Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the TOS third season episode “Wink of an Eye,” a third season episode with a neat concept and a messy execution. A race of time-accelerated aliens (DC comics fans might call them “speedsters”) wants to mate with Kirk. Because of course they do, who wouldn’t?
This is a Trek that hits all the cliches. Kirk bedding an alien (he’s shown putting his boots back on, in what is perhaps the only empirical evidence that Kirk actually got past second base in the whole series) . . .
. . . alien women wearing ridiculous outfits that look a series of handkerchiefs, and science mumbo-jumbo (technobabble is too good a term for this nonsense) that is inconsistent from one scene to the next. How fast do these aliens move? It seems to vary according to the needs of the plot. Except for the overarching idea, there’s nothing about the episode that says “this is transcendent culture!”
And yet, that episode is one of my earliest memories of Trek. For two main things: first, the idea of time freezing was really inviting to me. The idea of being able to just run away and know I could stay away as long as I wanted, and then come back and re-engage only when I was ready was really enviable. Second, I wanted to be able to dress like Deela. At five I didn’t know why and decades later I’m even more at a loss of why I would think that. But I know I did. It’s a silly impractical thing, but to me I think it spoke of courage and freedom. But I’m just guessing. That child’s frame of mind is long lost to the ages. Anyway, it stuck in my head.
My other earliest memories of Trek were Kirk looking out on an overpopulated planet . . .
and Gary Seven on a missile platform face-to-face with a nuclear warhead while a cat sits on his back . . .
Not the most high-brow introductions to the show. But Trek was mostly a series of interesting pictures to me without much continuity, at least until I saw Star Trek III on my sixth birthday and it all began to fall in place as one long ongoing story. I know cognitively that my dad had already shown TWOK to me, but I didn’t retain any of it except that Spock died. But again, since continuity from episode to episode was something I had not considered, it didn’t even occur to me that Spock might stay dead. I thought it was mindblowing that Star Trek III would open with a “previously on” flashback, and in my young mind when they got back to earth at the beginning of the movie I thought it was them returning from the initial “five year” mission of the show (I’m sure I wasn’t the only casual movie-goer to make that mistake, though maybe the youngest to even care). It did wig me out how old everyone had gotten, especially Kirk and Scotty. But I loved finally seeing what apartments and bars on Earth looked like in the Star Trek universe.
Anyway, so going into that movie theater, Star Trek was a cool jumbled set of images and brave heroes. By the time I left, it was a stable universe where things happened in an order and actions had consequences (I could tell neither Kirk’s son nor the Enterprise would magically be back next time).
For me, Trek all started with the nutty episode “Wink of an Eye.” For a lot of people, it began with Star Trek IV. Star Trek IV opened in theaters 32 years ago this week, and was a fun light-hearted installment to the series that attracted a ton of new fans and for decades was the most well-known version of the franchise. “The one with the whales” maintained a sense of continuity without beating non-fans over the head with it, refreshed the idea of Trek being about a hopeful future where we fix our mistakes, and brilliantly pulled off a fish-out-of-water comedy that served as a great way to refresh our understanding of the characters. While it wasn’t so for me, I’ve met a lot of people who have said Star Trek IV was their way into Trek.
Star Trek IV premiered just a year before The Next Generation, and even though that show ended up being great I have to wonder if the initial blandness of TNG dampened the Trek enthusiasm that Star Trek IV created. Just personally, I have a hard time believing anyone watched the first season of TNG and thought “gotta get into this!” but maybe I’m wrong. Different people jump on board at different times and for very different reasons. After all, the philosophical ideas that made Trek something so important to me are very different than the imagery and continuity that initially attracted me to it.
So, what was your introduction to Star Trek? Either the first thing you saw or maybe the first thing you saw that clicked with you? Or if it has just always been a part of your life, what are your earliest memories of Trek? What has stuck with you? Did you come on board with a movie, or maybe the illustrious adventures of Picard? And if so, am I wrong about the first season being a bad place to jump on?
For that matter, if you wanted to introduce someone to Star Trek now, where in the vast universe of shows, movies, books, games, and comics would you begin?
And now, a random image from Memory Alpha