Star Trek Voyager’s second season is a considerable improvement over its first season. The main cast have become more settled in their respective roles, there’s considerable development of recurring foes such as Viidians and the Kazon, and the stories are mostly thought-provoking.
I say mostly, because Season 2 also introduced us to Threshold; the most bizarre and incoherent mess that has ever graced the Star Trek name. However, now is not the time for such harsh criticism. Let us take a deep breath and say nice things about Threshold.
Star Trek: Voyager won a total of 20 awards during its seven year run, mostly for its visual effects, hair styling, and musical score. One of these is the 1996 Primetime Emmy for ‘Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup in a Television Series’ for, you guessed it, Threshold. Ironic considering that the rest of the episode doesn’t hold much merit, but we’re not here to discuss that.
This award is well deserved. There’s something morbidly interesting about watching Paris’ visual transformation from haughty human to sickly salamander – the makeup and prosthetics are nothing short of grotesque. One highlight is when the malformed Paris takes some strange glee from pulling out his own tongue which his new salamander body rejects.
The Original Pre-Salamander Premise Has Potential
If warp speeds beyond 10 hadn’t already been explored by the finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the premise of being able to occupy every point in the known universe simultaneously is an exciting one with many far-reaching implications for not only the Voyager crew but all of the Federation.
Such excitement is evident in the crew’s conversations within the first acts of the episode. There’s a palpable feeling of an exciting new threshold (sorry) being surpassed as we watch Kim, Torres and Paris work to diagnose and fix the problems from their first ill-fated attempt.
If this premise hasn’t quickly deteriorated into the bizarre ‘accelerated evolution’ idea we all know and despise, it stands to reason this episode would have been looked upon more favourably by critics and fans. The idea of instantaneous travel is explored to an extent in Star Trek: Discovery, where the titular ship has the ability to travel rapidly across a mycelial network, materialising at its destination almost instantly. Threshold could have explored this premise without the sealife.
Robert Duncan McNeil Does His Damndest With What He’s Given
Bobbie McNeil is a vastly underrated actor; he has a wide emotional range, exceptional comic timing and a talent for subtlety. In this episode, he manages what few actors could and actually elevates Threshold’s script.
McNeil portrays Paris’ excitement and determination to break the Warp 10 barrier with a child-like giddiness, and we share the character’s disappointment when Janeway later informs him he can’t pilot the Warp 10 flight due to a minor medical anomaly.
The initial anxiety and instability that Paris feels during the early phase of his transformation (which includes death) is also notable. He later writhes around the floor of Sickbay in full make up as a salamander-in-progress, delivering his insane ramblings in convincing fashion.
Credit where credit is due: McNeil really shines in this episode despite the questionable source material.
Janeway Starts A Family
A recurring theme throughout Star Trek: Voyager’s run was Janeway’s desire to pursue a romantic relationship. However, given her captaincy, a relationship with any of her subordinates would have been inappropriate. Legends say you can still hear the echoes of Chakotay’s tiny violin throughout the Delta Quadrant. Janeway’s romantic liaisons are limited to either aliens or holograms, and we all know such pursuits are reserved for Ensign Kim.
While she never outright claims to desire a family, her strong maternal instincts would be well suited to raising some young whipper snappers, amphibious or otherwise. What luck that the ‘evolved’ Paris absconds Janeway, transports her to a random planet which happens to be relatively close to Voyager and starts a family with her within three days. I’m certain that Janeway feels gratified to have had the opportunity to explore a romantic interest and start a family.
A Salamander Sequel?
Despite the absurdity, we’ve all wondered about the fate of the young salamander siblings. Given the fact they were essentially ‘human’, it would have been interesting to see if the Doctor’s anti-proton regimen that magically reverted Paris and Janeway would have worked on their mutant spawn. Just imagine Paris and Janeway trying to tell their three children that they began life as lizards. I know you’re laughing right now.
It’s high time for a sequel. If these salamanders are so incredibly advanced and evolved, who knows what they’re capable of. If Star Trek: Discovery’s third season begins with the salamanders completing their 800-year journey to Earth to discover their origins, I wouldn’t be mad – I’d like it. However, at this point I think it’s safe to assume that the events of Threshold have been rendered as non-canonical by the fans and writers. What a shame.