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I have a memory of what seems to me to have been a The Twilight Zone episode, but I have them all and can't find it.

A man is on what appears to be an empty world. Buildings but no people. finally he encounters a construction crew. His world is like movie set under construction. He has somehow gotten out of sync, slightly ahead of the people who arrive as the episode ends.

Was it The Twilight Zone? The Outer Limits? Something else?

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  • Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this? And was the episode in black & white or in colour? Apr 18, 2023 at 14:02
  • I don't remember the year, but long ago and yes I do remember it as being in black and white. Apr 19, 2023 at 15:03
  • So "A Matter of Minutes" isn't the episode you were looking for? Apr 19, 2023 at 15:42
  • When posting story-ID questions, you should leave comments beneath any incorrect answers to confirm that they're incorrect, otherwise people may assume that your question has been correctly answered and stop searching. And if a correct answer is submitted, you should confirm that by clicking on the check mark beneath the voting buttons to mark it as accepted. Apr 19, 2023 at 16:03
  • A Matter of Minutes sounds like the right answer. I'll have to get a video and check. When I said it was not in my collection, I was referring to the original Rod Serling episodes. I had not considered the sequel series. My bad. Thank you to all who answered. Apr 19, 2023 at 16:43

3 Answers 3

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This sounds like the Twilight Zone (1985) episode "A Matter of Minutes" (season 1, episode 15, broadcast January 1986). It's based on the Theodore Sturgeon's 1941 short story "Yesterday Was Monday."

Quoting from the plot summary on Wikipedia:

The Wrights, a young married couple, wake up on April 27, 1986 to the sounds of construction. When they investigate they find a crew of blue-clad construction workers are removing the furniture in their house and the telephone doesn't work. The Wrights run outside to find things being rebuilt all over the neighborhood - things that have already existed.

Confused and frightened, the couple run into a back alley and enter a void of white space. A man in yellow calls them back and explains to them that he is the supervisor of the maintenance of time. The Wrights should be at 9:33 a.m., but by some means have hopped over into 11:37 a.m. He reveals that every minute is a separate world which must be carefully built ahead of time to ensure that, for example, the house someone is living in at 3:02 appears to be the same one they were living in at 3:01.

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I'm kind of remembering a Stephen King story "Four Past Midnight" that was made into a movie The Langoliers. Some folks get "glitched" and discover that each moment has to be deconstructed by some rather frightening critters.

It's very much a trope in SF, the idea that existence is a construct built to keep us from knowing what is really going on. For example, in the Heinlein story They a guy is confined to an insane asylum because he believes the world is a construct created to deceive him. He believes this because he saw that it was a sunny day out one window of his house, but raining hard out the other. The last page of the story reveals that his paranoia is true.

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    I always thought of time in "The Langoliers" as having two dimensions. We normally travel along one dimension—down the middle of the road, so to speak. But the characters in the story take an abrupt turn, and start moving through time in the crosswise direction. They head first toward one edge of the road, and come dangerously close to leaving it altogether. Then they hop back across the center line, part-way toward the other edge. And then finally, they return to, and turn back onto the middle path. Apr 20, 2023 at 14:54
  • In a similar vein, the Matt Damon movie The Adjustment Bureau has a similar theme of the world at large being essentially a construct and people suddenly getting a glimpse "back-stage" on reality. Apr 20, 2023 at 15:05
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It might be a Twilight Zone episode that was not shown very often. It was called "Where is Everybody". It starred Earle Holliman as a soldier that was being tested I believe for the effects of isolation.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. I'm not sure this matches the detail of the protagonist stumbling across a construction crew.
    – DavidW
    Jul 2, 2023 at 17:02

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