Friday, October 14, 2011

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

I have been wavering about how to review “Blink of an Eye” even before I began these reviews. It is a decent episode. Not as great as a lot of VOY fans believe, but good. It is generally considered among fans that Gene L. Coon ought to be credited on the script because so much of the premise is based on the TOS episode ”Wink of an Eye.” The real problem--the one bugging me--is not the similarities to an old TOS episode, but the fact it has blatantly plagiarized Robert forwards’ relatively obscure, but not obscure enough, science fiction novel from 1980, Dragon’s Egg. more on the novel in a moment. For now, let usa pretend I do not know about and look solely at the episode.

Voyager becomes trapped in orbit around a planet with a much faster time differential than theirs. Three seconds of Voyager time is roughly three years on the planet. The ship is stuck in orbit for several days. It is visible to the population the entire time. From pre-history to a Cold War-type era to a time when they are on the verge of warp travel, The Sky Ship, as Voyager is known, becomes a part of their culture. Somehow, Voyager is causing seismic activity. Over a period of about a thousand years, the people go from beliving the Sky Ship is an angry god that must be appeased to attempting to communicate to finally trying to destroy it with antimatter torpedoes.

During the Cold War era space race, two astronauts make it to the Sky Ship. I hate to drag in other references at this point, but the scenes in which the two explore the ship while the regular cast are frozen in time reminds me of something out The Twilight Zone. it is probably due to the ’60’s style spacesuits. They have not yet developed space travel to the point they can wear pajamas to work like Starfleet. One astronaut dies when the trauma of the time differential catches up with her. The other is played by Daniel De Kim. He is a bigger star, so he survives . He is convinced to travel back to the planet, even though centuries have passed, to convince his people to stop firing on the Sky Ship and help them leave orbit. After decades of work, Voyager is safely removed from orbit.

“Blink of an Eye” has an interesting premise, more so than “Wink of an Eye,” if you ask me, but so much of it is implied. We get one scene in each era involving two aliens who react to the Sky Ship as would be appropriate for the time in which they live. Well, sort of. The cavemen do not make a human sacrifice, but the medieval characters try to send a message by balloon to lay off the earthquakes. A duo in the mid-20th century era to sending radio messages. We do not not get to see the era in which the antimatter torpedoes start flying, but the religious aspect as presumably died off. The bulk of the episode is reactionary from Voyager‘s perspective. We are told the civilization has centered its culture around the Sky Ship. Chalk it up--ironically--to the time constraints of television but the concept loses impact when it progresses largely through exposition.

There is one interesting bit in which the Doctor is sent on a recon mission to gather geographical data. He is supposed to be gone for three seconds, which would be two days on the planet, but is stranded for eighteen minutes, which is three years. In that time, he got a “roommate” and adopted a son. Fans have gotten excited over the implication the doctor was in a homosexual relationship and adopted a child. It is open to interpretation,so make of it what you wish.

Now--Dragon’s Egg. Forward’s novel is about lifeforms has evolved on the surface of a neutron star. A time differential causes the lifeforms to experience time much as the inhabitants of this planet. They too see a spacecraft in the sky of human origin and start to worship it. Their entire society rises through all the same elements shown in this episode, culminating in a visit from the creatures to the Earth ship. I could list all the similarities, but there is no need. Just know this--everything I just said happened in “Blink of an Eye" occurs in the novel. Even specifics, like sending the balloon message up to communicate with the god. What are you inclined to call that? Inspired by? Homage? Rip off? It is apparently not considered that big a deal. Star Trek has far more famous controversies. But the too obvious similarities tarnish the episode for me.

It is no surprise I am going to go against the conventional wisdom here. “Blink of an Eye” is considered one of VOY’s best. I think it is enjoyable, but nothing special even with the taint of plagiarism. Too much of the planet’s development is left to the imagination. I will give some kudos for trying something different, but it is just not as great as its reputation claims.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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