Friday, July 8, 2011

Lizards Do It At Warp Speed

Yes yes, I know I haven't been paying much attention to you folks lately. Allow me to make it up to you with that thing many of you live for, one of my Liveblogs. Normally, my rule is that the target of the Liveblog be something I haven't seen before but I recently noticed that episodes of Star Trek: Voyager were available on Netflix Instant and sure enough, they had the worst episode of what was the lowest point in Star Trek history until Enterprise premiered. So please sit back and enjoy my takedown of one of television's stupidest moments, an episode called Threshold.

0:05:00 -- It opens with Tom Paris, the second dullest character on the show flying in a shuttle craft while talking to Harry Kim, the dullest character on the show. Sadly, this takes place in season two, before Seven of Nine, the woman whose ability to give men erections back in the 90s was matched only by Viagra, joined the cast which means we'll get little in the way of sex appeal but don't worry. They'll make up for it with loads and loads of bullshit technical jargon. For instance, when Tom says he's having problems with one of the warp nacelles, Harry says, "Try to stabilize your field symmetry." Yeah, what the hell, let's do that. And hey, it worked. Yay! Tom is flying a shuttle craft loaded with some new transwarp drive which, one assumes, does something good but he can't get it to work and it BLOWS UP AAAHHH but don't worry, it was all a dream. Or rather, a holodeck simulation. As I recall, this is the one episode in which the holodeck actually worked and didn't create sentient holograms that tried to take over and/or destroy the ship. You'd think they would have learned to stop using the damn thing after a while but no, it remained the go-to plot device when the writers couldn't think of anything else to do. One important thing you see in the opening credits is the name of the screenplay's writer, Brannon Braga. Braga is, simply, one of the shittiest writers in the history of television who has diminished or destroyed anything to which his name has ever been associated. He and his pal Rick Berman turned Star Trek from a show emphasizing adventure into a melodrama filled with scientific gobbledygook like strengthening your field symmetry or using a duranium alloy or flooding the warp plasma coils with chronoton particles. He went on to produce a dumb alien invasion series (also called Threshold), write for the worst season of 24 and then to make the very lame Flash Forward. This episode, however, is where I first saw, and never forgot, his name.

He who shall not be named. Except in the opening credits, of course.

0:12:48 -- This seems like a good spot to stop as this was where, in the olden days, the first of those quaint things we called "commercials" would have played. Paris, Kim and the half Klingon engineer B'lanna Torres are trying to figure out a way to reach the supposedly impossible speed of warp 10 but they can't do it without their shuttlecraft falling apart. The basic premise of the show is their ship is trapped in the Delta quadrant of our galaxy and it's going to take decades to get home, a problem that could be solved if they can reach warp 10. As the show was in no danger of being cancelled at this point, they should have known it wasn't going to work but they tried anyway. Neelix, an alien they picked up when they got trapped in the Delta quadrant, gave them some homespun wisdom about something or other and, from that, they figured out about making sure the ship's hull didn't depolarize. Hell, I could have told them not to let the hull depolarize. That's just common sense. Paris wants to be the one to make this historic flight but Captain Janeway considers grounding him since it turns out he has some sort of enzyme imbalance that could cause him know, they never said why this was bad. Paris manages to convince Janeway to let him make the flight by pleading in a way that made me think he was going to hyperventilate. Dull, melodramatic moments like this are what really set Voyager apart from previous incarnations of Star Trek and were why I never cared for this show. Anyway, Paris manages to pass the warp 10 threshold and disappears off their scanners. So, you know, that's bad. Luckily, Paris is a series regular. Had he been someone we'd never seen before, he'd have been a goner for sure. Star Trek has a history of casually killing off its extras that stretches back to the show's beginnings when Kirk would say, "Scotty, Spock, Bones, Sulu and Checkov, you all come with me. Ensign Smith, go check out behind that rock," and then you'd hear a scream and they'd find poor Ensign Smith with all his minerals drained out of him or something. The good news is that the actor who played Ensign Smith would have a guaranteed lifetime income from Star Trek convention appearance where he'd tell the same story over and over about how William Shatner stole his danish.

Is she upset over Tom Paris or does she just need to fart? Find out after this commercial break.

0:19:07 -- So, Tom Paris has disappeared. Why? We don't know. All the cool stuff is happening off screen and we're only getting reaction shots so we're not exactly getting any Dave-Bowman-entering-the-monolith moments. Suddenly, he reappears and is found sleeping aboard the shuttlecraft. The holographic Doctor wakes him up and he again sounds like he's about to hyperventilate as he tells how he was existing in every point of the universe simultaneously. If it were me, I'd have reentered the universe next to those green Orion slave girls but Paris came back to Voyager. Everything is just great, just spiffy, nothing at all wrong here until Paris suddenly has patterns of veins forming on his head and collapses. So, you know, maybe that whole "enzymatic imbalance" thing turned out to be a valid reason to ground him after all. At least I'm sure he won't be going through any weird transformations.

Has turning all veiny and glassy eyed ever been a good thing?

0:27:25 -- Paris begins undergoing a weird transformation, something no one could have foreseen. Apparently, he's now allergic to water and eventually he can only breathe a combination of nitrogen and acid. He does begin doing some decent acting so I suppose there's a bright side to the fact that all sorts of lesions are now forming on his body. After a while, his cells mutate so much that there's nothing he can do and he dies. But wait, it turns out he was only MOSTLY dead and he wakes up. He easily pulls out a tuft of his hair and whimpers about it which is a pretty pansy ass thing to do considering it's the alternative to death. Oh, he now has two hearts. He'd better not be a Timelord.

I'd forgotten about her. Kes, the space elf. At least they shuffled her off and replaced her with Seven of Nine.

0:36:38 -- Paris continues mutating until he eventually starts looking like a lizard. He says things like, "The present is in the past and the past is in the future," which means that at least part of him is mutating into something that's making him high as a kite. The Doctor thinks they can destroy the mutated DNA with anti-proton bursts cause, you know, why not? Unfortunately, he finally gains some super strength, breaks out of his restraints and begins a rampage through the ship. Oh, one of the crew members is working for the Kazon. Along with Kes, I'd also forgotten about the Kazon, some of the lamest villains in Star Trek history. They're some sort of warrior race like Klingons except that they're also dull as dishwater. They were not missed when they were finally vanquished.

Some topical ointment should clear that right up.

0:45:53 -- And now, the reason I curse Brannon Braga's name. Paris disabled the ship and kidnapped Janeway. He brought her onto the transwarp shuttlecraft, escaped the ship and went to warp 10. Three days later, Voyager tracks them down on some planet somewhere and they're now lizards. The Doctor says this is actually the next 4 million years of human evolution accelerated by crossing the warp 10 threshold which, you know, makes a whole heaping shitload of sense. Get to warp 10, you're a lizard. Stephen Hawking has probably written all about this in his books. Really, you'd be shocked if anything else had happened. While on the planet, Janeway and Paris have hot lizard sex and have some lizard babies and no, I'm not making that up. It turns out that de-lizarding them is fairly easy. They decide to just leave the lizard babies on that planet which denies them an invaluable scientific opportunity as well as violating the Prime Directive but it's hardly the stupidest thing that's happened so fuck it, let's move on. Do they continue to explore the possibilities of using warp 10 to get them home? Nope, that gets dropped even though they now understand the side effects and have a workable method to reverse them. And so, they continue their adventures in the Delta quadrant, blandly going where no one has gone before. I'm really looking forward to Brannon Braga's new show, Terra Nova. You should too as it will almost certainly be the subject of a future Liveblog.

And here it is, the perfectly sensible, logical result of achieving warp 10.

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