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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

1.38 --- A Matter of Minutes

Directed by : Sheldon Larry
Written by : Rockne S. O'Bannon (story by Theodore Sturgeon)
Starring : Adam Arkin, Karen Austin, Adolph Caesar
First aired : 24th of January, 1986.

Michael (Adam Arkin, Full Moon High, Chicago Hope) and Maureen (Karen Austin), a young married couple, are awakened one morning by some horrible noise which they can't quite identify. A glance at the alarm clock unveils the fact they slept in, which Michael soonly refutes by checking his wrist watch. They shrug off the incident as the alarm clock simply dying on them, but are startled when the noise from outdoors moves into their house.

Investigating the situation, Michael and Maureen are amazed to see that their house is suddenly flooded with clad-blue construction workers, who have no face and don't speak. Running around their neighbourhood, they see the situation is universally the same, so they head downtown. Things aren't too much different there either - one distinguishable fact however is that all clocks are jammed at 11:37 AM.

While snooping around downtown, the couple runs into a fellow who seems like the foreman for this working crew (Adolph Caesar, A Soldier's Story). He explains them what happened - by accident, they slipped through a loophole and landed four hours ahead of their own time, and the workers they see are "the time brigade" (my words, not his -- rev.note), who construct every minute in time. The foreman then informs them that they cannot return, a fact to which Michael and Maureen don't take lightly. Not quite ready to spend the rest of their days in a timeless void, they flee while the foreman is busy signing some papers.

A chase through the city streets ensues, and the couple loses their chasers by hiding in a ticket booth of a nearby cinema, deciding to stick there until the "real" time evens out with the minute they are stuck in. They exit the booth 30 seconds before impact, just enough to grin victoriously at the foreman, who escapes into the void. The clocks match, and Michael and Maureen are back in the normal world. After another minute passes and they are convinced they are still where they should be, they leave for home, feeling happier than usual.


Well ladies and gentlemen, here it is : the infamous "clad blue workers" episode. If you would round up 250 people who saw this series during the original airing and never again, for some reason, around 200 - at least - would find this episode the most memorable one.

How memorable is this one though ? Well, the premise and initial execution of it are great. However, the script goes nowhere exotic, and the result is a interesting, yet rather bland episode - no twist, no nothing, just a neatly wrapped little story. For shame, as there could have been more intriguing ways to finish it.

While it's fun to see Arkin before he porked up for Chicago Hope, the real show-stealer here is Caesar, who sadly died from a heart attack months after this one first aired. Caesar, who got some Academy lovin' for his portrayal of the brutal, sadistic sgt. Waters in A Soldier's Story, is given little time to excel, but his rat mug is hard to forget.

Trivia : the movie theater downtown, whose ticket booth is used by Michael and Maureen as their hiding place, is showing Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits. How appropriate.

Comments on "1.38 --- A Matter of Minutes"


Anonymous John said ... (4:56 PM) : 

I get more email about this New TZ episode than any other. For some reason, it is the most memorable to people. They never know the name, though!

While it was not the greatest New TZ, I enjoyed it. I thought it was a very original idea, but as you said, nothing extraordinary was done in this episode with that premise.


Anonymous chogokinman said ... (10:02 AM) : 

Agree with you two, but one of the better new TZ épisode. A great story, thrilling in its concludes (back or not in the real time?).

J'adore cet épisode. Il répond à une question que tout le monde s'est déjà posé sur le temps (Tout est-il prévu d'avance? : la force du destin)
L'histoire est passionnante et oppressante avec ce réveil dans une ville fantôme peuplée d'ouvriers sans visage.
Un must.
Ma note : 5/5 (i love it)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:14 AM) : 

I thought this was the episode where the voice over explained that the clad blue people operate in a parallel universe ahead of us in time (i guess four hours from the episode summary) and each minute has to be recreated like on a soundstage. The clad blue people are moving furniture etc. from one minute to the next to set the scenery so that we don't notice any changes as time rolls on.

However, sometimes they forget things. That's why sometimes you lose your keys and you go back to the same place you looked only moments before and find them. The clad blue people forgot to put that item in that minute, but realized it later and replaced it in a future minute.

Interesting concept!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:15 PM) : 

The thing about this episode is that it seems to explain so many situations. How often have you looked for something that is lost and an hour later there it is, in exactly the place it should be and yet you know you looked there earler.


Anonymous BryTee said ... (5:10 PM) : 

This was one episode I always remembered. It was great!

I wonder if the minute they are trying to get to (11:38) is a reference to the early George Lucas film "THX 1138"?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:41 PM) : 

Notice a quick blooper when Caeser is explaining things at the table to the couple. One of the blue suits doesn't have a mask on his face.

I liked this episode a lot, but seems to be a plot hole with crews only changing things every minute. Wouldn't they have to do it every second at least?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:36 PM) : 

I LOVE this episode! Since it aired, I've always referred to those "I know I left it there a minute ago -- oh, there it is!" moments as "having a blue moment." I even went out and purchased a wrench and sprayed it blue, and then perched it high upon a shelf. I don't care that nobody knows what it is, and why it's there, my husband and I know!


Blogger Matt Butts said ... (6:35 AM) : 

What I remember about this episode is that the foreman explains that they sometimes makes "mistakes" which explain why you can't find your keys, only to have them show up in plain sight. When this happens aound my house, we always say, "it's the blue guys!"


Anonymous JIm B said ... (12:25 PM) : 

I have looked for this TZ show for years...finally found it.
I will see if NetFlicks have it.


Blogger Matthew Maloney said ... (4:02 PM) : 

This episode (Monsters!, Small Talent for War and this story) along with A little peace and quiet are the only ones I remember watching as a kid from the New TZ. It says a lot about the quality of this episode that I can remember all 3 stories. This one in particular I always remembered as I found the concept so weird. Theres definitely parallels between this one and the Stephen King story 'The Langoliers'. Funny how you mention that this is the one everyone remembers!


Anonymous Matthew Pak said ... (5:46 AM) : 

Back in the late 1980's I worked at a TV station that broadcast the original Twilight Zone. A viewer called and politely asked if we had the rights to The New Twilight Zone because he and his wife were desperate to see the episode with the blue men that set up time in the future. As a fan I had remembered that show but unfortunately we did not have the rights to broadcast it. He offered me money if I could get him a copy. He called frequently, always polite, and eventually I was able to find a copy on VHS for him from a friend's original recordings, I did not charge him any money. He and his wife were ecstatic. Funny how memorable that was to them.


Anonymous Adrock said ... (10:34 PM) : 

Haven't seen this one since the original air date! (though I missed the first two segments that night -- wonder what I was doing before 8:40 PM). A lot of fun. And, yeah, sad about Caesar; the episode aired Jan. 24, 1986, and he died March 6th, so only about 6 weeks after airing. Wow.

And, considering the complaints about how weak the video special-effects looked in "A Small Talent For War", this one is visually striking what with all the blue men.

Lastly, for all the similarities with Stephen King's "The Langoliers"... that novella wouldn't be published for another 4 years!


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