Star Trek: Voyager “Threshold” (part 6 of 7)
The Adventures of the Very Not-Dead Tom Paris will continue in a moment. But first! It’s time to check in with Jonas, AKA Weaselly Traitor Dude, as he gets in touch with his Kazon co-conspirators. I wouldn’t worry too much about this scene, because it’s only meant to nudge along an extended plot arc, one that wouldn’t be resolved for a few more episodes. So basically, none of this matters at all to the particular episode I’m recapping now, so I fully intend to blow through it as quickly as possible.
Jonas sits in a darkened room, and with a rudimentary Playstation and a laptop with a track ball mouse, he sends all the information on the historic warp 10 shuttle flight to the Kazon. His Kazon contact appears on a viewscreen, and Jonas spills the beans about the flight. Oddly enough, the Kazon guy is also under the impression that warp 10 is impossible.
Jonas thinks this information will “prove [his] worth”, and the Kazon guy’s response is the standard, predictable, “We’ll see,” right before he cuts to black. And that’s that. Oh, and in the off chance you do bother watching every episode in this scintillating plot arc, don’t expect anything like a satisfying conclusion. Actually, that applies to just about any episode of this show. If you’re watching Voyager expecting a satisfying conclusion to anything, you’re going to be one emotionally desolate person by the time it’s all over. Absolutely nothing was concluded satisfactorily on Voyager, including the whole damn series itself. But “Endgame” is a bitchfest for another time.
Anyway, the Doctor is meeting with Janeway in Sick Bay, and describing Paris’ condition and pulling out the hoariest of Trek clichés, that of DNA “rewriting itself”. I wish this episode could have rewritten itself, don’t you? Janeway wonders if this is caused by the “enzymatic imbalance” that the Doctor discovered earlier—you remember, the two percent chance thing?—but of course not, because then that scene would have actually had a point.
No, the Doctor has never seen anything like this, and Paris’ body seems to be losing organs and gaining completely new ones at the same time. And as far as Tom’s brain goes, his “synaptic patterns” are mutating as well, but he still recognizes people and knows who he is. Janeway wants to talk to him, but the Doctor warns that his personality is “erratic, unpredictable. There are moments of lucidity interspersed with almost… deranged behavior!” Everybody say it with me: And this is different from his normal personality how?
So Janeway goes to talk to Paris, who’s now looking like a crossbreeding attempt between a nuclear blast survivor, Ron Perlman as the Beast, and Warwick Davis as the Leprechaun. He’s bald, and he’s got patches of skin peeling off, and one of his eyes has turned pale blue, and the FX guys have inserted bladders in his head that pulsate from time to time. He rightly points out it’s pretty disgusting. “You’ve looked better,” Janeway gently quips.
She begins to explain that the Doctor is working on a cure, but Paris is already sour on the idea. It appears he’s also got a bit of Brundlefly in the mix, because he says he’s probably turning into something “better”.
Abruptly switching tactics, he says Janeway will be glad to be rid of the old Tom Paris anyway. He tries to guilt her with the whole “I’m a Maquis traitor” thing. (Yes, several Voyager crewmembers once belonged to the Maquis. But I wouldn’t worry too much about that, because the show never did.) Then he switches tactics again, yelling at her for trying to take something great away from him. “How do you know this isn’t good for me?” Well, it’s doing wonders for your skin, anyway. I’d like to see your regular exfoliant do that.
He yells, “How do you know this isn’t the best thing that’s ever happened to me?” Janeway concedes, “That’s a possibility.” Because she certainly knows a lot of the things that have happened to Tom Paris, and believe me, they weren’t all that thrilling. But, she points out, it could just as easily be killing him.
Abruptly, he starts yelling that everybody’s lying to him. He thinks Janeway is lying when she says she’s happy to have him around, and everybody’s “jealous” he broke the transwarp barrier, and because of that, they all want him to die. So, basically, this speech is several different kinds of rambling and incoherent. Yay! Brannon Braga knows how to write “deranged”! An infuriated Janeway turns to leave, but Paris suddenly begs for forgiveness, saying he’s scared.
But she’s had it with his mood swings, and tells him to suck it up. Though, perhaps she puts it a bit more sympathetically than that. She says they’re doing everything they possibly can to help him. “I know you are,” Tom says, and then he reverts back to Psycho Boy and screams, “And I know you’ll fail!!” He lunges forward, hits the force field, and collapses against the bed. Any parting words, Mr. Lubriderm Ad “Before” Picture? “You know,” he says, “I used to look up to you. But now you seem so small, so insignificant. You don’t even know what… what… what…”
He then makes heaving noises, and in a truly charming moment, he doubles over and slowly pulls out his own tongue [!!]. And I’m guessing he just had a cherry Slurpee, judging by the bright red color of the “tongue”. Well, at least it got him to shut up, so it’s a step in the right direction. And in a semi-humorous touch, the Paris-thing actually smiles and chuckles while holding his tongue. Hey, I laughed, but personally, Star Trek-meets-Troma Studios is my idea of a fun evening. Wow. I’ve really got to hand it to them on this one. No matter what you think of the episode, this is truly an image for the ages.
A little later in Sick Bay, Kes reports that the rate of mutation has increased. The Doctor is cut off by Paris yelling that he needs to talk. Or, rather, in his current alingual state, “Ahhh kneeeee to tawwwwwk.” Paris begs to be let out of Sick Bay, so that he can leave the ship. He says that it’s “all so clear now”, and blathers, “The present. The past. They’re both in the future!” Or, rather, “They’re both in the fyoo-her! And the fyoo-her is in the pass!” Does traveling at warp 10 usually make a person speak in Yes lyrics?
“I am morrre,” he howls. “I… am…” Iron Man? “… everything!” Well, I suppose that works, too. He then begs for them to let him go, moaning pleeeeeease and sounding almost exactly like a wounded Wookie. The Doctor realizes they have to set his treatment plan in motion immediately.
Cut to the conference room, as the senior staff watch the doctor on the viewscreen, explaining the treatment he just devised. This episode takes place before the discovery of Ye Mobile Emitter, so the Doctor is still pretty much confined to Sick Bay.
His plan is to “destroy all of the new DNA” in Paris’ body, and then his cells will be forced to use his original DNA. It’s just that simple! But this requires “antiproton radiation”, which can only be found in the warp core. So, they’ll have to bring Paris down to Engineering to make the attempt. Plot point!
When we come back, Paris is in Engineering, strapped inside an even more Iron Lung-esque device. The mutations have continued to a point where he now resembles Lou Gossett in Enemy Mine, with a bald, bumpy head, and no nose, and a featureless mouth. B’Elanna and Crewman Traitor begin the antiproton treatment, but it appears Lt. Sleestak is already bursting out of his restraints.
Up in Sick Bay, Kes reports that his original DNA isn’t taking over. The Doctor gets on the viewscreen to B’Elanna, but all he sees is B’Elanna reacting to a ruckus off camera. She runs out of the shot, yelling, “Oh my god!” Phaser fire shoots past the viewscreen, and then a phaser shot hits the screen itself, and then it goes dead. Wow. I’ll admit, this off-camera fight wasn’t staged quite as clumsily as the one in Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, but you can tell the same type of lazy, cost-cutting motives were behind it. Anyway, I’m guessing that Paris has escaped, because the next thing the Doctor and Kes hear is Tuvok’s voice putting the ship on alert. So, nice job restraining the guy, there.
Cut to Janeway hurrying through dark corridors. Chakotay reports in via communicator, telling her that Paris escaped, and that he fired a phaser at the Main Thingamajig (which, as I recall, is right next to the Central Whooziwhatsit), causing power failures all over the ship. Good thing Voyager wasn’t designed with any kind of redundancy systems in place. Chuckles says that Tuvok’s men are currently searching the ship for the Paris-thing.
Janeway heads for a turbolift, but she stops when she hears weird breathing behind her. And even weirder, she actually does this odd head roll [?] when she hears it, almost like she’s cracking the vertebrae in her neck. And even weirder than that, I think she does the head roll a few seconds before she actually hears the breathing. So, I’m at a total loss to explain what the hell Mulgrew is doing here.
Anyway, she stops, and slowly reaches for her phaser, but it’s too late. Paris the Tree Sloth gets the jump on her. She fires, but completely misses, and Sloth Boy knocks her flat. On the bridge, some time is wasted as they detect the phaser discharge, and Tuvok’s men are sent to that location. But none of that matters, because Tom has already carried Janeway onto a shuttle. One guess what he’s got in mind. Ohhhh yeah. Sloth Boy wants to get laid.
Tom’s shuttle takes off, while on the bridge, Kim detects the launch. But all their systems are conveniently offline and there’s nothing they can do about it. And I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that it’s far, far easier to steal a shuttle from Voyager than to steal a car with the doors unlocked and the key in the ignition. With the engine running. So I guess this means it’s a one way ticket to Threshold-ville for our dear, dear Captain Kathryn Janeway.
The shuttle quickly goes to warp, just as Voyager’s power comes back online. Chakotay orders a pursuit. But I guess he’s forgotten that Paris has Transwarp Punky Power, and Voyager will never be able to keep up. Paris’ shuttle hits warp 9.9, and Chakotay orders the ship to match that speed. This, of course, causes the camera to roughly vibrate to and fro.
Majel Roddenberry’s voice gently warns him that the ship will experience “structural failure in 45 seconds.” Chakotay is conflicted, and in a nice touch, two random crewmen behind Chakotay shoot looks in his direction, almost as if to say, “what the fuck, man?”
Finally, he realizes there’s nothing he can do, and he orders the ship back to warp 9.5. Kim says they’ve lost the shuttle, because it’s gone to transwarp. And then those same two random crewmen breathe a sigh of relief. I was feeling for them, I really was.
Meanwhile, Janeway is waking up just in time to see all the pretty colors streaking past the windows, and Sloth Boy enjoying the light show. Then her face generates a distinctly cheap Doctor Who-style video effect, where her face radiates outward.
There’s a flash of white. We cut to Voyager and hear Chakotay’s log entry in voiceover. It’s taken them three days, he says, but they’ve found the shuttle in an “uninhabited star system.” Sooo… the shuttle could have gone anywhere in the entire universe, and it ended up three days away? There’s a lucky break. Down in Sick Bay, the Doctor meets with Chuckles and Tuvok and tells them he’s got the actual, actual cure for Paris’ condition, and he really means it this time.
The Doctor reveals that Paris’ mutations are “natural”, which is stupid enough, but there’s more. A lot more. It seems the changes to Paris’ body are consistent with the “evolution of the human genotype” over the “last four million years”. He cites as proof the “increased brain capacity”, and “the loss of vestigial organs”. Which… explains why Paris grew a second heart?
The Doc says, “The only difference between natural evolution and what happened to Mr. Paris is that his changes took place over a 24-hour period.” Unfortunately, by its very definition, “natural evolution” can’t take place over 24 hours. Evolution is the tendency of a species, over thousands and thousands of generations, to better adapt and flourish in its natural environment. And what happened to Paris made him less able to survive in his environment. Did we forget the allergy to water and the need to breathe acidichloride?
Oh, but it gets better. “Somehow, traveling at infinite velocity accelerated the natural human evolutionary process by millions of years!” Emphasis on the “somehow”, of course. At least that’s how I heard it.
He babbles on some more, but basically that’s the gist of it; By traveling at warp 10, Paris has suddenly become what humans will look like millions of years from now. Perfectly logical, wouldn’t you say?
I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose I could point out this means the Doc already knows what humans will look like millions of years from now. Otherwise, how would he know that’s what Paris is becoming? So why you holdin’ out on us, Doc?
But the implication here is that our entire evolutionary path can be predicted. With long-term blueprints hidden in our DNA, no less. I was always led to believe evolution was primarily the result of outside forces. But, nope. Apparently it’s all right there, coded into our genes. Geez. I know this is Star Trek and all, but come on, guys. And if you think that’s retarded, just wait until you get a gander at what these super-evolved, higher brain capacity-having humans actually look like. Trust me, whatever you’re imagining? Is not even close.
And now, dear reader, might I suggest that you kick up your feet, pour a glass of your favorite alcoholic beverage, and get ready to experience the most preposterous ending of any Star Trek episode, ever? Don’t try to fight it; You’ll never survive with your sanity intact. All you can do is let the waves of nonsense wash over you like gentle torrents. You’re never going to see anything as dumb as this again. At least, not anytime soon.
Ensign Kim reports that they’ve found the shuttlecraft on the fourth planet of the system, in an equatorial jungle. Cut to ripples in dark water, tropical ferns, a rock, and soon we see… God. I’ve watched this episode several times now, and I still just wince in pain at this scene every time.
There are two very large, salamander-like creatures lying on the rock. They have skin the color of pale human flesh, big Fu Manchu mustaches, dark spots on their backs, and they’re just lying there on their three-fingered hands. This is Janeway, and Paris. Yes, this is what Brannon Braga believes humans will become, millions of years from now: Speechless, barely mobile, giant salamanders. Can we just obliterate the human race right now? I’m usually against genocide, just on principle, but in this case I might make an exception. I mean, this is enough to make me want to drive a Hummer, just to do my part to bring about cataclysmic global warming even sooner.
Chakotay and Tuvok beam into the jungle terrain, along with a couple of Yellowshirts, and they soon encounter the big, um… the things. Clearly, they’re people inside of rubber costumes, crawling around on all fours. God, I would have loved to have been on the set that day, and seen the director try to explain this scene to the guys in the suits.
Without saying anything, Chakotay fires his phaser and stuns both of the, um, the… yeah. He stuns both of them. I’m not sure why his first impulse was to fire on them, but maybe he’s just as skeeved out by the whole scenario as everybody watching this.
They step forward and scan the lifeforms, and confirm it’s Janeway and Paris. “But I have to admit,” Chakotay says, “I’m not sure which one is the captain.”
“The female,” Tuvok says, “Obviously.” Okay, Mr. Tuvok. And I assign you the job of flipping them over to make that determination.
And then, they notice a hole burrowed in the ground between the two giant salamanders and… no… say it’s not true. Somebody wake me up from this nightmare. Is it me? Did I run over a puppy, or pull an infant from its mother’s breast and cause myself, through sheer karma, to be watching this now? Because what happens next is that three tiny little baby salamanders poke their heads out of the hole. And then cheap CGI representations of those tiny baby salamanders shimmy out of the hole, and slither into a nearby body of water.
And right now, I feel so embarrassed for these actors, and everyone behind the camera who had to work hard to stage and film this ending. Watching this is simply excruciating. And I know “Profit and Lace” had moments that were just as painful, but those were awful mainly because of their visual repugnance. Here, my mind is shrinking from the sheer intellectual pain. This is the stupidest possible ending they could have come up with.
Chakotay says, “I don’t know how I’m going to enter this into the log.” Preferably, by pounding your head against the console.
Tuvok replies, “I look forward to reading it.” Vulcans are masochists.
Guys, just chew some cyanide pills and activate Voyager’s self-destruct sequence. That’s the quickest and cleanest way to deal with this situation, I think.