Wink of an Eye
|"Wink of an Eye"|
|Star Trek: The Original Series episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Jud Taylor|
|Teleplay by||Arthur Heinemann|
|Story by||Lee Cronin|
|Featured music||Alexander Courage|
|Cinematography by||Al Francis|
|Original air date||November 29, 1968|
"Wink of an Eye" is a third season episode of the original science fiction television series Star Trek, first broadcast on November 29, 1968, and repeated on June 24, 1969. It is episode #66, production #68, and was written by Arthur Heinemann, based on a story by Gene L. Coon under the pen name "Lee Cronin", and directed by Jud Taylor.
In this episode, invisible "time-accelerated" aliens take over the Enterprise and attempt to abduct the crew for use as "genetic stock".
On stardate 5710.5, the Federation starship USS Enterprise follows an automated audio-visual distress call to the planet Scalos, which is outside known Federation space. When the ship arrives, Captain Kirk beams down with a landing party to investigate, finding a beautiful but empty metropolis, with not a single being around. In fact, the only trace of life found is heard in what sounds like the buzzing of unseen and un-scanable insects.
Soon after their arrival, Crewman Compton vanishes in a wave of energy right before the party's eyes. After a wide search of the area, Compton is still missing, and Kirk orders the landing party to return to the Enterprise.
Once aboard however, strange things begin to happen as equipment fails and ship systems become erratic. A strange alien device suddenly appears in engineering, seemingly attaching itself to the main life support system. The strange buzzing of insects encountered on the planet is now heard aboard the ship.
Kirk puts the ship on full alert, and while he takes a coffee break on the bridge, he notices the movements of the bridge crew seem to slow down to a stop as if time itself is being manipulated. Suddenly, a beautiful woman in a colorful gown appears on the bridge and addresses Kirk. The woman identifies herself as Deela, Queen of the Scalosians, and she explains to Kirk that the bridge crew has not slowed down, but he has been sped up, having been matched to the Scalosian's "hyper-accelerated" physical existence. It is only through this accelerated process that the aliens can interact with humans.
From the perspective of the bridge crew, Kirk has simply vanished the same way Compton did. Compton however, is alive and well, and aboard the Enterprise, having already been physically accelerated to the Scalosians' existence. Deela explains that exposure to radiation has caused the hyperacceleration of her people, and at the same time has made all the males sterile. She reveals her plan to have the crew of the Enterprise cryogenically frozen, providing an uncontaminated genetic stock her people can use to rebuild their population. She also claims Kirk as her consort, and demands that he join her on the planet below.
Kirk of course, has no say in the matter, and having been accelerated as well, he cannot interact with his slow-moving crew or give them warning of what is going to happen. Kirk's only hope is Mr. Compton, but Compton has been won over to the Scalosians' cause. When Compton attempts to defend his Captain against an assault by a Scalosian, however, he himself is knocked down, damaging his skin. The damage proves to be fatal as he rapidly ages and dies.
In the meantime, Deela meets with her fellow Scalosian and chief scientist, Rael. Kirk takes the opportunity to buy time to sabotage the transporter systems and delay the aliens' departure
Meanwhile, back in real time, Science Officer Spock, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy try to figure out what happened to their Captain. Spock discovers that the strange buzzing is the hyperaccelerated conversations of the aliens, and learns they exist outside normal physics.
Analyzing Kirk's coffee cup, McCoy discovers traces of radioactive water from Scalos in the beverage, and realizes it must have something to do with Kirk's disappearance. McCoy and Spock use the Scalosian water to make an antidote that could reverse the acceleration effect. Armed with the antidote, Spock drinks some Scalosian water and hyperaccelerates himself to rescue the Captain.
Rael manages to repair the transporter and the other aliens aboard beam down to Scalos. Kirk meanwhile tricks Deela into thinking he has adjusted to their cause, until Kirk surprises her and steals her weapon. Kirk then joins Spock and the two rush to engineering to destroy the alien machinery that has been wired into the ship. The two escort their Scalosian prisoners to the transporter room and return them to their planet empty-handed.
Kirk then takes the antidote and returns to the normal speed of time. Spock however, remains accelerated a while longer and makes the necessary repairs to the ship's vital systems at lightning-fast speed. Spock then returns the ship, along with himself, to normal. Then Spock says to the Captain that he had an "accelerating" experience. The scene ends with the Scalosian's audio-visual distress call accidentally replaying on the large viewing screen.
Star Trek novelist Dayton Ward judged that "the setup for 'Wink of an Eye' is interesting enough at first blush: A race of beings who move through time at a rate so fast that they're all but undetectable. Unfortunately, it's upon the second and subsequent blushes that the concept begins to fall apart." He writes that the Scalosians had too limited imagination for continuing their race, and that mating with members of other species would be no help. He found the science wanting, though "I have to admit that here it provides for one of the series' more original 'redshirt deaths.'" Ward did admire the set design: "Clever use of tilted camera angles and lighting help to sell the illusion of the characters moving about the ship at their hyper-accelerated rate. One nice touch is the slowing down of the various lights and gauges that fill the bridge's workstations when Kirk and Deela are there."
David Alan Mack, also a Star Trek novelist, wrote, "It's not a bad idea for an episode, but the execution on this one felt sorely lacking." He noted some gaps in logic: "Still, how does one propagate a species by mating one's women with aliens? ... And if time moves so slowly for them, why would they need to place the Enterprise crew in suspended animation? Wouldn't a few days' worth of knockout drugs suffice?"
Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club was unimpressed by the episode, assigning it a B- and noting some plot holes: "They manage to beam aboard the Enterprise somehow, which doesn't make a lot of sense, science-wise. If their speed makes them invisible to the computer as life-forms, how would the transporter even work? Especially since they get brought on without anyone on the ship realizing it." Handlen judges that the "hook is clever," although "the ep might've been stronger if it had spent more time focusing on the mystery, and the danger that mystery represented, instead of dropping Kirk down the rabbit hole and spoiling the question so early on." He concludes, "In a stronger season, "Eye" would've been a low spot, a perfunctory by-the-numbers programmer which, while not embarrassing, wouldn't have made much of an impression. Here, it reminds us that, for a while anyway, competency was the least we could hope to expect from the series."
Melissa N. Hayes-Gehrke of the University of Maryland found more problems with the science:
Unfortunately, the ramifications of the accelerated living just do not stand up under scrutiny. If a Scalosian stays in one place for awhile [sic] - even just to have a protracted conversation - he should become visible, albeit briefly, to a normal person. We didn't see any indication that this could happen. Kirk fires his phaser at Deela and she steps out of the way because the beam is moving so slowly. This is patently ridiculous; phaser beams travel at the speed of light, and no object with mass can travel faster than that. From a practical perspective, how do the ship's doors know to open for the Scalosians, when the ship's sensors cannot detect them? How can the Scalosians flip and slide switches (like the transporter controls), that are not designed to move so quickly, without breaking them?
StarTrekReviews.com found some praise: "There's no character interaction between our heroes, save for the wonderful moment when Kirk meets Spock in the corridor and simply smiles"—a moment which many other reviewers also enjoyed.
- Ward, Dayton (December 16, 2010). "Star Trek Re-watch: "Wink of an Eye"". Tor.com. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
- Mack, David Alan (December 16, 2010). "Star Trek Re-watch: "Wink of an Eye"". Tor.com. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
- Handlen, Zack (January 22, 2010). ""Wink Of An Eye"/"The Empath"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
- Hayes-Gehrke, Melissa N. (November 22, 2008). "Episode Review of Star Trek - The Original Series Season 3: "Wink of an Eye"". University of Maryland: Department of Astronomy. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
- "Wink of an Eye". StarTrekReviews.com. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
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