Saturday, October 26, 2019

Voyager, Season 6: Blink of an Eye, Season 6
"Blink of an Eye"
Airdate: January 19, 2000
131 of 168 produced
130 of 168 aired


Voyager finds itself stuck in orbit around a very strange new world.

"That woman's dog-servant is pouring a hot, brown liquid for her."


Matthew: This is one of my all time favorite Star Trek episodes, because it is, in my view, quintessential. In a lot of ways, it's like TNG "First Contact" or "Who Watches the Watchers," with its questions of the effects contact with a warp-capable civilization would have. But then it also has the sci-fi elements of the similarly named TOS "Wink of an Eye" with its sped up civilization. This affords us a really nice look at those effects over centuries, which is unusual. All of this is to say it reminded me of some of the franchise's best without being a rehash of any of them.

Kevin: I largely agree. It's a fun set up and they mine it well. The rapid look through civilization was fun, and a couple of the vignettes were quite effective. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Watchers, so any episode that touches on those issues is likely going to appeal to me.

Matthew: The writing was really economical and effective. I cared about the inhabitants, and the periods we looked at were good vignettes to establish culture - sports rivalries, the Sky Ship Friends toys - I was never bored by it the alien culture, which can happen with an "alien of the week" story.  There was also nothing too writerly, like "renal organ" the idea of "protectors" for villages came closest. It was all very organic. I also really liked how the crew reacted in their own ways - Chakotay with anthropological fascination, Tom with ethical indignance, Janeway with measured caution, Seven with admiration.

Kevin: I found the scene in the observatory to be particularly effective. It did a good job of showing Voyager's involvement in a number of areas, like science and commerce, rather than just having them make Voyager god or something. It's always nice to watch people grapple with big questions in an organic way.

Matthew: Gotana Retz was the character we got the most of, and he was well developed. His scene with Janeway in the Ready Room really nailed the emotional tone it needed. "How often does your very first dream come true?" If ever there were a sentiment that Star Trek fans could relate to, this is it. But this was also a really nice Doctor episode. He got understated but very interesting dialogue, explaining his years on the planet's surface.

Kevin: This is largely my only complaint, to the extent that it is a complaint. We don't get enough time with Retz on the ship and I really would like to have seen the Doctor on the planet. In Watchers, focusing on the one village gave us a sense of the people and enough of a bond with Nuria that by the time she has the scene with Picard in the observation lounge, it really lands. I think the individual components are great, but they don't quite assemble to an emotionally resonant story in quite the same way for me. It's still a great story, I just would have liked the scenes balanced to give more room to the characters they wanted us to go in on.

Matthew: When it comes down to it, this story just tickles that Trek Center in my brain. You know, the one that has nearly atrophied since 2009? The part of me that craves stories that fire the imagination with a high concept sci-fi idea (what if you could watch a culture develop for centuires in mere days? What if you were altering that development by your presence?), stories that develop that idea consistently over the space of an hour or two (the natives' changing understanding of what Voyager represented), raising and answering interesting questions (what if you got stuck there for a long time, even though your crew only missed you for a few hours?). This episode does all of these with bells on. I can't help but like it.

Kevin: I certainly agree this is what Star Trek does best. A nifty idea that only science fiction would allow that is played out while focusing on the ways it impacts people we care about. Check and check.


Matthew: Kate Mulgrew has a wonderful scene with Daniel Dae Kim, who pretty much stole the episode. He perfectly hit the mark of someone who "gets" sci-fi, but also remembers how to bring relatable human emotion to a role. I honestly could have watched a whole episode about him being separated from his people and watching them develop in absentia.

Kevin: Like I said above, I kind of wish the whole episode were about him. Kim is a fantastic actor and I immediately bought his responses.

Matthew: Robert Beltran got a lot of nice scenes with Jeri Ryan. It's too bad he doesn't get written for all that much, because I believe him as a kind of nerdy guy with scientific interests. I wish they would have played him against his physical type more. Scarlett Pomers yet again excelled with her brief scene. She is so natural.

Kevin: I was briefly annoyed that we gave Chakotay another hobby since it only highlights how ill-defined his character is, but I agree that when he is engaged in something worthwhile, Beltran can act it well.

Production Values

Matthew: So. We get several extensive digital matte paintings for the valley. Were they great? Nah. They were merely pretty good for the late 90s. But what I want to applaud is the ambition to use them. Including them goes a really long way towards making the planet's inhabitants feel real. The same goes for the very nice sets we got, such as the observatory, an the space capsule and suits.

Kevin: I liked the early space travel as well. It riffed on Apollo style tech without being a copy.  I liked the effects for the planet. The toroidal shape was a nice touch, implying the planet is spinning so fast it is shaped differently.

Matthew: Worthy of special note were the aerial shots of the planet. This was several years before Google Earth was a thing, and Voyager nailed the visual of a civilization viewed from above. The graphics overall in the Astrometrics set were splendid and added a lot to the story.

Kevin: I really liked the set for the observatory. It was a great standalone scene and the set had a fun HG Wells feel to it.


Matthew: I think this is a resounding 5. It nailed every aspect of our criteria, and stands as quintessential Trek for me. This is easily one of Voyager's 2 or 3 best.

Kevin: I think this is a 4, for a total of 9. I agree with Matt on all the grand sci-fi elements, and the acting and characterization are great. I just think they spent maybe one or two too many vignettes on the planet or exploring the mystery before diving into Retz' story that the final product is super fun but doesn't quite acheive the transcendent gut punch of Who Watches the Watchers? Still, I'm not knocking the episode. It's a very good episode that does a very good job exploring a very fun idea.


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