The season two episode of Star Trek Voyager titled “Threshold” is often regarded as the worst episode of the series. The episode involves the crew making an engine that can go infinity-miles-per-hour, which, when used, causes the humans onboard to turn into alligator-sized salamanders. In the spirit of nostalgia and of justice, I will defend “Threshold.”
Fans often call “Threshold” the worst episode of Star Trek Voyager because of its strange and inane plot. They believe that there are no worse episodes of the show. However, this is incorrect. Voyager has far worse episodes. To prove that “Threshold” is not the worst, let’s look at episodes that are even more terrible than “Threshold.”
A More Boring Episode: “Innocence”
Say what you will about “Threshold,” even the harshest critic will admit that it’s interesting. Every scene is even more absurd, which keeps the episode interesting, even if in some kind of morbid way. This stands in contrast to “Innocence.” “Innocence” consists of two things: post-shuttle-crash Tuvok stuck on a planet with children who turn into powder, and Voyager being visited by an irritable Amish space lady wearing a beekeeper mask. We find out the species is even more biologically absurd than in “Threshold.” This is a species with Benjamin Button Disease who turn into energy when they die, despite the fact that the amount of energy you’d get out of that would be enough to destroy Earth and a few other things combined, in addition to a bunch of other logical and biological absurdities.
“Threshold” is better than “Innocence,” because “Innocence” is boring, and “Threshold” is actually interesting.
A More Absurd Plot: “Timeless”
“Timeless” is widely regarded as one of the best episodes of Star Trek Voyager, and among the best in the series, earning an Emmy nomination. “Timeless” also exposes a major and unlikely oversight from the characters.
The plot of “Timeless” is pretty simple. Using technology they found out about in previous episodes, the crew builds an engine several factors faster than their current engine. However, they didn’t design it properly and after building the thing, discover it’s a death trap. Unfortunately, the crystals powering the engine are breaking down, and they can’t replace them. This puts the episode on par with Vegas in Space. The crew uses the deathtrap engine anyway but crash on an ice planet leaving all but two crew members dead. In the future, they send a message back in time to prevent the issue from happening.
This episode got good ratings for its effects and acting. However, “Threshold” is superior to “Timeless,” because of one reason: in “Threshold,” the crew is smart enough to actually simulate the engine before building it, to make sure it’s safe. They fail to do this in “Timeless.” In all honesty, the crew kind of deserves to die for that level of stupidity.
A Stupider Episode: “Parallax”
The plot of “Parallax” includes the crew creating a crack in the event horizon of a black hole, and breaking it. For people who are not physics junkies, that’s like being told you can’t escape Florida, looking at a map, using whiteout on the state borders, and saying you can now go into Georgia.
“Threshold” merely violated the laws of biology and thermodynamics. Given that the laws of thermodynamics are breaking down, we can forgive the biology failure. In contrast, “Parallax” violated the laws of math, relativistic physics, quantum physics, and geometry. In terms of volume of scientific absurdities, “Parallax” is far worse than “Threshold.”
Filling a Plot Hole
When people first watch “Threshold,” their first reaction is usually screaming. Next comes laughter. Then, they start pointing out the plot holes. The most common plot hole is this: At the end of the episode, we find out the engine works, turns the humans into salamanders, and they can undo that transformation, so why don’t they use the engine if it would get them home and its only side-effect is something they can cure safely?!
The answer is obvious. We know this turns HUMANS into giant salamanders. They don’t know what it would do to Vulcans, Boleans, Bajorans, people from the Delta Quadrant, B’elanna Torres, or the pregnant ensign Wildman. That last one was a special case, since by my math, at this point, she had been pregnant for 15 consecutive months.
Their ship also had some biological components in the computer system. Between all of these factors, everyone in the crew probably said something along the lines of “OK, this thing turns humans into salamanders after briefly killing them, makes them temporarily allergic to air and water, and causes them to vomit up their organs; and that’s just what it does to humans. We don’t know what it does to everyone else. And we’re expected to use this thing?” Clearly, they didn’t use the engine after this episode because it’s a death trap. I don’t blame them. They didn’t use the engine after this episode because it was absurdly dangerous.
While “Threshold” is terrible, it does not deserve to be called the worst episode of Voyager.