Star Trek: Voyager

Season 2 Episode 23

The Thaw

Aired Wednesday 8:00 PM Apr 29, 1996 on UPN

Episode Fan Reviews (15)

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out of 10
197 votes
  • Just to set the record straight, I think most people would agree that this episode's MVP is Michael McKean as the Grey Clown Fear --

    I rarely write reviews, but after watching this episode for the 2nd or 3rd time, I felt like adding to this set of really well-considered opinions. I overlooked the opening credits & after enjoying an episode that I remember disliking years ago, I wanted to know who portrayed the Grey Clown. I mistakenly voted for Carel Struycken ("Spectre", surely the giant monster figure in black), who among other memorable characters gave us Mr. Homm (Lwaxana Troi's manservant) & Lurch in the modern Addams' Family films.

    Depending on my perception of this "Voyager" episode when it first aired or when I saw it tonight, I can agree with nearly everything stated below. I too found the prancing festival characters offputting & annoying, too unconventional for a hard sci-fi fan like myself, but this time I really appreciated Mr. McKean's sinister clown. An unusual character well-portrayed, & his closing line ("Drat!") was perfect.
  • Star Trek meets Cirque du Soleil

    Star Trek does its version of the old "evil clown" horror story in this malfunctioning holodeck episode (minus the holodeck) with a story that slyly avoids having to leave Voyager, save for one alternate stage set.

    After beaming up the hardware for a virtual reality world gone awry (sort of a demented Cirque du Soleil), Janeway finds herself in a battle of wits and wills with a clown that has the ability to kill anyone who has wandered into his world (which, unfortunately for her, includes Ensign Kim). It's really a "how do we save the hostages without killing them" dilemma in (literally) different clothes, crossed with an exploration of the nature of fear.

    Robert Picardo's old buddy Michael McKean dominates the episode as the nameless antagonist, with his character interacting with various Voyager crewmembers and even getting in the final word. His clown is basically the same idea as Q, a character with complete control over his universe (in this case, one room) and exercising a whimsical and dangerous sense of humor.

    Director of Photography Marvin Rush, stepping into the director's role, gives the episode an experimental theatre feel, taking the focus off the limited set and placing it on the exotic characters that inhabit it. The result is a spirit unlike anything Trek has ever done, save maybe for TNG's "Cost of Living".

    The very definition of a one and done, "The Thaw" is nonetheless one of Voyager's most memorable episodes.

  • Like a bad Acid trip and I loved it!

    Yes, this episode is creepy, scary, nightmare inducing and that's why it is so great!

    It is not grotesque, there are no guns or bloody corpses. The victims here die of massive heart failure, nothing else. This episode if about the manifestation and power of our fears.

    This episode was so effective in creating a frightening subconscious world without resorting to demons, flames, or what we perceive to be a hell like environment. The demon here is futuristic clown and his band of freaks in a very colorful environment that on its own isn't creepy at all, in fact it looks a lot a child's nursery or classroom painted in bright, fun colors but it is what we project on it that makes it so creepy. The actor playing the villain is so much fun, so funny, and he holds nothing back with his fearless performance, and that kind of freedom and power and potential for evil is frightening... in the best way!

    I loved that this episode reminded me of a stage play, one that was clever and spoke about the human condition and held up a mirror. One that spoke about how we can be our own worst enemies, and how our own fears hold us hostage. It was deep people.

    I loved the Captain in this episode, she gave one of my favorite performances of the series and the ending was thrilling, so satisfying.
  • A rather pathetic episode

    My wife and I have been watching Voyager on DVD as I have always been a ST fan, particularly the original when it was on it's initial run, but because of life didn't get to catch the later series. Overall we have enjoyed Voyager so far, not as much as TNG or DS9, and most episodes are pretty good. However this episode might vie in my book for one of the worse in the entire ST universe. I knew right off when they went into the brain support system and I saw all the clowns/mimes etc. that this episode was going to be bad. I am almost always turned off by these surrealistic episodes and this was one of the worse. The antics of the clown in the system were pathetic and his childish attitude and the way he carried on were particularly bad. As a previous post noted, who bought this script and allowed it to be turned into a complete episode?
  • Nightmare & Vomit Inducing


    Seriously I get the whole craziness thing but there's a way to do fear-inducing-madness without it being so creepy that you want to forget this episode even exists and HOPE TO GOD you don't have nightmares about it.

    I got through about 15 to 20 mins before I turned it off. NEVER EVER EVER AGAIN.
  • The Thaw


    The Thaw was a fair episode of Star Trek: Voyager and it was ok to watch, but it is by no means necessary for the over all plot or character story lines. The story was an interesting concept and it was kinda of an interesting world that the crew members visited, yet it was still a little out there. It seems the writers were trying to have fun, but it just didn't work out. I liked how the story played out and how every thing ended. Another side adventure on Voyager. I look forward to watching the next episode of Star Trek: Voyager!!

  • While their planet was recovering from a disaster, aliens in stasis become trapped by a computer simulation and its characters that were created to entertain them. What is pivotal about this episode is Janeway's monologue at the end which is a classic.

    Becoming trapped in a holographic creation is not new in Star Trek, but as for "accepting" Janeway as a full fledged Captain worthy to follow in the footsteps of Kirk and Picard, this episode is pivotal. I also like it for several other reasons. All the fears of the aliens in stasis become manifested in the persona of a clown. I like that choice because fear does not creep into our psyches with our embracing something that is obviously ugly, dreadful or fear provoking. It is more insiduous and often we will laugh at something we fear at first or at people we do not understand and then later on, become fearful of that very thing or person. Clowns can also be frightening as well as funny.

    Janeway's monologue on the nature of Fear and handling of the conclusion of the episode reminds me of the best of James T Kirk and his rousing monologues and as good as any of Picard's Shakespearean-type deliveries. It is quintessential "captain-ness" if I can call it that. The Classic Conclusion to an episode that Star Trek fans look forward to and expect. One that "wraps things up" in a way that touches us, makes sense and inspires us to become better human beings. The best of Janeway and Star Trek.
  • Should stay frozen...

    In fact put it as far back into the nether-regions of your freezer as you possibly can and just leave it there. If you are unfortunate enough to have already sampled it, throw it back in and try and forget about it.

    The episode starts off interestingly enough (not truly unique though) with the discovery of a batch of cryogenic preservation capsules, but it trips over it's own feet practically after taking one step. As soon as we get a glimpse into the "world" that the people in these capsules find themselves trapped, it is hard not to have the thought of `foolish` or `What Is This` pop into your head. From the out of place use of a multitude of colours, the presentation of the AI though acrobats, midgets and the insane, to the enviromental pieces looking like they come straight out of the movie Toys or a giants playpen, the viewer cannot help but seperate himself from what he is watching and from the any idea of theme that the writers of this episode were trying to get across. There just seems to be a insurrmountable clash between the message and theme of the episode and the way it is presented or manifested visually. This artifical world the characters find themselves in is supposed to be one of confusion, fear, insanity, desperation, hoplessness and death, and although what we are given visually can be said to represent some of these feelings or moods, they do so in a way that is lacks a punch or that fails to really get them across effectively. These moods would have manifested themselves more effectively a darker presentation, anything along the lines of what a horror movie usually presents you with in terms of image....dark, spires, dank dwellings, prisons, insane asylums etc. Even though some of that is not terribly original, it would still be more in line in terms of what most people would envision when they think of a hopeless situation in which one is faced with constant threat, terror and even death. A brightly lit room, full of primary colours, annoying chanting and screaming and body contortions lead by a clown that lacks any kind of physical deformity hardly puts a scare into you. Annoying to the point of insanity, yes.....terror inducing to the point of insanity, no. The whole weak and foolish presentation is reminiscient of "Move Along Home" from DS9 Season One and if you were unlucky enough to have sat through both that one and this one as I have, I can assure you I feel for you. The ending or solution to this episode, like the DS9 one, works, but again is unfulfilling or leaves you kind of scratching your head as to what the point of the whole thing was. True Janeway did trick Fear the clown and as a result managed to free her crewmates and the trapped inhabitants of the ice planet, but she did so in a way that did not really defeat her opponent. It leaves the viewer wondering if the strength of the emotion fear (and the corresponding character it was represented by) is as in fact as insurrmountable as it is made out to be. Tricking your way around something hardly qualifies as achieving a victory or overcoming something by addressing it head on. If there is anything positive to say about this episode I guess it is this question we are left with through just another instance of bad writing that is found all throughout it.
  • Good Science Fiction idea but horribly staged.

    Good Science Fiction idea but horribly staged.

    The story line here could be done in any Sci-Fi show. In fact, Outer Limits, with "The Refuge" did a similar story that aired about three weeks before this one. And, that story was remarkably staged. However, this one leaves a lot to be desired. And, that's one of my gripes. Although using Cirque du Soleil acrobats was innovative, the set was way too minimalistic. The acrobats just rolled around the floor rather than doing any of their high-wire specialties. In short, the set looked cheap. Something we'd expect from second season "Lost in Space." Ultimately, Voyager would stage a much better "shared unconscious" episode in Season 4, "Waking Moments."

    Inhabiting the dream realm in this story is an adaptive program character known as "Fear" or introduced as the "Clown." In this world, to die or be killed by Fear/Clown is to also die in the suspended state. Kind of answers that question about dying in your dreams and then dying in real life…

    Michael McKean plays Fear/Clown. He is a very talented actor and he clearly has a great time playing this part. However, like the set, he doesn't create anything special. There was such an opportunity here to make a truly "fearful clown" but the production group misses it. Since Fear refuses to release her crew in the suspended state, Janeway agrees to become the ultimate hostage for Fear. And, he agrees to this.

    This is where my second gripe comes into place. Janeway enters the environment but isn't connected to it. She appears in front of Fear as a hologram where Janeway "confronts" fear. Essentially, she indicates she has learned to deal with Fear and therefore conquer it. However, she has not done this. She's only "cheated" Fear. Frankly, I'm okay with that concept. Sometimes confronting by cheating works well. See Kirk in Wrath of Khan. Ultimately, it means I like the concept of this episode but disagree with its execution. Potentially, this could have been one of the standout examples of Sci-Fi storytelling. Instead, it's only mediocre.
  • It's been done before, but pretty good for for what it is.

    I feel like every sci-fi show has done the "trapped in a virtual environment" storyline. Star Trek has been very liberal with it; there's always a couple of holodeck malfunction episodes strewn through each series (except Enterprise, I believe). It's nothing new, but at the very least it's interesting here. The clown and his crew are pretty creepy. But seriously, when deciding who to put into the pods, would you really pick the chief engineer ? Not enough B'ellana episodes this season ? The end was also a bit abrupt, but overall I thought this was a pretty decent one.
  • Doctor to the rescue in this quirky episode

    When I first watched this episode years ago I probably rolled my eyes when I saw clowns dancing around on screen. But watching the episode a second time on DVD after seeing the entire series there's a lot to appreciate. For starters the fact that fear is manifested as clowns is ironic & true @ the same time. I for one would hate to spend 10 mins with the clown let alone my entire lift. But the main reason why I like this episode is because of the contrast between the dry wit of the Doctor (before they ruined him by turning him into a permanent comedy character) & the eccentrics of the clown. Also the sound track is good.
  • The “Voyager” finds a barren world. The world has plunged into what we would call an ice age. The world has begun to thaw. An automated message comes from the Kohl settlement. How could there be survivors? Some of the settlers are in hibernation pods.

    The “Voyager” finds a barren world. The world has plunged into what we would call an ice age. The world has begun to thaw. An automated message comes from the Kohl settlement. How could there be survivors? Some of the settlers are in hibernation pods. Janeway beams them aboard the ship to inspect them. The hibernations pods are linked to a computer system. The computer system keeps the occupants in stasis. There are two empty pods so Kim and Torres volunteer to go under stasis. Are they in for a surprise? The clown refuses to let them leave.
  • Appreciated this episode much more the second time around.

    I admit, when I first saw this episode years ago, I didn't like it. I just couldn't get over the fact that the clown environment was so obviously staged. Didn't help that Harry was one of my least favorite characters at the time. Ten years later, I've gotten over my Harry hate and I find myself listing it as a near classic episode.

    The issues I originally had with the clown set didn't bug me this time. I've realized that you sometimes need to get over a bad set/costuming in order to enjoy the drama. (a lesson I learned when finally watching the Original Series a few years ago)

    Good character development for both Harry and Janeway, and a chance for the Doctor to expand a bit as well. McKean does a great job of playing the clown. Someone else may've pushed it over the top, but he held back just enough to keep me intrigued. (Or as real as a virtual clown can get.)

    Most importantly, it's a classic storyline about how humanity deals with emotion. The older I get, the more I realize that those are my favorite ST episodes.
  • It's a holodeck episode, without a holodeck and with more clowns. Not quite unwatchable, but not good.

    Voyager's season two was a relatively weak season, as the writers struggled to come up with plotlines that took advantage of Voyager's unique situation. This episode didn't do that.

    In fact, all we had was a slightly scarier holodeck-gone-wild episode, but at least Janeway has the good sense to mention that in passing. (She compared the experience to being on a holodeck with the safeties turned off.) The one big difference here is that "The Clown" (as he is credited) is a computer that can read minds. That adds a slight edge, but since the mindreading is time delayed it's not much of an advantage and leads directly to the deux es machina ending. At least no one say the ending coming, because nothing in the episode even implied that the solution was possible. It's just sloppy.

    The scenes with The Doctor were wonderful, as always, but it's not clear to me how he managed to show up either. I also question the wisdom of a dying planet only saving *four* people in life pods... it's just one of many contrived elements.

    I can't recommend this to anyone but completionists.

  • The crew enters an alien simulation in order to save its occupants from a manifestation of fear that has taken over the program.

    This is the kind of story that all Star Trek series should be doing: the exploration of our the innermost and primitive elements of our own nature. Michael McKean delivers what has to be one of the best performances by a guest actor this season, perhaps even for the entire series. The story was a bit slow-going at first, but that is to be expected as this is episodic television and one way or another, each episode must last exactly 43 minutes and 20 seconds. There were also some problems with the execution, though I do no believe that it is director Marvin Rush's fault. In order to make the simulation as chilling for the viewers as it was for the characters, the production staff would have had to push their imagination - and their budget - to its limits. However, it does give a chance for us viewers to use our own imagination, to think about our own uttermost fears and how they are an essential part of our existence. Overall a truly chilling, humorous and thought-provoking episode all at the same time.
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