For those who have defended one of the lowest points in Star Trek: Voyager, there’s finally some vindication. Lower Decks recently made a reference to ‘Threshold’, an episode of Voyager that raised more than a few eyebrows. In ‘Threshold’, Tom Paris achieves Warp 10 as part of a bet, an accomplishment initially met with celebration. However, serious health complications arise, leading to bizarre transformations like developing an allergy to water and an inability to breathe oxygen, ultimately culminating in a full-blown transformation into a lizard-like being.
Paris then abducts Captain Janeway, embarking on a Warp 10 journey to a swampy alien planet, where they evolve into amphibious life forms. After their crew discovers them, they’re brought back to the ship, cured, and the entire incident is promptly swept under the rug.
Fast forward 27 years, and Lower Decks revisits the premise in a more thoughtful manner. In Season 4, Episode 8, titled ‘Caves’, four crew members—Boimler, Mariner, Rutherford, and Tendi—find themselves trapped in a cave. To pass the time, they share stories, and Rutherford reveals an astonishing event from his past. During an expedition, their guide, a member of a feline-like species, tragically perishes but somehow psychically impregnates Rutherford in their final moments.
As a result, Rutherford finds himself carrying the reincarnation of this individual (in a somewhat uncertain, metaphysical sense). Yet, instead of reacting with panic or rejection, Rutherford and Dr. T’Ana choose to embrace their newfound role as parents until rescue arrives. This premise, involving inter-species interactions, physiological transformations, and the strange consequences of exploring the cosmos, strongly echoes the themes of ‘Threshold’.
However, the crucial distinction lies in the response of these Federation recruits. They don’t waver in their commitment to both their duty and their unexpected offspring. Perhaps one of the most contentious aspects of ‘Threshold’ is how its resolution doesn’t quite align with the core tenets of Trek philosophy. Many viewers, myself included, initially found the way everything neatly tied together to be overly convenient and abrupt. Nowadays, it’s a moment I tend to overlook when rewatching Voyager.
In contrast, this episode of Lower Decks serves as an ideal alternative. It exemplifies Trek at its finest, underscoring why the series remains a cornerstone of the science fiction genre.