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"The Twilight Zone: Nick of Time (#2.7)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"The Twilight Zone" Nick of Time (1960)

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25 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

"Nick of Time" covers a lot of psychological areas

Author: (chuck-reilly) from Los Angeles
24 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

William Shatner and Patricia Breslin play a honeymooning couple who stop to get a bite to eat at a small-town diner while their car is being repaired. In their booth, a strange penny-for-your-fortune machine (complete with a wobbling devil's head) attracts their attention while they await their food order. Shatner decides to insert a penny to see how his luck is going. The brief and terse answer that pops out turns out to be exactly what happens to the couple after they leave the diner. Intrigued by the possibility that the machine may have some innate power, Shatner and his new wife head back to the diner to find out some more information about their "future." It doesn't take long before Shatner becomes a slave to the devilish device and can't wait for the next answer, and the next...

"Nick of Time," written by Richard Matheson, explores many psychological areas, the most obvious being the nature of superstition itself and a lesser one involving thought inducement from suggestive persuasion. The answers Shatner and his wife receive are nothing but ordinary statements (e.g. "You'll find out soon enough," "That is to be determined" etc.). Unfortunately, they misinterpret them as all-knowing and all-omniscient and begin to completely fall under the control of the inanimate machine. It takes all their collective will-power to finally break free from the diner and resume their lives. As they leave the scene, another much older couple enter the diner and put a penny into the devil's slot. It appears the honeymoon is over for them.

Shatner does a great job as the young and confident married man who seems to have all the answers until he meets his match with the devil's own device. Patricia Breslin provides fine support as his loving but increasingly desperate wife who tries her best to tear him away from the diner before he loses his soul. "Nick of Time" is truly an original premise that has plenty to say about man's fears, superstitions and psychological problems. It's one of the more interesting episodes in the Twilight Zone series and has a real "hidden" message for viewers.

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18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Strange oddities....

Author: MarieGabrielle from United States
15 August 2006

and William Shatner in this episode of "Twilight Zone". What more could the audience want?. A seemingly innocent road trip, two honeymooners in middle America; all is safe and pleasant.

Until they have to stop in a small town, to eat lunch and get their car repaired. An innocent soothsaying machine, with a snaggle toothed devil's head on top of it, is Shatner's past time as he starts to place coins in the machine, to see if he and his wife will ever get out of this town. The wife, as portrayed by Patricia Breslin is appropriately amused, at first.

After awhile, the answers the fortune-telling machine gives Shatner are ominous, and he develops a fixation on the machine: ..."What if...?"... he keeps wondering.

You will truly enjoy this episode, and anyone who knows if the props are available, I would be interested in the devil fortune-telling machine!. 10/10.

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A Penny 's Worth of Trouble

Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
26 May 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Writer Richard Matheson and director Richard Bare manage to squeeze maximum worth out of this very slender premise. One of those bobble-head fortune teller novelties from the fifties proves to be more than just a teenage amusement. This devil's head claims to predict the future and actually does-- or at least appears to. There it sits booth-side in a cheap diner waiting for some unsuspecting customer to get caught up in the clairvoyant vortex. Unsuspecting newly-weds Pat Breslin and William Shatner make for very charming victims. Notice how Bare shifts camera angles as the couple falls under the demonic spell. He uses Breslin's mounting anxiety in the foreground to communicate emotions as Shatner gets caught up in the background. It's very effective. (Also-- consider how the couple gets a hearty lunch for under two dollars. Sign me up!)

The better TZ's usually posed an interesting philosophical question. Here the quandary is what you would do if you believed your future was already mapped out. Would you try to duck it? Could you avoid it? Or is fate unstoppable? Breslin doesn't want to find out, and when it comes down to it, neither does Shatner. Maybe their choice is the wisest. Live your life as though you are in charge. Let the gods sort out the rest. All in all, a worthy little episode.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

" It's not possible to predict the future, is it?"- It all depends on your point of view

Author: mlraymond from Durham NC
22 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This episode is like a good short story. It's tightly focused on two specific characters in a specific situation, building to a strong ending, but with an even more ironic conclusion than any viewer might guess.

William Shatner and Patricia Breslin are both excellent as the honeymooning couple. The small town diner has a realistic feel to it and the whole storyline is based in the every day world, but with a hint of the unknown and occult suggested ambiguously. The grinning devil head that bobbles on top of the fortune telling machine seems to mock Shatner's eager quest for answers.

One of the best moments occurs when the wife asks him, "Don't you realize you could get the same answers from a dozen machines just like it in this place?" The husband fails to see the logic of her idea and responds by saying " The same kind of answers maybe, but not the exact right answers." He insists that every one of the random answers the machine has given him is a literal prediction and confirmation of things that have happened recently. The way that he stares at the machine in fascination makes it seem almost a rival for Patricia Breslin's affections.

This is a powerful and absorbing episode that stands as one of the series' best.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The Twilight Zone-Nick of Time

Author: Scarecrow-88 from United States
1 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A young couple are traveling through Ohio when their car's fuel pump takes out, having to wait in a café for a few hours. Don(William Shatner)is an accountant wanting a promotion for office manager, Pat(Patricia Breslin)his lady. Don becomes overwhelmed by a devil-headed penny machine napkin holder that shoots out cards which supposedly foretells the future. Pat tries desperately to pull Don away from it so they can be relinquished from the fear such a machine causes to those who honestly believe of its power to dictate the future. This is an episode dependent on the performers with only a small, rather unintimidating machine as the "doom device". Shatner scores again as a young man who becomes so dependent on the machine(even though it could just be popping out random messages) that he considers it too accurate to be anything but legit. Patricia tries to be the more grounded one who attempts to break her man from the machine's hold on him. Sadly, NICK OF TIME is overshadowed by the other Shatner TWILIGHT ZONE episode, but this is quite a good showcase for his talents(he can deliver a subtle performance, you know).

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

"It has already been taken care of".

Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
10 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Something very strange - I've seen this episode about three or four times over a span of years dating back to it's original series run, and I can never remember how it ends. That won't happen again since I'm writing about it now, but it gives you an idea that not all the Twilight Zone's had to go for a shocking finale or a twist ending.

But how can you forget William Shatner's paranoia over a penny fortune telling machine? Fresh on his honeymoon with the Mrs. (Patricia Breslin), Don Carter (Shatner) is distracted to a fault over his impending promotion to office manager back in New York. Taking refuge at a diner in every-town Ridgeview, Ohio, the couple falls victim to an inanimate object that can seemingly predict the future. Well, Shatner's character falls victim, his wife has the strength of will and reason to break the machine's spell over her husband so they can eventually make their escape.

Whenever I tune into a period piece like this, I make it a point to key in on those reminders of a time gone by. The most striking thing here is that Don Carter's seventy five cent phone call back to his office cost a nickel more than a plate of bacon, eggs and hot cakes at the Busy Bee. Can you imagine that? The fried shrimp with french fries and cole slaw for eighty five cents sounded like a real bargain, making me wonder why anyone wouldn't want to pony up the extra spare change instead of simply getting a sandwich for four bits. Or if you find yourself in the middle, there's the hamburger steak for sixty five cents, topping that off with an ice cream soda for another fifteen cents. Seems like the cook though was pushing the chicken fried steak big time.

The irony of the episode, as it boils down to an examination of superstition and how it can take control of one's life, is that one can never know what negative unintended consequences you leave behind if you refuse to play the game. The elderly couple who replace the Carter's in the diner booth are just such an example, having fallen victim to the mystic seer. That could have been the Carter's, if not for breaking through the haze of inertia caused by an innate desire to see and know the future instead of creating it for themselves.

So, should you see the episode? - It has been decided in your favor.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A Timeless Lesson

Author: mlifrevol from United States
2 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Not a lot can be added to what has already been said by other reviewers but I wanted to point out just a couple of things. What happens to Don Carter (Shatner) routinely happens to many of us in the form of looking for signs from horoscopes, religion, and an over-sensitivity to coincidences. You can convince yourself that the universe, God (or the gods), and fate are all lined up in your favor.

I found it very interesting that Don Carter saves his wife from the speeding car but he is also the one the put her there in the first place. You can hear her yell out to wait and he tells her that they can make it. They both see only the truck and are unaware of the speeding car that is passing on the other side. When one allows signs and superstitions to guide their life away from danger, it can also be taking you toward danger.

Great writing and acting!

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Chance is the fool's name for fate.

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
2 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It seems to be about newly minted husband, William Shatner, and his dealings with a cheap fortune-telling machine at a booth in the local lunch counter. He and his wife, Pat Breslin, are waiting for their car to be fixed in this hick town in Ohio while on their honeymoon.

Shatner is a superstitious fellow. He carries a rabbit's foot AND a four-leaf clover on his key ring. Worse, as he feed this demonic little machine pennies, he begins to believe it can foretell the future. Actually, it's like one of those Magic Eight Balls put through a step-up transducer, or like the oracel at Delphi. Each time Shatner puts a penny in the slot, asks it a question, and pulls out the answer slip, it is uncannily appropriate. But in an ambiguous frame. Shatner is supposed to ask only "yes or no" questions, and the fiendish device comes up with answers like, "It has already been decided." Shatner is obsessed. His wife finally pulls him away and they resume their journey.

Shatner has a line of dialog that always cracks me up. His wife protests that the answers are vague and general, and he replies, "What am I supposed to do? Ask it how it is? And it's supposed to say, 'I'm fine, Don and Pat, so how's by you?'"

I said it "seems to be" about Shatner and the little machine, but actually it's rather more than that, whether the writers intended it or not. What it's really about is connecting the dots.

Shatner is all too willing to believe that the machine is divulging some fundamental truth and connects the dots to his own situation eagerly. (Who wouldn't want to know the future?) The problem that Shatner is dealing with is that you can find a pattern that suits your beliefs in any assembly of random events. That's one of the reasons we (and the Chinese) have zodiacs. Taken to its extremes, what you wind up with is a psychosis. Those lights in the next-door neighbors house? That's the IRS developing information with which to prosecute you. (That example is from Ernest Hemingway's later years.) Do you turn on your PC and find the desktop icons rearranged? They did it. Lose a lens from your eyeglasses? They've taken it deliberately. (That's another real example from a case of paranoid schizophrenia.)

There's more to this episode than meets the eye. I think Rod Serling and Richard Matheson were conspiring to tell us something. I think the machine was wired and the persons writing the answers to Shatner's questions were a bunch of secret government agents and Freemasons. They wanted him to stay in that one-horse town in Ohio because they plotted to put a communist mole in his place at the agency he worked for.

I'm just kidding. I think Matheson (whose title for the episode is a pun; "Nick" = "devil") just dreamed up the idea out of nowhere and thought it would make an interesting episode. At the same time, I sense a lot of us normal folks out here who are connecting dots that do not cry out for connection.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

When will people outgrow superstition? Never

Author: darrenpearce111 from Ireland
11 November 2013

A story unlike any other in the TZ. It works very well as a tale with a message about superstition. Amazingly, the 21st century is full of mystic nutters predicting the end of the world,mediums,astrologers etc. So perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that Don Carter (William Shatner) should appear so gullible about the mystic seer at the Busy Bee Cafe holding all the secrets that fate has in store. I think Pat Carter (Patricia Breslin, later to star in 'No Time Like The Past' in series 4) speaks for the majority when she says it's her husband not the seer that is frightening. Even so superstition seems disproportionately powerful for 1960 here, given that Don Carter is getting such non specific answers. Would have been much more spooky if the seer had foretold of the near-future Chief O'Hara of 'Batman' appearing very briefly (Stafford Repp) or of a flight to be avoided by William Shatner in another story.

Worth seeing for the anti-superstition message and Patricia Breslin as the sensible suffering wife.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

The Jukebox in this episode

Author: javadud from United States
17 August 2009

I really like this episode. Most of the TZ episodes are good. I agree with most of the other posts on this one.

The thing I wanted to add was something about that jukebox in the background. My parents own one that is the same model. It is a Wurlitzer model 1050. I was very surprised to see the same model in an episode. They have owned theirs since the 60s.

Anyway, if you watch the jukebox throughout the episode, they have turned it off during the closeup shots. There is a light at the top towards the back that is on and off throughout the episode. This would probably qualify as a goof.

The other thing is, the particular model had to search out the disc and then bring it up for play. It would not have come on as fast as it does in this episode.

That is a bit of a long winded explanation, but oh well. We have had that machine in our family for over 40 years. It's cool to see one on a TV show.

Now, the fortune machine...I have never seen one like that anywhere.

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