* * * THRESHOLD (ParaSEEK First Look)     
    Review and rating to come when final edit is released...

    (First Look, See our updated review below):  CBS tries to make a return to sci-fi with the new, ambitious Brannon Braga series Threshold.  Best described as more horror than traditional science fiction, Threshold offers up a present day invasion story in which the aliens exist in a 4th or other dimension and attempt colonization by altering humans from the other side.  The package borrows heavily from previous science fiction, especially the movie Sphere which it emulates in both tone and balance.

    To say the series is complex would be an understatement.  In the course of an hour, dozens of major bombshells are dropped which seems to indicate two possibilities:  there are either hundreds of additional bombshells down the pipe, or the production team has decided to put all their cards on the table, a polar opposite to shows such as Lost.

    Ironically, the pacing and cliffhanger ending of the pilot share many aspects with Lost (even a cast member), and CBS has already been asked if the show was intentionally made as a Lost clone, which CBS has flatly denied.  Currently slated for Fridays at 9p.m., it will have to deal with the Friday night SCIFI CHANNEL powerhouse of Stargate and Battlestar, the last resting place of Star Trek Enterprise. It may be prudent to shift gears and put Threshold on Saturday or Sunday.  It would have a much better time up against the lighter Charmed.

    The first hour feels like someone opened up a new puzzle, displayed all the pieces, then threw them in the air.  They don't land when the credits roll but they are all out there. The cast, led by Carla Gugino and Star Trek's Brent Spiner, are similarly in flux. No character in the cast has a previous relationship with another, something we've not seen in recent scifi, so it feels like you are in a room full of strangers. The first few weeks will be key to see if the cast can pull things together from this odd positioning. This may be intentional, and if so we applaud the writers for trying it, because it left us alienated and a bit claustrophobic.  This normally would indicate bad writing, but in this case put us right where we want to be mentally.  Plot-wise, we are placed in a blind point C and left there to fend for ourselves rather than pulled from point A to point B.

    We have not been given the final edit of the pilot, nor do we feel it's fair to rate the show in any way until we see a minimum of three episodes.  However, we do question where the audience for Threshold will come from.  The show combines so many previous incarnations of sci-fi, it will need to please all of them, while hoping that a little horror won't scare off viewers.  It will be interesting to see if all of the most explicit scenes, which are set in a horror movie genre, stay intact for the series launch or if the show will be softened to meet the needs of younger viewers. The blood trail makes the show unique, is the last thing we expected to find, and is the one element we can say is definitely not on television at this time.

    Stay tuned for our official review when the season begins.   (-William J Piniarski-)


    We'll admit it.  We didn't have high hopes for Threshold. The first draft we were sent had a lot of problems; so many, in fact, that in no way did we think it could hold up to re-runs of Stargate.  But to our utter surprise, they fixed the pilot.

    As we predicted a little of the gore was toned down.  Some of the blood was taken out, and shots of mutilated bodies were shown in shorter frames.  It's still not a family show, but we feel they did a good job of keeping all audiences happy.

    Character interaction is better.  There are no fewer then half a dozen totally brand new scenes in the first hour, including two with Spiner that help explain his character's motivations and pull the supporting cast together.  The scene with one of the crew-men's bodies coming back to life was not in the first cut.  All in all they spend much more time on the ship which is great.

    Most importantly, the alien in the dream has changed. Originally it looked like a black Predator/Alien hybrid, but really it just looked like a human in a bad costume.  They altered it so it was blurred, and in this case, less is more.  We don't know what the aliens look like now and hope we never learn; because we're dealing with 4 dimensions here, they shouldn't look anything like us.  Nor do they really have to have a body.

    We'll have to see how this show evolves in the next few episodes, but based on the fact that the editors listened and listened well, Braga may have a hit on his hands.  But CBS needs to hold off on pulling the plug. This one could take a good year to take off.  They may need to start working on a better companion piece, because Ghost Whisperer is not going to pull the weight.  More to come.

    Now that we've seen a fair portion of the season we think it's fair to cast our judgement and sharpen our sickles.  Cause that's what we do.  Sniff.
    This is a show full of promise, but we're not sure if it's trying to be an X-files clone or if it's hiding something completely different under the surface.  What we do know is, we shouldn't be asking this question 5 episodes into the season.  The time has long gone when you can hide your cards and this is especially true when you have every major network throwing out new science fiction at a rate not seen, well, since never.  If you want ratings, you need to get them quickly and draw in your audience.
    Threshold, for now, is keeping us hooked with a cast that has worked together far better than we could have expected.  Carla Gugino is a perfect lead, although we would stop having her throw ill-placed one-liners at her FBI counterpart. Brian Van Holt is dry, and if they are trying to create a Mulder-Scully relationship, it's not working.  Abandon that quick!  The supporting cast here is a joy, with Spiner delivering his usual brilliance and Peter Dinklage coming from nowhere to be one of our favorites.  In a science fiction landscape where you have the same characters over and over again, having an active linguist solving problems is one of Braga's crowning achievements.  We would argue that the supporting cast should be much more involved, as with CSI. The one rough spot in this group seems to be Charles S. Dutton (Baylock).  We're sick of having him enter a room enraged in the exact same tone.  He serves no purpose but to be annoying and to remind that the government is still in charge, and apparently whiny.
    The stories are unfortunately carbon copies each week.  The team locates another infectee, traps him and maybe we're handed some little bit of data on the alien master design.  If this is how the entire season is going to be played out, this show isn't going to work.  There better be a right turn and quick, and the threat had better evolve.
    Threshold needs to shine quickly and show some variety, or else it will be gone.  The clock is ticking and if ratings don't kill it early, then the return of Stargate in January will.   Worth watching, YES.  For how long, we'll see.  But we're hoping.


    | copyright, 2005, Threshold Images copyright CBS, 2005 |