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Overview – Tom Paris attempts to prove himself by breaking the Warp 10 barrier. Upon achieving this noteworthy accomplishment, he starts to undergo some drastic physiological changes. As Paris descends into a new being, Voyager is at risk of losing its valuable helmsman.
Score: 2/10 – OK, this episode can easily be looked at using “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” treatment. The Good: there are actually a few good scenes. When Paris explains to the captain why he wants to achieve this, he gives some real depth to the character. There was the moment when the Doctor is asked to wake up Paris, who is asleep in sickbay, and he leans over Tom’s ear and yells “Wake up Lieutenant!”. That was funny. The Bad: this story made little sense. I think they were trying to say something more than they did, but as the story unfolded, it became more and more confusing. When Tom starts to “evolve” into a giant salamander, things become a bit muddled. When he kidnaps Janeway, well, that just throws us into the Bizarro World at Warp 9.95. There is no explanation as to why Tom evolved into a large slimy salamander, which is more like a few steps down the evolutionary ladder. The Ugly: a salamander/lizard? Really? And Tom kidnaps Janeway to mate with her? Really, this is just goofy, plain and simple. The method of restoring Janeway and Paris to their human forms just seemed like a slapping together of ideas with some science terms thrown in just to end the episode.
Relevance – 1 point. OK, this episode does score a point here. Crewman Jonas, played by Raphael Sbarge, makes his second communication to the Kazon Rettick as he attempts to feed information to Seska. This continues his story of being a traitor. Beyond that, this episode really doesn’t connect anywhere else.
Continuity – 0 points. I am deducting a point for character continuity. Janeway comes to Tom to tell her that she is wanting to pull him from the mission because the Doctor says that there is a 2% chance that an enzyme imbalance will kill him. I get that the good captain wants to look out for her crew, but I just don’t see her doing this to Tom if it means they can get home sooner. Starfleet captains are responsible for their entire crew, but they also know they have to send individuals on dangerous missions. If the chance was 20%, or even 10%, I can see her doing this, but not for a measly 2%. I get that this scene was written to give Tom a chance to express his reasons for wanting to make this flight, which is a great scene, but if I were to rewrite the scene, I would have Janeway inform Paris of the Doctor’s findings without initially telling him her recommendation, have Paris assume she is pulling him from the mission, he goes into his speech, and then Janeway reveals that she was letting him go on the mission all along. Universe continuity is also losing a point here. The idea of an infinite velocity is cool, but having it be Warp 10 is a bit odd. In the final episode of TNG, “All Good Things…” the future version of the Enterprise would travel at a speed of Warp 13, and it was not traveling at infinite velocity. I get what the writers were trying to do, but it was a bit of a stretch. Story continuity also takes a hit. Paris evolved (or de-evolved) into his lizard form over a period of days. When he took Janeway into Warp 10, it seemed as if she emerged on the other side in the same lizard form. Apparently they also had time to reproduce and give birth to (or hatch) fully capable offspring. It just was not consistent with what the story had previously established. No points here.
Character Development – 1 point. This is a much needed episode for Tom Paris, who had seriously been delegated to a supporting character for much of the first couple seasons. While it was refreshing to have something happen to Tom, this may not have been the best way to do it. There really isn’t much else that seems to impact the rest of the crew.
Social Commentary – 2 points. I can relate to Tom Paris wanting to prove that he is more than just a bitter disappointment to his father. His desire to be something after his failures in life does carry some resonance with the viewer. It is dampened and sometimes even lost in the mumbo jumbo of the rest of the episode, so I am only giving it a gracious two points.
Cool Stuff – 1 point. So the Paris-lizard transformation looked cool. I mean, Tom spat out his whole tongue. What he ultimately became was a disappointment, but his journey to that form was something cool about this episode. A pity point, perhaps.
Rank – Ensign (7 points). I get why this is a much despised episode by fans and critics alike. I will acknowledge that it is not 100% junk, however. Maybe 98%, but there a couple redeeming qualities. If you want to watch the worst of Trek, watch this episode. If you miss it, don’t sweat it. This is one you can skip by during a Voyager binge.
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