“Wink of an Eye” is an interesting episode, and one I actually remember fairly well, for good reasons. It has an intriguing premise and the story proceeds with some mystery, then suspense and drama.
It begins with the Enterprise answering a distress call from the planet Scalos, but when they arrive all they find as a deserted city. The only life appears to be an annoying insect buzzing. While investigating, Kirk and McCoy see crewman Compton vanish right in front of their eyes! They beam back up, and then strange things start happening – equipment malfunctions, and then a weird piece of equipment appears mysteriously in engineering, hooked up to the life support system. Kirk and Spock try to disconnect it, but it’s protected by some sort of force field. Kirk returns to the bridge, where he hears the strange insect buzzing again before sipping some coffee.
Kirk notices everyone else on the bridge slow down and then apparently become paralysed. The Scalosian queen Deela appears, clad in an airy costume reminiscent of some sort of air sprite. Kirk demands to know what she’s done with his crew, but she smiles and says nothing, what she has done is to hyper-accelerate Kirk, so that he moves at a speed beyond human perception. This explains the “insect” buzzing – it is the high-pitched sound of the Scalosians moving around unseen by the crew. Now Kirk is effectively one of them and Deela says he can never return – they have searched for a way to reverse the effect for years and failed. Deela also explains that she needs Kirk… for breeding purposes. All the male Scalosians have been rendered infertile, so they maintain their culture by kidnapping males from passing spaceships.
The episode then cuts back and forth between Kirk, Deela, and some male Scalosians (including the jealous Rael, who wears some impressive space clothes) in hyper-accelerated time, and the rest of the Enterprise crew in normal time. This is necessary for the plotting, but it raises the logic problem of how Kirk can progress through hours of normal time without living through the subjective equivalent of days or months at his hyper-accelerated rate. This niggle is never dealt with, alas. A clever bit of cinematography I noticed is the heavy use of Dutch angles when shooting in the hyper-accelerated frame, to contrast it visually from the normal speed frame. This is subtle if you’re not paying attention, but very effective at separating the two interlinked story threads and giving an off-kilter feel to Kirk’s predicament.
Back in real-time, Compton reappears, dead, apparently of old age. In accelerated time, Deela explains to Kirk that living at such speed wears their kidnapped males out rapidly, so they will freeze the Enterprise using the gizmo attached to the life support system, so they have a stock of new males for the next while. Kirk records a message for Spock and leaves it where it will be found, then decides to play along with Deela, taking her to his quarters, where he seduces her with a kiss. Cut to Spock finding the recording and deciphering the buzzing sound on it as Kirk sped up, then McCoy preparing a serum to counteract the hyper-acceleration. Cut back to Kirk sitting on the edge of his bunk putting his boots back on, while Deela fixes her hair at the mirror.
McCoy finishes the serum, but they have no way to get it to Kirk. Spock drinks a sample of Scalosian water to hyper-accelerate himself and find Kirk. Together they defeat Rael and the others, and beam them back to Scalos. Kirk has a semi-sad parting with Deela, but decides they can’t do anything for the Scalosians, so he abandons them on their planet. This is a rather callous ending – Kirk doesn’t try to come up with any way to save the Scalosian culture, but rather decides he needs to warn other ships to stay away, until their race dies out. This is the only serious plotting problem with this episode – it just seems far too callous. Finally, when Spock returns to normal time with McCoy’s serum, he says he found it to be “an accelerating experience“. Apparently Vulcans are not above sleazy puns.
In the end, this is a refreshingly good episode for season three. It’s clever, tense, and dramatic. I’m hoping there are still a few more like this to come.
Tropes: Some Kind Of Force Field, Time Stands Still, Theiss Titillation Theory, Super Speed, Only You Can Repopulate My Race, Green-Eyed Monster, Dutch Angle, Boldly Coming, Sexy Discretion Shot, Incredibly Lame Pun.
Body count: Enterprise crewman Compton (old age).