The Twilight Zone 2.7 – Nick of Time

We’re stepping back into The Twilight Zone for a little while. I’ve picked eleven stories from the program’s second season that sound promising. There are a couple that we’re going to watch that I remember fondly. Others I don’t know, but they have memorable actors in them. I picked Richard Matheson’s “Nick of Time” because William Shatner is in it. I never saw this one before, but publicity photos from the production, thanks, perhaps, to Shatner’s later celebrity, are among the most common Zone pictures out there.

Shatner and Patricia Breslin play newlyweds whose car breaks down in a small Ohio city. While waiting for a part to come in from Dayton, they kill time in the local Busy Bee Cafe, trying to enjoy some lousy sandwiches and iced coffee. Shatner’s character is deeply superstitious, and he quickly becomes obsessed with a penny-per-question fortune teller on their table. It’s part of the napkin-holder, a cute and clever way for restaurants to make an extra buck or two a day.

You could imagine a later production doing the same sort of script with a Magic 8-ball. The fortune telling machine could be viewed as stunningly accurate, leading to one very surprising moment and one very funny one involving Stafford Repp, who plays the town mechanic… or are they just coincidences? Shatner coughs up twenty-odd cents, stunned by its power. Breslin urges him to leave it alone and write his own fortune.

Our son really enjoyed this one, more than most Zone stories, and so did I. It’s a simple and uncomplicated episode with an ethical question at its core that viewers of any age can grasp. I liked the straightforward script and the performances. Breslin is very good and Shatner is even better. The Twilight Zone Wiki noted that Matheson had hoped that Breslin would have been available to play Shatner’s character’s wife in the even more famous fifth season story “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” but she wasn’t, and Christine White played that role instead. What a missed opportunity!

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