Threshold is an American science fiction drama television series that first aired on CBS in September 2005. Produced by Brannon Braga, David S. Goyer and David Heyman, the series focuses on a secret government project investigating the first contact with an extraterrestrial species.
The series was first shown on Friday nights, but was moved to Tuesday in an effort to boost ratings. This plan backfired, with the show registering a sharp drop in its ratings on its first Tuesday night showing on 22 November 2005, and CBS cancelled the series on 23 November 2005 with four episodes left unaired.
The remaining episodes were aired on Sky1, a channel in the UK owned by Sky, who co-produced the series with CBS. The entire series was released on DVD on 22 August 2006.
The series first aired on the Sci Fi Channel on Friday 13 October 2006 at 10:00 pm, following a new episode of Battlestar Galactica.
The series stars Carla Gugino as Dr. Molly Caffrey, a high-level government crisis management consultant from the Blackwood Institute whose job is to create contingency plans for use in emergencies ranging from natural disasters to nuclear war. In order to have “all bases covered”, one of her plans, code-named Threshold, is developed for dealing with the unlikely eventuality of first contact with aliens. One night, the crew of a US naval vessel encounters a UFO. Many crew members subsequently die horribly, but some escape. After the ship is discovered with dead crew members and a videotape of the encounter, the Threshold protocol is activated.
Caffrey’s Threshold plan calls for the formation of a secret government task force known as the Red Team. As a result, several top scientists are seconded:
- Dr. Nigel Fenway (Brent Spiner), an individualistic NASA-employed microbiologist;
- Lucas Pegg (Rob Benedict), a somewhat unsure-of-himself aerospace engineer on the eve of his marriage; and
- Arthur Ramsey (Peter Dinklage), a mathematics and linguistics genius with a penchant for unpredictability, alcohol and women.
Caffrey’s government liaison is Deputy National Security Advisor J.T. Baylock (Charles S. Dutton), while freelance paramilitary operative Sean Cavennaugh (Brian Van Holt) serves as the “muscle” of the group (and apparent potential love interest for Caffrey). Daphne Larson (Catherine Bell) was added to the team in the episode “Outbreak”.
Caffrey’s team works under absolute secrecy, their activities not even known to the Vice-President, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Threshold learns that the aliens are attempting to rewrite the DNA of the human race using, in part, an audio signal that somehow alters some people’s body chemistry in such a way that they become alien themselves. Central to all this is a fractal triskelion pattern that keeps appearing – in electronic signals, blood, and even the pattern made by city lights. Its significance has yet to be revealed, though Arthur Ramsey interpreted it as representing a DNA pattern in a triple helix formation (like the alien DNA).
The episodes focus on Caffrey and her team as they learn more about the signal, the fractal pattern, and the aliens. Often, their work requires them to impersonate different US Government agencies. Compounding the situation, Caffrey, Cavennaugh and Pegg were exposed to a small part of the signal, which while not (as yet) infecting them, has nonetheless altered their brains, causing the trio to have bizarre, linked dreams, and also receive messages from the aliens with Caffrey, in particular, experiencing frightening, often violent hallucinations. Individuals experiencing these visions have been referred to as “dreamers” by the Threshold Red Team.
An ongoing subplot of the series is the emotional impact Threshold has on Caffrey herself, as she is required to make life-and-death decisions on an almost daily basis. The impact on other members of her team is also explored.
My name is Molly Caffrey, and I work for the Federal Government. I deal in worst-case scenarios, the unthinkable. On September 16th, 2005, the unthinkable happened. An extraterrestrial object appeared off the bow of a naval freighter. The entire crew was exposed to a high frequency signal. Some died instantly. Others began to change. They are now stronger, more resilient. They dream of alien landscapes. And they are driven by the impulse to infect others. Several of the crewmen are now loose in the United States. They will strike anytime, anyplace, anyone. Their goal: to turn us into them. But I have a plan to stop them. That plan is called “Threshold”.
The monologue was used in episodes 1-9, but was dropped for the remaining episodes. It also was not used for any of the episodes in the DVD version.
- Carla Gugino as Dr. Molly Anne Caffrey.
- Charles S. Dutton as J.T. Baylock.
- Brent Spiner as Dr. Nigel Fenway.
- Rob Benedict as Lucas Pegg.
- Brian Van Holt as Sean Cavennaugh.
- Peter Dinklage as Arthur Ramsey.
Prior to Threshold’s cancellation Brannon Braga announced that Catherine Bell would be joining the series, as would another actress, Jacqueline Kim, who would appear as Lucas’s wife Rachel. In the unaired episode “Outbreak”, Bell guest stars as Dr. Daphne Larson, a botanist brought in to examine the mutated vegetables from “Revelations”. She is added as a new member to the Red Team, but except for being referenced by name in “Vigilante”, made no further appearances on the series before it ended.
- Guest Stars:
- Dr. Daphne Larson (Catherine Bell): Botanist and leading expert in genetic engineering. Brought into the Threshold team after it was confirmed that people were getting infected after eating GM food created by Sonntag (in “Outbreak”).
- Dr. Julian Sloan (Jeffrey Donovan): Due to a rare genetic disorder he was only half transformed into an infectee. Sloan is unique in the fact he can physically see those altered by the signal (in “Vigilante”).
- Gunneson (William Mapother): A crew member of the US Navy cargo freighter Big Horn who becomes affected by the signal (in “Trees Made of Glass, Parts 1 and 2”).
According to writer Brannon Braga on the 2006 DVD release, word that production of the series was being terminated was received midway through shooting of the episode “Alienville”. The ending of the episode was changed to show Molly having a dream conversation with an alien-human baby (who had been born in the episode, but appeared in the dream as a nine-year-old boy). The boy tells Molly that her Threshold plan will eventually succeed in stopping the alien invasion (the age of the boy implies it will happen within nine years), but that she would herself “not be there” (i.e. die) before this happens.
When the show was moved to Tuesday, it was shown at the same time as the popular show Law and Order: SVU and one week had to also compete with the American Music Awards as well. This resulted in a ratings drop, which caused the show to be cancelled.
- Episode 01: Trees Made of Glass, Part 01.
- Episode 02: Trees Made of Glass, Part 02.
- Episode 03: Blood of the Children.
- Episode 04: The Burning.
- Episode 05: Shock.
- Episode 06: Pulse.
- Episode 07: The Order.
- Episode 08: Revelations.
- Episode 09: Progeny.
- Episode 10: The Crossing.
- Episode 11: Outbreak.
- Episode 12: Vigilante.
- Episode 13: Alienville.
Production & Filming Details
- Creator(s): Bragi F. Schut.
- John F. Showalter … (2 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Norberto Barba … (1 episode, 2005).
- Bill Eagles … (1 episode, 2005).
- David S. Goyer … (1 episode, 2005).
- Peter Hyams … (1 episode, 2005).
- David Jackson … (1 episode, 2005).
- Tim Matheson … (1 episode, 2005).
- Bill Norton … (1 episode, 2005).
- Thomas J. Wright … (1 episode, 2005).
- Félix Enríquez Alcalá … (1 episode, 2006).
- Oz Scott … (1 episode, 2006).
- Paul Shapiro … (1 episode, 2006).
- Brannon Braga … executive producer (13 episodes, 2005-2006).
- David S. Goyer … executive producer (13 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Michael Sussman … supervising producer (13 episodes, 2005-2006).
- André Bormanis … producer (12 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Daniel Cerone … consulting producer (12 episodes, 2005-2006).
- David Heyman … executive producer (5 episodes, 2005).
- Anne McGrail … co-executive producer (5 episodes, 2005).
- Dan O’Shannon … co-executive producer (5 episodes, 2005).
- Marc Rosen … co-executive producer (5 episodes, 2005).
- Bragi F. Schut … supervising producer / co-executive producer (5 episodes, 2005).
- Karen Moore … producer (4 episodes, 2005).
- Jack Clements … supervising producer (2 episodes, 2005).
- Loucas George … co-producer (2 episodes, 2005).
- David Livingston … producer (2 episodes, 2005).
- Krishnan Menon … co-executive producer (2 episodes, 2005).
- Keira Morrisette … associate producer (2 episodes, 2005).
- Cliff Rogers … co-producer (1 episode, 2005).
- Bragi F. Schut … (creator) (13 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Anne McGrail … (3 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Dan O’Shannon … (2 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Michael Sussman … (2 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Brannon Braga … (2 episodes, 2005).
- Amy Berg … (1 episode, 2005).
- André Bormanis … (1 episode, 2005).
- Andrew Colville … (1 episode, 2005).
- David S. Goyer … (1 episode, 2005).
- Barbara Nance … (1 episode, 2005).
- Pieter A. Schlosser.
- Steve Jablonsky … (2 episodes, 2005).
- Ramin Djawadi … (1 episode, 2005).
- Frank Byers … (7 episodes, 2005).
- Steven Bernstein … (1 episode, 2005).
- Gib Jaffe … (4 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Stephen Lovejoy … (3 episodes, 2005-2006).
- Heather MacDougall … (2 episodes, 2005).
- Conrad Smart … (2 episodes, 2005).
- Production: Braga Productions, Heydya Films, Phantom Four Films, and Paramount Network Television.
- Original Network: CBS (2005) and Sky1 (2006).
- Release Date: 16 September 2005 to 01 February 2006.
- Running Time: 42 minutes (per episode).
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.