Imagine a race of aliens on a distant planet who exist in an accelerated state of being, moving so quickly in time that they are imperceptible to the ordinary world except for the insect-like buzzing of their sped-up voices. It’s an intriguing sci-fi concept with all sorts of dramatic and narrative possibilities, but the “Wink of an Eye” in this week’s Star Trek episode is from the writers to the audience telling them, “Yeah, we know this story makes no logical sense whatsoever but just ignore that and watch Captain Kirk bag another alien space babe."
The Last of a Dying Breed
The Enterprise responds to a distress signal from the planet Scalos only to find it apparently deserted and lifeless. When a security guard inexplicably disappears into thin air, Captain Kirk orders a return to the ship where they soon realize they’ve brought aboard an unseen enemy, the aforementioned “accelerated” aliens, who are rapidly taking control of the ship’s systems. Deela, the self-described Queen of the Scalosians, exposes Kirk to a substance that speeds him up to their level, like the earlier security guard, and explains to him that her people are dying and in need of new breeding stock to perpetuate their species. She intends to take Kirk back to her planet and make him her King, willingly or not, while putting the Enterprise and the rest of its crew into deep freeze for later use. Employing his usual mix of charm and cleverness, Kirk manages to stall their plans long enough for Spock and McCoy to synthesize an antidote to the acceleration effect and together they are able to regain control of the ship and exile the Scalosians back to their planet.
Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain
As I said, the concept is very intriguing and the episode is enjoyable overall, but only so long as you don’t examine it too closely or ask too many questions. Depending on how nitpicky you are, you might find yourself wondering how the Scalosians, who were supposedly rendered sterile by the same contaminants that caused their acceleration, were still able to mate and reproduce with passing space travelers, never mind the genetic compatibility issues. You might also wonder how they managed to get themselves beamed up to the ship undetected along with the materials for the deep freeze machine, or why the doors and turbolifts seemed to work for them at normal speeds while the phaser beam Kirk fired at Deela on the bridge was too slow to reach her before she casually stepped out of its way. And if you’re really nitpicky, you might be curious if they had to work in shifts during the hours it must have taken to push Kirk and Spock back a couple of steps in Environmental Control, or how they can even walk across a room without stirring up tornadic winds and sonic booms! I guess after you’ve seen this episode the first half-dozen times, it can be just as thought-provoking and fun to go ahead and ask the questions you’re not supposed to ask.
Just go with it
A New New Beginning
Of course, no matter how many times we’ve seen it before, the Remastered version gives us lots of new stuff to look at. This episode marks the first appearance of the revised opening credits with the new and improved CG model of the Enterprise. The folks at CBS Digital are doing almost everything right with the updated special effects these days and the ship looks fantastic. We’ve heard the re-recorded vocal rendition of the Trek theme song before, but this one is slightly altered to match the mix of the third season. Another alteration to match season 3 is the addition of blue text.
CBS-D making good on matching each season
As usual by now, the planet Scalos has been made to look more like an actual planet than a smeary blob of colored clouds. They are also doing much better these days with the lighting for the orbital shots; the light sources for the ship and planet are consistent and fall at more shadowy and visually interesting angles. One of the best comments I can make about the current quality of all the new effects is how easy it has become for me to forget that they are new at all, with two exceptions: I still find the nacelle caps to be a little off, perhaps a little too bright and colorful, and the dynamic pan-and-follow as the Enterprise breaks orbit at the end of the episode is still a little jarring to me, but I’m getting used to it.
Abandoned Cities and Crowded Corridors
The most noteworthy new effects in this episode are the new matte painting for the cityscape on Scalos and the much more elaborate phaser effect when Kirk, Spock and the security guards are firing at the force field in the corridor outside of Environmental Control. In the original episode, the matte painting was re-used from one or two earlier episodes and given a strong blue tint. Here it has been completely redone, expertly rotoscoped into the original footage, and all of the shots it appears in have been brightened and color balanced to much more pleasing effect. In the corridor scene, the original phaser effects were nothing more than animated green blobs that expanded to wash out the entire screen. The new version is much more impressive with beams lashing out, sweeping back and forth, and coruscating off the force field in front of them. It appears that the original scene was frozen just before the phasers began to fire and CG elements were used to give the illusion of movement throughout the duration of the new effect. There is an art to redoing a shot like this and CBS Digital has done a seamlessly masterful job of it.
Making shots like these aren’t as easy as they look
“Wink of an Eye” is not the most memorable of Star Trek episodes and it definitely requires a suspension of disbelief, but the suspension is mostly willing and the new special effects are imaginative and well-executed. It’s good to know that CBS Digital will be going back and updating the earlier remastered episodes to the same level of quality now that they have the kinks worked out.