Threshold Cancelled

Hehehehe . . . I love it. I mean, I feel bad that decent folks like Mike Sussman and hottie-mchothots like Carla Gugino are out of work, but the sheer gut-punch to Braga is well-deserved. The guy stomped Trek into the ground, and I freely admit that I'm bitter. I'm quite pleased to see that his utter crappiness has been confirmed in the form of a show that didn't even make it a full season.

The funny part was that I was doing a write-up around the time it premiered, intending to be a little prescient because I knew . . . knew, I say! . . . that Braga the No-Talent Hack was going to kick a particular bit of technology in the balls just as he does with all other technology and science. As soon as I heard that he was going to do a show based on a sound that altered DNA, I knew it was only a matter of time before he utterly failed to consult a science advisor and had it happen over the phone.

"(weird dumbass alien noise)"

The funny part is that Braga's hackery got himself cancelled so fast I never got a chance to finish the write-up!

Anyway, here it is, unfinished, its unfinishedness yet another proof of Braga's suck factor.

(Kickass link that sounds like a Trek fan bitching about Braga's bad writing (but is in fact some other guy bitching about Braga's bad writing) follows.)

It's not even a DNA-mutating disease per se, from what I read before the premiere . . . it's a *magic sound* that, even if it comes through a TV playing a camcorder's recording of the sound, can *alter your DNA*.

Note also that Braga has recently stated that Threshold is based on and grounded in real science.

So, if that's the case, then we ought to be able to ascertain something of this sound, should we not? After all, how long is it until Braga will have one of the Big Bad Aliens calling someone and playing the Sound of Doom, hmm?

The human voice occupies a certain sound frequency range, and ears hear another. Telecomm engineers took advantage of this and discovered that speech could be compressed into a 64kbps data stream with no loss in audible quality. Of course various errors occur, but on a phone call you'll hardly notice.

So, as soon as the aliens pick up the phone, we'll know that the Magic Sound has, at best, the ability to transmit information at 64kbps. That's 64,000 bits per second, or 8 kilobytes per second . . . or ever so slightly faster than a 56k modem.

Human DNA consists of about 3 billion base pairs, with the bases commonly represented as A, C, G, or T. Even if you just number them as 1, 2, 3, 4 and transmit that in binary (say, like 0, 1, 10, 11) you're going to need at least two bits per base pair, and realistically you'll need at least four (i.e. 00, 01, 10, 11 . . . otherwise how would you know that 1011 was 3,4 (i.e. G,T) versus 2,1,2,2 (C,A,C,C) or even 2,1,4 (C,A,T)?). But let's assume two bits for kicks . . . that gives us six billion bits for the human genome . . . or 715 megabytes.

Just try downloading that at 56k!

But this genetic-mutation-Magic-Sound-disease-thing probably wouldn't need to send that many . . . it might only need, say, half a million base pairs, or a million bits. That brings us down to 122 kilobytes, which at 64 kilobits per second (8 kilobytes per second) would only take 15.25 seconds.

"Aha!" you could say . . . "Braga was right! Half a million base pairs is all that a densely-coded virus like Herpes has, so indeed that data could be transmitted!"

You could say that, but you would be stupid. The sound would have to be activating pre-existing DNA in the human genome in the best case . . . otherwise how in the world would simply playing a sound make people have this genetic freakout? There's no mechanism, just magic.

Of course Braga doesn't realize that will be necessary, though he might eventually include that if someone tells him. I say this because in the premiere the sound was capable of making a funny fractal pattern for no apparent reason, and bloodstains would spontaneously reorganize into this pattern. Because, you know, blood cells are mobile little bastards.

"Oh, but Braga's smarter than you. He knew that the alien virus thingy was creating flagella on the red blood cells so they could move and make the pattern. Oh, and some sort of autolocation thingy so they'd know how to orient themselves into the pattern and if they'd done so correctly."


In fact, let's just go ahead and do a complete runthrough of all the bad science (along with the crappy writing) in just the premiere.


1. The smokin'-hot Carla Gugino has almost no hesitation whatsoever in that one of her many doomsday scenarios is coming to pass. I sure wouldn't have minded seeing her bite her lip pensively . . .

. . .

Oh yeah, hi. What I was saying, though, was that Braga doesn't write human beings. He just sort of skips over humanity. Can you imagine if a chopper landed in front of Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens and said "hey, that book Icefire that you wrote about nukes causing a megawave from Antarctica? Yeah, that's happening, so could you maybe hook us up with some of the research you did?" I'd bet hard-earned cash that one or both of them would shit.


See also: Kickass Link


Anonymous said...

But, AFAIK, Soto was running "Enterprize" when it was cancelled??!

Author said...

One good season (which, sadly, had to start out by undoing the sheer crap of Alien Space Nazis From the 26th-and-a-half Centuryyyyyy!!!!) can hardly undo the past decade during which Berman and Braga ran the franchise into the ground.

Anonymous said...

And add to this that it IS a common strategy og comp[anies to employ other people when the decision to end is already done. The results of last sesason were irrelevant to closing decision

Anonymous said...

(Sorry for resurrecting an old post, but we Brits lag months behind the US in terms of programming)

Woah, Threshold was directed by BRAGA? That would, erm, explain a lot.

The dialogue in the first few episodes was (unintentionally) hilarious. One line in particular has become a family in-joke: Upon observing the hemoglobin fractal patterns, the Threshold project leader solemnly intones "Whatever it is, it can't be good for the human race". WHAA?? At this point he knows NOTHING about the virus. For all he knows it's the best thing since sliced bread. A few months of reverse-engineering, that could be a nanotechnology breakthrough. That's not foreshadowing, it's just crap.

Also, the annoying cliche of a group of four or five 'hilariously disfunctional' people (none of whom can ultimately die, because they're the stars) saving the world every week, leaving no loose threads, felt hauntingly familiar at the time. Now I know why.

Familiar, too, was the apparent lack of any overarching plot, or indeed, any direction beyond 'mutant of the week'.

Attempts were made to establish a coherent theme, but none of them were followed up.
"They're aliens!"
"No, they're from the future trying to genetically alter us so we can survive a radiation storm." (in g2k's words, they're "Alien Space Nazis From the 26th-and-a-half Centuryyyyyy")
"Wait, now we're infected, and we're developing superpowers because we were exposed to a second-hand signal."
"No wait, I've just been infected again, and I'm dying for exactly the same reason." (this was the SAME FREAKING CHARACTER)
I don't mind Clarke's Third Law 'magic' technology that much (it's better than inventing a new particle to justify the tech's effects), but this is quite frankly inexcusable.

You could actually SEE where the director had backpedaled in response to feedback group pressure: "Alright, the audience hates the whiny grad student character. Let's kill 'im off! Er, no, wait, the audience hates his 'sassy' female replacement even more. Let's bring him back!"

The only American drama worse than Threshold on British TV right now is Invasion, for the simple reason that it has almost exactly the same premise as Threshold (aliens are altering people's DNA, creating homicidal hybrids with super-powers, a small group of semi-infectees and humans must stop them), but it has NO PLOT.

Sure, all the elements are there - characters, a recurring villain, a roughly chronological structure, but somehow it fails to gel together into anything comprehensible.

Until dramas stop this ridiculous practice of farming out episodes to the highest bidder and start making series with a beginning, a middle, and an end, under the control of an individual or group of individuals with a vision*, the decline looks set to continue.

* Say what you like about Gene Roddenberry or George Lucas, can you really say their artistic vision really benefited from the 'intervention' of B&B and the EU writers respectively?