Star Trek: Voyager “Threshold” (part 7 of 7)
After this brain-bustingly idiotic scene, there’s a shot of Voyager, with a log entry from Chakotay. Like most log entries in the final five minutes of a Trek episode, this one exists purely to wrap things up as quickly as possible, and usher us right back into the status quo just in time for the next episode.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more preposterous, Chakotay declares that they’ve decided to leave the “offspring” of Janeway and Paris “in their new habitat”. Speech. Less.
Doesn’t this… I mean, wouldn’t this have huge biological ramifications for… I mean… The violations of the Prime Directive alone would… And *snap*. Pardon me, but I’ve gone to my happy place now.
Down in Sick Bay, the Doctor has already restored Janeway and Paris to their normal selves. Just like that! But he wants them both to remain there for three days.
There’s really nothing they can do or say in these final minutes that would even register in anyone’s minds after the absurdity of that last scene. But they go through with it anyway. Janeway goes over to Paris and says, “I’ve thought about having children. But I must say I never considered having them with you.” Har har! All in a day’s work, right, Captain? Paris doesn’t remember initiating the “uh…”—that’s what he calls it, “uh…”—but we all know what he really means: Hot, freaky salamander love.
She hepburns, “What makes you think it was your idea? Sometimes it’s the female of a species that initiates mating!” That species being… human. Right? I mean, they didn’t become some other species, did they? They just supposedly “evolved” into some higher form of human life. Didn’t they? Did anybody proofread this script? Or were they too busy vomiting after reading the last scene?
They share a chuckle—haha, nothing like turning into a salamander and fucking the captain, ah, good times—and Janeway reveals she’s putting Paris in for a “commendation”. Hmm, so I guess he must have been pretty hot in the salamander sack. (And boy, there’s a sentence I never, ever saw myself having the opportunity to write.) She explains that no matter what happened afterwards, he’s still the first person to break the transwarp barrier.
Paris responds with a very restrained thanks. Janeway: “Is there something wrong, Lieutenant?” Oh, so many things. Do you have a while? I have a whole long list, and it’s possible it’ll be left up to my children and grandchildren to finish reading off the list.
He says it’s all “overwhelming”, what with flying at warp 10, evolving, mating, “having alien offspring”. What?? Both the parents are human! How do those babies qualify as “alien offspring”? I think I have to face facts. By the time they got around to filming this scene, nobody was paying any attention to the dialogue. I think most of the staff had already gone home to cry themselves to sleep.
And now, they actually have the gall to frame this stupidity as a Tom Paris self-discovery character moment. We actually return to that theme of Paris wanting to prove himself, like anybody could possibly be taking this seriously after seeing giant human salamanders.
But here’s the discussion in brief, for all of you who are (understandably) not listening: Paris says breaking the threshold wasn’t all he thought it would be, and he secretly did it to restore his “reputation”. But Janeway says he didn’t need to break the threshold to earn anybody’s “respect” or “admiration”. And then, in a truly brilliant closing exchange, we learn that this whole godforsaken experience has reminded Tom that he needs to (brace yourselves for originality!) believe in himself. I honestly can’t believe they got anyone to say these lines without curling into a fetal position out of sheer embarrassment.
Janeway: Somehow, I don’t think they will be.
Oh god, the pain! The pain! End! End! End!
Sure enough, we cut to a shot of the ship flying away, with the producer credits underneath. That. Was. Horrible. No other word for it. Anyone who tries to defend this episode is clearly out of their minds, or just being contrarian for the hell of it.
You know, I was trying to think of a better way for this episode to end, but once you’ve got crewmembers transforming into sloth monsters, where is there to go with that, really?
If you can get past the glaringly stupid parts of this story, a lot of questions arise. Like, why couldn’t they just try another warp 10 flight? Presuming that the Doctor can easily cure the mutation once it starts happening, what would be so bad about Voyager getting back to earth, and letting the whole crew change into salamanders? Can’t they easily be changed back?
Okay, sure, there’s some risk involved with that, and perhaps you wouldn’t want to roll the dice with the lives of your entire crew. So why not send out one shuttle with just a few crewmen, along with the medical knowledge to “cure” them? They could have easily sent Paris (no one would have missed him) or Kim (ditto) and let them get back to Earth, be cured, and then get to work on perfecting warp 10 flight with the full resources of Starfleet.
Well, the answer is obvious. This is Voyager we’re talking about. And every “chance to get home” is available once, and only once. After that, it’s completely forgotten about.
Of course, there’s probably another big reason this episode was forgotten about. And I don’t think I can elucidate it much better than the guy who actually wrote the script. As promised in the opening of this recap, here’s Brannon Braga back in 2003, talking about “Threshold”.
The views and/or opinions expressed in this commentary are necessarily the opinions of every poor bastard unlucky enough to see this episode.
For those who can’t see the video, here’s the text of his comments:
Out of a hundred and some episodes, you’re gonna have some stinkers! Unfortunately, that was a royal, steaming stinker. And… it had some good intentions behind it. It had a good premise, breaking the warp 10 barrier.
I don’t know where this whole “de-evolving into a lizard” thing came from. I may have blocked it out. I think I was trying to make a statement about evolution not necessarily being evolving toward higher organisms, that evolution may also be a de-evolution. You know, we kind of take it for granted that evolution means bigger brains, more technology, you know, more refined civilization. When in fact, for all we know, we’re evolving back toward a more primordial state. Ultimately, who can predict?
Unfortunately, none of this came across in the episode. And all we were left with were some lizard… things crawling around in the mud. So. It was not my shining moment.
Certainly not. Which is probably why, according to some sources, this is the only episode that has been (unofficially) removed from Star Trek canon. It was so awful that, as far as the writers and producers were concerned, it simply never happened. (Later episodes of Voyager would seem to confirm this. In fact, there’s a line in “Dark Frontier” where Tom Paris specifically says he’s never flown at transwarp.)
Me? I’ve also removed this episode from my personal canon. And by “personal canon”, I mean my brain. With the help of mass quantities of alcohol.