Twilight Zone – A Matter of Minutes (01/24/86)

tzmatterminutes1Michael Wright awakes to the sound of construction.  His lovely wife June [1] looks at the clock and it is 11:37. Michael’s watch, however, says 7:05. Realizing he has suddenly gained four hours and thirty-two minutes, he starts making out with June.  Her mind is probably on what she will do with her extra four hours and thirty minutes.  This temporal fantasizing is cut short as she hears a noise downstairs.

Michael grabs a bat and they go down to investigate.  In their living room, they see the blue man group working in their living room — men with blue featureless faces, blue skin and blue clothing.  They are rolling up carpets and moving furniture.  They are Borg-like, ignoring the Wrights until Michael swings the bat.  One of them just takes it, silently tosses it aside and continues his work.

tzmatterminutes3They decide to go to a neighbor’s house.  Outside they see more blue men scurrying around, using blue tools and driving blue vans.  Inside the neighbor’s house, the find a white dimensionless void.  They wander downtown amid many more blue workers.  They notice the clock on the bank also says 11:37.  Luckily they run into a man in a yellow suit who seems to be the supervisor.

He explains that the couple have somehow stepped backstage in time to the minute 11:37.  This is the place where the world of 11:37 is constructed.  And on it goes with the expected beats . . . you can’t leave . . . will they get back . . . when the world catches up to 11:37, will they move along with it or be stuck in 11:37?  There isn’t much of a story, no twist after the premise, and no arc to the characters. So why is it one of the best segments yet?

tzmatterminutes5It begins with a solid foundation — exploring the nature of time.  That is an immediately intriguing subject, especially to anyone who is watching The Twilight Zone.  I’m not sure even this incarnation of TZ is up to the task screwing up that subject.

They take that general topic and specifically explore the nature of reality, and how it is created one minute at a time.  It would be the worst kind of quibbling to suggest that a minute would be an eternity in this context.

tzmatterminutes6Visually this is the most startling episode of the series so far and must rank high up for TV of any era.  The faceless blue men stand out in contrast to the reality they are constructing whether it is inside the house or downtown.  Outfitting them in red would have been too flashy; the cool blue is the perfect choice for these drones going quietly about their work.

They must have also burned through a lot of the season’s budget for this episode.  In addition to the workers — and there seem to be many — their tools are also the same color blue.  And this includes everything from a wrench to a wheel-barrow to the vehicles.  It is always perfectly clear who it is that does not belong and what they are doing (even if it is actually the Wrights that don’t belong).

Lastly, the performances are consistently interesting.  Of course, the blue men are silent and stoic going about their jobs.  Adam Arkin (Michael) is always an interesting choice. Karen Austin wasn’t given much to do, but is perfectly fine.  The stand-out is Adolph Caesar as the yellow-suited supervisor.  He has most of the dialog and exposition, and pulls it off flawlessly.  Given a brief running time, he does as well as possible grounding the episode, explaining the situation, and breaking the news that the Wrights can’t go back.

OK, this isn’t like forgetting to take off your watch for a battle scene in Braveheart.  How could this guy forget a mask that turns everything blue, and how could no one else have noticed it?

I would generally not care for a segment that didn’t do more with its basic premise [2]. However, A Matter of Minutes does everything else so well, that it is a complete success.

Great stuff.


  • [1] Karen Austin with a sultry sexy southern accent that I don’t remember her having on Night Court.
  • [2] Of course, being based on a story by a guy who wrote about a killer bulldozer, what did I expect?
  • With a point in time being constructed, this is the anti-Langoliers.

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