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Recap / Star Trek: Voyager S2E15 "Threshold"

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Paris's genes devolve as quickly as the show's scientific accuracy.

Here lies Thomas Eugene Paris. Beloved mutant.

Tom Paris manages to use the holodeck to create an experimental way to travel at Transwarp, a way of travelling infinitely fast that would allow the ship to get home instantly. Unfortunately, after doing it for real he's first knocked unconscious, then becomes allergic to water, then begins rapidly changing into a lizard-like creature. After the Doctor determines that the transformation is an accelerated form of evolution caused by the infinitely fast travel, he escapes, kidnaps Janeway, and goes at Transwarp again. The rest of the crew find them a few days later, both fully changed into lizards and even having a litter together. Luckily, the Doctor's managed to create a cure.

This episode provides examples of

  • Aliens Made Them Do It: Paris and Janeway are accidentally transformed into nonsapient animals, mate and produce a litter of offspring. Probably the most bizarre way of getting two main characters to make out in sci-fi history!
  • Artistic License – Biology: The episode features a notoriously bad depiction of evolution. According to the script, not only can individual beings evolve into a completely different form, but the path of that evolution is laid out by fate.
  • The Atoner: Tom thinks that being the first to breach the Warp 10 barrier will make up for his being a failure in life.
  • Big "NO!": Tom shouts one as he begins his transformation.
  • Body Horror: Paris's mutation causes his DNA to break down, gradually making him look less human and more alien. At one point, he spits out his tongue, thus making talking difficult for him. Unsurprisingly, the episode won the Emmy for Best Makeup Effects.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Warp 10, according to this episode, makes you somehow everywhere in the universe at once. So how convenient that Tom rematerializes right back near the ship! And on mutant!Tom's second attempt with Janeway, they just wind up on a nearby planet, makin' salamander babies.
  • Cool Ship: The squat Type 6 shuttlecraft is replaced by the sleek Class 2, dubbed the 'Speedboat Shuttle' by the production staff and fans.
  • Creator Provincialism: Janeway says Tom will be joining the likes of Orville Wright, Neil Armstrong, and Zephram Cochrane. Many viewers noted the oddity of her not mentioning the actual first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. Not to mention that all of these are Humans.
  • Danger Room Cold Open: The episode opens with Tom in a shuttlecraft that breaks up as he hits the Threshold. We then cut to Tom sitting on the floor of the holodeck.
    B'Elanna: You're dead.
  • Death Is Cheap: Tom dies, his cells so damaged the Doctor doesn't try to revive him past the first attempt. Then he comes back to life again. He and Janeway mutate into lower lifeforms and are brought back to perfect health.
  • Denser and Wackier: Though that may have been unintentional. Except for the ending.
  • Easily Forgiven: Tom Paris because he was literally Not Himself at the time, what with being a catfish and all. As for the kids, Janeway jokes that it might have been her idea.
  • Evolutionary Levels: According to Word of God, this episode was an attempt to subvert it, by depicting evolution as not necessarily going towards bigger, better forms. Given the failure in biology in other regards, you can understand why this was missed.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: Janeway tells Tom that by being the first man to breach the Warp 10 barrier, he'll be joining the ranks of Orville Wright, Neil Armstrong, and Zefram Cochrane. This case differs from the usual trope in that Cochrane is from already established Trek canon (he invented the warp drive on Earth, and thus the Vulcans decided it was time for First Contact), rather than a completely made-up name.
  • Foreshadowing: Janeway says that the ability to fly at warp 10 will change the nature of humanity's existence. Yeah, turning into a catfish will do that...
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Even ignoring the lizard-fication, it's mentioned that the experimental shuttle's computers were jam-packed with helpful navigation aids and maps — which are never mentioned again.
  • Formerly Sapient Species: Tom Paris's "accelerated evolution" into a non-sapient salamander-like creature. The writer of this episode has stated that his idea was that in the distant future, humanity would evolve beyond the need for sapience due to technology providing for all our material needs.
  • FTL Test Blunder: Paris figures out transwarp traveling, which might get the ship back to the Alpha Quadrant. After a seemingly successful test, he has an allergic reaction to water and starts de-evolving into a salamander/lizard/catfish creature. And then things get very weird.
  • Golden Moment: At the end of the episode, Tom realises that doing something famous is not going to solve his issues.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Just for starters, Tom, upon returning to the ship, becomes allergic to water. Somehow, it goes downhill from there.
  • If I Do Not Return: Tom's last words before he (temporarily) dies.
    Tom: Do me a favor. When I'm gone, call Starfleet Headquarters and tell Dad that I did it. Tell him...
  • I Just Want to Be Special: What drives Tom into this whole mess.
  • Impossible Genius: Quite a few reviewers wondered why the crew didn't just transwarp back to the Alpha Quadrant regardless, given the Doctor's miraculous ability to restore them from an amphibious state. Though given the stress the transwarp flight put on the shuttle, it's possible Voyager wouldn't have survived.
  • The Infinite: Tom Paris designs and builds an engine to go To Infinity And Beyond!! As a drive the infinite turns out to be improbable though.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Why, they could get home instantaneously, change space travel forever, but most of all, let Tom work out his daddy issues!
  • Last Kiss: Tom asks for a last kiss from Kes, but she points out that he'll die if they let down the medical forcefield. After Tom dies anyway, a distraught Kes kisses him on the cheek.
  • Lethal Chef
    Doctor: Hmm. It looks like he's having an allergic reaction. What did he ingest?
    B'Elanna: Just a cup of Neelix's coffee.
    Doctor: It's a miracle he's still alive.
    • Subverted when we find the reason Tom found Neelix's special blend so disgusting is that he's allergic to the water due to the changes in his body.
  • Ludicrous Speed: Doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • Men Don't Cry: According to Admiral Paris, apparently. Tom doesn't buy it.
  • Mistaken for Gay
    Tom: Kiss me!
    Doctor: What?!
    Tom: (indicating Kes) Not you! Her!
  • The Mole: Judas...err Jonas transmits details of the Warp 10 experiments to the Kazon. Unfortunately they didn't turn themselves into catfish trying it out.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Tom is shouting "I'm breaking up!" accompanied by Explosive Instrumentation, then we Smash Cut to B'Elanna and Harry looking bored on the holodeck, with Tom sitting on the floor.
    • Tom himself is this In-Universe; he goes from afraid to angry, to meek and pleading then back to belligerent again, sometimes mid-sentence.
  • Mundane Solution: After the Doctor confirms Tom is only unconscious, Janeway says to wake him up. Instead of the expected hypospray of stimulant, Doc leans down to his ear and shouts, "Wake up, Lieutenant!"
  • Not Himself: Mutant!Tom lashes out verbally at Captain Janeway, accusing her of wanting him dead as he's an embarrassing failure.
  • Ominous Hair Loss: Right after coming back from the dead, Tom finds himself losing clumps of hair, the prelude to the next stage of his mutation.
  • Our Dark Matter Is Mysterious: One of Neelix's anecdotes about losing a nacelle passing through a dark matter nebula gives Tom and Harry inspiration to finish their transwarp drive.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Chakotay, having retrieved Janeway and Paris, apparently decides this about the lizard babies.
  • Ship Tease: This episode marks the first time its hinted that B'Elanna may be starting to consider Tom more than a crewmate.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat
    Paris: You're losing me, aren't you? I'm going to die.
    Doctor: You're too stubborn to die, Mr Paris.
    Paris: Here lies Thomas Eugene Paris. Beloved mutant.
    Doctor: A fitting epitaph, but I don't intend to let you use it just yet.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: Mutant!Tom's escape is only shown by Doc and Kes watching it on the viewscreen. Phaser beams can be seen cutting across Engineering until one knocks out the screen.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: Tom is able to break out of his chamber, take out the security officers guarding him, screw up the internal sensors, abduct Captain Janeway and steal the Warp 10 modified shuttle without any problems. And all this after Tuvok promised Janeway there wouldn't be any more shuttle-stealing incidents in "Maneuvers".
  • Tainted Veins: When Tom first collapses in the canteen.
  • Take Our Word for It: The mutated Tom breaks out of his restraints and starts a huge fight with the security team. None of this event makes it on-screen. Instead we have Torres telling the Doctor what is happening.
  • Techno Babble: When Tom and Harry have their "Eureka!" Moment.
    Neelix: I have no idea what they just said.
  • That Didn't Happen: Chakotay wonders how the hell he's going to explain in the log that a Starfleet officer abducted the captain, evolved into a lower lifeform and had babies with her. Captain Janeway however takes the matter in stride, suggesting the sex might have been her idea.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Implied with Tom's incoherent explanations. "The present, the past, they're both in the future. The future is in the past."
  • Title Drop: "I'm approaching the Threshold!"
  • Tongue Trauma: Tom reaches into his mouth and pulls out his own tongue.
  • Too Much Information: Tom discusses how he lost his virginity at 17 while his parents were out of the house.
    Doctor: I'll...note that in your medical log.
  • Too Strange to Show: What Past-Warp-10 looks like. We only see Tom's face when he does it the first time, and the second time, we only see the multi-colored streaks of hundreds and thousands of stars streaking by at super-warp, before the screen fades entirely to white.
  • Touch of the Monster: Mutant!Tom carrying Janeway in his arms as he places her in the shuttle.
  • Unable to Cry: Tom says that B'Elanna won't be crying at his funeral as she never cries.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Super-evolved catfish things get put down pretty quickly by basic phaser fire.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Tom's last words before he dies are to let his father know he crossed the Threshold.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We see the mutant children of Tom and Janeway enter the slimy pool and...they're never mentioned again.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Brannon Braga wrote the episode as a homage to David Cronenberg's The Fly.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Tom finds it difficult to explain what traveling through every point in the universe is like.
  • You Talk Too Much!: Not imminent death, mutation, or even the loss of a tongue stops Tom from rambling away.
    Tom: Doctor, I need to talk!
    Doctor: So I've noticed.

Chakotay: I... don't know how I'm going to enter this into the log.
Tuvok: I look forward to reading it.