The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Four “A Kind of a Stopwatch”

Original Air Date: October 18, 1963
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: John Rich

“The greatest conversation piece in the world… and what does it do? It stops conversation!”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Submitted for your approval or at least your analysis: one Patrick Thomas McNulty, who, at age forty-one, is the biggest bore on Earth. He holds a ten-year record for the most meaningless words spewed out during a coffee break. And it’s very likely that, as of this moment, he would have gone through life in precisely this manner, a dull, argumentative bigmouth who sets back the art of conversation a thousand years. I say he very likely would have except for something that will soon happen to him, something that will considerably alter his existence—and ours. Now you think about that now, because this is The Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Patrick McNulty (Richard Erdman known for his appearances in Tora! Tora! Tora! and Stalag 17) is a loud and opinionated middle-aged man who ceaselessly offers various financial schemes to his boss, but his loud mouth soon gets him fired. Later, his motormouth scares away all the clientele at his local bar, save for one elderly man named Potts (Leon Belasco) who gifts. Mr. McNulty a stopwatch, however he soon realizes this stopwatch has a special power –it freezes time.

Mr. McNulty tries to explain to his former co-workers and barflies that he now possesses the power to stop time, but no one believes him. Thus he decides to use his stopwatch to rob a bank, but in a cruel twist of fate not unlike Henry Bemis in the classic Season 1 episode “Time Enough At Last,” Mr. McNulty drops his stopwatch and it shatters. His world is now trapped in limbo forever. This once loudmouth pontificator, who was desperate for a listening ear, is now condemned to live a life of pure solipsism.

“Mr. Patrick Thomas McNulty, who had a gift of time. He used it and he misused it, and now he’s just been handed the bill. Tonight’s tale of motion and McNulty – in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

I found this to be a fun episode with a haunting ending, however I was left questioning the depth of the plot –Who is this strange old man named Potts? where did the stopwatch come from? The saving grace of “A Kind Of A Stopwatch” is the ending.


The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • This episode has been spoofed by numerous shows including The Simpsons (“Treehouse of Horror XIV”), Futurama, Johnny Bravo, Garfield, and others.
  • This story was re-used as the debut episode of the 1980’s revival series of The Twilight Zone in a segment entitled “A Little Peace and Quiet.”
  • Michael D. Rosenthal, a speech professor at the University of Wisconsin, sold this bare bones script to Producer Bert Granet and it became Mr. Rosenthal’s only contribution to the series. His initial one-page script differs considerably from the final episode (a copy of the original can be found in Martin Grams, Jr.’s The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. This episode went through many different drafts and the teleplay was finished by Jerry McNeely.
  • The character named Potts uses a variety of antiquated military phrases leading us to wonder if he is some sort of supernatural creature.
  • Director John Rich also directed the Season 2 episode “A Most Unusual Camera.”
  • “A Kind of a Stopwatch” is one of several episodes referenced by Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks during the prologue of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

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