“Wink of an Eye”
Teleplay by Arthur Heinemann
Story by Lee Cronin (Gene L. Coon)
Directed by Jud Taylor
Season 3, Episode 11
Production episode 3×13
Original air date: November 29, 1968
Recap: David Mack
The Enterprise crew responds to a distress signal from the planet Scalos, but Kirk is sure there must be some mistake—because there’s no one on the planet except the landing party (and whatever annoying invisible insect keeps buzzing in Kirk’s ear). Spock reports that the city around them appears to have been long since abandoned, but his tricorder is picking up “intermittent” life readings, though he can’t pinpoint where or what they are.
As Kirk starts handing out busywork assignments, Compton, one of the landing party’s redshirts, flickers and vanishes before their eyes.
Kirk returns to the Enterprise, apparently unfazed by Compton’s disappearance; I guess losing redshirts is becoming old hat for Skipper Jimmy. Uhura and Sulu report a number of seemingly self-correcting malfunctions from around the ship, and Kirk wishes all his problems sorted themselves out so easily.
He and Spock rewatch the Scalosians’ distress message on the main viewscreen. A Scalosian man explains that he and his four colleagues are all that remain of a nation that once numbered more than nine hundred thousand. Kirk, Spock, and Uhura are willing to accept that what they received from Scalos was a recording—but where are the bodies? And where the heck is Compton?
Spock has a brilliant theory:
SPOCK: It would seem that some force or agent only partially discernible to our instruments may have been responsible.
Hang on—did Spock just blame the boogeyman?
McCoy summons Kirk to sickbay for a physical. Kirk whines and complains until McCoy reminds him it was the captain’s own order that the landing party get tested. McCoy has found nothing out of the ordinary. Whatever happened to Compton seems to have had no effect on anyone else—either medically or emotionally.
Kirk’s readings are normal, too—but his complaints about a mosquito no one else can hear and being bad-touched by invisible molesters have the Captain wondering if he should be short-listed for a psych evaluation. McCoy assures him he’s sane, leading Kirk to conclude that something beamed up with the landing party—an alien entity has invaded the Enterprise! (Again….)
Uhura hails Kirk via the intercoms to tell him that the intercoms don’t work. While he’s on the line, he gets a report from Spock, who says that alien substances are being introduced into the ship’s life-support system. Kirk orders phasers distributed to all personnel. Great idea—what could go wrong? I’m sure the galley cooks, historians, archeology experts, and countless other scientific-mission specialists are all crack shots.
Kirk, Spock, and two redshirts hurry down a corridor—until the redshirts are hit by energy bursts that knock them on their butts. Spock reports more intermittent alien life signs. Kirk and his men sweep the corridor with phaser fire. Then they walk forward—and the two redshirts are knocked back again, while Spock and Kirk are allowed to proceed. Not surprisingly, the redshirts are more than happy to be left behind.
Spock and Kirk enter the ship’s environmental engineering compartment to find a contraption that looks just like every other machine on the ship, except for some ribbed silver tubing snaking out of its front. Scanning it with his tricorder, Spock declares, “It is evidently a device of alien origin.” Okay, dude—if you say so.
Kirk orders Spock to disconnect it, enabling the Vulcan to find out the hard way that the thing is electrified. They try to destroy it with their phasers, only to have their weapons vanish from their hands. Then something unseen shoves them backward. Feeling pwned yet, Captain? Apparently not, because the first thing Kirk and Spock do is walk back to the machine and get shocked again trying to touch it. All in all, a splendid working example of Einstein’s definition of insanity.
Undaunted, our heroes take swift action: they return to the bridge and get the monotonal computer voice to confirm what they already do and do not know: Has the Enterprise been invaded? Yup. By whom? No idea. By how many foes? No clue. To what end? Can’t say. Can we resist? Nope. Suggestion? “Negotiate for terms.” So, to recap: our senior officers, with all their years of Starfleet Academy training and active-duty experience, are taking their cues from a surrender-monkey computer. That’s a bad sign.
Kirk refuses to negotiate (the computer be damned). Spock asks Kirk if he has a plan. Of course Kirk has a plan! A brilliant plan! A foolproof plan! He’s going to…have a cup of coffee. Then he states his bold, take-no-prisoners strategy:
KIRK: Make them take the next step.
Yeah! That’ll show ’em who’s … huh?
As Kirk sits in his chair and prepares to enjoy his java, he’s plagued once more by that goddamned invisible mosquito, which this time is accompanied by the show’s “dreamy” music cue. He shakes it off and sips his joe—but judging from his expression, he must think his yeoman spit in it. Then everyone around Kirk slows down, the bridge tilts sharply back and forth, and then Kirk finds himself outside time facing Deela, the poofy-haired Scalosian blonde who just slipped a roofie into Kirk’s mochaccino.
He demands an explanation—only to be cut off in mid-complaint by her tongue snaking down his throat. That seems fair; the tactic has worked so well for Kirk all these years that it’s about time a femme fatale used it to shut him up.
Kirk accuses Deela of messing with his crew. She points out that the crew is fine—it’s Kirk himself who is different. He has been “accelerated,” so that he experiences hours while his crew experiences only seconds.
Deela is the Queen of Scalos (a title that would be far more impressive if she had more than four subjects). She plans to make Kirk her consort. Before he can protest, she tells him to just accept it, because the acceleration is irreversible.
Kirk fires his phaser at her, but the beam is molasses-slow, and she steps easily out of its way. Then she draws her weapon, which is made to be used in accelerated time, and disarms Kirk without even having to say “Expelliarmus!” The captain is pissed, but Deela assures him that, in time, he will come to like being her sex slave. I mean gigolo. I mean consort. Oh, whatever.
Kirk hurries back down to environmental engineering and is stopped by Compton, who also has been accelerated. Compton is now working with the Scalosians. He beamed up with them and showed them all about the Enterprise’s systems. When Kirk asks why Compton has committed treason, Compton explains:
COMPTON: I met this girl. She’s one of them. I’ve never known anyone like her.
In other words, because Compton didn’t get laid enough at Starfleet Academy, he’s just been co-opted by the Scalosian version of a honey trap.
Kirk kicks the traitorous redshirt’s ass and enters the compartment, only to be stunned by the Scalosians’ chief scientist, Rael. That’s enough to spark Compton’s conscience; he rushes to Kirk’s defense, only to be smacked down by Rael. One redshirt, two ass-kickings, no waiting. Epic fail.
Back on the bridge, Sherlock Spock analyzes the captain’s coffee and compares it to Sulu’s and Scotty’s. It’s too soon for Spock to know if the coffee was the culprit in the captain’s kidnapping, but he means to find out—and, if so, to devise a countermeasure.
In hyper-time, Deela tells Rael to control his temper, because she doesn’t want Kirk damaged. “He’s pretty,” she says. Rael calls Kirk inferior, betraying his jealousy. Kirk regains consciousness and again asks about the big machine they’ve installed. They let him look at it, but Rael advises him not to touch it. So, of course, Kirk grabs it with both hands and fries half his memories of childhood. Smooth move, Jimmy.
After Deela pries Kirk’s cold, numb fingers from the device, he notices the dead redshirt in the corner—and wonders when his security division started employing senior citizens. Rael lies to Kirk and says the captain’s attack damaged Compton’s cells, causing the man’s rapid aging and death. The newly accelerated are highly sensitive to cell damage, Rael says. Kirk leaves, feeling both guilty and furious. Deela bitches at Rael for lying to Kirk, but Rael says maybe that’ll keep Kirk in line. Then the Scalosians suck face.
Down in the medical lab, Kirk records a message for Spock, detailing all he has learned—including the fact that the Scalosians are planning to deep-freeze the Enterprise’s crew and put them in suspended animation. Deela enters and encourages him to continue. By the time the Enterprise crew hears Kirk’s message, she says, the Scalosians’ machine will already have been activated, and it will be too late to stop them.
Deela gives Kirk a lecture in Scalosian history. A natural disaster accelerated the Scalosians and made the men sterile. To propagate, they lure in alien spaceships, force-accelerate males from their crews, and mate them with Scalosian women. (Mars needs women, Scalos needs studs—let’s get those crazy kids together!)
Deela insists she and her people have a right to survive by kidnapping aliens and making them into sex slaves. Kirk offers to bring in all of the Federation’s vast resources to aid the Scalosians if only she will release his ship. She tells him there is no cure for her people; this, she insists, is their only option. Rael summons her to the transporter room; while she’s distracted, Kirk moves his recorded message to the console in front of Spock and McCoy, and then he sneaks away from Deela…
…while back in real time, McCoy and Spock find that the captain’s coffee was spiked with a compound unique to Scalosian water. The substance isn’t in anyone else’s coffee, which suggests the captain was poisoned (or is a drug addict).
Kirk sabotages the transporter, preventing the Scalosians from returning to the planet’s surface. Deela reports the malfunction to Rael and suggests postponing activation of the deep-freeze device. Then she gives Kirk a wink-nudge, making clear that she knows he’s full of crap and stalling for time. Kirk, naturally, uses this opportunity to seduce her. Just to buy time, of course. Strictly doing his duty. He’s not enjoying this at all.
Back in the lab, Spock makes a deductive leap of logic about the mosquito buzzing that followed them up from Scalos. Meanwhile, Kirk woos Deela in his quarters and makes a leap of an entirely different and far more athletic variety.
On the bridge, Spock speeds up the Scalosians’ distress call message until it sounds like an annoying mosquito. At the same time, McCoy finds Kirk’s mosquito-whine recording in the lab. They slow it down and watch Kirk’s warning about the deep-freeze machine. It becomes clear that the only way to fight the Scalosians is at their own speed. Spock sends Scotty to the transporter room while he prepares a new line of attack.
In the transporter room, Rael finds Kirk’s sabotage and gets seriously ticked off. He hails Deela, who is…um…not answering her communication device right now, but if he’d like to leave a message…. Rael exits in a mad hurry to kick Kirk’s butt.
In the captain’s quarters, Kirk sits on his bed while pulling on his boots, and Deela brushes her hair. (Do the math; we’ll wait.) Rael bursts in and charges at Kirk, swinging a metal rod, lookin’ to cut the pretty boy. Kirk defends himself with a pillow that doubles as a flotation device. Deela stuns Rael until he chills out, then she sends Mister Silver Pajamas back to the transporter room to finish the repairs.
Kirk buys more time by playing along and telling Deela what she wants to hear. The fact that she’s gullible enough to believe him might explain why there are only five Scalosians left in existence.
In the lab, McCoy cooks up the antidote to Scalosian acceleration. To get it to Kirk, Spock drinks the Scalosian water, watches McCoy and Chapel struggle to stand still while the camera tilts thirty degrees to the right, and then he walks away, cure in hand.
Meanwhile, the three Scalosians with no names beam back to their planet, leaving only Rael and Deela on the Enterprise. Deela and Kirk go to the transporter room while Rael activates the deep-freeze machine. Kirk gets the drop on Deela and seizes her weapon. Then he meets up with Spock, and together they overpower Rael and destroy the Scalosian icebox.
Kirk decides to send Deela and Rael back to Scalos. Deela knows the Federation will interdict the Scalosian star system, ensuring that no other starships fall into their trap again—and condemning the few remaining Scalosians to death. Despite this gloomy prospect, Deela and Kirk share a sweet, flirtatious farewell. (And that, boys and girls, is why James Tiberius Kirk is the man: even when he’s sending a woman to her doom, she still wants to have sex with him.)
After beaming Rael and Deela home, Kirk takes the cure and decelerates to normal time, while Spock stays hopped up on Scalos-juice just long enough to fix all the damaged systems on the ship…and urinate in McCoy’s coffee. (Trust us, it’s in the syndication edits.) As Spock returns to normal time, the Scalosians’ message appears on the main viewer, affording Kirk one last chance to say good-bye to Deela as we… Fade out.
All things considered, this one could’ve been a lot worse. Still, how does one propagate a species by mating one’s women with aliens? Wouldn’t the Scalosians be a completely polyglot race by now? And if time moves so slowly for them, why would they need to place the Enterprise crew in suspended animation? Wouldn’t a few days’ worth of knockout drugs suffice? Just run around with a hypospray and dose everyone in a matter of seconds. Problem solved, no need for a big, complicated machine.
At any rate, by this point the Scalosian civilization seems long past the point of no return: they have exactly two women left, a total population of five, and a life expectancy (from our perspective) of a few months. Game over, man.
It’s not a bad idea for an episode, but the execution on this one felt sorely lacking. The best part of it, in my opinion, was Deela’s dress. I mean, damn—even 42 years later, that’s hot. I’m giving this episode a whole extra point just for that dress.
David’s Rating: Warp 3 (on a scale of 1 to 6)
Analysis: Dayton Ward
Okay, I admit that the setup for “Wink of an Eye” is interesting enough at first blush: A race of beings who move through time at rate so vast that they’re all but undetectable. Unfortunately, it’s upon the second and subsequent blushes that the concept begins to fall apart.
According to Deela, the radiation poisoning which caused the Scalosians’ “hyper-acceleration” also rendered them incapable of procreation. In Rael’s recorded distress message, he mentions that there originally was something in the neighborhood of 900,000 Scalosians when the crisis began, before the survivors dwindled to the five who seize the Enterprise. What the heck was everybody else doing while all of this played out? Weren’t other methods of reproduction—in vitro fertilization, cloning, and so on—attempted? No, based on Kirk’s conversation with Deela. She tells him that their method of preserving their race—woefully inadequate as it would seem to be to anyone with a functioning brainstem—apparently is the same thing that was done by her parents, and their parents before them.
Talk about not thinking outside the box. Would any of those alternatives have mattered? Deela’s exact words to Kirk during her recounting of the Scalosian people’s demise are, “The children died. Most of the women found they could not have more. All of our men had become sterile.” If that’s the case, then how exactly, is mating with non-Scalosians supposed to solve their reproductive issues? If the surviving Scalosian women remain capable of bearing children even if their male counterparts could not “contribute to the process,” there are still only two of them. Repopulating an entire race with only two contributing mothers? Yikes. That’s a reality TV show in the making right there.
Clever use of tilted camera angles and lighting help to sell the illusion of the characters moving about the ship at their hyper-accelerated rate. One nice touch is the slowing down of the various lights and gauges that fill the bridge’s workstations when Kirk and Deela are there. Even though I’m a nerd and should have remembered this on my own, it took a visit to this episode’s entry at Memory Alpha to remind me that the tilted camera effect was also popular with another series which had wrapped its production by this point in 1968: the live-action Batman starring Adam West. The technique was most often used for scenes set in the “secret hideout” of the episode’s villain du jour.
Other tricks that weaken the illusion usually revolve around those characters who are not hyper-accelerated, and who appear to be standing still or else moving verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry slooooooooooooooooowly. It’s actually scenes such as this—Uhura and Sulu on the bridge, Spock and McCoy working in sickbay—which demonstrate just how inconsistently the hyper-acceleration is portrayed. For example, Scotty is shown in the doorway to the transporter room for a good portion of the episode’s final two acts, but Spock and McCoy are seen having moved from place to place when Kirk or someone else crosses paths with him. Though Scotty at first glance looks to be frozen in mid-stride, if you look you can tell that actor James Doohan is leaning against the edge of the doorway in a bid to maintain his balance. Also, if you pay attention, you can see that “frozen Uhura’s” earrings sway at hyper-speed when she’s sitting at her bridge station, ostensibly having turned her head as Kirk vanishes before her eyes.
Whoops. Sorry about not triggering the “Nerd Alert” alarm before covering that bit. Since I’ve already crossed the line, I’ll pause for a moment and throw out this trivia bit: The matte painting used to represent the Scalosian city is the one seen in early scenes of the first season’s “A Taste of Armageddon,” where it was shown as the capital city of Eminiar VII. For the remastered version of this episode, a new backdrop was created with an entirely new cityscape.
All right. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, we’ll be moving on….
One plot hole that I honestly never considered until rewatching the episode is how the Scalosians are able to make use of the transporter system. When Kirk and Deela are in the transporter room, the console appears to be functioning just as it would under any other circumstances. This is inconsistent with the scenes of them on the bridge, with all of the console lights and indicators moving at super slo-mo along with the crewmembers using those stations. It makes sense that the Scalosians were able to modify the transporter controls to work with their “accelerated physiologies” just as they have affected changes to other shipboard systems, but no explanations for this sort of thing are ever offered. Of course, then that doesn’t match up with how Kirk is so easily able to render the console unusable. Okay…is your head hurting yet?
Another flaw in the premise is how the Enterprise crew, hampered by moving at “normal speed,” is ever able to do anything to secure an advantage over the Scalosians. Wouldn’t Rael and the gang always have the drop on them? Sure, Kirk manages a few sneaky tricks in order to relay a message to Spock and McCoy, but otherwise? One would think the Scalosians would almost always have the upper hand.
Speaking of the whole “hyper-acceleration” thing, for some reason I’m reminded of the aliens from the various “Bigfoot” episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, who carried a thingamabob called a time line converter, or—and I’m not kidding here—“TLC,” which allowed them to control the way they moved through time. Yeah, I know. The science here is about as stupid as it is on that show, but I have to admit that here it provides for one of the series’ more original “redshirt deaths.” Poor Crewman Compton, hyper-accelerated when he accidentally swallows some of the contaminated Scalosian water, dies when he receives a simple scratch to his neck. The resulting wound inflicts massive damage to his accelerated cellular structure, causing him to age rapidly until he simply dies of what otherwise would’ve been considered natural causes. Further, it happens within the space of a few moments, rather than subjecting us to the effects taking an entire hour and affording anyone the chance to shamelessly overact as they simulate their characters’ twilight years. I’m looking at you, “The Deadly Years.”
Of course, what everybody usually remembers about “Wink of an Eye” is that Kirk and Deela do it. We don’t get to see the blessed act, of course, but Kirk and Deela do retire to the captain’s quarters, and after a brief interval while other stuff happens around the ship, we rejoin them as Kirk’s pulling on his boots and Deela is fussing with her hair. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but for 1960s television, this was the equivalent of them lying in bed sharing a cigarette while basking in the afterglow. One can only hope that the episode’s title isn’t any sort of statement on the good captain’s performance between scenes.
“Wink of an Eye” brings with it another assortment of eye-catching costumes as provided by William Ware Theiss, and as usual the women benefit from his deft touch while the men just get hosed. Deela’s outfit, a flowing dress that’s open on the sides save for her bikini-like bottoms and a few artfully placed fasteners, is very provocative as it reveals all sorts of skin. Meanwhile, Rael and the other Scalosian men look like escapees from a Lost Saucer convention.
I suppose the outfit could be one reason why Rael is so edgy and angry throughout the episode. He’s also more than a little jealous over Deela’s decision to “select” Kirk for breeding purposes, which given the Scalosians’ situation makes absolutely no sense. Didn’t he get the memo? You know, the one about there being only two women left? What did he think was going to happen? It’s just one more bit of goofiness piled on a growing heap of questions and oddities which characterize this episode.
The story’s biggest unanswered question is why Kirk didn’t offer the antidote to the hyper-acceleration to the Scalosians? Once returned to “normal speed,” they would then be able to receive assistance from all manner of doctors, scientists and other specialists. Kirk had already offered to relocate them to another planet, so why not this additional assistance? It’s a huge hole in the story’s climax, and of course we’re left to wonder whatever becomes of the Scalosian survivors. Well, not really. I mean, there’s still a football game on as I write this.
“Wink of an Eye” is a parade of goofy science to say nothing of questionable or simply boneheaded decisions. Despite this, I can’t honestly say it’s boring, nor is it anywhere near the level of absurdity brought to us by other episodes. I guess at the end of it all, the best I can come up with is, “Meh.”
Dayton’s Rating:Warp 2.5 (on a scale of 1 to 6)
Next episode: Season 3, Episode 12 — “The Empath.” U.S. residents can watch it for free at the CBS website.
Check the Star Trek Re-Watch Index for a complete list of posts in this series.
David Mack has never been asked to serve as the sex-slave to a beautiful alien queen, but he’s updating his résumé, just in case.
Dayton Ward has read Dave’s updated résumé, and thinks the measurements listed in the “special skills” section might be a bit of an exaggeration.