William Shatner’s A Twist in the Tale – Plot Synopsis: A Crack in Time
“We are all afraid of thunder and lightning, and rightly so. The electrical power they release can be devastating. Sometimes, as you are about to see, an electrical storm may be so powerful that it tears the very fabric of time itself. To create a crack in time … ”
The Johnsons live in a small country town. Their dairy farm has been in the family for three generations, and although in recent years they have been struggling, Mike – the father of David (13) and Katie (10) – is not about to let it go without a fight.
David has his own worries – he is being bullied at school by Wayne Brogan (14), the son of a rich neighbouring farmer. Wayne is particularly scornful of David’s pushbike, which is no match for Wayne’s own all-singing, all-dancing version. On the day our story begins, Wayne chases David home from school, knocking him into a ditch and badly damaging the bike.
Mike is as suspicious of Pat Brogan as David is of his son: for some years now Pat has been offering to buy up the Johnsons’ farm. The chief money-spinner of the farm is their specialist cheeses: with the bank threatening to foreclose, despite the best efforts of the family’s accountant Larry Sharpe, there could not be a worse time for the persistent and mystifying spoiling of the product. Mike is not beyond believing Pat Brogan to be somehow behind the contamination – and Nicky (19), the Johnsons’ attractive dairy assistant, doesn’t like him very much either …
The night of David’s crash, there is a huge thunderstorm over the farm. David cowers under the sheets – and therefore misses the most spectacular effect of the lightning …
… Until he wakes the next morning – the morning of Friday the 13th – to find a girl in his room he has never seen before – insisting that he is trespassing in her room. Jem Johnson – from the year 2098.
Jem’s father, back in the future, has designed a “compucator” – what Jem calls a commie. The commie is an astonishing invention: a kind of handheld, intuitive supercomputer, which works by accessing the user’s alpha waves and the universal matrix, the 21st century’s version of the internet. Jem has the prototype, and was being chased by a couple of what she calls “badlanders” for it when she crawled into her closet to come out in David’s time.
Jem is charming, brave, quickwitted – and impulsive. After a number of near-misses with David’s bewildered family, and unable to get back to her own time, she finally takes matters into her own hands and introduces herself to Mary, the children’s mother. Katie, David’s sister, is very keen on Jem, particularly when Jem reveals a fantastic common skill of the future: telepathy, for which Katie displays a definite flair. Strangest of all, when Jem takes herself to school, she makes a surprising conquest – Wayne Brogan. The only thing that worries responsible David are the two sinister men who seem to take as keen an interest in Jem as Wayne does …
David is suspicious of Wayne’s sudden transformation into Sir Galahad, and slightly jealous as well. When Jem’s commie goes missing from her locker, he suspects Wayne has stolen it, despite Wayne’s indignant denial – and when Jem goes missing next, he’s certain of it. He and Mike have an angry confrontation with Pat and Wayne, but at midnight Jem is still not back.
Unable to sleep with worry, David is startled by the appearance of Katie in his bedroom. The telepathy game the children played has had an unexpected outcome: Katie is receiving persistent images she is sure are from Jem – images of an office, a filing cabinet, a night street seen through a window. The children slip out of the house with only their dog Bones for company and set off to the rescue; they are joined by an unexpected friend and ally – the erstwhile bully Wayne.
Jem’s images lead the children to the main street of their little town, and into the offices of … Larry Sharpe. But what can the family’s sympathetic accountant have to do with the kidnapping of Jem?
As Katie and Bones keep watch outside, Wayne and David begin the difficult task of breaking into Larry’s inner office, where Jem is bound and gagged. Katie is horrified by the appearance of Larry and – of all people – Nicky, the Johnsons’ dairy hand: what on earth are these two doing together? Leaping to her feet, Katie cannons into the fire exit door through which the children broke in – and to her horror it slams shut, locking her out and the two boys in.
There follows a tense scene with Wayne and David in precarious hiding – but eavesdropping can sometimes be illuminating: it becomes clear not only that Larry and Nicky are behind the kidnap and the theft of the commie, but that they have long been in collusion over the jeopardising of the farm’s produce – the “accidental” spoiling of the cheeses – in order to force a sale – and force the Johnsons out.
With the appearance of the two men David has observed watching Jem, the dastardly quadrangle is complete. Larry pays off the kidnappers and he and Nicky leave, gloating. With not only the farm but the secrets of the commie in their grasp, they will be very rich villains indeed.
Katie and Bones sneak into the building as David and Wayne free Jem. With her telepathic powers she unlocks the combination dial of the safe and regains her commie … and David makes a very important discovery: documents that clearly implicate Larry in the fraudulent handling of the business affairs of the farm. The children’s gleeful laughter merges with the rumble of an approaching thunder storm …
… and we open again on David asleep … and his calendar, clearly showing Friday the 13th, as Mary shakes him awake. David stumbles downstairs, bewildered: Jem is nowhere to be seen, and his inquiry about her meets with a blank response from Mary. But Mike and Mary certainly have enough to be distracted by – the morning mail brings the precious contract from Pacific Dairy Products they have been waiting for, and the paper the shocking news of the arrests of Larry Sharpe and Nicky.
David is lost in thought, as the joyous dance of his parents mirrors the joyous dance of he and Jem the night before … and Katie enters, bearing a puzzling object: the commie, which she has just found in David’s room. David can only smile at her: it is something he has dreamed up, dreamed up for the future…