Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Threshold"

Why, dear Lord, do I have to sit through such awful Star Trek episodes? Is it all part of redemptive suffering, or was the poll between VOY and Babylon 5 rigged by demonic forces as I have frequently speculated since the results came in? did Brannon Braga sell his soul to Satan/ that is the only possible way he could have ever gotten a job as a writer.

“Threshold” is the worst episode in Star Trek history. Worse than Spock’s brain being stolen. Worse than space hippies. Worse than crusher sleeping with the same alien that boned her grandmother to her grave. Worse than Quark gender bending. Worse than anything ENT barfed on screen, though “A Night in Sickbay” does come close. Braga himself has disavowed the script and claimed it is not part of the canon. No one from the trek office has argued against the disownment. I have no problem understanding why.

Tom, Torres, and Harry have spent months working on developing a new engine which can exceed warp ten. In past in TOS, warp ten has theoretically been time travel. In TNG, it meant an impossibly fast speed only the Traveler could help the Enterprise achieve. But in VOY, warp ten means you become one with the universe, capable of being in all places at once. Kind of like a grateful Dead concert, but without hearing “Hell in a Bucket.” They have a problem in that the rear of the shuttle is flying slower than the front, so it would rip apart in flight. Neelix, of all people, hears them discussing the problem, and comes up with the proper technobabble solution.

Despite a brief hint even a short trip at warp ten could be devastating to the human body, tom opts to give it a go. Janeway, who has not been part of a good killing in weeks, is all for it. The shuttle’s test is successful. It disappears, then returns with tom babbling on about how he saw everything, everything, I tell you. It begins to look like the crew may have not only found a way home, but innovated space travel forever.

Except that tom falls ill. Not just ill, but he begins changing into something else. Slowly, but surely throughout the third and fourth acts, tom begins changing into a giant amphibian. Traveling really fast will do that to you. The doctor theorizes tom’s oneness with the universe either sped up or rversed evolution for him. The term “devolved,” is used, but that is a word I have always hated. Evolution is change, whether progressive or regressive. Nothing can devolve. It can only evolve. But do not worry about that. The real problem is that humans have never been amphibious humanoids, and we are not going to evolve into ambphibians in the future, no matter how fanciful a theory of evolution to which you subscribe.

I will offer up one bit of kudos here. It will be enough to keep ’Threshold’ from becoming the first no stars rated episode I have ever reviewed. Robert Duncan MacNiell plays the heck out of Tom at several different levels as he changes. he goes from a human terrified he is dying to a crazed, paranoid mutant to a completely alien being and finally, to an uncommunicative monster. He poutrs his soul out about what a disappointment he is to his father and how he considers the crew his only real family. (poor guy. Talk about a dysfunctional family.) at one point as the amphibian ceature, he loses his tongue and has to talk ’without” it while not making the situation laughable. He manages to pull that off. Finally, he comes across as a completely non-human critter without saying a word. It is too bad the premise is so dumb, because MacNiell nails his character every step of the way.

The doctor comes up with a plan a irradiating Amphibian Tom with the war core in order to kill off the mutated cello. I believe that qualifies as uberchemotherapy. Amphibian tom escapes, however, and engages in an offscreen firefight. Why offscreen/ Your guess is as good as mine. It must have been too awe inspiring for words, like that human city we were not allowed to see in the season premiere. Janeway heads to engineering personally to stop tom, because if anyone is going to shoot a crewmember, it is going to be her, darn it. Instead, she winds up kidnapped by Amphibian Tom. He takes her on the shuttle to warp ten and they are gone….

Well, not really. Although they could have ended up anywhere in the universe, they are three days travel time from their starting point. But three days time has been enough for Tom and Janeway to become small animals, do the mommy/daddy dance, and have a litter of children. I really cannot add anything more to that. It…it simply boggles the mind. How many illicit drugs does a writer have to do in order to come up with such an idea/?

The two are rescued and eventually returned to normal by way of that uberchemotherapy method. The idea of using warp ten is completely dropped, but there is not logical reason to do so. It still worked. Even if the crew were all turned into amphibians, there is an easy, painless way to reverse the process, and everyone might get laid in the process. It is win-win as far as I am concerned, but the issue is dropped completely from Treklore hereafter.

Like the episode, in fact. Skip this one for the sake of your own sanity. Yes, MacNiell is good in it, but that does not make up for the sheer stupidity of every single aspect of “Threshold” other than his acting. This travesty proves Braga has no shame.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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