Star Trek: Voyager: Blink of an Eye   Rewatch 
March 29, 2018 2:45 AM - Season 6, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Attention! The Prefect of Audiovisual Programming has decreed that the latest iteration of The Skyship Chronicles must be fit for retransmission in random sequence; therefore, heavily-serialized plotlines are officially forbidden. And it will have not one, not two, but FIVE cute kids.

Wiki of the night, Wiki of the day, Come to take my time away. Make my eyes always blink:

- One day on the planet is slightly more than one second long (1.03 seconds) in normal time, so three years on the planet would only be 18.9 minutes in normal time. This would mean that a hundred years on the planet would pass every 10.45 hours. Since Voyager seems to have been in orbit for centuries of planetary time it is likely that the episode takes place over a few days of time for the crew. [See below for more exhaustive analysis --ed.]

- This episode contains a scene in which a member of an alien species writes in English using a pen and ink. This is unusual considering most alien writing depicted in Star Trek is made up of alien-looking characters.

- Although Tuvok describes the planet as having a high rate of rotation "like a quasar", this property more accurately describes a pulsar.

- This episode is notably similar to the novel Dragon's Egg, by Robert L. Forward. The novel also involves a Human space ship observing the extremely rapid evolution of a society on a star about which the ship orbits.

- The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: Voyager.

- Obi Ndefo previously played Drex, Martok's son, in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season four premiere "The Way of the Warrior".


"We might miss the rise and fall of a civilization."
"So, we'll watch the next one."

- Chakotay and B'Elanna Torres


"What should I say?"
"Oh...glad to meet you. Where are you from? Please stop shaking our planet."

- Astronomer and Technician


"Jason? An unusual name."
"Yes. He was my... son."
"But you're a hologram."
"lt's a long story."

- Gotana-Retz and The Doctor


"If you've ever wanted to report more than the weather, now is your chance. Tell them to clear Central Lake of all traffic: Orbital 1 is coming in for a landing."

- Gotana-Retz, to the weather coordinator for Station 004


Poster's Log:
This is easily in my personal top five of VOY episodes—very likely top three. It's such a classic sci-fi concept, with such a strong element of that pioneering spirit Trek is supposed to have, and executed so well that it's hard to tear your eyes away (or, heh, to blink). I probably wouldn't put it in my top ten of the franchise, though; the story's too rushed (hard to avoid in some ways, but they might have made it a two-parter if they weren't evidently wedded to the notion that a two-parter means action and combat and hostile aliens), and though the hook is great, it's also been done: we see elements here of TOS: "WINK of an Eye", TNG: "First Contact", that one Simpsons episode with Lisa's tooth, and others I'm probably forgetting. (TV Tropes calls this "Year Inside, Hour Outside." It also claims that the episode "was originally titled 'Wink of an Eye', until someone realized there'd been an unrelated (but unfortunately not dissimilar) TOS episode with that title."

What I think makes this one special is that the script demonstrates a more fertile imagination for the details than is customary for VOY, and frankly, for Trek one-shot aliens in general. Their culture is vividly rendered, and overall plausible. Solid acting by guests (including Daniel Dae Kim of Babylon 5 and Angel) helps too. But I still say "Distant Origin" might be this series' only flawless episode.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Bernd Schneider of Ex Astris Scientia correctly points out that this episode is reminiscent of the game franchise Civilization; what's funny about this is that Civ is one of my obsessions (I've been playing various iterations of it just about continually since the very first installment in 1991), and I didn't make that connection—at least not consciously. It may be part of why I find the episode so engaging; certainly, the analogous Simpsons episode always fired my imagination too.

Also, courtesy of Bernd, here's a rabbit hole about VOY's handling of temporal shenanigans, which includes a section on this episode's adherence to both real-world-science and Trek-science.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is one of the episodes that I'll cite as an example of a great one-off episode where the show got it really right, even though the show flubs consistency and continuity in general. I took the episode title as an intentional tribute to "Wink of an Eye", and I'd add DS9's "Children of Time" to the list of similar episodes, with their ship getting caught in/on a planet where timey-wimey is wibbly-wobbly. (I didn't particularly like that episode, making this one the rare instance where VOY did it better IMO.) There's also a George R.R. Martin story, "Sandkings", involving a rapidly evolving society, although time distortion isn't involved, and I'd swear that I've seen something else with a similar premise a long time ago.

The Doctor's little subplot is itself something of a trope; I've seen a bunch of stories in which someone who intended to go only for a short trip ends up being gone for a lot longer, sometimes when only a very short time seems to have passed at their starting point--DS9's "Hard Time", in a way, and for that matter this entire series. But this version is done so well, with his unexplained son, and his talking sports with Retz, even the crew's finding him by scanning the opera houses. If the show missed a trick with the message written in English, they made up for it in small details such as having grab bars inside the observatory for the inevitable tremors. Sometimes I'm mostly just doing these rewatches to see if there are details or themes that I may have missed or forgotten from my original watching of the episode, but this is one that I genuinely enjoyed the second time around. I also think that there may be a recurring theme, of Voyager and by extension the show itself, being observed and commented on externally; see "Living Witness" and "Pathfinder" as well.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:53 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Particle of the Week: Tachyons, hands down.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: There are some clever uses of time travel as a weapon or R&D tool late in the MMO's plot arc, but nothing like this. (It'd be game breaking. I mean, a couple months from now, those folks are joining the Q Continuum, amirite?)

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -8.
* Crew: 137.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 14
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 2 games of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* It's That Guy!

Daniel Dae Kim is a familiar face for anybody who watched Angel or Lost, among a pretty long list of stuff I didn't happen to catch. Per the usual, a fine choice.

* This is silly but still a classic.

I was reminded of Wink of an Eye, as referenced in the post. This also brings to mind a classic story by Theodore Sturgeon called The Microcosmic God that I read as a boy. (The Simpsons episode with Lisa's tooth is a direct homage, imatooting the original story exarctly.)

At any rate... yeah. The logistics and science of this don't work at all. The whole Planet of the Hats thing where everybody has more or less the same idea of what Voyager is also stood out to me. I'm disappointed we never hear the Doctor's story on the surface, which sounds Inner Light-esque. Naomi Wildman's title clearly should've been 'Thereallyfastplanet.'

Despite these and many other possible quibbles, this episode is great.

This is one of the episodes that I'll cite as an example of a great one-off episode where the show got it really right, even though the show flubs consistency and continuity in general

Agreed. For me, this is up there with Distant Origin, and for a lot of the same reasons: they took a very silly idea and just ran with it earnestly, and the whole thing is charming enough to carry the weight of the ridiculous problems.

In particular, I love:

- That the resolution is peaceful - they never decide to shoot back. It's never even in question. This is an element Voyager got right reasonably often.

- Chakotay geeking out over the anthropological implications. I was right there with him, and I was glad the show acknowledged it.

- They sneak in a good use of Naomi and Seven's friendship.

- This is a rare time that a Prime Directive argument actually makes sense on all sides, instead of someone being very obviously wrong (or the whole thing being nonsensical).

This story is a rare example of 'Voyager as I wanted it,' and I've been looking forward to it for a while now.
posted by mordax at 8:17 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is a really great episode, and it's the one I usually recommend if someone wants to experience a great bit of Voyager.

It always bothered the hell out of me that Voyager just happened to show up during the 2-3 days (our time) in the humanoid species' natural development where they advanced technologically to Voyager's level. Also, if Voyager hung around in the neighborhood for a few weeks, the planet could develop actual practical spacefaring technology, including perhaps the ability to send Voyager back to Earth, no? But then I shut myself up with shouts of IT'S SPACE MAGIC, JUST ENJOY IT and I repeat to myself it's just a show, I should really just relax.
posted by duffell at 11:08 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


But then I shut myself up with shouts of IT'S SPACE MAGIC, JUST ENJOY IT and I repeat to myself it's just a show, I should really just relax.

This is the Voyager watchers' mantra.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:39 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


_Dragon's Egg_ and its sequel _Starquake_ (by Robert L. Forward) are two of my very very favorite hard SF books, and "Blink of an Eye" did an outstanding job of retelling that story in a very Star Trek-ish way. Aside from some minor twitchery about writing (as noted above), this is easily one of the cleanest and well-told stories in the VOY canon.
posted by hanov3r at 1:35 PM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I repeat to myself it's just a show, I should really just relax.

If you're wondering how they torpedo and shuttle, and other science facts...
posted by Servo5678 at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


It always bothered the hell out of me that Voyager just happened to show up during the 2-3 days (our time) in the humanoid species' natural development where they advanced technologically to Voyager's level.

I guess I was reading too much into it, but I've always figured that the presence of Voyager may have helped inspire these people to drag themselves out of medievalism (like a less existentially-freaky Monolith). I got the sense, especially in the early scenes, that the Reallyfastplaneteers' culture had a rigid, potentially static quality, which the Groundshaker could've played a role in working against.

Also, if Voyager hung around in the neighborhood for a few weeks, the planet could develop actual practical spacefaring technology, including perhaps the ability to send Voyager back to Earth, no?

Heh, can't argue with that! But the writers were never gonna do that, which means if they DID have Voyager stick around, their only alternative might have been for us to witness the aliens live out the cynical answer to Fermi's paradox, and sheesh, talk about a downer ending.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:05 AM on March 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


I guess I was reading too much into it, but I've always figured that the presence of Voyager may have helped inspire these people to drag themselves out of medievalism (like a less existentially-freaky Monolith).

That was what I got from it too. It's a little simplistic, but it fits with a lot of stories we saw in TOS.

Heh, can't argue with that!

I guess I can a minute: it's entirely possible the planet would never develop practical spacefaring technology due to a lack of resources. I mean, they'd need to have good enough energy sources on their own planet to bootstrap massive temporal shenanigans, and it's entirely possible they just don't have them. (I'll note that most warp capable civilizations we've seen rely on external sources of dilithium to maintain their standard of living, including the Federation. I'd be willing to bet warp travel is less resource intensive than whatever weird time stuff those guys need.)

They may be stuck, barring my aforementioned joke about them just ascending to beings of pure energy.

On a cultural note, I guess it's possible Janeway just would've felt weird asking after Voyager caused them centuries of earthquakes.
posted by mordax at 9:48 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


One thing that occurred to me is that the Voyagerquakes might have not only spurred their use of iron to make more tremor-resistant structures, but also may have exposed more iron ore for them to find and use. And WRT warp technology, given that most FTL travel in the Trekverse depends on verterium cortenide (the stuff that makes up the warp coils in the nacelles), Earth developing warp drive in 2063 may have depended on a single meteorite of the stuff falling into the hands of Zefram Cochrane.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:27 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Earth developing warp drive in 2063 may have depended on a single meteorite of the stuff falling into the hands of Zefram Cochrane.

The timeline I'm from Zefram Cochrane wasn't an earthling.
posted by mikelieman at 5:29 PM on March 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


Heh, yeah, that one bugged me during First Contact. On the other hand, I think their retconned origin story made more sense than him being from Alpha Centauri given the whole Eugenics Wars thing. (Although amusingly, I guess this means that on Earth, warp travel predates impulse drive.)
posted by mordax at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2018


If you want to be super-persnickety about it (and even if you don't, I do), the description from "Metamorphosis" is specifically "Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri", which doesn't exactly mean that he's a native, necessarily, and McCoy says that he's human. (Per MA.)

Also, even though there's no canon date of creation for impulse drive, I tend to go with the non-canon statement from the Khan books that the Botany Bay used impulse engines, which would explain its being found in a sector far from populated space.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:38 PM on March 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


I completely buy the theory that
A- Cochrane was born on Earth
B- Cochrane became maybe the most famous Earthling ever as soon as his launch was a success
and
C- Cochrane was totally the kind of guy to become so annoyed by his fame that he'd go live on another planet, even back when doing so was rare and possibly even unprecedented.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:06 AM on March 31, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you want to be super-persnickety about it (and even if you don't, I do), the description from "Metamorphosis" is specifically "Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri", which doesn't exactly mean that he's a native, necessarily

It doesn't prove anything, but it's a *really* weird turn of phrase in current continuity, especially since he made the most important discovery in Earth's history.

Also, even though there's no canon date of creation for impulse drive, I tend to go with the non-canon statement from the Khan books that the Botany Bay used impulse engines, which would explain its being found in a sector far from populated space.

During the TOS era, I always figured Alpha Centauri was colonized via impulse drive. And it's possible Earth had them during First Contact, it just didn't seem like that kind of place, and the timetable gets weirder and weirder the further we get from original airings.
posted by mordax at 10:31 AM on March 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Canonically, Alpha Centauri was inhabited when humans first got there. I'd have to dig up my copy of the _Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology_, published around the release of TMP, for more details.
posted by hanov3r at 2:29 PM on March 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


Here's the Memory Alpha entry.

I maintain this leaves the whole 'Zefram Cochrane of Alpha Centauri' as a really weird turn of phrase, but it makes a reasonable amount of sense with all other details.
posted by mordax at 3:28 PM on March 31, 2018


Delightful episode. The narrative compression around the Doctor's son, combined with the Doctor's definitive (and preceding, so Doctor Beta will never have known that Doctor Alpha had a son) transtemporal slip, was lovely and merciless, even if intended as a joke.

I had completely forgotten about Forward's books by the time this episode initailly aired, let alone by now. That said, it's a fair cop.
posted by mwhybark at 8:23 PM on March 31, 2018 [1 favorite]


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