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The Trek Nation - Thirty Days

Thirty Days

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 3:58 PM GMT

See Also: 'Thirty Days' Episode Guide

Janeway reduces Paris to the rank of ensign and sentences him to 30 days in solitary confinement. In the brig, after doing push-ups and eating leola root stew (Janeway's orders were that he receive only basic nutrition and no conversation), Paris starts recording a letter to his father explaining how he ended up there. While playing Captain Proton on the holodeck with Harry and the Delaney sisters, Paris was summoned to the bridge to investigate an unusual discovery - an ocean in space with no solid core, held together by a containment field. The Monea Maritime Sovereignty tried to warn Voyager away, but Janeway told Berkus, the leader, that her crew were explorers, and offered him a tour of Voyager. He came aboard with his assistant Riga, explaining that his people had only been on the planet for a few hundred years, using it to farm sea vegetation.

Because the lieutenant expressed interest in the ocean world, Janeway invited Paris to a meeting where the crew discussed the problem of the ocean increasingly losing containment. In true Captain Proton style, Paris suggested that he take the Delta Flyer down 600 km to the center to perform an analysis. Janeway asked him when he became such an old salt; Paris said it came from reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a child, though he rejected the captain's suggestion that Admiral Paris would have understood such an obsession because Tom's father never wanted him to serve on any vessel that wasn't Starfleet. After making Kim the first mate and recruiting Seven of Nine, Paris took Riga down under the ocean surface, where he admired the Sovereignty's refineries before diving deeper.

At 560 km below, Seven discovered multiphasic energy readings, and the crew found an ancient reactor about 100,000 years old. Riga told them that no one from his people had even been so far down, so he had no idea where the reactor might have come from. An attack by a giant electric eel disabled the flyer, wrecking the thrusters and requiring that a soaking-wet Paris manually repair a leak. When the others suggested abandoning the mission, Paris said that he'd go out himself in an environmental suit to continue the investigation. Interrupting his narrative, he laughs to his father that this sounds like a Jules Verne story; just then Janeway calls a red alert and the prisoner is thrown to the floor.

When the Doctor comes to treat Paris, he informs the former pilot that Ensign Culhane saved the ship during the attack and was therefore being considered by Janeway as chief conn officer - Paris' former position. The Doctor is unmoved by pleas that solitary confinement is driving the young man crazy and he needs psychiatric evaluation. Returning to the recording, Paris tells his father they were able to determine from the core computer that the reactor was not functioning correctly: energy which should have been used to contain the ocean was being diverted to maintain the reactor's structural integrity. Having discovered from the core that the ocean was once part of a planetary land mass which launched the reactor into orbit to draw the ocean into space, the flyer crew was able to restore full containment and ascend to the surface. Janeway discovered independently that the ocean would lose containment in less than five years; Paris noted that it seemed to be the Sovereignty's mining operations which were destroying it.

In a nightmare, Paris flashes back to his father yelling at him for playing with boats as a child; interspersed, he hears Janeway's voice demoting him in rank. Kim wakes him, suggesting that he should finish his letter and reminding him that Admiral Paris used to say that Tom never finished anything. Paris recalls telling Berkus that their oxygen refineries were depleting the ocean; Torres had an idea for a safer refinery, but Berkus suggested that the sovereignty would make a decision in due course. When Paris yelled that by dragging their feet, they were risking the ocean, the Monean informed him that his own family had lived in the ocean for ten generations and that Paris should mind his own business. Privately, Janeway concurred, and became angry when Paris scoffed at the Prime Directive.

Torres visited Paris as he sulked in the Captain Proton program, telling him she was proud that he'd found a cause which mattered to him and suggesting that if Captain Proton couldn't save the ocean, maybe Tom Paris could. Paris went to see Riga, who said the only solution would be to take the oxygen refineries offline; then they would have to be rebuilt, and could be made safer. Paris said that he could not get involved without a direct request, but - in a neat side-stepping of the Prime Directive - offered to fly Riga to the planet to destroy the refineries if Riga asked. Tuvok detected an unauthorized launch of the Delta Flyer and advised Janeway that a modified torpedo might disable it; after giving Paris several audio warnings, she agreed. Voyager fired the torpedo at the same time the flyer fired the missile to destroy the refineries. The missile was deflected, and the damaged flyer was towed back to Voyager.

During the meeting where she took his rank, Janeway informed Paris that after taking him out of prison, she'd hoped he had gotten past this sort of behavior. Paris agreed that his conduct was unbecoming a Starfleet officer but insisted that he was the only one would could help Riga save his people's ocean. Concluding his letter in his quarters when his thirty days are finally over, Ensign Paris tells his father that he doesn't expect approval, but hopes for understanding.

Analysis:

Well, this is an interesting spin on Tom Paris - sort of the return of the rebel from first season, and sort of not. I didn't particularly find his actions out of character except for his betrayal of Janeway: that's something I never expected from him, but she was so resolutely Starfleet in this episode, such a switch from the woman who wanted to work with Torres in "Remember" to help her crewmember right a wrong in another society, I understood why Paris felt he had to work behind her back. I thought Janeway's reducing his rank was completely appropriate, but thirty days in solitary...exactly whom was that supposed to benefit if she intended to return him to the bridge, as it seemed at the end of the episode that she would? As Paris pointed out during the brief real-time battle, he is the ship's best pilot, and now he's a month behind in all ship's business. Clearly Janeway doesn't expect him to flee or try sabotage, so I found the punishment both harsh and a little silly considering that she'd already shot at him; confining him to quarters during non-duty hours and revoking his holodeck and replicator privileges would have made more sense, for Tom and for the ship.

We didn't learn much new about Paris' relationship with his father, either: the flashback sequence seemed gratuitous and forced, especially since we heard Admiral Paris say similar things to Tom all the way back in "Persistence of Vision." So on the one hand it's redundant and on the other hand there's some continuity going there. I did like Paris and Torres' relationship development, both in response to his confinement and when she encouraged him - none too subtly - to break Starfleet rules and follow his cause. It makes sense that Torres might have some contempt for Janeway's position now given the way Janeway treated her last week, though once more I must wonder why the writers are eroding the captain's authority this way. As in "Timeless," I thought Harry Kim had a good episode...though I thought it was Jenny Delaney rather than Megan whom he was after all the way back in "Prime Factors." But I guess maybe he switched sisters, just as he seems to have gotten over Seven of Nine (hey! there's hope for Harry yet!). Having finally seen the Delaney sisters, I was none too impressed. I was hoping the casting would break with the expected stereotype rather than reinforce it. And again, I don't much like Captain Proton, despite the cheap laughs. Can't Tom play with himself, or at least parody himself and his boy-toy genre, without involving the rest of the crew?

Visually, this was an interesting episode, though there wasn't nearly enough underwater footage to satisfy my hopes when they encountered the water planet...well, I guess one cannot say "planet" about a body made entirely of ocean without a solid core, and I found the technobabble gimmicks explaining its existence to be annoyingly vague. The scenes of the flyer hitting the surface and submerging were very well-done, as was the tantalizing glimpse of the underwater city. It's too bad the budget didn't permit for more of that. It's also too bad that it didn't permit Voyager itself to submerge. But I have a hard time believing that in such an instance, Janeway - faced firsthand with the evidence of what would be lost - would have permitted the Moneans to leave without a fight. As they pointed out, there were other species living in the oceans, plant and animal life which presumably exists nowhere else. Does the Prime Directive which permitted her to fight for the Ocampa against the Kazon forbid her from trying to protect them?

It's the sort of muddled question brought up by this week's Star Trek: Insurrection as well as this episode...and it's worth noting that metaphasic energy, the new wonder particle which keeps the ocean contained, is also the most coveted substance in the galaxy in the new movie. Maybe if Voyager could harness some, it could send the ship home.


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Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.