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Star Trek: Voyager: Threshold (1996)
Is this what we come to?
Of all the scientific improbabilities in the Star Trek universe, of all the scenarios we see, this one is by far the most mind-numbingly horrendous in my opinion. OK, so my willing suspension of disbelief goes far enough to cover that Tom breaks Warp 10. It goes further to accept that his medical condition or the lack of sufficient protection (or both) lead to dire consequences. What I can't accept is the Doctor's explanation that Tom (and later the Captain) are *evolving*, only to turn into hairless aquatic mammals that give birth over a span of only 3 days. And the Doctor can (and does) reverse it! Yay, Doctor!
Don't waste your time on this one.
The X Files: Excelsis Dei (1994)
Love to hate this episode
What starts out looking like a promising episode soon turns into one big headache for the viewer. We are introduced to the staff of a nursing home who seem to hate their jobs, treating their patients like children, and to their patients, many of whom are mean and lewd to their female staff. We also meet Gung, the Asian orderly immigrated from some unnamed land where a plant never before seen in the West is giving the elderly patients a second chance with their debilitating conditions, with some supernatural side effects.
For the sake of argument, let's pretend these magical, mysterious mushrooms from the Mystical East (because who doesn't love a little Orientalism?) really do reverse Alzheimer's and grant one the ability to channel the souls of the dead. Let's also pretend that, in 1994, claims of sexual harassment in the workplace really do go ignored. Finally, let's pretend that orderlies get to boss nurses around, and both get to speak disparagingly to their elderly patients without consequence.
Still, I can't root for anyone in this episode. The staff are detestable, except for the Malaysian orderly providing the mushrooms, who seems in over his head and is therefore nothing short of pathetic. The patients are unlikable from the get-go. Even the director of the home seems more bureaucratic than anything else.
By all means, skip this one.
Well-intentioned but confused
Is this an ABC After-School Special? Maybe it's a commentary on 90s talk shows in all their ridiculousness, or on America's mental-health system that doesn't really treat anyone for anything, or on the holes in the education system where Skippy can go weeks taking care of himself before his teacher notices. One thing's for sure: This is definitely not Animaniacs. This is the stuff the Animaniacs are known to mock. Too weighty a subject matter for very young children used to the high-jinks in other episodes, and too many plot holes for the grown-ups used to much more sophisticated fare. In other words, feel free to skip this one, or ate least make sure any kids younger than 10 aren't watching.
The X Files: Kaddish (1997)
Well-paced, sensitive and honest
As far as creepiness goes, I think this episode goes beyond the standard gore-and-guts business than those just prior to this one. There is a lot to be said for good, old-fashioned suspense and the things that happen off-camera. Aside from the split-second shot of Isaac Luria's dead face in the graveyard, most of the excitement comes from the fear perpetuated by rapid-zoom camera effects and sudden shot changes such as the one changing from the Golem attacking someone to the shovel hitting the ground. A well-paced story, I think the episode does justice to its sensitive subject by portraying it honestly.
I would like to praise in particular the scene in the copy shop, where Brunjes spouts off on Mulder, the government, and Jewish people. It's a tight, short scene, and although the script rattles off many prejudices in a short time, it does so effectively without trying too hard to be preachy. I also appreciate Scully's and Mulder's honest facial expressions, ranging from initial discomfort to "Can you believe this guy?" At the end of the scene, both Scully's and Mulder's parting comments to Brunje knock him down a few notches and show true strength and dignity.