The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Threshold

When Torres, Kim and Paris work together to design a shuttlecraft that can travel at warp ten – the theoretical maximum speed possible – Paris is excited about being the one to pilot it. But his enthusiasm at making a successful flight is soon overshadowed by the mysterious side effects, as his body starts mutating beyond anything ever seen before.

Threshold is considered by many to be one of the worst episodes of Voyager – and indeed of Star Trek – and I, for one, am inclined to agree. The episode starts off well enough, with a typical Starfleet attempt to push the boundaries of the possible and break the rules of even Star Trek physics. So far, so good – and a chance to showcase Paris doing something he loves, akin to B’Elanna in Prototype.

But then it all goes horribly wrong. Somehow, the effects of the warp ten flight are such that Paris begins rapidly evolving into a hideous being unlike anything seen before. He grows a second heart, briefly stops being able to breathe oxygen, and even pulls out his own tongue, in a scene that made me want to retch. And all the while, we never really get a good sense of his arc and his emotional state, as most of the time he’s just spouting nonsense.

But that’s all Shakespeare compared to what comes next. For whatever reason, Tom feels compelled to take another warp ten flight, this time with a kidnapped Janeway for company. The upshot of this is that they both evolve into simple lizard-like creatures, who copulate and produce offspring. Yes, lizard Janeway and lizard Paris have kids, who are abandoned on the planet and never seen again. Isn’t that irresponsible, not only to the abandoned infants, but to the ecosystem that they have now contaminated? Isn’t the fact that this happened at all a bizarre combination of the creepy and the ridiculous?

Let’s bash this episode some more

  • What is this mysterious ‘medical team’ that B’Elanna calls for when Paris starts having convulsions? The only medical team Voyager has is The Doctor (who can’t leave sickbay or the holodeck) and Kes, but two random blue-uniformed men are on hand to carry Tom to sickbay. Who are these men? If they’re the ‘medical team’, why are they never seen in any other episode, and why is such a big deal made of Voyage’s lack of medical support, particularly after Kes leaves? If they are just random members of the science department who happen to show up to help carry Tom, why did B’Elanna ask for a medical team, and not just the closest people who could help her carry him?
  • Why would warp ten cause ‘accelerated evolution’ anyway? I can see that it might cause some deleterious effects due to the human body not being meant to exist at every point in the universe, but radiation poisoning or death seem more likely outcomes. How can Tom and Janeway’s ‘predict’ how humans might evolve anyway – they aren’t subject to generational mutations or environmental pressures. Rather than evolution, technically it’s just cumulative random mutations in the DNA of two individuals. Although that being said, the mutations are deterministic enough that Janeway and Paris end up genetically compatible and physically identical. And if the Doctor’s explanation is correct, how depressing is it that the future of humanity is to become simple lizards?
  • How did Janeway manage to catch up to Paris’s level of evolution when he was already way ahead of her?
  • Why would ‘evolution’ remove Paris’s tongue when he clearly still needed it in order to communicate? For that matter, how was he obtaining nutrients in his evolved state?
  • Paris points out that Torres never cries – in a line cut from all but the rare Director’s Cut of Star Trek VI, Spock points out to Scotty that Klingons have no tear ducts. I’m now trying to remember if Worf ever cried over Jadzia, and also musing that a lack of tear ducts surely greatly reduces lubrication for dry and irritated eyes.
  • This episode was supposed to highlight Tom’s desire to find self-worth and self-esteem from doing something as awesome as warp ten flight. Which would be fair enough if we’d explored his self-hatred at all as an arc, instead of seeing it in Caretaker and then never really again since (excluding alternate reality Tom in Non Sequitur). I guess we briefly saw his daddy issues in Persistence of Vision.
  • If The Doctor couldn’t cure Paris in the first instance, how is he so able to revert both Paris and Janeway at the end? How could he recover their original DNA from their ‘mutant DNA’? Why do I even pretend that the writers ever care that their DNA bollocks makes sense?

Lost shuttlecraft running total: 4

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 3

Summary – Threshold: In which Janeway and Paris have raunchy lizard sex, with consequences.

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