Star Trek: Voyager: Thirty Days   Rewatch 
December 21, 2017 12:05 PM - Season 5, Episode 9 - Subscribe

♫ You just a terrorist, Mistah Tom Paris / Now you been busted, an' Janeway is flustered / Screw wit' our ocean, you get a demotion / Undah dah seeeea! ♫

You might say Memory Alpha's depth is unfathomable:

- As the installment's duration at first underran by ten minutes, more plot content was needed for the episode. This turned out to be the subplot that involves Paris enduring confinement and narrating the story. According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant, this subplot was suggested by Paris actor Robert Duncan McNeill, who believed that some of Paris' earlier, rebellious edge needed to be returned to the character.

- Ken Biller was ultimately dissatisfied with all the efforts the writers made to develop a plot conceptually centered around "an ocean in space." He complained, "Unfortunately, we never quite figured out the best way to tell a story about it." However, Biller thought some of the other aspects of this episode were successful, including the subplot involving Paris' imprisonment. "That ended up being the most interesting thing," he remarked. "I thought the special effects were great and the ocean was intriguing."

- Because of his actions in this episode, Tom Paris is reduced in rank to ensign. This is the second time in the Star Trek franchise that a main character is demoted in rank; the first occurs in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, when James T. Kirk is demoted from admiral to captain. Paris later regains his rank of lieutenant junior grade in the sixth season finale "Unimatrix Zero".

- After five years of references, the infamous Delaney sisters appear for the first and only time.


"Can't you just replicate me a pizza?"

- Tom Paris, when Neelix delivers leola root stew


"Lieutenant, you are disobeying a direct order."
"I know."

- Janeway and Paris, when Paris refuses to return to Voyager


"At least this time I broke the rules for reason, for something I believed in."

- Tom Paris


Poster's Log:
I seem to be more forgiving of this episode than Biller himself. The semi-accidental Paris-in-the-brig stuff works quite well alongside this otherwise pretty slight story. We've seen this whole captain-being-defied conflict hook before, and it works best when there are consequences for it, such as TNG: "Homeward" and here.

My better-than-VOY-average fondness for this one may partly be appreciation for the fact that they gave Paris a meaty, and good, episode for a change. Through this rewatch, I'm warming to McNeill's acting, even if I still think his overall look and manner doesn't quite fit with the Bad-Boy Inmate character they seem to have intended Paris to be. (Although, as a counterpoint, his brief bio in the series "bible" is almost exactly how the character ended up. It focuses a lot on how his life was derailed by his one mistake in the academy—less that he was always a "bad seed" and more that he had all kinds of promise. There's not much about his overall manner, though amusingly, it ends with "like B'Elanna, he is drawn toward the rock-like steadiness of Tuvok," which I'm not sure is entirely in evidence on screen in Paris's case. We see some evidence of it for B'Elanna in the upcoming episode "Juggernaut.")

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Perhaps belatedly, I'd like to suggest to any followers of these threads that reading the VOY plot summaries on Memory Alpha any more deeply than a light skim is…not recommended. Some very odd style choices in there, and were I more brave (or less aware of how Wikias tend to operate), I'd make a few revisions.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd say that Tom "is drawn toward the rock-like steadiness of" Harry Kim, myself. But the real engine that seems to drive Thomas Eugene Paris forward is the compulsion to push against limits, whether it's whatever stunt got him kicked out of Starfleet originally (not just the cover-up, but the original incident), joining the Maquis, taking part in the "Warp 10" experiment, making the Delta Flyer with old-fashioned controls, and eventually this little adventure, where, even before going on the illegal mission, he's pushing the rest of the shuttle crew further than the ship seems capable of going. And this episode makes a good argument that the real failure, in Tom's mind, is that he didn't go into the Federation Naval Patrol, but submitted to his father's wishes that he follow him into Starfleet. I could see that resulting in someone having a lifelong habit of going places and doing things that he's not supposed to go and do, even as he occasionally comforts himself with nostalgia exercises on the holodeck.

Aside from the solid character development, I also liked the water planet idea, including the idea that the original creators literally yanked all the water off the original world; my guess is that they may have done so to escape the Borg. (I can't remember if it was stated as to just how old the Waters-creating thingy was; the Borg have been around since at least the 1400s.) I'm reminded of this picture that shows how much water is located on Earth and other solar system bodies relative to their total size. The Moneans' reluctance to do anything significant to address the problem is realistic, and sadly relevant. I'm also reminded of just how stark and unforgiving the Starfleet brig cells are, which is a little odd given how generally progressive the Federation is supposed to be. I suppose that personal hygiene facilities might retract into the walls or something and come out when the prisoner needs them, and they might even get fresh clothes on a regular basis. But he has to live on leola root stew and apparently get all his exercise in the cell, and there's no indication that his PADD holds any books or movies. Plus, if, as I noted above, his basic motivation is to push against limits, just being in that cell would be punishment enough. He would have been better off in that penal colony that we first see him in in "Caretaker." (Makes me wonder what sort of facilities that Kasidy Yates, Richard Bashir, and Michael Eddington did their time in in DS9.)

Also on the notional soundtrack: "30 Days in the Hole" by Humble Pie, "I Fought the Law" (Clash cover).
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:33 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


They wasted an opportunity to reveal the Delaney sisters to be, like, Andorians or something.
posted by duffell at 7:14 PM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I liked Willie Garson's character. But his voice is so distinctive it just takes me right out of it. I saw him in Sex and the City and I can't help but picture his character from that show.

I avoided a re-watch because I find the letter-home as narration trope to be tired. But I liked this better the second time. I think it's the Tom Paris character development.

I do like the 100,000-year-old reactor thingy. I wish there was a whole series of Trek of folks just exploring very ancient space-stuff.

The human er... Monean caused environmental collapse is cool.
posted by hot_monster at 8:37 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm somewhat surprisingly kind of looking forward to rewatching this episode. On my first watch I was like, Eh, shoot Paris or don't, whatever. Tom was not a favorite character of mine since the things that stuck with me were mostly his lesser qualities, not the least of which was a good chunk of his relationship with B'Elanna and their arguments/flirting stuff.

On the rewatch though I've started to better appreciate Paris, or more perhaps MacNeill, for having brought more to the character than that and in noting the bad elements were less frequent than memory had them. The better side of MacNeill/Paris and the good elements of his relationships with the rest of the crew have better balanced my feelings about the character, to the point where he's the one that has most improved on second viewing, even as that doesn't erase the less attractive uses they've found for him. This, and a few other upcoming episodes, will be a good test to see which version of Paris wins out for my viewing this time around. Right now he's better, but better enough for the character to more fully win me over still remains to be seen
posted by gusottertrout at 12:45 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


It bugs me that Paris didn't try to chat up the security personnel. There's 150 people on board. Tom Paris knows the two people who took him to the brig. I mean he knows their name. Even if they aren't best buds. He could call them by name. That poor guy in the brig, who seemed to be there every time someone came in. Like, I'm sure he's played basketball with him in an empty cargo bay with a replicated ball. Hey writers, throw those background folks a bone!
posted by hot_monster at 9:17 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh, also, I knew I've seen the Brain Probe from the holodeck somewhere.
Better off Ted S1 E9.
posted by hot_monster at 9:34 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


It bugs me that Paris didn't try to chat up the security personnel. There's 150 people on board. Tom Paris knows the two people who took him to the brig. I mean he knows their name. Even if they aren't best buds. He could call them by name. That poor guy in the brig, who seemed to be there every time someone came in. Like, I'm sure he's played basketball with him in an empty cargo bay with a replicated ball. Hey writers, throw those background folks a bone!

I served on a ship of 150 people for only a couple years and I can say this is absolutely true. After 5 years of serving together I can guarantee that everyone would at least know everyone else's name and where they work, and probably have at least a few social experiences together with parties or sports or eating together on the mess decks. It's pretty clear the writers never really put a lot of thought into this, with most holodeck excursions involving only a handful of people. They just continued to think of Voyager like the TOS or TNG Enterprise where people come and go and there's many more hundreds of them than you can comfortably get to know.

It would be a time-consuming but interesting project to catalog how many extras appear on the show and reconcile that with the crew compliment. Actually with the way facial recognition is now it probably wouldn't be that hard. I would be genuinely curious to see if more or fewer people appear on screen than the actual crew compliment.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:05 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Some really lovely effects showing the water planet at the beginning of the episode, though I'm a little confused by the size of this "planet" since it seems the center is roughly 600 or so kilometers deep, making it maybe one tenth the size of earth? Do I have that right? So less than half the size of our moon? How much water would that be? (Geometry was never my strong suit.)

Harry's Delaney twin interest was kinda cute in a way, I mean I was amused by the joke about his dating history and Harry's own interest was shown as reasonable enough in its way, but Tom's suggestion that being twins made them interchangeable was groansome and unpleasing, and the dynamic of the "episode" they were running also was a bit odd, as if a double date or him dominating Harry. Still, the idea of them all having fun with Captain Proton and seeing them outside the holodeck in costume was cute. I would have liked to see more involvement from secondary crew members like the Delaney sisters in addition to those random security guards Tom ignores on a regular basis since it does add something to the show. Unfortunately, from the production side, that something includes budget so I get why it didn't happen all the time, but it still should have happened more.

Was it really necessary for Janeway to sentence Tom to solitary confinement? I mean as opposed to what? Rooming with the corpse of Lon Suder? And should the prisoners really give up their com badges? Seems risky given all the weirdness that Federation ships encounter.

The scale thing is still a weird issue for the show, with the ocean comment also pointing to it, when they mention the population of the planet being a whole 80,000, which isn't even that big for a small college town. It feels like they're almost afraid to give larger numbers for fear the viewers won't be able to understand them or something at times. It's a weird quirk for the franchise and makes me wonder if there was some enormous calamity no one ever mentions that drove down populations galaxy wide. Oh, and those 80,000 are ruled by 47 regional sovereigns, making their society regional groups of around 1700 Moneans spread around the planet if split roughly equally.

I'm also not sure about Janeway's approach to the inhabitants of the planet being the best choice they could have made. It's dramatically efficient, which is good, but Voyager not retreating from their curiosity based investigation when challenged by the actual inhabitants of the planet and then firing on them seems a bit out of keeping with protocol or good practice, even if in the end it all worked out due to writing it as such.

I really liked the way the central dilemma was set up, with the enthusiasm for unusual nature of the planet and desire to help driving the narrative. It's the kind of thing that the show does well to emphasize to better highlight the purpose of their normal explorations.

It's good to see Tom and Harry getting some buddy time together and Seven made a fine foil for them as well. That too is a good thing to reemphasize for the show to maintain. The writing and directing in their Deltasubmarine trip was fun too, with sentences being started by one of the three Voyager crew members with the camera on them, a cut to the next picking up the thought, and then to the third finishing it in a fluid fashion. A nice little touch suggesting the harmony of working together and competence.

The doctor's little enjoyment in needling Tom over Ensign Culhane's brilliant evasive maneuvers was fun, and Culhane probably should get promoted since lord knows evasive maneuvers in Trek rarely have accounted for much previously.

Is it just me or was the lighting in this episode better than usual? It's a really well crafted episode all around from the production side.

The argument in this episode is interesting, but a bit uneasy too since it, once again, revolves around Trek folk knowing the right thing to do better than some of the citizens of the planet they are visiting. The argument between Paris, the Monean consul, and then Paris and Janeway highlights this, where the terms set by the consul define the relationship they have with their planet and should make whatever decisions they take the "right" ones given that relationship, Janeway takes this as the case, while Paris, for good reason given the writing, thinks that relationship alone isn't sufficient for solving the "real" underlying problem. I'd like to say Paris is definitely in the wrong here because in the most basic sense of rights he is, but as we might note from our own climate change experience "rights" don't necessarily mean doing right, so if one puts the need of the ocean itself first then Paris' argument holds water, um, so to speak. That seems to be the rough analogy they were going for with Riga then taking on something of a mild Earth First correlation which Paris takes up, which is what finds him demoted and in the brig.

As a dilemma from a Starfleet perspective, Paris is wrong. With a galaxy of different situations to balance, his attitude can't and shouldn't be taken up as the defining one since its unworkable at scale and there is not sufficient singularity of need here for more radical actions to be undertaken instead since the resource of diplomacy is more difficult to preserve than that of an ocean at this scale. From a more individualized perspective of what's best for this specific planet of course Paris is right, but the uneasy thing is still in having the need for his involvement to make this individual right course of action known since, on a franchise basis, this reinforces the crew members know best patriarchal attitudes the shows often take on as well. So overall the effect for me is hard to judge since the different possible angles on the specific dilemma cancel each other out in a way depending on how one frames the perspective.

Nonetheless, I'll consider this a slight Paris win from his character side since MacNeill comes off pretty well here notwithstanding some issues that weren't entirely felicitous. The episode itself was better than I remembered with Mulgrew having some nice non-verbal moments of reaction to Tom that showed an interesting range of sympathy, concern, amusement and anger at times, and there was a number of good little moments, like the brief talk between Tom and B'Elanna in black and white on the Captain Proton holodeck "set", and Harry having a moment of self-questioning regarding the attack on the Delta Flyer, in addition to those I've highlighted above. (Chakotay and Tuvok's nonchalant discussion of how to modify a photon torpedo into a depth charge was bit odd, but I guess it's always business first with those guys.)

I'm still not too interested in Tom's Admiral-daddy issues, but they didn't bother me exactly either, so I'll say this one was a solid plus overall.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:32 AM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Scene 1:
Seven: "Targeting forward phasers."
Riga: "No, you can't kill it."
Seven: "I do not intend to. Unfortunately the creature does not seem to be of a similar opinion."
Tom: "How's that upload coming?"
Harry: "Another couple of minutes."
Seven: "Firing phasers."

Scene 2:
Janeway: "Can we reach them with phasers?"
Tuvok: "Inadvisable. It would create a hydro-dynamic shockwave."
Chakotay: What about an old-fashioned depth charge?"
Tuvok: It should be possible to modify a photon torpedo."
Chakotay: "We could program it to detonate once it's in proximity to the Delta Flyer."
Janeway: "Do it."

Okay, so Phasers might cause a hydro-dynamic shockwave. Except they didn't when you used them a few minutes ago on the sea creature. NO WAIT LET'S USE A DEPTH CHARGE TORPEDO INSTEAD. What?!

...

Also, there's a line in this exchange that I had to rewind in order to make sure I'd heard it correctly.

Torres over the communicator: "Torres to Paris."
Tom: "Go ahead."
B'Elanna: Rumor has it that you're free for dinner."
Tom:: "Gee, I don't know. Are you sure you want to be seen associating with an ex-con?"
B'Elanna: "My quarters, oh seven hundred. That's an order, Ensign."
Tom:: "Yes, ma'am."

Come to my quarters at 0700. For Dinner? Is 'dinner' code for something?

but Tom's suggestion that being twins made them interchangeable was groansome and unpleasing

I didn't remember that line from when I watched the show originally. I literally said "asshole" aloud while watching it this time around. They're treated like objects of Paris' fetish. Gross. No way, no thank you.

This episode was fun to look at. It was an interesting concept. But... eh.
posted by zarq at 10:06 AM on December 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


Particle of the Week: Lowly oxygen drives the plot.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Point defense is an important part of Star Trek Online, and many torpedoes have splash damage. I've experienced the same defeat the Delta Flyer had here - totaled by my own torpedo getting shot down - a fair number of times myself.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 3. Used one here.
* Crew: 135.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
I'm catching up, so you guys have mostly covered this. Big thoughts:

* This is gorgeous.

One thing about Voyager: the special effects hold up twenty years later. I loved the whole water planet thing no matter how nonsensical it was.

* Scale issues again!

Some really lovely effects showing the water planet at the beginning of the episode, though I'm a little confused by the size of this "planet" since it seems the center is roughly 600 or so kilometers deep, making it maybe one tenth the size of earth? Do I have that right?

I went ahead and did a little napkin math/lookup on this:
The Earth has a radius of about 6371 km. The difference in volume is considerable though, because we're talking cubes: the formula is 4/3 π r³, so the volume of the Earth is about 1.08*10^12 km³, while the volume of the ocean world is only around 9.05*10^8 km³. (Basically, Earth is about 1200x bigger.)

According to a quick Googling, the Earth has about 1.332*10^9 km³, or about 1.4x what the ocean world had. By Voyager standards, the general scale of all this is surprisingly accurate, even though all the targeting information is wacky in the endgame, as noted.

* Nthing the twins stuff was gross.

Really leapt out at me, especially the bit about the mole. At least Harry comes off less shallow here?

*shrug*

* Paris is wrong, even though his heart is in the right place.

I agree with this:
As a dilemma from a Starfleet perspective, Paris is wrong. With a galaxy of different situations to balance, his attitude can't and shouldn't be taken up as the defining one since its unworkable at scale and there is not sufficient singularity of need here for more radical actions to be undertaken instead since the resource of diplomacy is more difficult to preserve than that of an ocean at this scale.

Saving the ocean is a laudable goal, but it's way outside the scope of what they can - or even should - be trying to do.

* The prison bit is a little weird.

I'm also reminded of just how stark and unforgiving the Starfleet brig cells are, which is a little odd given how generally progressive the Federation is supposed to be.

Right? This is something I can't shut up about when we talk about The Flash around here: the toilet free jail cell. I also thought solitary for a month was a weird choice, although I'm not sure what I would've suggested instead. (Busting him down in rank definitely made sense.)

Reading up:
Aside from the solid character development, I also liked the water planet idea, including the idea that the original creators literally yanked all the water off the original world; my guess is that they may have done so to escape the Borg.

This is a neat idea, although Seven's lack of information about it is a mark against the notion. (Not a definitive one, of course: we don't know how much she knows about what the Borg did, but I'm pretty sure she was familiar with the Vaadwaur later?)

Overall, I think I'm with zarq: this is really pretty and it tries to do something interesting, but I dunno.
posted by mordax at 9:47 PM on December 31, 2017


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