Star Trek: Voyager – 2×15 – “Threshold”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Threshold”
Originally Broadcast January 29th, 1996
Reviewed by Christina Luckings

The Story

Stardate: 49373.4

Tom Paris is in a shuttlecraft, and accelerating rapidly. As he gets to warp 7, Torres tells him over the conn. to start up the new engines. He does so, and gets a big acceleration kick as the transwarp engines push him up to warp 9.6. But the shuttle cannot handle the stresses even with extra power to the structural integrity field, the port nacelle pylon fractures at 9.97 and the whole thing blows . A despondent Torres and Kim look at Paris sitting on the floor of an empty holodeck. ‘You’re dead’, she tells him.

The post-mortem is held in the mess hall. This has happened every time they approach the transwarp threshold and there is no solution in sight. Neelix tops up their coffee mugs and asks if he can help. Paris sarcastically asks if he knows anything about quantum warp theory or multi-spectral subspace engine design. Torres is more practical and asks if there is anything to eat. There are some biscuits somewhere in the kitchen, but Neelix is keen to hear about their problem so she has to go to find them herself. Kim is reluctant to explain the problem but Neelix insists that two years as an engineer’s assistant on a freighter is more than ample experience, so Paris gives him a quick summary. They are trying to reach warp 10, which is apparently infinite velocity. Once there, you would occupy every point in the universe simultaneously, go anywhere in the blink of an eye. At warp 10, Voyager could be home in the time it takes to push a button. The asteroid field they surveyed last month had a new form of dilithium in it that remains stable at a much higher warp frequency than normal dilithium, which is what has made this project possible. However, every time they simulate a warp 10 journey, the nacelles get torn off the ship. Neelix recounts a similar experience when a dark matter bow wave built up and tore a nacelle off a ship he was on.. This triggers an idea in Paris’s mind. What if it is the other way around. What if the ship is being torn from the nacelles instead? Revelation achieved, Paris hugs Neelix before dashing off with Kim to try out the new theory and Torres returns with a plate of biscuits to an empty table.

A recording of a successful simulation is shown to Janeway and Chakotay in the briefing room. The Captain is impressed. A month ago she thought it was a fantasy on their part, now it is reality. Paris’s plan for the first manned flight is to get up to warp 10 then drop out immediately. The shuttle sensor logs will be analysed to check it really is safe to travel that fast. If it is, then they’ll try a longer flight. Chakotay is a little nervous. Are they ready for this breakthrough? Janeway is confident that they are responsible enough to use the technology wisely. Besides, the genie is out of the bottle now. Wright, Armstrong, Cochrane, Paris – a list of pioneers that sound good to Tom.

Late that night, Captain Janeway visits Tom in his quarters. She has come to tell him that the EMH recommends Harry Kim to make the test flight. The simulation results show a slight enzymatic imbalance in Tom’s cerebellum which might cause a brain haemorrhage when he crosses the threshold to infinite velocity. It’s only a two percent chance, and Tom is willing to take it. There is no way Kim is going to take the glory of being the first person to cross the warp threshold away from Tom. This is his chance to live up to the expectations of his father and teachers, and finally do something important. It is the first time in ten years that he has felt that he had a life to risk. Janeway gazes at him levelly, seeing the determination in his face, and wishes him good luck.

Shuttlecraft Cochrane launches with Lt. Tom Paris at the helm, and Voyager follows, monitoring the flight as far as it can. As he reports crossing the threshold to warp ten the comm. channel becomes distorted and the shuttle disappears off the long range sensors. Kim cannot find him within five parsecs and Tuvok is sure the shuttle was not destroyed. Then at last, the shuttle pops out of subspace near them, with an alive but weak pilot aboard. Janeway heads down to sickbay leaving Chakotay to get the shuttle back on board.

The EMH pronounces Paris asleep, and when the Captain asks if he can wake him, simply shouts in his ear. Tom describes his experience to Janeway, in awed tones. Once past warp ten, he realised that he was watching himself watching the speed indicator, he could see inside Voyager, he was with the Kazon, home, with the Klingons, everywhere. The experience was indescribable. Then he saw that Voyager was looking for him, took the engines off line and here he is. Torres bursts in to tell him that the onboard sensors confirm that he did cross the threshold. The EMH refuses to allow Paris to leave sickbay to rejoin ordinary people until he has run a few tests. In the meantime Torres and Janeway will download the shuttles logs and examine them carefully.

The logs describe eveyr cubic centimetre of the sector – over 5 billion gigaquads of information. Jonas listens as Janeway waxes lyrical about the possibilities of their breakthrough. All they have to do is work out how to come out of transwarp where they want to, and not only could it get them home, it could change the very nature of their existence.

In honour of the triumph, Neelix has made a new ‘coffee’ blend called Paris Delight. Paris tries some in the mess hall and wishes it could taste better then carries on discussing with Torres where they go from here. They agree to do another flight to verify the first, but then Tom begins to have a reaction to the drink and collapses. The transporter chief cannot do an emergency transport because his pattern keeps changing so Torres calls for a medical team instead. They get him to sickbay where the EMH discovers that Tom is having an allergic reaction to the water in the coffee. On top of than, his entire molecular structure is changing and soon he has to be put into an atmosphere of nitrogen and acidichloride because he can no longer breathe oxygen.

The beloved mutant knows that he is dying, and reminisces about teenage days spent in his room. Radiotherapy has no effect and Tom makes his last request – a kiss from Kes, and for the EMH to call Starfleet and tell his father that he did it. After he dies, and the gas is removed from the surgical bay, Kes comes over and gives him the kiss he requested. They will perform the autopsy in the morning. Later that night however, the EMH hears noises and discovers Tom very much alive, with his hair falling out and two hearts beating in his chest.

Jonas makes a 30 second transmission to Rettick, his Kazon contact, giving them all the files on the warp 10 flight.

The EMH tries to explain to Captain Janeway what is happening to Paris. His mutation has nothing to do with the enzymatic imbalance, but organs are disappearing and being replaced very rapidly. She goes to talk to her best pilot, who is feeling very sorry for himself. She assures him that they are trying everything to return his DNA to normal and he gets angry with her. He asserts that this could be the best thing that ever happened to him, that everyone on the ship wants him to die because he is the Maquis traitor, that they are jealous of him. He calls her small, insignificant, and then his tongue falls out and the tirade ends.

As Kes tries to find out how much, if any, of Tom’s original human DNA is left, Paris begs the EMH to let him go. He claims to understand, that the future is the past but he doesn’t make any sense. On the briefing room monitor, the EMH explains that he wants to destroy all Paris’s new DNA so that his remaining old code will be forced to take over. They will need to use the anti-protons generated by the warp core to do it, and they will have to do it within an hour. So it is an unrecognisable Paris that is held in a restraint in engineering for this last ditch attempt to change him back. It seems to be working but Paris breaks free and there is phaser fire before Tuvok calls a level three security alert. Chakotay tells Janeway over the conn that internal sensors are down and security is out looking for Tom. As she reaches a turbolift on level six, Paris pounces, knocking her out. He takes her to the Cochrane and launches. With tractor beams offline Chakotay cannot stop him and he disappears into warp. Voyager chases but cannot keep up without ripping itself apart. With anguish on his face, the first officer orders them to reduce speed as the shuttle goes to transwarp.

Three days later they find the shuttle in an uninhabited system. The EMH briefs Tuvok and Chakotay on his latest theory that Paris is evolving into what humanity might become, based on how humans have evolved over the past 4 million years. He believes his anti-proton therapy is correct, but it needs to be more intense. Kim reports that they have found the shuttle in an equatorial jungle. Chakotay tells Tuvok to have a security team meet in transporter room 3. They beam down to an insect filled environment by a river, where two amphibians are resting in the twilight. The two officers stun them, then scan for human DNA. It is Paris and Janeway, fully mutated. They watch as three tiny versions crawl from a nesting hole and dive into the water. The two adults are returned to the ship, leaving the offspring to live alone.

Back in sickbay, the EMH proudly proclaims to the Captain that he has eradicated all the mutant DNA, and she is human again. She will have to remain for three days while the situation stabilises, however. Paris is embarrassed about their having mated and apologises for not remembering much of what happened.. Janeway admits that although she has considered having children, he wasn’t a potential candidate for their father. Anyway, perhaps she was the one who ‘initiated mating’. She tells him that she is putting him in for a commendation. Paris admits that the experience has helped him realise that he shouldn’t be worrying what other people think of him, it’s what he thinks of himself that counts.

Review

Welcome to the Starship Heart of Gold. As the drive reaches Infinite Improbability you pass through every conceivable point in every conceivable universe, including the Trek one. And without that piece of simple but fairly obvious information, very little in this story could possibly make the slightest sense.

Warp 10 is a big problem for me. If they achieve it in the Trek universe, what is left? If you can be anywhere you want in the time it takes to press a button, where is the adventure? Fortunately for us the viewers, this is never going to happen. It is, of course Impossible. As for Paris’s subsequent death and revivification with a second heart – this is of course Impossible. Then finally, the Captain’s three day mutation, breeding and gestation of fully independent offspring followed by the EMH’s restoration of her to fully human status. This is, of course, Impossible. Anyone care to join me for drinks at Milliways to rip this awful pseudo-medical science to tatters over a few pan-galactic gargleblasters?

This is a big episode for Paris. The character goes from superficial fun guy to proper person, with ambitions and needs. We watch as he experiences what it is to be on top of the world, accepting adulation from his shipmates, to total self-pity and despair at what the pay off for being the first to be everywhere at once really is. He has become a real person at last. I hope it stays.

The EMH plays droll comedy, giving the episode it’s light edge against all these strange goings on with his pithy comments, although the Tuvok/Chakotay double act gives him a run for his money towards the end. The rest of the cast are nowhere, just padding out the dialogue and moving the plot along, especially the awful Neelix scene in the mess hall. The heroes of this show are the makeup team for their efforts in creating a potential future humanoid, and Robbie McNeill for wearing the latex so well. And doing a darned good job of speaking coherently while pretending not to have a tongue.

If they’d bothered to rope Douglas Adams in to write the script, instead of just paying homage to some of his ideas, this might have turned out a whole lot better. As it is, the Trek need to justify the whole thing with babble dragged it down.

Grade: 6/10

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