Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Original Series, Season 3: Wink of an Eye

Airdate: November 29, 1968
69 of 80 produced
66 of 80 released


The crew of the Enterprise responds to a distress call from the civilization of Scalos, but is perplexed when they find no one there, and when one of their crew vanishes. Upon return to their vessel, odd things begin to happen, culminating with the disappearance of the Captain himself.Can the crew of the Enterprise uncover the secret of Scalos before it's too late?

One of these things... is not like the others...


Matthew: This is a pretty decent sci-fi setup. We are presented with a hyper-accelerated but infertile race that lures others to use for breeding stock. The way it plays out is actually pretty saucy for the sixties - we get a somewhat similar story to other plots - alien cuckolds (the men) are jealous of human (esp. Kirk) sexual power over their women. Midway through the episode, we are given a clear indication (he tugs his boots on at the edge of the bed) that Kirk did the deed with the lead Scalosian female, Deela. Pretty scandalous for 1968, when we still didn't see full-sized beds in the bedrooms of married couples!

Matthew: The science and story logic of this episode is a little fuzzy. The story Deela tells is one of volcanic radiation. But is it the water that accelerates people? Drinking the water had an instant effect on the human crew. What causes the infertility? If the water causes acceleration, wouldn't it also cause infertility? Oh, no! (At least Kirk has already impregnated Dr. Marcus at this point) Do phaser beams travel at a speed significantly slower than that of light? Wouldn't the turbolift ride take hours (if not days!)  for an accelerated Kirk? Doesn't the same question apply for transporters, as well? We are told that "cell damage," illustrated by a scratch that draws blood, can kill a recently accelerated person. Wouldn't sexual intercourse be incredibly dangerous, then? What is the threshold for cell damage? Why do accelerated people become docile, except for plot reasons? Why can Kirk resist, except for plot reasons?

Kevin: I agree with what you said and would like to add that after the initial conversion to hyperspeed where Kirk is wandering the bridge, it seems that time progressed for both the Scalosians and the Enterprise crew at the same rate. That may just be an inevitable problem of telling two stories at different speeds, but it felt like given what they said about the acceleration, Scotty should have never made it to the transporter room by the time Kirk's story arc was resolved. As for the crewman's apparent docility, I could accept it, given that in relative time, he may have been stuck in hyperspeed for weeks or months. More than enough time for someone to give up hope and start playing along.

Matthew: Despite all of the above being questionable, the story is still pretty enjoyable. It's fun to play with differences in speed, in a very sci-fi way. Kind of reminiscent of the DC Comics "Flash" character, or (though they didn't use it for the same purposes) reminiscent of the book "The Fermata" by Nicholson Baker. Despite any issues of logic, it's a relatively novel idea for television, anyway. Coupled with the sexual angle, the result is pretty entertaining. I liked the creepy touch that the Scalosians were going to freeze the ship like an orbiting sperm bank.

Kevin: I've said this before, but an essential component for me is whether the story is entertaining television. Star Trek's worst episodes' primary sin tends to be that they are unwatchably boring. This episode certainly wasn't that.

Matthew: I found the conclusion to the story to be a little pat. McCoy cured the acceleration, and Kirk simply nicked Deela's weapon. That's all it took. It's also too bad they didn't follow up. I would have liked to hear it said that the Federation would try to cure the remaining Scalosians. Also, what if Kirk got Deela pregnant? I did like the idea of Spock effecting repairs at fast speed, however.


Matthew: Kathie Browne played Deela very well. She seemed both concerned with her race and out for a good time. It was a memorable performance and it's easy to see why she was cast, even though she isn't the hottest trek-babe ever. She's got the body, to be sure, but her face wasn't up to par. Her make-up didn't help, either. On the other hand, Rael was pretty bland.

Kevin: I actually thought Deela was pretty attractive; there was something more expressive about her face that made her interesting to me. I agree she did a great job of being scheming and petulant in turn. I was amused that she was making out with Kirk when he couldn't see her. Kirk is just so attractive, even standing stock still, he's irresistible. I agree that Rael was a bit of a non-entity.

Matthew: This is a very Shatner-centric episode, and he does well.He conveys both a sense of dread over being stuck, as well as a wiliness in his dealings with Deela. This is definitely in the upper half of his performances. The rest of the crew does well also, and it was very nice to see the science scenes with Spock, McCoy and Chapel.

Matthew: The "freeze-acting" wasn't the best, but it's always fun to see who can manage it and who has trouble with it. James Doohan and Majel Barrett were pretty good at it, while De Kelly didn't do so great.

Production Values

Matthew: We get a conspicuous use of velcro by Spock, as he slaps a phaser on his belt. There was a fun use of slo-mo on various pieces of footage. I really liked the "slow phaser" effect.

Kevin: I loved the slow phaser effect too. I was actually surprised how great it looked in the original version.

Matthew: The alien costumes were... not attractive. The men were decked out in very effeminate holofoil. We did get a daring slit up to the crotch for Deela, on an otherwise relatively ugly outfit. These costumes were Non-Theiss designs, and I think it showed.

Kevin: It's the silver chokers that killed it. You can't be commanding in a silver choker. The slit was pretty damn daring. I've never seen a slit up to the armpit. Her outfit is less a jumpsuit, it's a cloak hooked with a belt and some hope. Your point about Theiss is well taken. There is an art to dressing your mod, 60s babes in a way that is extravagant and revealing, but somehow doesn't look tacky. I can't explain why this is bad where, say...Andrea's Cross-Your-Heart onesie from "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" is good, but it just is.

Matthew: In a trend I think we will see in the budget-cut third season, stock footage use leads to film continuity errors. Scotty's haircut changes mid-episode (the Season 3 Caesar is way more flattering on him than the blow-dry brushback!) Chekov also makes his only appearance in this episode as a stock footage person on a viewscreen shot.

Kevin: I didn't catch that the first viewing, but now that you've said it, it's deeply distracting. I also agree the Caesar is way better than the slicked back look on Scotty. This kind of stuff makes me extra sad, as the creative resolution to a budget problem tends to be where the production team shines, like the use of The Cage in Menagerie and the sets in Spectre of the Gun.

Matthew: The remaster was uncharacteristically questionable in some areas. While I understand that they wanted to substitute a new matte painting for the old one which was a re-use, the effect wasn't great, and it was easy to see fuzzy edges on the actors. Another effect redone was saturating the corridor with stun phaser fire - where before the whole screen had gone green, now the crew freezes like statues and their hands move around in a very unnatural and distracting-looking way. These weren't episode-killers, but they weren't the best remastered effects of the bunch.


Matthew: Overall, I think this episode's high points outweigh its low ones, and the show achieves a pleasing, entertaining middle-ground. Greater depth of storytelling, or fewer logic issues, would have netted a 4. But as it stands, it's a solid 3.

Kevin: Agreed. If nothing else, this episode was fun to watch. I wasn't bothered by the logic problems until the episode was over, which I suppose is a pretty good indication of how well they did their job. I also give it a 3, for a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I saw this episode forever ago, and I can barely remember anything except how funny I found the coffee, and the thing the aliens hooked up to the life support. I mean, in the future there's a girl who serves the officers coffee in paper cups? I have no explanation for why I thought it was the funniest thing ever, but I did.