Test pilot Jim Darcy (Dewey Martin) and his wife Linda (Mary Murphy) are having a really bad day... one that might literally never end.
It all starts when Jim, Linda and their young daughter Janie (Emma Tyson) arrive at Palmville Air Force Base so Jim can test an X-15—like jet plane while his family watches. Linda drives along the ground, following her husband's plane, while Janie pedals her tricycle around the day care area. But then Jim's jet malfunctions and crashes! And this shocks Linda so much that she drives the family convertible straight into a boulder! Both survive their accidents, but their troubles are just beginning — because all around them, Time Stands Still.
Or at least that's how it seems. As the Darcys try to figure out what happened to them, they realize that their simultaneous crashes have somehow thrown them Just One Second Out of Sync with the timestream. Time is actually moving forward to the critical moment of their accidents, but it's moving so slowly they can't perceive it. Also, they can't physically move anyone or anything except themselves and the objects on their persons and in their vehicles. But all they have to do is get back to their places in the jet and the car and wait for time to resynchronize itself.... right?
Wrong! It turns out that Janie is riding her bike into the path of an improperly parked truck! So now the Darcys have to save themselves from getting killed or stuck in time, and their daughter from getting squashed flat, but at least there's nothing else to worry about...
...until they encounter the episode's Monster of the Week! This "Limbo Being" (Kay E. Kuter), who looks like a glowing, somewhat blurry photographic negative of a man in a suit and tie, explains everything the Darcys need to know — after they threaten to set him on fire with a road flare from Linda's car. The Being reveals that the Darcys returning to their proper places before time resynchronizes is really important. If they fail, as the Limbo Being did, they'll share his chilling fate... forever trapped in "a black, motionless void" of "eternal nothing". The Being claims he can escape only if one of the Darcys takes his place, but they keep him away with more road flares while they use his information to figure out how to save themselves and their daughter. But how can they do that when they have to be in their vehicles at the precise moment Janie is about to get run over?
Jim comes up with a way to rescue Janie! He uses a knife in his uniform and some shrapnel from his crashed jet to cut the seatbelts out of their convertible, then wraps them around the threatening truck's handbrake, creating a Rube Goldberg Device that will pull the brake back when time resynchronizes... he hopes. Jim and Linda return to their vehicles, survive their respective crashes (again) when time restarts, then rush to check on Janie — who's alive and well, because Jim's contraption worked. However, since Jim and Linda re-entered normal time at the same moment they left it, they've forgotten their entire limbo experience. So how did they know that Janie was in trouble? "It must have been a premonition", Jim says as he and his family walk off together.
"Troped in this limbo world between the present and the future":
- Actor Allusion: Dewey Martin had also played a troubled, ethically challenged pilot running through the desert in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "I Shot an Arrow into the Air''.
- All There in the Script: The phrase "Limbo Being" is never used until the closing credits. In the actual episode, the character is No Name Given.
- And I Must Scream: The fate of the Limbo Being takes this trope Up to Eleven.
- Anti-Villain: The Limbo Being's just trying to leave the Void Between the Worlds. The only reason he qualifies as a threat is his warning that only two of the three characters can escape ("Since two lives entered here, there will be space for two lives to escape this time prison"note ), and his admission that he's desperate enough to leave one of them behind; after all, if one of them were in his place, they'd feel the same way. However, the Darcys have already subdued him by this point.
- Bald of Awesome: General "Baldy" Baldwin (William Bramley), Jim's Mission Control.
- Bioluminescence Is Cool: The Limbo Being's glowing effect.
- Blank White Void: A variation; the Limbo Being is trapped in a blank black void.
- Cheerful Child: From the little we see of her, Janie is just adorable.
- Cool Car: Linda's Ford Galaxie convertible.
- Cool Plane: Jim's X-15.
- Damsel in Distress: Janie is a variation, in that a) she's a child and b) she never realizes she's in danger.
- Exposition Dump: The Limbo Being's speech is a creepy, horrific example.
- Fate Worse than Death: Quite literally in the Limbo Being's case.
- From Bad to Worse: The stakes just keep getting higher for the Darcys, as they continually discover new threats throughout the story.
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: When Linda freaks out, Jim calms her down with a slap to the face.
- Hope Spot: The Darcys' arrival in his timeless world is one for the Limbo Being — at least until they start waving a lighted flare at him.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: The Darcys usually refer to the Limbo Being as "it", although he's clearly human (more or less).
- Jacob Marley Warning: One third of the Limbo Being's role in the story.
- Last-Name Basis: We never learn General Baldwin's first name.
- Man on Fire: The Darcys threaten the Limbo Being with this. It's implied that if the Darcys actually set him on fire, he would burn forever. No wonder he tells them everything, ruining his own chance to escape — as bad off as he is, the alternative is much worse.
- Move in the Frozen Time: The Darcys become trapped ten seconds ahead of their own time. They initially believe that time is frozen but they soon come to the conclusion that it is moving very slowly: at a rate of one second for every 30 minutes of their time. Although the Darcys can move about freely in this reality, they can't move objects. This presents a problem when they discover that their daughter Janie is about to be run over by a military truck which does not have its parking brake on. Jim later finds that he can move objects in his crashed X-15 and Linda's crashed car. He ties one end of the car's seat belts to the back wheel of the truck and the other to the parking brake. When time resumes its normal course, the seatbelt pulls the parking brake and Janie is saved.
- Mysterious Past: How did the Limbo Being wind up in limbo? "What has happened to you happened to me. I didn't get back in time." That's all the Back Story we get.
- No Communities Were Harmed: "Palmville" is presumably based on the actual southern California city of Palmdale, where United States Air Force Plant 42 and related installations (including Lockheed Martin's famous "Skunk Works" facility) are located.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Literally, in the Limbo Being's case. He's basically experiencing The Nothing After Death while still technically alive. Most of his soliloquy is about how horrible this is.
- Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: The Darcys escape their Time Stands Still situation, Janie is saved, and the Limbo Being is still trapped in the Void Between the Worlds for eternity. Yay?
- Place Beyond Time/Void Between the Worlds: Where the Limbo Being winds up.
- Plot Hole: The Limbo Being warns the Darcys that they'll end up like him "if you are not in your plane, in your car, at the exact instant" time resynchronizes. Presumably he could tell Jim was a pilot from the uniform, but it's never stated how he knows about Linda's car. It's possible he had observed the Darcys; if not, there's always the road flare they threaten him with.
- Race Against the Clock: In the most literal sense.
- Rube Goldberg Device: The jury-rigged brake puller thing that Jim improvises to save Janie. Some fans feel that it would have been simpler to just entangle the spokes of Janie's tricycle, thus immobilizing her.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: The Limbo Being may be trapped in a timeless void forever, but he makes it look good.
- Stock Footage: The episode starts with footage of an actual X-15 flight and crash. It also includes scenes of a coyote chasing a rabbit through the desert and a hawk attacking its prey, which were taken from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.
- Time Is Dangerous: The Darcys and the Limbo Being learn this the hard way.
- Time Stands Still: What seems to be happening to the Darcys.
- Just One Second Out of Sync: What's actually happening to them.
- Title Drop: In one of the episode's last lines of dialogue. Also, this is one of only two episodes that uses the phrase "The Outer Limits" in the Control Voice narration ("The Borderland" is the other).
- Had the episode's Working Title "Gordian Knot" been retained, it would have been dropped in both the opening and closing narrations.
- Tragic Monster: Although the Limbo Being is much more "tragic" than "monster".
- Victory-Guided Amnesia: Happens to the Darcys when they resynchronize with time — although as noted, they somehow remember enough to check on Janie.
- What the Hell Are You?: When he's about to give the Limbo Being the third degree, Jim sets the tone for their conversation: "Who are you? What are you? Stand where you are or I'll set you on fire!"
- Whip Pan: Used to transition between the Darcys and the Limbo Being when their conversation begins, since the low budget special effects don't allow the characters to be shown together.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Not the Limbo Being.