Star Trek: Voyager “Threshold” (part 3 of 7)
So back to Paris in the simulation, traveling at warp 9.92, and his image is oddly elongated, much like Paula Abdul’s “Promise of a New Day” video. Or how most European broadcasts look when they’re replayed over here in the States, actually. The “shuttle” is rumbling and rocking, and right before it hits 9.97, Paris happily reports that the “pylons are secure!” He passes warp 9.99, and then the ride abruptly gets smooth, and he announces that he’s reached warp 10. And this, apparently, is some big sign of success. I really have to wonder, how could a holodeck simulate something that was previously considered impossible? And even if it could, why would any rational person take this as a promising indicator of success in reality?
We hear B’Elanna’s voice, sounding a little too much like she’s in a video game, saying, “You’ve crossed the threshold! You’ve done it!” Bonus points! Prepare for the next level! We pull back and find all of this is playing on a viewscreen, and the entire senior staff of Voyager is sitting in a conference room and watching gleefully.
The captain of the ship, Captain Kathryn Janeway (because that’s the way Kate Mulgrew always said it: “Captain Kathryn Janeway”) is pleased. She recounts in her raspy Hepburn voice how Paris came to her a while back and said he had found a way to “cross the transwarp threshold”. But at the time, she considered it all “fantasy” and laughed in his face. Well, I kind of added that last thing. But oh, how times have changed. She and her Power Bun gracefully congratulate them all.
The three science-y folks in the room (Paris, Kim, Torres) talk about preparing a real-live manned shuttle flight as soon as possible, with Paris as their test pilot. Kim says the idea is to have Paris cut the flight short as soon as he crosses the transwarp threshold. After they analyze the logs, they can try for a longer flight.
Commander Chakotay (the guy that Q once memorably—and fittingly—nicknamed “Chuckles”) calls this “almost frightening”. He fulfills his duties as Chief Killjoy Officer by asking, “Are we ready for it?” In response, Janeway plucks out allusions to the Manhattan Project as easily as hairpins from her bun, all, “we can’t put the genie back in the bottle”, and so forth.
She praises Tom Paris in particular, saying his name will someday belong in the upper echelons of great pilots. She hepburns, “Orville Wright, Neil Armstrong, Zefram Cochrane… and Tom Paris.” Chuck Yeager thanks you. As well as all of the non-Earthling, non-American pilots in the history of the entire known galaxy who perhaps may have done something productive with their lives and yet don’t warrant a mention here.
“I kind of like the way that sounds,” Paris says, his voice noticeably cracking. He likes the way what sounds? His own name? Actually, that doesn’t really surprise me.
After a shot of the Giant Serving Spoon cruising through space, we cut to Paris reclining in his quarters later that night, wearing a royal blue robe. Hey, at least he doesn’t like to hang out in his tidy whities, which is certainly not outside the realm of possibility for this character. With a Pabst Blue Ribbon cracked open on his knee, to complete the picture.
The door chimes, and in walks Captain Kathryn Janeway, and Paris is all awkward about being in his robe, and yeah, I can sort of see where that discomfort is coming from. Please remember to keep your knees together when you sit, Tom.
Janeway, however, has one thing on her mind: she just learned something from the Doctor, and now she thinks it’s better for Ensign Kim to make this epochal flight. It seems Paris has a “slight enzymatic imbalance in [his] cerebellum.” What does she mean, slight? And did we really need a medical test to know that?
Anyway, this means there’s a chance that Paris could experience “a brain hemorrhage under the subspace stress”. That chance, Janeway reveals, is “two percent”.
Paris freaks out, as you knew he would, yelling that he’ll take that chance. I gotta admit, I don’t get the point of this scene. I mean, any dope can guess that Paris would be more than willing to take this kind of minimal risk. And in general, “easily predicted outcome” does not, in any shape or form, equal “drama”.
But if I had to guess, I’d say this part was included so Paris could get in a big heroic speech. He yells that “this is [his] flight”, and goes on a rant that actually begins with the words “when I was a boy”. No, really. He spouts nonsense about how all the kids at school thought he would do something with his life. And this, I guess, is the fulfillment of all the dreams of all those kids we’ve never seen. Go random kids!
Janeway is still coming at him with the “medical risk” angle, which I can’t seriously believe even she cares about at this point, let alone anyone watching this. But Paris passionately pleads with her to let him make the flight. And it’s all so preposterous and transparent.
If they really wanted to make this dramatic, why would it only be a “two percent” chance that Paris would die? I mean, I’m pretty sure that every time I cross a street, there’s at least a two percent chance I’ll get hit by a bus. I would even go so far as to guess that when I open a soda bottle, there’s at least a two percent chance the plastic top will shoot off, ricochet around the room, and bury itself in my brain. So who wouldn’t take that kind of risk, not only to make history, but to get home? What’s the point of all this, honestly?
Anyway, Janeway is overwhelmed by the lukewarm passion of Tom’s plea. She simply says, “Good luck, Lieutenant,” and leaves, and Paris breathes a sigh of relief. Frankly, I think he’s mostly relieved that his pork and beans didn’t fall out at any point during that conversation.
The next shot is of Lt. Torres down in Engineering, sitting beside this weaselly looking dude. As it so happens, Weaselly Looking Dude is currently betraying the ship by secretly working with the Kazon. Long story. Which we’ll get into later. For now, Torres says everything’s ready for Paris’ test flight, and up on the bridge, Janeway gives the order to depressurize the shuttle bay and open the “space doors” (are those anything like Deanna Troi’s space pen?). Kim complies, because, I guess, he never would have gotten the idea to do that otherwise.
Janeway contacts Paris’ shuttle to tell him he’s cleared for launch, and we learn the shuttle is named “Cochrane”. Geez, Cochrane this, Cochrane that. Look, Modern Trek, why don’t you just go and marry Zefram Cochrane if you love him that much?
Paris happily reports back, “See you at warp 10!” Okay, Tom, and we’ll be seeing you on a milk carton. And then there’s a shot of his shuttle departing. The shuttle immediately gets all stretchy with the Doppler visuals and goes to warp, and Voyager follows suit.
Janeway radios Paris to say that Voyager will keep up with him as long as they can. Down in Engineering, Torres clears him for transwarp velocity. We watch Paris count down to transwarp, then get shoved back in his seat just like in the simulation.
Cut to the Voyager bridge, as everyone listens intently to Paris’ transmissions, where he’s rattling off his rapidly increasing speed. Eventually, he hits warp 10, which causes big smiles to break out all over the bridge. Even on Tuvok. Hey, the news is just that good.
Paris reports that everything is normal. Though I’m curious; If nothing in the universe can travel warp 10, how are they still receiving his transmissions? Suddenly, his voice gets all distorted and machine-like, and all they hear is him saying, “Oh my god! Oh my—” And then the transmission ends. And yeah, yeah, I’m sure it’s full of stars and everything, but I think I’ve referenced that line far too much on this site already.
Kim reports that Paris is gone. Paris, shuttle, the whole schmear, poof. Chakotay shouts some technobabble orders at Kim, but nope, he’s still gone. I love how Chakotay actually has to shout stuff like, “Increase sensor gain to maximum!” Because apparently, Kim is not allowed to do that—or to stupid to do it—on his own.
Anyway, Kim says, “He’s gone.” And oh, how I wish Janeway would suddenly get a smirk on her face, toss her bun around, and mischievously say, “Well, that was easier than I thought,” and give the order to resume course for home. Because you just know she’s happy to be rid of Tom Paris.