I've always wondered if Zack Morris's ability to stop time in the show was to be taken literally as an ability, or if it was just a story device. The latter actually would make more sense... but for the fact that it has been shown on occasion that when Zack "Times out", he can and does actually affect physical changes among others in his space.

Now, some arguments have been made that Zack has a very rich delusional world, and thus this is just his overactive imagination at work... even that all of his exploits and "Cool" are just his way of "escaping" reality. But in the SBTB canon, he does actually marry Kelly, graduate and live well, and have long-standing friendships with Lisa, Jessie, Slater and Screech. Even Mr. Belding regards him as an almost son, despite all of the crazy stunts he pulled.

So if all of that is real.... wouldn't that imply that most, if not all of what he did in the show could be real, as well, including those "Time Outs" he pulled?

  • 21
    It's actually a spell-like ability. [/D&D joke]
    – jwodder
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 19:31

2 Answers 2


In a word, no. It was a "fourth wall break" that the makers modeled on the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

"People think, oh, that was such a novel idea that you came up with," Mark-Paul Gosselaar told Jimmy Fallon. "No, that was done by Ferris Bueller, we were just copying him." "That was like the muse for my character," Gosselaar went on. "I was such a fan of Ferris Bueller."

15 Secrets From Saved By The Bell You Had No Idea About

There's no good indication that the Time-Out!/Time-In! was actually happening in-universe, other than when it fit the Rule of Funny.

  • 7
    There very much is evidence that the power exists in-universe, as Zack has changed things while in timeout, such as unfreezing some people to give him a head start, escaping a situation, or just pulling a prank. I don't agree with the other Answer that we must see all that as diagetic, and not just part of a joke, but it is at least evidence that it happened in-universe.
    – trlkly
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 17:05
  • 7
    Sure, and again the trope applies that Zak can use this power, but only when it's funny and only as a gag, never as a plot point.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 17:07
  • 3
    I'm wondering, with apologies to the OP, and given this answer, is the question even on-topic here? Considering that the only thing that would make this question on-topic is if Zack really had supernatural abilities. Sorry, I am mostly a lurker here and don't know all the ins and outs. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 22:24
  • 3
    @KodosJohnson - You're not wrong. TBH it's one of those borderline issues that we'd probably argue about for days, then eventually come back to where we've started from. Unless we get a glut of SBtB questions, I'm content to let it lie.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 22:27
  • 5
    This quote doesn't seem to support the answer's conclusion. The fact that the creators of the show were copying Ferris Bueller has no bearing on whether the time stop ability is "real" in the show. Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 17:19

As noted, Zack's time-stopping can affect the world of the show in real ways. We cannot read it as merely a narrative device. We have to accept that, in the world of the show, Zack really can stop time and move people around, just like we have to accept that Wonder Woman's lasso compels people to tell the truth. And we can't really call this a "natural ability," right? So it follows very naturally from the premises of the question—which are simply the facts of the show!—that the answer is yes, Zack possesses a supernatural ability.

But this doesn't really felicitously describe the situation. Saved By The Bell is neither a realistic show (like, say, Gilmore Girls) nor a grounded, internally consistent show with supernatural elements (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer). With its vaudevillian dialog, over-the-top plots, and pervasive goofiness, the world of Saved By The Bell is not very grounded or internally consistent. Besides Zack's time-stopping abilities, the best example is probably how Screech, while in high school, built a self-aware robot that speaks perfect English and nobody especially cares.

Another thing that Saved by the Bell analysts have to keep in mind is that, although it's certainly still appreciated by fans of various age groups, it seems clear that the show was written as a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy about teenagers, for a target audience of pre-teen children. If we approach the show from that perspective, it's easier to recognize that Saved By The Bell operates under cartoon logic—and storylines like "Screech's Spaghetti Sauce" become much easier to accept when we view them through this lens.

So, in the same way, we might ask whether Wile E. Coyote has a supernatural ability to survive being blown up repeatedly, or whether Mickey Mouse has supernaturally autonomous ears. But these questions don't quite meet the characters on their own terms. Looking at stories in terms of "supernatural abilities" assumes that the stories in question feel beholden to a sense of realism, which Saved By The Bell does not.

  • 7
    +1 for the reference to cartoon logic, because of course the primary objective of a cartoon is to be funny rather than realistic.
    – komodosp
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 8:24
  • 1
    I don't agree we have to read the ways Zack changed the world during timeouts as diagetic, as they could just be read as fourth wall gags. But I do agree with the cartoon-logic aspect making "supernatural" seem like the wrong word for what is going on, even if we do assume it happens in universe.
    – trlkly
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 17:07
  • 2
    BTW ,it's spelled "diegetic". Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 18:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.