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Star Trek: Voyager – Blink of an Eye (Review)

Blink of an Eye is perhaps the last truly great episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

There are good episodes that follow Blink of an Eye. There are solid comedy episodes like Renaissance Man. There are effective homage episodes like Author, Author. There are even well-constructed archetypal narratives that fit within the thematic framework of both the series and the franchise like Memorial. However, there isn’t a single episode as elegant as Blink of an Eye, a story which demonstrates the raw potential of Voyager as a narrative engine for telling these big and broad science-fiction narratives.

From the mountains of faith…

Indeed, it might even be possible to argue that Blink of an Eye is the last truly great episode of Berman era Star Trek.

There is a tendency to overlook Star Trek: Enterprise in discussions of the franchise’s history and legacy, no matter how quietly influential the prequel series has become in terms of Star Trek Beyond or Star Trek: Discovery. This does a disservice to the last series of the Berman era, particularly the final two seasons that grappled with the question of what it means to be Star Trek in the aftermath of 9/11. Nevertheless, the trauma of 9/11 exerted such a gravity that even the best episodes of Enterprise seemed to exist in its shadow; Judgment, Cogenitor, The Forgotten, Babel One, United.

… through the valley of fear…

Even outside of hyperbole, Blink of an Eye is a beautifully constructed piece of television that speaks to the appeal and the potential of Star Trek. It is a lyrical allegory, a very simple and straightforward idea that is constructed in such a way as to invite the audience to ask profound and meaningful questions about the nature of human existence. What is it like to watch a civilisation rise up? What ideals drive it? Towards what values and ideals might it strive? More than that, what is it like to sit outside of time and watch those beholden to time? These are fascinating and enlightening ideas.

Blink of an Eye was developed from a story by Voyager writer Michael Taylor, one of the most ambitious writers to ever work on the series. Taylor had contributed the stories that would develop into The Visitor and In the Pale Moonlight, demonstrating a willingness to think outside the box. On Voyager, Taylor’s ambitions were frequently tempered and his scripts often compromised. Both Once Upon a Time and The Fight were much more generic and mediocre pieces of television than the original premise. Blink of an Eye is a rare Taylor concept that doesn’t feel watered down.

…. But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross…

It helps that the teleplay for Blink of an Eye was written by Star Trek veteran Joe Menosky. Menosky had a long association with the franchise and a deep understanding of how it worked, having cut his teeth on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. More than any other writer, Menosky understood the idea of Star Trek as a mythic framework, an avenue for exploring stories and what they mean. This theme plays through Menosky’s work on the franchise; Darmok, Masks, Dramatis Personae, Muse.

Blink of an Eye feels like an episode perfectly callibrated to the strengths of Taylor and Menosky, a high-concept episode that is fundamentally about the Star Trek mythos.

We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Warhead (Review)

If Relativity featured a time bomb, then Warhead focuses on a smart bomb.

Star Trek: Voyager is a fascinating television show. It is a television show very firmly rooted in the listlessness of the nineties, reflecting cultural anxieties and uncertainties; these millennial anxieties reflected in stories like 11:59. At the same time, it is also structured as something more overtly nostalgic than the other Star Trek spin-offs, a conscious throwback to the retro science-fiction of the forties and the fifties; this sensibility reflected in the nuclear parables of Jetrel or The Omega Directive, the infiltrator narratives of Cathexis or In the Flesh.

“Yes, that is a rocket in that pocket of rock, and yes it is happy to see us.”

In many ways, Warhead represents a perfect fusion of these two approaches. Warhead is a story that is strongly anchored in uncertainties about the legacy of the Second World War, the tale of a sentient weapon of mass destruction with the capacity to cause untold destruction that exists beyond the capacity of human reason. Warhead is also a philosophical parable about identity and determinism, a discussion about what it means to have a sense of self and whether an individual’s reality is shaped by their design and their programming.

The result is a strange hybrid story that captures two of the competing facets of Voyager in a single forty-five minute episode.

Explosive drama.

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The X-Files – Biogenesis (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

‘When Alexan­der saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to con­quer.’ Ben­e­fits of a clas­si­cal education.

– Hans Gruber, Die Hard

In hindsight, “ending” the mythology with a two-parter in the middle of the season was always a risky proposition.

Airing Two Fathers and One Son during February Sweeps was a logical decision. Ending the mythology that had been running through the show for five-and-a-half seasons was certain to grab the attention of casual viewers, reeling them in to boast up ratings. The X-Files had always aired mythology two-parters during Sweeps, putting them forward as examples of the best that the series could do and cementing the show’s claim to be “blockbuster television.” Choosing to wrap up the mythology during February Sweeps was just an extension of that approach.

Look what just washed up...

Look what just washed up…

And it worked. Two Fathers earned the second highest Nielsen score of the sixth season, landing just behind The Rain King. Two Fathers was the last time that The X-Files would rate so highly. As such, the decision to “close off” the mythology in the middle of the season was a very shrewd decision. However, it did raise questions about what the show would do at the very end of season. After all, The X-Files liked to bookend its seasons with mythology episodes, counting on a mythology cliffhanger to carry viewers across the long gap between seasons.

How do you tell a mythology story when you’ve just worked so hard to tidy it all away?

Behind the curtain...

Behind the curtain…

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Millennium – Saturn Dreaming of Mercury (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

That’s an intense little girl you’ve got there.

Intensity’s fine.

– Emma and Frank discuss how Jordan takes after her father

"Quiet. I'm trying to figure out the title."

“Quiet. I’m trying to figure out the title.”

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Millennium – Force Majeure (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Papa?

It’s begun.

Fire and ice.

Fire and ice.

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