“Blink of an Eye”
Written by Michael Taylor and Joe Menosky
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Season 6, Episode 12
Production episode 233
Original air date: January 19, 2000
Captain’s log. Voyager finds a planet that is rotating on its axis 58 times per minute. When they investigate, they find themselves trapped in a geosynchronous orbit. Down below on the surface, the aboriginal locals see the new star in the sky and consult the shaman, who announces that it is a new god, and they must now only sacrifice fire fruit to it (when Voyager appeared, a sacrifice was being made to Tahal with fire fruit). Voyager’s presence is also causing earthquakes—the people refer to the new god as the Ground Shaker.
Seven reports that the planet has a tachyon core. As a result, time is passing much faster on the planet than it is in the rest of the galaxy. For every second that passes on Voyager, a day passes on the planet. Chakotay has Torres configure a probe to take images every ten milliseconds. This is, to Chakotay, the anthropological find of a lifetime.
Centuries later on the planet, a protector summons his former teacher to compose a letter, which he sends in a hot-air balloon up into the sky to the star, asking them to stop causing the ground to shake.
Chakotay and Torres observe the surface, watching their industrial age begin. Eventually, the probe starts to break down—it’s been going for centuries—and Chakotay orders it destroyed. The people on the surface see the explosion for weeks.
A telescope is constructed with the primary purpose of observing the Sky Ship. They have also been sending radio transmissions into orbit.
Seven receives the transmission, but has to slow it down considerably. It’s very polite and friendly, but begs the Sky Ship to stop giving them earthquakes. It also mentions that the Sky Ship’s arrival is part of their culture’s mythology. Paris thinks they need to answer the communication. Of course, the guy who sent it is centuries dead by this point, but still. Tuvok argues against it for Prime Directive reasons, but Chakotay points out that the contamination has already happened: Voyager has been part of the planet’s mythology for centuries.
Because he’s the only one who can survive the transition into the planet’s faster timeframe, the EMH is sent down. The plan is to beam him down to observe for a couple of days—three seconds on Voyager. However, the attempted beam-back fails. It takes the better part of twenty minutes to technobabble their way to retrieving him, and by that time he’s been down there for three years. He actually created a life for himself down there, and has observed quite a bit. His roommate was a composer, and she created an aria about the Sky Ship. He also lived through a war, which destroyed his apartment.
He also reports that Voyager is responsible for a great deal of innovation and invention. A large portion of their culture has been geared toward reaching for the stars to contact the Sky Ship. They download the information he’s gathered, and attempt to break orbit, but it fails, and increases the seismic effects on the planet.
The people on the world have developed a space program, and two astronauts, Gotana-Retz and Terrina, fly into orbit and dock with Voyager. From their point of view, the ship and its inhabitants are standing still. Suddenly, the two of them feel ill and then transit into Voyager’s timeline. Terrina dies from the physical stress, but the EMH is able to save Retz.
He realizes that years have passed on the surface, and everyone he knows is long dead. And he’ll get farther away from his own time the longer he stays. He dreamt of the Sky Ship since he was an infant, and is both thrilled and awed to see his first-ever dream come true.
The people on the surface start bombarding Voyager with weapons that improve with each salvo—it’s days between bombardments, and they refine the missiles each time. Retz agrees to return to the surface and convince them that Voyager isn’t a deliberate threat, they just want to leave orbit.
Retz flies down, and soon the bombardment stops. Two ships fly into orbit and are able to push Voyager out of orbit. Retz projects a hologram of himself onto the bridge. He was able to take the EMH’s data and guide the world toward technology that would allow Voyager to go on their way. After Voyager leaves, we see the very elderly Retz watch the Sky Ship leave the sky forever.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, a planet with a tachyon core will move faster through time than the rest of the galaxy. Of course, tachyons move faster than light, so I don’t know how that could possibly work, but whatever.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway makes it clear to Retz that she won’t keep him trapped there forever, but understands the problematic nature of returning him home decades after he left.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is against any contact with the locals, as it’s a Prime Directive violation. Chakotay points out that that toothpaste is already out of the tube.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH spends three years on the planet, assimilating quite well into the society. He asks Retz about how a particular sports team is doing, and is appalled to learn that the team—which includes the grandson of a player he saw—is doing very poorly.
Half and half. Torres modifies a probe so that they can observe the planet, and while her enthusiasm isn’t anywhere near as high as Chakotay’s, you can tell that she thinks it’s cool.
Forever an ensign. Kim is the one who figures out the best place to beam the EMH down, but has trouble finding him after twenty minutes. (Chakotay has him scan near opera houses and cultural centers, and sure enough…)
Resistance is futile. Naomi is taking an astronomy class, and informs Seven that she’s writing a paper on the planet. She titles it “The Weird Planet Where Time Moved Very Fast and So Did the People Who Lived There.” Seven convinces her to shorten the title to “The Weird Planet Displaced in Time.”
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. The EMH has a “roommate” and a son while he’s down there, though he’s parsimonious with specifics. The son is named Jason, whom he apparently named.
“Mountain or Lakeside?”
“Mountain, of course. Don’t tell me you’re a Lakeside supporter!”
“You really were on the surface…”
“How are they doing this season?”
“Not good. Five wins, twelve losses.”
“I don’t believe it! Who’s guarding for them?”
“Any relation to the Torelius?”
“I saw the original defend for Mountain in the playoffs against Red River.”
“That was before I was born.”
“He would’ve gone into voluntary exile after a 5-12 season!”
–Retz and the EMH talking sports.
Welcome aboard. The great Daniel Dae Kim—these days known for his starring roles on Lost and Hawaii Five-Oh, and who prior to this had a starring role on Babylon 5: Crusade—plays Gotana-Retz. He’ll return on Enterprise in the recurring role of one of the MACOs.
Obi Ndefo, last seen as Martok’s son Drex in DS9’s “The Way of the Warrior,” plays the protector who sends a letter via balloon, and Olaf Pooley plays the cleric who writes that letter. Daniel Zacapa (last seen as an occupant of a Sanctuary District in DS9’s “Past Tense, Part II”) and Jon Cellini play the two guys working the telescope, Kat Sawyer-Young plays Terrina, Melik Malkasian plays the shaman, Walter Hamilton McCready plays the guy who was sacrificing fire fruit, and Scarlett Pomers is back as Naomi.
Trivial matters: The EMH’s three-year sojourn on the planet was chronicled in the short story “Eighteen Minutes” by Terri Osborne in the anthology Distant Shores. Among other things, she explains how the EMH contrived to have a son. The story also provides the names Tahal-Meeroj for the planet and Tahal-Isut for the people of the world, who are never named in the script. It adds tremendous amounts of texture to the episode.
This is the last Trek episode directed by Gabrielle Beaumont, and virtually the last of her career before she retired after 2000, as her only credits after this are two episodes of Baywatch. Beaumont was the first woman to direct a Trek episode when she helmed TNG’s “Booby Trap.”
Beaumont also hired her husband to play one of the roles: Olaf Pooley, who played the cleric who wrote the letter to Voyager sent by weather balloon.
Set a course for home. “We’ve done enough damage to these people over the last thousand years.” The actual science behind this story is laughably bad, but the story itself is so good that I really don’t care that much. It’s just an excuse to do an entire civilization in an hour, and doing so is tremendous fun. Seeing the different stages of the people’s development, and how they respond to the Sky Ship, is a delight.
As usual, they’re a little too human—it’s the same problem I had with TNG’s “First Contact”—and it’s a bit too much of a coincidence that Voyager’s arrival so perfectly tracks with the early development of humanoid civilization on the world.
But the episode is sold on some excellent quick-and-dirty character development by scripter Joe Menosky. We see several sets of two people—the shaman and the guy making sacrifices, the protector and his erstwhile mentor, the two guys at the telescope, and the two astronauts—who create instant, lasting impressions. These are people we come to care about, even though they’re all dead within seconds of our encountering them.
Daniel Dae Kim is the most famous guest, even at this early stage of his career, and he brings the same subdued intensity that he brings to all his roles. Retz’s self-effacing nature and determination to do what’s best for his people is very compelling, though his best moment is the final shot where he stares at the sky watching Voyager disappear, and you can see his satisfaction even under all the old-age makeup.
All the other guest stars do well, also, particularly the mentor-student banter between Obi Ndefo and Olaf Pooley and the cynical exhaustion from Daniel Zapaca and Jon Cellini at the telescope.
The regulars do well, too, most notably the three Roberts: Beltran showing Chakotay’s anthropological nerdity, Picardo showing how much the EMH experienced in three years on the world (the conversation between him and Retz about sports is just epic), and Duncan McNeill giving us a Paris who urgently insists on responding to the radio transmission, Prime Directive be damned.
It’s a nifty little science fictional concept, even if the science is dopey, and a very satisfying hour.
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido has two books coming out in June: All-the-Way House, the latest in the Systema Paradoxa series of novellas about cryptids, in this case detailing the secret origin of the Jersey Devil; and Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours Omnibus, which reprints three mid-2000s Spidey novels, including Keith’s Down These Mean Streets, regular rewatch commenter Christopher L. Bennett’s Drowned in Thunder, and best-selling author Jim Butcher’s The Darkest Hours.