“Threshold” is a well-known Star Trek: Voyager episode, and it turned 27 this week.
When you have a franchise that has been in existence as long as Star Trek has, a franchise that spans 9 TV series and 13 films, there will always be those episodes that stand apart from the others in the minds of Trekkies everywhere. For the most part, it is usually popular episodes like the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” or a dramatic episode such as “Yesterday’s Enterprise” from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or “In the Pale Moon Light” from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Having sung the praises of the above mentioned episodes (and there are so many others that deserve that praise) when a franchise has been going for as long as Trek has, you will also have episodes that cross over into the realm of silliness, or are just plain bad. There are some episodes that are so incredibly unbelievably silly, that for better or for worse, they must stand out because they are so laughably ludicrous that they must be seen to be believed, and season 2 episode 15 “Threshold” of Star Trek: Voyager is one such episode.
January 29th marked the anniversary of the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Threshold.”
Threshold first aired back in 1996, and immediately became a well-known episode for Trekkies. Unfortunately it was for all the wrong reasons. I will not waste your time with a rehashing of the episode, for I am operating under the assumption that if you are reading this piece, then you have seen the episode. But you can read a recap here, if you prefer.
Contrary to how the rest of the episode would play out, it actually had a very strong beginning. You have a storyline that is quite literally history in the making, with Tom Paris being the first pilot to reach a speed of warp ten, breaking the threshold.
Act one of the episode is completely devoted to this story line, which proves to be a very interesting one and is complemented by very strong moments between Paris and Janeway (two characters whose interactions are usually limited to Paris carrying out Janeway’s orders).
The moment where Janeway comes to Paris’s quarters to tell him how dangerous the flight could be to him I felt was one of the stronger scenes in the entire episode, showing us once again how much Janeway truly cares for her crew and giving us a glimpse into the mind and heart of Tom Paris and what drives him.
The scenes that follow, depicting Tom Paris successfully breaking the Threshold and achieving warp 10, will go down in the annals of Trek as one of the historic moments in the franchise, which is what makes it all the more unfortunate that almost with the very beginning of act two, the rest of the episode is marred in silliness and outcomes that are utterly ridiculous, even for Trek.
This had great potential to be one of the strongest episodes of the series, possibly even the franchise, had it gone a different direction, or the episode had been mapped out differently. For example: Rather then Paris achieving warp ten at the end of act one, he could have achieved it at the conclusion of the episode.
The body of the episode could have been about his prepperations to fly the shuttle and possibly battling with his own inner demons about the possibility of failure and how that would make him look in the eyes of his father and himself.
As it is, the start of act two is not completely out of the realm of possibility. Believe it or not, there actually are people out there (roughly only 50 reported cases according to my short research) who are allergic to water. The condition is known as aquagenic urticaria. I knew this while I was watching this episode, so when Paris came down with this extremely rare allergy that was not to silly for me at all.
Now, an allergy to oxygen is simply not possible, but, this is Star Trek, so it is necessary to somewhat suspend belief and just go with it. Even as Paris lies in a force field, filled with a different atmosphere that has no oxygen, the episode is still believable by Trek standards and has yet to cross over into that realm of utter silliness.
Indeed, for even when act two begins to go down that rabbit hole and Paris begins to transform, this episode still succeeds in showcasing the acting chops of Robert Duncan McNeill, for while the mutation he is going through is almost more comical then frightening, he sells it as best he possibly can, and should be applauded for what he was able to do with the material he was given to work with in this Star Trek: Voyager episode.
But his acting abilities could not save the third act for by this point the episode had reached B role creature film as Paris takes the form of something that can only be described as a giant salamander. Once the episode reaches it conclusion, giant salamander Tom Paris has also turned Janeway into a giant salamander creature (I guess because she also experienced warp 10, but I was a little fuzzy on that), and they mated and had offspring, before they are found and restored back to normal by the crew of Voyager.
The fact that Paris and Janeway mated and had children together is acknowledged only by awkward comments made by Janeway at the end of the episode, comments which could have possibly been taken as flirtacious were they not so clearly uncomfortable.
This Star Trek: Voyager episode had a strong beginning but went downhill from there.
This episode had a strong beginning, telling a story of a historical moment in Trek, and featuring strong performances by Mulgrew and Duncan McNeill, but by act two, reality was being stretched a little much even for Trek, and by act three, it had regressed into utter lunacy.
Having said that, I would still rather watch a bad episode of Trek than an episode of most of whatever else is on TV these days, and despite how campy this Star Trek: Voyager episode became, I still enjoied it for what it was.
In conclusion, if you are a completionist and a hard core Trekkie like myself, you should certainly give this episode a watch, if for no other reason then to see Paris reach warp 10, as well as strong performances by Mulgrew and Duncan McNeill.
If I may offer a word of advice, though, go into this episode just as you might a very low budget creature feature. Have fun with the complete and total silliness of acts two and three, and be grateful that we will not be treated to any future episodes of Paris and Janeway trying to raise a family of gigantic mutant salamanders.