The Drosophila embryo undergoes a developmental transition during cycle 14 when it initiates asynchronous mitotic cycles and markedly increases its rate of zygotic transcription. The nucleo-cytoplasmic ratio has been proposed to be the single factor that temporally regulates this developmental transition. We altered the ratio in the embryo and analyzed the consequences on the cell cycle program and on the transcripts of specific genes. These genes were chosen because their transcripts normally undergo changes in pattern during cycle 14. We found evidence that the nucleo-cytoplasmic ratio is read and interpreted locally to regulate the cell cycle program. Based on the response of the transcripts to changes in the ratio, we found evidence that at least two classes of temporal regulatory mechanisms control these transcripts. We therefore propose two corresponding classes of transcripts: (1) nucleo-cytoplasmic ratio dependent; and (2) nucleo-cytoplasmic ratio independent or time correlated. The temporal regulation of the ratio-independent transcripts may be dependent on developmental time. We conclude that multiple modes of temporal regulation underlie the events of the developmental transition in Drosophila embryogenesis.