they meet Allied Battalion Commander Major Donovan. As in the earliest draft they are not believed when they explain to Donovan that the Germans have perfected a new gas mask for their troops using charcoal as a filter. They must go back and get a German gas mask as proof. Langdon is ordered to to with them.
As Project Tic Tock Kirk confronts Kronendorf in the Tunnel and tries to dissuade him from using the gas on the Allied troops on humane grounds as both he and Swain stand surrounded by the Time Tunnel's "swirling limbo of time." The evil soldier laughs in Kirk's face and tells him that no matter what they do his mind is made up. Quoted from the storyline verbatim: "In the Tunnel limbo, Kirk tried to brainwash Kronendorf electronically into calling off the attack. In a battle of wills between the two Generals, the German slowly begins to weaken, then becomes more determined than ever. Swain (who has left the Tunnel by order of General Kirk) pleads with Kirk not to stay in the Tunnel any longer, pointing out that no one knows the consequences of extended exposure to the radiation bath, but, stubbornly Kirk battles to change the General's battle plan."
As all this goes on in 1968, meanwhile, Tony, Doug and Langdon are pinned down by enemy fire after stealing a gas mask and some grenades from an unsuspecting German soldier. Langdon, seeing his chance, leaps up, his hands above his head, trying to surrender and take the coward's way out. Before the boys can drag him back down the Germans open fire....
Thankfully Langdon is not hit by enemy fire. Tony grabs the grenades he had stolen moments before and flings them into the machine gun nest, killing the German soldier and giving them a chance to escape.
An entire paragraph quoted word for word here shows that the Time Tunnel staff has many tricks up its collective sleeves: "In the limbo of the Time Tunnel, Kirk is working on General Kronendorf. He fires question after question. Kronendorf is coming around, answering more and more correctly. Each time he falls into his earlier pattens of thought the electrodes (attached to his head one would assume) jar his brain and he corrects himself. Finally Kirk is satisfied that he (Kronendorf) has been successfully brainwashed. Kirk orders Swain and Ann to send him back."
Langdon and the time travelers return to Allied territory with the German gas mask which is taken apart and examined. If the Allied troops can burn all available wood and put the particles into their gas masks they will survive the German attack. Langdon finally believes that the two men are indeed time travelers and therefore must know his future: WILL he be the World Heavyweight Champ? Violating the Rules of Time Travel yet again, Doug tells Langdon that he will not. Langdon thinks Tony and Doug are lying to him.
Kirk, sure his mission has been a success, orders Kronendorf sent back. As the mists clear we the audience see that the radiation bath has indeed had an effect on Kirk-he has been transformed into a nearly one hundred year-old-man!
Kronendorf has now re-materialized in 1915 Germany, where he is back at this desk. Picking up the field telephone he cancels the gas attack. Again quoting the outline directly, "In the Time Tunnel complex, Ann and Swain are frantically working to get into the limbo to help Kirk. They realize that they dare not take him out or change any of the settings for fear he may be irrevocably committed to this old age." Dr. Swain runs into the Time Tunnel and grabs Kirk while Ann fires all the "main power units" causing the Tunnel to characteristically spark and belch smoke. The two men exit the Tunnel with Kirk restored to his usual semi-youthful self. This entire scenario was recycled in the "Revenge of the Gods" episode using Jiggs instead of Kirk, the only Time Tunnel script used written by these two talented authors.
Still trapped in the past, Tony, Doug and Langdon wait for a gas attack that never materializes (thanks to Kirk's brainwashing techniques). To Langdon, this is proof that these two men don't know what they are talking about and perhaps he will be the boxing champion of the world as he predicted.
At the German command post Kronendorf's superior officer, Field Marshall Von Steiner strides in and furiously demands to know why the gas attack was aborted. Kronendorf, the victim of 20th century brainwashing, cannot explain. Von Steiner picks up the field phone and order the gas barrage fired immediately.
Donovan, still the skeptic, wants to imprison Doug and Tony as spies, but once the attack finally begins, he sends them out to fight with the other soldiers. During the battle Langdon's arm is shot and he screams for a medic. Tony tries to calm him down, but Langdon flees in panic in an attempt to return to the safety of the trenches and is shot and killed in the attempt.
The Battalion takes its objectives with very few casualties. In the German trenches where they have not consolidated their position, Donovan looks for Tony and Doug. He explains to his adjutant that he wants to thank them. Hundreds of lives were saved due to their work. He sees them at the other end of the trench and starts for them. By the time he reaches the spot where they had been they are gone -- "careening through time to some other unknown world".
The cliff-hanger would have propelled the time travelers into "The Exploding City," another unrealized episode written by Rick Sherman.
The final version of the script was written and submitted on June 12, 1966 but was not used. Why? I leave it to the reader to come to their own conclusions. I found it very entertaining and exciting.
Special Thanks to Mark Schweter for his incredible version of the script cover.