Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Little Peace and Quiet with A Kind of a Stopwatch

Submitted for your approval: Two different tales, but with several commonalities. Both deal with the power for controlling Time, and coming from a Paranormal Time Lord, such consequences come with unforeseen consequences.

Especially when both distinct tales also come from the Twilight Zone. Why don't we go through the back door first in order for us to move forward?

TZ Chrono Transmission: October 18, 1963

Classic TZ Episode: 'A Kind of a Stopwatch.'

Have you ever met a person like Mr. Patrick McNulty? The perfect conservation piece unto himself. To put it simply, a crashing, utter bore. McNulty possesses the irritating habit of suggesting infinite ways for improving society.

Regrettably, for Mr. McNulty, the only thing he accomplishes is clearing out a room faster than Daleks and F-Clones. In fact, due to McNulty's persona, for all his suggestions and improvements, he ends up getting himself the pink slip from his boss. Can't imagine why, since McNulty fancies himself as such a wonderful guy.

Interestingly enough, as our McNulty does what anyone does when they've been dismissed (get thoroughly plastered at the local bar), he encounters another drunk. The acquaintance gives him an intriguing family heirloom--a stopwatch. (Suspect this may have been my Uncle Chronotis, TZ always has had problems with him during his early years, though Mr. Serling seemed to get along with him.) Fascinatingly enough, as McNulty starts playing with the gadget, he discovers a unique function.

True to its nature, when its ticker is pressed, it literally stops time. (Yep, Uncle Chronotis.) At first, McNulty decides on sharing his wondrous fortune by taking it to his former boss. Naturally, when this plan backfires, McNulty impishly implements the device for practical jokes.

Of course, the novelty soon wears off and McNulty suddenly gains a spark of inspiration: why not use the stopwatch for financial gain? Definitely beats trying to alter History for your own selfish purposes. So our Mr. McNulty enters a bank, freezes time, and attempts the first major withdrawal never witnessed by man. At least not one without breaking into some unnecessary gunplay. However as the dictim with the Twilight Zone: even the greatest plans of mice and men can go awry.

In McNulty's case, he accidentally drops the stopwatch, cracking it. Attempting on re-establishing the flow of Time, he clicks the button. Regrettably, much to our man's horror, he ends up trapped in a world frozen in Time. A realm where its inhabitants fail to acknowledge (or show concern) about the presence of McNulty, and in my opinion, would be better off without him.

Of course, here, we hardly feel remorse for McNulty. But about several years later, when the Twilight Zone regenerated into an entirely new dimension for 1985, TZ selected a similar tale but with a different spin entirely.

TZ Chrono Transmission: September 27, 1985

New TZ Episode: A Little Peace and Quiet

Jumping ahead now, we find a different protagonist than our Mr. McNulty. Rather than a pompous, overbearing bore, we meet a h
arried housewife. In typical fashion, she deals with her kids, her hapless husband, and hardly has any time for herself.

For expedient purposes, we shall denote her as 'Melinda.' Sorry, folks, T2 and TZ are having datafile issues, so I'll be comple
ting the blanks the best I can. Even in other dimensions, things happens.

Poor Melinda, unli
ke McNulty, she works herself to a frazzle, while managing her household, dealing with an uncaring world, and having to deal with obnoxious children as well. Of course, Ms. Melinda comes across her antiquity in a different way: whilst gardening, she comes across an antique box with an obscure message: 'May you have all the time in the world.' Curiously, she extracts an amulet in the form of a sundial (apparently my Aunt Estheria's been buring her heirlooms again. What a family, eh?) and without thinking puts it on.

One particular night when major chaos ensues with the husband and kids, Melinda, who can no longer takes the stress and strain, yells for everyone to 'SHUT UP!' In doing so, much to her surprise, everyone is frozen within Time. At first, Melinda freaks out, thinking she's broken the world. But then, after much consideration, she discovers by freezing Time, she can productively have a break now and again. Before she can ensue with the possibility, she realizes she can start time by saying, 'Start Talking.'

In the beginning, Melinda enjoys her newfound ability: freezing time at breakfast to enjoy her day, freezing time to stop an obnoxious customer from taking the last box of her kids' favorite cereal, and paying for her groceries (apparently unlike McNulty, Melinda's a bit more honest than opportunistic).

Now ironically, Melinda nearly ends up in the same fate as McNulty, when she almost loses the amulet while taking a bath during one of her 'Time Freezes.' However, the writer probably felt this might be a bit too much like McNulty's fate and had a more delicious twist in store for our Melinda.

In this case, while Melinda has been wrapped up in her own difficulties, she has become oblivious with the world's own crisis: a possible World War III. Complete with H-Bombs and atomic weapons, of course. The way this occurs is when her husband and kids suddenly rush in screaming inexplicably about the news. As everything becomes too much for her, Melinda screams with one resounding "SHUT UP" thundering across the world.

As peace and quiet return, Melinda then notices something peculiarly strange. Apparently, her family is nowhere to be found within the house. Gingerly stepping out, she notices, much to her horror, her family and neighbors are frozen, statuesque, looking upwards into the sky, horrified, astonished and dismay. And they have every right to be, for looming overhead, are gigantic H-bombs about to establish contact with the town. Thus, here, Melinda is ensnared in her timeless fate. But unlike our McNulty, who ended up deserving his fate for his greed and overbearing personality, our poor Melinda ends up receiving more peace and quiet than she anticipated: for if she dares resumes the flow of Time, she'll bring forth destruction of her world.

Overall, two different tales, with two different settings, but one coherent theme. With both similar fates: doomed trapped within a dimension beyond their reckoning. One well-deserved, while the other ends up learning the ancient adage: 'be careful what one wishes for.'

While our Mr. McNulty ended up accidentally trapped due to his own short-sightedness, our Ms. Melinda ends up being forced into her position by unfortunate circumstances. Strange how possessing the power of Time can crop up unexpected consequences. Especially when crossing over into the Twilight Zone.

Twilight Trivia: In the Futurama Comic #28: Let's Twist Again. Fry, Leela and Bender end up in a Parallel Universe while delivering material for the writers of 'The Scary Door' (Futurama's version of TZ). In this Universe, apparently ironic twists occur naturally. Meaning, classic and modern TZ episodes are being parodied.

In one case, our steel friend Bender hapless combines these two aforementioned episodes, when he gets ahold of a similar stopwatch, and yet, freezes time at a moment when H-Bombs are about to descend on the populous. However, unlike our Ms. Melinda, Bender attempts to diffuse the bombs, only to have them go off before impact when Time resumes.

Which just goes to show, even robots shouldn't monkey about time.


The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to A Television Classic by Martin Grams Jr.

New Twilight Zone
website by Marta Dawes and CBS.

Futurama Comics by Bongo Comics, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen

Entry composed by the Fourth Fanger.

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