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Blink Of An Eye

By Edward James Hines
Posted at January 19, 2000 - 6:00 AM GMT

If nothing else, the finer details of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Blink of an Eye" test not only your ability to grasp abstract scientific concepts, but also your patience in exploring and comprehending them. They even make you wish you had paid attention in all those boring high school physics and earth science classes!

The key to this mindbender is the peculiar space/time differential, which hangs like an opaque curtain between the planet and the surrounding space. Because of it, the planet appears to be flattened at the poles and rotating very quickly - about 60 times per minute, or once per second. If these conditions were true on the surface, then night and day would pass at one-second intervals, like turning a light bulb on and off; also, Voyager wouldn't have appeared fixed in the sky, but rather would have blipped into view every second like a cursor on a computer screen.

The most interesting conundrum is figuring out how and when the differential completely stops affecting the Orbital One space capsule, which is on its way to study Voyager. Launch Control's last message about igniting the final-stage propellants is accelerated by the time it reaches Orbital One, in the same way that the original AM radio message was accelerated when Voyager first received it. Orbital One is not, however, completely free from the differential's effect at this point, or else the message from Launch Control would not have been garbled. The capsule is in a lulling kind of "twilight zone" - too slow to interpret a message from the surface but too fast to interact with the Voyager crew, who are immobile. This "Voyager purgatory" can be likened to a slingshot/Doppler effect: The capsule was shot upward at hyperaccelerated speeds so fast that it reached Voyager before time caught up with it.

The immobile Voyager crew and the hyperaccelerated alien species are plot points that hearken back to the similarly named TOS episode "Wink of an Eye." One wonders if the Doctor's hypospray, which was supposed to accelerate the pilot's metabolic functions for his return journey to the planet, contained any Scalosian water.

"Blink of an Eye" also evokes a theme that mirrors the effect of many Star Trek actors on their adoring fans. Voyager's arrival at the planet encouraged invention, religion, science, art and even children's toys, just as characters like Doctor McCoy or Scotty once encouraged fans to seek medical or engineering degrees, or just more education in general. Also, Janeway's fear that an Away Team could upset Voyager's place in the planet's mythos mirrors Picard's concern in TNG's "Who Watches the Watchers," when he felt that bestowing commandments on the Mintakans could send them back "into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear."

Finally, at last, "Blink of an Eye" featured B'Elanna Torres in a more active role. Guest star Daniel Dae Kim (the pilot) played "Lt. John Matheson" on the late Babylon 5 spin-off series, Crusade. Chakotay's anthropological and scientific interest, piqued again here, was documented in episodes like "Initiations" and "One Small Step."

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.

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