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46[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Blink of an Eye"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Jan 27, 2000
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's "Blink of
      an Eye." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      Nutshell: A good reapplication of a good premise that was misapplied in its
      original use.

      Plot description: Trapped in the orbit of a planet with a time-rate
      differential where the inhabitants live out generations in mere hours,
      Voyager becomes a centuries-standing fixture in the society's mythos.

      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Blink of an Eye"

      Airdate: 1/19/2000 (USA)
      Teleplay by Joe Menosky
      Story by Michael Taylor
      Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "If there's an intelligent species down there, we'll be able to track their
      development, not just for days or weeks, but for centuries."
      "And watch them discover new and better ways of beating each other over the
      "They won't necessarily follow the Klingon model."
      "As opposed to the human model?"
      -- Chakotay and Torres

      "Blink of an Eye" is a compelling hour of Voyager, and it might've seemed
      like a truly original sci-fi concept if it weren't for the fact the basic
      premise was made into an episode of original Trek more than 31 years ago. Is
      this new episode an homage, an updated retelling, or a blatant plundering of
      already-used ideas?

      I'm inclined to use the phrase "updated retelling." One gets the sense that
      this story might've been intended to seem fresh to new-Trek fans who were
      not familiar with the original premise; at the same time, the fact that the
      title has barely been changed (the TOS episode was called "Wink of an Eye")
      is a hint that maybe the writers were consciously, if quietly, acknowledging
      their source material.

      Still, with a premise built on such an interesting hook, it almost seems
      like the original script's writers, Arthur Heinemann and Gene Coon, deserved
      to be inserted into this week's credits.

      "Blink of an Eye" is *not* a rehash, mind you. "Blink" is, in fact, miles
      ahead of "Wink," which had that great starting premise but didn't do much
      with it, and required viewers to overlook crucial flaws in logic in order
      for the story to work.

      "Blink" takes the idea of time differential to a much more interesting level
      by inserting Voyager into the very mythos of the strange new world in
      question. This is easily the best, most ambitious sci-fi premise seen on
      Voyager this season.

      We've got a planet that exists in accelerated time, where nearly an entire
      day goes by in the time the Voyager crew experiences one second. Voyager
      gets stuck in orbit in some sort of technobabble eddy, and while they're
      stuck they observe the society below developing from primitive to industrial
      to digital. And what's perhaps most interesting about this idea is that the
      planet's inhabitants all the while are observing Voyager, which looks like
      the brightest, biggest star in the sky. It's a wondrous new take on a
      concept that was nowhere within the thought range of the original "Wink."
      Anyone who is calling "Blink" simply a rehash is missing the point.

      The most interesting aspect of "Blink" is what grows from the implications
      of everyone gazing into the sky, seeing Voyager, and wondering what that
      super-bright star in the sky means. The story supplies us several time
      periods on the planet where a dialog opens between two people looking at the
      sky. They wonder what it is, who put it there, and why it causes frequent
      earthquakes. As the time periods change, the nature of the belief regarding
      this mysterious "star" changes. At first it's worshiped and feared; later
      those values of worship are challenged and primitive contact is attempted
      (by sealed letter and hot-air balloon, no less); and still later we have
      astronomers staring at it through telescopes, sending it radio signals, and
      wondering who put the "Sky Ship" in orbit and why it's not going anywhere.

      Strangely, I don't have a whole lot to say about some of the societal
      perspectives, because the most interesting ideas to ponder are implicit. In
      fact, if there's a drawback to "Blink of an Eye," it's that some of the
      execution can't really live up to the potential of the concept. For such an
      interest-piquing idea, there are numerous scenes that, in and by themselves,
      strike me as oddly lackluster. As a whole, probably each scene is necessary
      to establish the unfolding canvas of centuries of time, but as individual
      drama scenes they don't really stand out to say something powerful.

      Part of that, I think, lies on the guest cast, which isn't uniformly solid.
      Each time frame we see features two actors engaging in a dialog about the
      Sky Ship, and in each case one actor seems significantly weaker than the
      other. Also, the early scenes can't break free and become completely
      engrossing because the dialog comes across as a bit stilted. Particularly in
      the first two ancient time periods, the people talk with a wooden properness
      that strikes me as over-scripted and artificial.

      Back aboard Voyager, we have some neat ideas, like the idea of beaming Doc
      down to the planet to investigate a way of escaping orbit, and the idea that
      when he is unretrievable for several minutes because of a technical problem,
      he comes back to Voyager having been on the planet three years, where he had
      basically become a citizen.

      And in the most immediate example of observing progress that's unfolding
      before one's eyes, Seven witnesses on the viewscreen in a few moments the
      testing of antimatter bombs over what is really a few months' time--and then
      realizes the devices have been promptly aimed at Voyager.

      The best moments come in the latter stages of the show after two astronauts
      make the historic first attempt to reach the Sky Ship. Seeing through their
      eyes, we're able to experience the anticipation as they approach Voyager--a
      weird, alien, impossibly frozen object that has been a mystery for
      centuries. They board Voyager, which of course gives us the creepy visuals
      of two explorers walking through the decks of a ship full of frozen people.
      (Are the physics of such a situation plausible? Wouldn't people running
      around the ship at such high speeds cause some sort of increased friction or
      heat? What if one of these astronauts punched somebody? Would their hand go
      right through a Voyager crew member and break them in half? Is there some
      sort of law of conservation of energy or something to account for this?
      Okay, I'm being flippant; I honestly don't know or care. There's a reason I
      got a degree in English and not physics.)

      Suddenly, the astronauts are pulled into Voyager's rate of time. One of the
      astronauts dies from trauma, but the other, a man named Gotana-Retz (Daniel
      Dae Kim), survives, and becomes the emotional anchor for the story's closing
      stages. Gotana-Retz is represented by the better actor of the two astronaut
      characters, fortunately, and I liked that the story revealed the way Voyager
      impacted him as an individual who had always sought answers to the Sky Ship
      mystery--from childhood.

      The show's most interesting explicitly discussed idea is that the mystery of
      the Sky Ship had prompted a societal acceleration of technology (sort of a
      "space race" like the race to the Moon). The idea that a people sought
      development to answer questions with such huge significance is a notion that
      tunes into our own wonders. There's also some musing over what might happen
      to society if the Sky Ship were to leave. Interesting, how the universal
      are-we-alone-in-the-universe question is filtered through this particular
      Voyager plot.

      Of course, it's also an honest and telling point that, as Doc reveals, if
      some members of government had their way, newly discovered weapons would be
      quickly pointed and fired at the Sky Ship.

      The ending works pretty well, though there seems to be a tad bit of chaos.
      It's nice that Voyager's escape from the planet's grasp isn't arbitrarily
      handled with tech but instead by the decision to have Gotana-Retz return to
      the planet and tell his people what he has seen.

      Despite the smart script, "Blink" doesn't really land in the realm of
      Trekkian masterpieces. Some of the more potent moments in the drama feel a b
      it underplayed (and Paul Baillargeon still refuses to score moments of
      action with any sort of energy). Where this episode reveals its cracks is in
      the ebb and flow of the plot along the way. There are distracting moments
      that don't quite seem to fit, like the walk-on of Naomi Wildman and
      especially Doc's brief mention of his "son" from when he was on the
      planet--which is downright confusing as presented, and seems tacked on since
      it makes one wonder where all the emotional attachment vanished to the
      instant he beamed back aboard Voyager.

      But regardless, this episode is a winner. It has genuine sci-fi imagination
      of the type that sci-fi deserves. I've observed that there are two general
      types of sci-fi that Hollywood uses to establish their stories: the kind
      that tell human dramas about the nature of possibilities and imagination,
      and the type that exploit spaceships and fantasy technology merely for
      explosions and cheap thrills. "Blink of an Eye" represents the former.

      Trailer commentary: It kills me the way all those extra stock-footage shots
      of explosions and people getting knocked off their feet were added to the
      promo for "Blink of an Eye," little of which happened in this episode. This
      preview, like many Voyager previews, obviously emanated straight from the
      People-Will-Watch-If-They-Think-Stuff-Will-Get-Blown-Up Dept.

      Next week: According to the trailer, who knows? But somewhere in the next
      few weeks we'll get plenty of Borg, action, and Seven of Nine arena
      fighting. Yes, everyone, it's "Star Trek: LCD"!

      Copyright (c) 2000 by Jamahl Epsicokhan, all rights reserved. Unauthorized
      reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...