Review: Threshold – "Trees Made of Glass" (pilot)

Many critics consider Brannon Braga and Bragi F. Shut’s entry into the Dark SF sweepstakes as the best of the bunch, this year’s Lost. I believe this show could evolve into something interesting but, based on the pilot, it has a long way to go.

Cast

Carla Gugino as Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey
Charles S. Dutton as JT Baylock
Brent Spiner as Nigel Fenway
Robert Patrick Benedict as Lucas Pegg
Brian Van Holt as Cavannaugh
Peter Dinklage as Ramsay
William Mapother as Gunneson

Plot:

When a boat makes first contact with, well, something of alien origin, a government agency shanghais a team of experts to investigate.

High Points:

You’re one of us.

The pilot features a good set-up, and the unexpected effects of the transmission proved interesting—- though they make it unlikely this can remain unknown for long. At least one Jack McGee should turn up to make things difficult for the team.

Low Point:

I’ll accept the forced heterogeneous eccentricities of the crack team. I’ll accept the beer-drinking super-brilliant überbabe whose hair and makeup remains impeccable even under the most desperate of circumstances. And I’ll accept any number of things necessary to make the premise work, like constantly exposing your brain trust to needless danger.

However, you cannot send along marines to protect the team, and then have them hang behind when and where the team faces real danger. You cannot have brass who recognize that this is the most important discovery in history, and then have them make no attempt to secure the area. (The U.S. couldn’t spare at least one battleship to engage in maneuvers a mere 80 miles off their coast?) You cannot stress how important this ship is, and then blow it up the moment some foreign types come near (again, we’re 80 miles off the coast). This isn’t intelligent writer’s fiat; it’s unnecessary laziness.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6. A good show can be assembled from reused elements, of course. Still, this pilot could be used as a drinking game: take a shot every time you recognize where you’ve seen this scene, bit, effect, cliché, or line of dialogue before.

Effects: 4/6. The “trees like glass” scene is cool, and the show boasts some other decent effects. However, the use of negative-flash-o-vision? It was cheesy when The Outer Limits used it in the ‘60s. It was cheesy when every lame SF tv-movie (and at least one ep of the original Battlestar Galactica) used it in the 70s. It’s cheesy now, and worse, it’s used at critical moments.

Story: 4/6. The story begins well, and creates some excellent opportunities for future developments. It suffers from too much tv silliness (see “Low Points”)

Acting: 4/6. This varies quite a bit. Dinkley and Spiner do well, and no one is really bad (Baylock’s superior is rather wooden). I think some of the performers may shine in future episodes.

Emotional Response: 3/6. Given the set-up—- the fantastic inserting itself into a quiet, fairly realistic scene—-and the setting—- the modern Mary Celeste—- this should have been a lot creepier. I found that the action elements detracted from the horror, destroying the mood of the shipboard scenes. The rest has a few good moments (the unexpected effect of the signal), but I felt disappointed.

They handled with ham-hands the obvious personal darkness/mystery surrounding each character. Several inter-character exchanges could be replaced with:

CHARACTER A: What about that blatant enigmatic aspect of your character?
CHARACTER B: Ah! That will be revealed/explored in a future episode.

Production: 5/6.

Overall: 4/6.

”Trees Like Glass” receives a score of 25/42

Additional Comments

My feeling is that they rushed the development. The premise holds a fair potential for creepy mystery (much still remains), which has been wasted because they revealed too much, too soon. I didn’t really like this pilot (and my wife, who called it a “pathetic pastiche,” loathed it), but I still think the show has potential. It’s going to have to win me over very soon, however.

Judging from some of the buzz and reviews, others hold very different opinions. How about the readers and posters of Bureauland?

The Timeshredder’s reviews may be found here.

14 replies on “Review: Threshold – "Trees Made of Glass" (pilot)”

  1. rickyjames says:

    One Benefit
    This show is poor with the potential to become fair. Good is on the distant horizon, if ever. Threshold is the first show to actually highlight just how totally brilliant The X-Files truly was.

    • nkuzmik says:

      Re: One Benefit

      This show is poor with the potential to become fair. Good is on the distant horizon, if ever. Threshold is the first show to actually highlight just how totally brilliant The X-Files truly was.

      I could never get into X-Files. It just never worked for me.

  2. octa says:

    tastes like burning
    “CHARACTER A: What about that blatant enigmatic aspect of your character?
    CHARACTER B: Ah! That will be revealed/explored in a future episode.”

    Buwahah very nice. Each of the characters have a scene where they take a deep breath and look away contemplating. Such hamfisted methods aren’t going to win them fans. Needless to say I was not impressed. You would think they would send in the best of the best military into a situation like that yet they don’t even check under the bed before giving an all clear notice? The “christmas ornament” watermarks everything electrical on the boat with that weird diagram but the camera isn’t affected?

    Oh Brent, why do you end up on some of the lamest projects ever? :(

    They get 2 more episodes to convince me :P

    • TechnoGirl says:

      Re: smells like Braga …

      They get 2 more episodes to convince me :P

      Not me…I lasted 30 minutes before I was utterly convinced this was crap….came back somewhere into the 2nd hour…more crapola.

      I especially (dis)liked the scene where the three stooges are sitting inside the van monitoring the world for creepy aliens when a creepy alien pulls one right through the van window unobstructed because… and nobody … NONE of the other two van guys thought far enough ahead to bring a weapon.

      Hellooo!! World invasion here…creepy alien guys…might just want to pack a little heat do you think? A small Uzi would be nice but anything…even a pinch pf pepper spray might have been nice. I know *I’d* be carrying **some** thing here. Wouldn’t you?

      This won’t get any better and I’m not going to waste any more time on it…learned my lesson from Enterprise…Braga is utterly INCAPABLE of putting out anything approaching goodness.

      BTW was anyone else as put off as me by the “dream sequence” drive-bys that happenned without warning while the characters were apparently wide awake? Too cheesy for words…

      Poor Brent Spiner…. He must have a HUGE mastercard bill to get involved in this stinker.

  3. rickyjames says:

    And Another Thing
    The scariest aliens presented in this show were the never-seen North Koreans. As Timeshredder noted, they blew the ship up 80 miles off the US coast rather than try and protect it, which is indeed mindless plot writing. But this wasn’t just ANY stretch of coastline – it was 80 MILES FROM WASHINGTON DC for crying out loud. The North Koreans are operating in the ATLANTIC (?!?) a mere 80 miles from our NATIONAL CAPITAL and we’re POWERLESS to stop them? Holy cow, an invasion from outer space isn’t the biggest threat we gotta be worried about…

    Jeez, if you’re gonna have such a dumb plot device, at least have the balls to make it a true superpower adversary like the Chinese.

    • octa says:

      Re: And Another Thing
      Ohhh but Kim Jong Il is a trigger happy commie sleeping on a bed of nukes! Propaganada sneaking into entertainment, you gotta love it. 24 and JAG were guilty of this too.

      I guess I’m just jaded. I do feel kinda bad hating on a show right out the gate but seriously, there needs to be some originality here. Who wants to see the same plot lines(and the plot holes that come with it) rehashed over and over again except hardcore Star Trek fans?

      • Timeshredder says:

        Re: And Another Thing

        I guess I’m just jaded. I do feel kinda bad hating on a show right out the gate but seriously, there needs to be some originality here. Who wants to see the same plot lines(and the plot holes that come with it) rehashed over and over again except hardcore Star Trek fans?

        Yeah, part of the reason I gave “story” 4/6 instead of, say, 3/6 is that it is a pilot, and one that creates fair potential for future stories. I’m really baffled by the number of positive advance reviews this thing received. Certainly, at this board, I’m not hearing much that contradicts my view of it.

        Did anyone here like this thing?

        • AceCaseOR says:

          Re: And Another Thing

          Did anyone here like this thing?

          I liked actually. One thing that you didn’t mention that I especially liked, is we now finally have a little person who is playing a serious role in a major movie or TV show, other then Warwick Davis, and well, Paul did a good job, and now that I got to see him act, I’m seriously considering renting The Station Agent to see his performance there. And, well, I’ve always liked Brent Spiner and I’m glad to see him on TV again. So, I’m going to keep watching the show. I don’t watch that much TV anyway, and Smackdown has sucked since they took Paul E. Danger-er Paul Heyman off the writing team and stuck the poor man’s Cyrus on there, I don’t have much compeition for my TV viewing hours on Friday Night.

          Hell, the only reasons I was still watching Smackdown anyway were, in order: Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio (exception: the custody storyline), Randy Orton (and Cowboy Bob), Christian, The Mexicools (Psycosis, Juventud Guerrera, and Super Crazy – ECW Vets all), and The Undertaker.

          *Realizes that he’s the only wrestling fan on the site and shuts up*

          • vanyel says:

            Re: And Another Thing

            I liked actually. One thing that you didn’t mention that I especially liked, is we now finally have a little person who is playing a serious role in a major movie or TV show, other then Warwick Davis

            That was the only good thing I could find in the show, and lasted about the same 30 minutes TechnoGirl did. The final straw was describing the animations on the CRTs as being the electronic equivalent to a-bomb shadows of people on walls. I’ve got way better things to do with my time than watch crap like this, and from what I’m reading here about the rest of it, I’m glad quit when I did. This one’s outta the Tivo permanently.

        • rickyjames says:

          Re: And Another Thing
          I like the idea of it and its potential much more than the actual execution of it so far. As far as a pilot setting up new threads to explore, it left a lot to be desired. They shoulda hauled that ship in and been finding new little oddities on it every single week. It was the only physical artifact they had and they SUNK it after only a few hours aboard? Focusing on Swimming Zombies That Go Bampf instead is a production copout. They paid as much attention to foreshadowing Daddy’s Watch as they did an extradimensional artifact that has to come in from deep space and adjust its trajectory in three-space instead of just APPEAR out of n-space where it wants to be. Makes you wonder if Christopher Walken will give it to her in an upcoming flashback. Like you say, so far this could be a drinking game of Bad Plot Devices.

          • valen1260 says:

            Re: And Another Thing

            an extradimensional artifact that has to come in from deep space and adjust its trajectory in three-space instead of just APPEAR out of n-space where it wants to be

            I’m glad someone else takes issue with this. Why did it have to “crashland”, when it obviously has some three-dimensional space folding abilities? It would seem the zombies have the same ability, and we don’t see them taking the bus.

            • Timeshredder says:

              Re: And Another Thing

              an extradimensional artifact that has to come in from deep space and adjust its trajectory in three-space instead of just APPEAR out of n-space where it wants to be

              I’m probably being too kind, given the other flaws in plot logic, but it occurred to me that maybe we’ll learn in a forthcoming episode that, say, the ship was damaged, or that some other explanation exists.

              However, it might just be more poor writing.

  4. Damien says:

    We’ll see…
    Upon mature reflection *cough* this one is definitely a mixed bag. Way too much drinking game material and they’re really missing some of the obvious aspects of what is going on. And wtf don’t they use the frequencies to "see" the other dimensions (sic) and find the guys ‘n christmas ornament?

    Spiner is definitely playing one of his better roles outside of Star Trek, I can’t stand any of his "acting" where he smiles for more than two seconds, his "comical" work is way over the top. Personally I can’t take Gugino seriously, she doesn’t come across as a very strong actress thus as the lead of the group the entire effort suffers. Dinklage had a surprising character – fairly over-the-top but he plays it well.

    My wife and I will be keeping an eye on it but I’m not sure it’ll survive that long.

    Damien

  5. valen1260 says:

    cast not crew
    The cast was what really made this show stand out among the other four this season. I love Spiner, wanted to see Dinklage on television, and have been a fan of (read: ogler of) Gugino’s since she guested on The Wonder Years.

    Then, as the credits rolled, my blissful ignorance was shattered by two words: Brannon Braga. I had no idea he was behind this show, and now I can only expect continually worse plot devices.

    The pilot wasn’t unbearable, but they’re going to have to work twice as hard to keep me now. Suprisingly, Surface was less bad than the buzz had made it out to be. Supernatural was too… WB, and I’ve yet to see Invasion.

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