Thursday, 3 April 2014

Review: Voyager 2.15: Threshold

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This is not going to end well...
From Trekcore
Star Trek Voyager - Season Two, Episode Fifteen - Threshold
Written 9/8/13

Where do we come from? Where are we going? How many times do we have to talk about having mutant lizard babies together before it becomes creepy? All these questions and more were asked by this charming episode which, in the words of its author Brannon Braga, is a "royal, steaming stinker". While I don't find Threshold outwardly offensive in the way that other famously bad episodes of things are, I do strike it from my personal canon because it's a lot easier to watch if you assume that none of it has any long lasting effect, and conveniently the series never talks about anything that happened in this episode ever again.
     Tom Paris is trying to exceed something called the Transwarp Barrier, which supposes that reaching a speed of "Warp 10" will give you infinite velocity and thus let you experience the entire universe at once. His simulations are successful thanks to a suggestion from Neelix - as is his first trial run, which brands him a hero. However, after the trial run he begins mutating wildly - first with veins everywhere and organs appearing and disappearing, but soon he mutates into a reptilian creature with God-like ambitions. The mutant kidnaps Janeway and flies off at Warp 10, causing her to mutate as well. The Doctor reveals that the form he has mutated into is on the "natural course" for humanity's evolution, and that he has simply mutated early. Tuvok and Chakotay track the two down - they are now lizards and, as it turns out, have had three lizard offspring. The two are returned to their normal selves and have awkward banter about having sex with one another.
      So... I'm assuming I don't have to tell you how silly the whole "travelling really fast makes you mutate" thing is, right? Right. That said, it is not the most ridiculous offense against Science in the episode, which is the famous Brannon Braga misunderstanding of what evolution is. He would later get this wrong again in Enterprise and cause that show's captain to commit a genocide because there was a species that was "evolutionarily better" than another. See, evolution is a slow, gradual process that occurs across generations, because it's a quite abstract thing that relies upon the likelihood that an organism with certain traits will be more likely to reproduce or not due to those traits. It's not randomly mutating into a lizard. And unless something goes seriously weird, humanity's immediate evolutionary future will not be reptilian. Plus, how the fuck did Janeway!Lizard have kids in three days? And, more fucking importantly, why can't the ship just use Warp 10 anyway to get home and then have The Doctor fix everyone? That's one massive plot hole right there.
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...not for anyone. From Treknologic
     It's clear from many scenes that this episode was an attempt to develop Paris' character, with the feeling that after his big showy entrance in Season One that the show had drifted on onto other characters. The problem is that a lot of what he says here doesn't match up with what we've seen in previous episodes - describing how everyone thought he was great in High School and how his father always believed in him. That's pretty much the exact opposite of how he's been presented in the rest of the series, with a bitter relationship with Daddy not helped by repeated run-ins with the law. It may have been believable had it not been paired with such a silly and unpleasant plot but it's not that good anyway.
     One important thing to note though was that Threshold didn't make me angry. I didn't feel offended by it, and despite its well-earnt reputation as the worst episode of Star Trek ever made, there are worse to come in Enterprise and, if you'll excuse my snobbery, in the Abramsverse. It was more a tale of misguidedness - misguided character beats put to a misguided concept, executed to within an inch of its life. It just so happens that these were so misguided that everything that actually happened in this episode has been struck from the Star Trek canon like in no other episode. I for one, remembering those Janeway/Paris lizard baby, am very glad for that fact, even if I wish that the episode had just had a bit more thought behind it.

Thanks.

NEXT TIME: We meet sad slimey psychopath Suder in Meld.

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