"Thirty Days"

[Disclaimer]

The usual. It's Paramount's playground; I'm just borrowing the equipment. Any resemblance to products, productions, novels, television shows, films, characters, public figures, celebrities, bodily fluids, et al., is purely intended for entertainment purposes.

These reviews are long, highly opinionated, and prone to digressions. They retell each episode from beginning to end in excruciating but dubiously accurate detail. If you haven't seen the episode yet and want to be surprised, run away.

But some people seem to like them, and if you don't mind your Trek with some tongue-in-cheek running commentary, hop on the fun bus and join the crowd, because Fatherly Uncle Jim's in a storytellin' mood.

[Summary]

Tom Paris goes from champ to chump.

Jump straight to the Analysis

[Breakdown]

Whenever you hear trumpets, you know Captain Kate is about to do something official.

We get a HoopCam view of the captain's ready room. We see the captain, standing nose-to-chin with Lieutenant Tom Paris. Both are at military attention. Two familiar security types stand at the doorway. They're armed, and standing at parade-rest.

Nobody's smiling.

Uh oh.

Janeway's voice is low, her eyes arctic. "Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris...I hereby reduce you to the rank of Ensign. And I sentence you to 30 days solitary confinement."

Tom Paris matches her gaze, his eyes grim but defiant. He says nothing as she removes the black-centered pip from his collar.

The de-pipping complete, Captain Janeway takes a step back and nods to the guards. "Take Ensign Paris to the brig." The male guard, a bulked-up version of the lead singer from Fine Young Cannibals, advances and grabs Paris' left elbow.

Ensign Tom Paris shakes it off. He holds up a warning hand. "I know the way," he says with soft intensity. He leads the way out the door as Janeway stares after him.

When the door closes behind her demoted helm boy, Janeway blinks back tears and swallows down the lump in her throat, refusing even in solitude to succumb to emotion.

*

Paris marches briskly through the corridors, eyes fixed straight ahead. At one point he looks skyward, but keeps on walking. Only when he and the guards pass do we notice that Tom has completely ignored Harry Kim, Seven of Nine, and B'Elanna Torres. Harry and Seven, standing shoulder to shoulder, lean against the wall with grim faces. B'Elanna takes a few following steps before thinking better of getting involved.

The long march ends at the turbolift. "Brig," Tom says confidently. The two guards, standing behind him, throw a look at each other as the doors close.

*

The doors to the brig slide open. Tom again leads the way. An officer (Tuvok, I think; we only see his hand and his posterior, which I don't recognize on sight) working at a computer terminal stops what he's doing as Paris stops at his station, removes his combadge, and with a level gaze at the unidentified officer, places it with an echoing clack. This done, his lips tighten with grim acceptance.

But while the courage in his eyes has not failed him yet, when he sees the cell straight ahead, the end of the road, we see a flicker of fear. But only a flicker. When the brig powers up and the lights go on, Tom hesitates minimally before taking those last fateful steps over the threshold and into a cell with little more than a padded bench and what I believe is a sonic shower (can't have the prisoner getting funky, now, can we?). It's not much, but it's home for the next thirty days.

Tom turns around. The swinging of his arms marks the change in his demeanor. The female guard, a stern brick-house blonde who looks solid enough to drop-kick a Vulcan, guards the entry way. Tom stares at her until the flicker between them indicates that the force field is kicking in. When the flicker subsides and only the hum remains, Tom lets out a deep breath. His shoulders sag. The long march is complete.

The blonde guard walks away. If anyone else remains in the room, we don't see them. Only Ensign Paris remains.

He sits on the bench. Gauges its comfort level.

Then he lies down in the classic sit-up position.

He sighs again. And again. He blinks rapidly. As the camera closes in on his face, we see the magnitude of his situation begin to sink in, in earnest, and his breathing resounds like thunder in his ears.

* * *

Ensign Paris, jacket off, shamelessly displaying his lopsided pectorals, rests elbows on knees, looking considerably less defiant than he had in the teaser. A male security guard walks by his cell, looks in but says nothing. Paris offers a sarcastic salute behind the guard's back.

With little else to do, he drops and gives us six. "One..two...three..."

The door opens; Paris notices Neelix entering with a plate of food.

"Ninety-eight...Ninety-nine..." He sounds a bit winded, but not convincingly so.

Neelix reaches the door of Paris' cell just as Tom calls out One Hundred.

"Staying in shape?" Neelix asks cheerfully.

"Oh, yeah. I do it every time I'm in jail," says Tom, no stranger to incarceration.

"Well, I hope all that exercise gave you an appetite," Neelix says, holding up the meal.

Tom makes a face. "Leola root stew again? That's the third time this week! Can't you just replicate me a pizza?"

Neelix smiles apologetically. "Sorry, Tom. Basic nutrition only. Captain's orders." Tom makes a bread-and-water crack, then nods to the guard to let down the forcefield. Neelix notes the PADD on the tray; Tom had asked for it. Tom gives a distracted thanks. "So...Did you ask the warden about those Holodeck privileges?"

Poor Neelix. "Uh, she said, and I quote: 'Tell Mr. Paris this is punishment, not shore leave.'" Ouch. Paris chuckles, but without mirth. "It was worth a try." Neelix rises to leave; Tom begs him to stay. "Sorry. 'No nonessential conversation with the prisoner,'" Neelix quotes.

Tom sighs dramatically. "Did the words cruel and unusual mean anything to her? I'm telling you, Neelix the inmates are getting restless! She's going to have a full-blown prison riot on her hands!" Neelix, shaking his head sadly, says nothing further, and exits.

Alone again.

The food is ignored. Tom goes straight for the PADD. He stares at it for long seconds.

"Begin letter," Tom says at last. "Dear Father..." Tom says semi-formally. He shakes his head. He begins pacing. "Pause...And erase."

He takes a deep breath, continuing to pace. "Begin. 'To Admiral Paris...'" he says with stiff formality. Again, he halts, and snorts with disgust at himself. "Pause...And Erase."

Third time's a charm. A deep breath, a close of the eyes. "Begin."

His tone this time is relatively conversational. There is still some strain in his voice. "Hey, Dad...long time, no see. Chances are you'll never receive this letter..." His voice grows softer. "But in case you do, there's a few things I wanted to say."

Deep breath. Brave face. Tom takes a seat on his bench. "First of all...bad news."

A certain review boy's heart breaks as Paris' next words are uttered, and notes the difficulty with which the words come. "Um...I'm in jail again." The way he says it, you know these are words he never expected to utter again. His eyes glisten, but he quickly recovers. The hard words are out. He even smiles as he imagines his father's expected reaction. "Wait! Keep listening. Don't turn this off."

Another deep breath. We see something new in his eyes. A touch of that resolve with which he marched into the brig. "I want you to know how I ended up in here...Because...It's not what you think."

Tom smiles thinly. "It all started on a morning I was doing something you would find a complete waste of time...."

*

We switch from living color to black and white. A lone figure flies through the vacuum of space, warmed by his leather bombardier jacket and eyes protected by a pair of aviator goggles. He speaks into his wrist-phone, loud and clear, his face unobscured by an oxygen mask, propelled by twin sparklers.

Ah, the good old days of stark realism in science fiction cinema.

"Captain Proton to Buster Kincaid," Tom Paris shouts. "I've destroyed Dr. Chaotica's mind control machine and I'm on my way back to the spaceship."

A Woman's voice responds. "Hello, Proton," the voice purrs.

"Who is this?" Tom demands.

The scene shifts to the inside of Captain Proton's rocket ship. "An old friend." We see a young woman reclining precariously in a chair, copiously proportioned in the manner one would expect from the genre, wearing flowing metallic robes, a pointy feline crown, forty-seven inch heels, and a seductive look of malicious glee on her face.

And even though it may be a black and white production, methinks she's a dark-leaning redhead. Yummy.

"Make that two old friends," purrs a second, sashaying into the scene, waving her robes about expansively. She looks remarkably like the first.

Captain Proton grits his heroic teeth. "The Twin Mistresses of Evil...I should have known!"

"I'm afraid your trusty sidekick is indisposed at the moment."

We see a lone figure with his arms raised, hands bound between two poles. Harry Kim, dressed like a 20th-century sidekick, the Jimmy Olson to Tom Paris' Man of Steel, the Robin to his Batman, the Herb to Tom's Peaches. He smiles confidently. "Don't worry about me, Captain," he shouts to be heard. "I can handle myself."

Hey, now; there'll be none of that here....

The twins peaks of turpitude turn their attentions to the sidekick. "We'll see about that. Bring me the brain probe," one says melodramatically to the other.

"The what?" the other asks, out of character.

"The brain probe, you insolent fool!" the first says, in character, gesturing theatrically toward a cheesy looking thing on a movable stand.

"Oh, right," the second giggles. Then, in character, "Your wish is my command." She wheels the thing over toward Harry. "Sorry, Harry," she says coyly. Hmmm. Apparently these are not Holodeck characters, but actual womenfolk. Huzza!

"No problem," Harry says with a huge smile. He is flanked by the Twin Mistresses of Evil now, and he couldn't look happier about it. Then, returning to character as the loyal sidekick, he stiffens his resolve. "Torture me all you want, Demonica. I'll never crack."

"Oh, but you will," says Demonica, running a glazed fingernail up and down his chest.

"By the time we're through with you you'll be begging to tell us everything you know," says the other.

"You'll be our puppet," coos Demonica, stroking Harry's cheek with the back of her fingers.

"Our slave," purrs the other, beginning to caress him possessively as well, trailing a finger from cheek to chest and back again.

"Great," Harry whispers ecstatically. "You're doing great!" The evil twins continue their stroking, poking and caressing, invoking the traditional Catwoman tickle torture, as Buster insists he'll bend to their will. Sidekicks, as you know, are real stand-up guys.

The door to the rocket ship creaks open. Steam pours through the cracks. And who do we see? Captain Proton, to save the day! Weapon in hand, Proton shouts, "You're done for, Demonica!"

But he's pointed at the wrong twin. "Malicia," Malicia huffs. "She's Demonica." The twin towers of terror turn their attentions to the Hero, while poor neglected sidekick sighs with frustration.

Proton shrugs. "Whatever." He advances. You two are going to jail for a very long time.

"Ooh," taunts Malicia, pursing her lips like a Vargas girl, shrugging her shoulders to Port. "Ooh," teases Demonica, simultaneously, pouting her lips and shrugging to Starboard.

Auuugh, groans Buster.

"Move it, toots," Captain Proton says, waving his ray gun, snapping his chewing gum.

The girls move away from Harry. "He's so brave," says Demonica. Or Malicia. Whatever.

"It's a shame we'll have to kill him," says the other one.

"I've got everything under control, Proton," Harry says insistently, adding pointedly, "Shouldn't you be getting back to headquarters?"

"And leave you at the mercy of these two?" (Insert "Castle Anthrax" riff here.)

"Come on, Tom. I'm just getting to the good part!" Harry begs.

But before Tom can respond, Chakotay summons all senior officers to the bridge. Harry unleashes a primal scream worthy of Dr. Chaotica himself.

Tom shrugs apologetically. "I guess the good part will have to wait." Harry hangs his head in defeat.

*

If there were any doubts that the Twin Mistresses of Evil are real, they are dispelled when we see them, in full malevolent attire, strolling through Voyager's corridors, talking about the star charts Tom had asked about. They're much shorter in color, despite the heels-but then again, both Paris and Kim are very tall. The twins say they'll have the charts to Paris by 1400 hours, with a little help from Seven of Nine.

Harry offers to help; he's off duty the rest of the night. The one he addresses declines politely. He insists it's no trouble, but she says Thanks, anyway. Harry looks disappointed as she walks away.

The other gives a casual goodbye to Lieutenant Paris, and a come-hither farewell to "Buster."

Tom notes Harry's frustration. "I think Jenny likes you," Tom says. Harry doesn't sound enthused. "I thought the feeling was mutual," Tom says, confused. "How many times do I have to tell you?" Harry says, as they head for the turbolift. "I like Megan, but she won't give me the time of day." Jenny? Megan? Could it be?

Tom's confused. "What's the difference?" Harry looks at Tom like he's nuts. "They're the Delaney sisters, Harry! They're twins!"

These are the Delaney sisters? Oh my. The legends are true...Gee, Mr. Braga, it's not even my birthday!

"They're nothing alike!" Harry insists. "Jenny's aggressive, and sometimes annoying--but Megan--she's quiet, artistic, and she's got that cute little dimple in her right cheek."

Okay...someone refresh my memory. Wasn't Megan the "voracious" one who tipped a canoe and Harry, too, in a Holodeck date back in first season's "Prime Factors"?

Paris gets that dog-watching-Jeopardy look. "Jenny doesn't have the dimple?"

Harry shakes his head. "No dimple." He disappears into the turbolift.

Tom blinks. "Hmmm." He also enters the lift.

(Whoa-it's like a conversation between Fish and the Biscuit. Ally McTrek!)

As the turbolift rises, Tom smirks. "Well, you've done it again, Harry."

"What?"

"Fallen for the unattainable woman. First it was a hologram, then a Borg, and now, the wrong twin."

Harry shrugs. "At least I'm consistent." They look at each other and share a chuckle.

(This is the sort of Tom and Harry exchange I've come to know and love...)

*

Still wearing their Captain Proton outfits, Tom Paris and Harry Kim enter the bridge.

"Sorry to interrupt your fun, gentlemen," Janeway says, clapping Tom on the shoulder, "but long-range sensors have picked up something interesting." Lots of Hydrogen and oxygen, plant and animal life, but not an M-Class planet. Tom and Harry quickly take their stations.

When they are within visual range, Janeway orders a visual. They are greeted by a massive, shimmering ball of liquid.

"What is it?" Harry asks.

Tom's mouth drops. His eyes go wide with wonder. "It's an ocean!" he whispers, utterly awed.

(We get an exterior view of Voyager orbiting near a mass of churning water. No land is visible at all.)

"According to these readings it's bigger than the Atlantic and Pacific combined," Chakotay reports.

"What's holding it together?" Tom asks. "Looks like there's a containment field keeping it from dissipating," Kim reports.

Janeway orders an approach. But from the water bursts three mean little ships. "Are those Starships or submarines?" Tom asks. Janeway hails them, but they fire on the ship. She calls Red Alert. They fire again. Janeway hails them again. They get fired on again. She orders Tuvok to take out the lead ship's weapons, which he does with aplomb.

The aliens return the call. "I guess we got their attention," Janeway notes wryly. "On screen."

A skinny guy with an algae-green jacket and a hooded Flotter-skin undercoat greets her. He's got a nose that would make the Kleenex folks weep for joy. "I'm Deputy Consul Burkus of the Monean Maritime Sovereignty. You violated our space. Withdraw or we'll resume firing."

"Consul, we could have destroyed your ships, but we didn't," Janeway reminds him. "We have no interest in a fight." Burkus is still suspicious, though, and demands to know why they're here. "Because we're explorers, and we're fascinated by your ocean, and we'd like to learn more about it and your people, if you'd be willing."

Burkus is taken aback. "And if we are not?"

Janeway gives her best sad-puppy look. "We'll be disappointed, but we'll leave you alone."

Burkus blinks. His voice becomes less aggressive. "Your ship's impressive." Janeway smiles and offers to give him a tour.

Chakotay, ever the dutiful first officer, clearly has his concerns. He turns his head toward the captain, but says nothing.

*

Burkus and Janeway come out of the transporter room together. Following behind are Tuvok and Neelix, each speaking with other Moneans, a male and a female, both wearing red-hooded outfits with the same algae jackets. Neelix chats amiably with the female, blathering cordially about her "fascinating" culture.

Burkus speaks with Janeway. "Forgive our vigilance, Captain. Over the years, my government has had to protect our ocean from more than one hostile species."

"I understand. We're also very protective of our own natural resources."

*

The tour group makes it to the bridge, surprising Chakotay a little. Tom Paris' eyes light up.

"And this is Voyager's command center. Feel free to have a look around." (And while you're at it, here's the best places to target us you ever feel like destroying my ship. May I interest you in seeing some of the technology you'd most like to steal?) Tuvok and Chakotay both shake their heads in disbelief, but she's the captain.

Neelix asks if the Moneans have always lived here. Burkus answers. "Our ancestors were nomadic. They only discovered the waters 300 years ago."

"I'll bet they were as stunned as we were to find this huge ball of water floating in space," Tom says, jumping in, clearly interested. After some quick introductions, Burkus continues. "They realized they could farm sea vegetation extract oxygen from the ocean for their ships...Create a permanent home." There are 80,000 of them living under the sea, he answers Paris' next question.

Tuvok suggests they should go. "Care to join us, Mr. Paris?" Janeway asks, noticing his enthusiasm. "How could you tell?" he asks, leaping at the opportunity.

*

In the briefing room, Neelix asks if the Moneans still live aboard their ships. "We've built an industrial infrastructure and undersea dwellings," Burkus says, "but yes, most of our people still choose to live as our ancestors did."

Janeway asks how the ocean came to be. "In my experience, it's a unique phenomenon." Burkus hands that question over to Riga, the male wearing the red hood. "There are several theories," the mousy, shy Monean says. "Our clerics teach that the ocean was a divine gift from the creators to protect and sustain us. But, in my opinion, the most plausible explanation is that the ocean formed naturally, much the same way that a gas giant does." Janeway likes that theory. "Unfortunately, our limited knowledge of the phenomenon has created a few problems." He explains, despite Burkus' reservations about bringing up sensitive local issues, that the ocean is shrinking, slipping through the force field that keeps the water in place. "Hydro-volume has decreased more than seven percent in the last year alone." They have no idea what's causing it, though Riga believes the ocean's center may have the answers...but the water pressure that far down (600 kilometers) is too intense for any of their vessels.

Paris practically shouts. "Well, we could take you there!

Janeway looks at him with surprise and a bit of irritation. He looks back, surprised she hadn't volunteered first.

*

Later, in Janeway's ready room, the captain and the helm boy sip tea in a surprisingly intimate moment (J/P fans UNITE!!!)

"I had no idea you were such an old salt," Janeway says, laughing lightly.

"When I saw that ocean today it reminded me of the first time I read Jules Verne," Paris says, truly warming to the topic.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," Janeway recalls fondly. (Foreshadowing...)

"I must have read it 20,000 times," says Tom. "I was obsessed with stories about the ocean. All of my friends were busy with their holo programs. I had my head buried in Captains Courageous, Moby Dick..." Janeway, impressed, notes that his historical interests extends to the 19th century as well as the 20th.

"Ancient sailing ships were always my first love. I had it all planned. Finish high school, join the Federation Naval Patrol..." his face clouds. "But my father had other ideas."

Janeway, no stranger to Tom's father, frowns slightly. Her memories of Owen Paris are quite different, but she was simply a subordinate, not a child. "You'd think Admiral Paris might have understood his son's passion," she says carefully.

Paris snorts softly. "As far as he was concerned the only ship I was going to serve on had to have a Starfleet insignia on it."

"Now you have an opportunity to make up for lost time," she observes, amused and touched by his ardor.

"Captain...with a few simple thruster modifications to the Delta Flyer, she will be seaworthy in no time!"

"Good," she says between sips of java. "It'd take at least a week to make the necessary modifications to Voyager."

Tom's eyes light up hopefully. "Then it's my mission?"

"Bon voyage," she says through one of her more endearing smiles.

Woo Hoo!

*

Tom is in Schemer mode again, and once again Harry is his target. "And so, I thought to myself, who better than Harry to be my first mate?" He puts his arm around Ensign Kim.

"'First mate'?" New term to Harry, who can't help but notice. ("Twelve men. One boat....")

Paris chuckles. "Ah. Sailor talk. You'll get the hang of it." Harry relaxes.

"I'm telling you, Harry, I have been dreaming about something like this for as long as I can remember!"

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but there is a mission involved here, right?"

"Of course!" Tom says. "But there's no law says we can't have a little fun along the way."

Tom Paris, intergalactic party boy, is back!

They run into Seven of Nine in the corridor. "Ah, boatswain. You ready to shove off?"

Seven of Nine blinks. "What are you talking about, Lieutenant?"

"Call me skipper," Tom says, way too proud of himself.

"Sailor talk," says Harry. "You'll get used to it."

"I think not." She turns to Tom. "Hull and thruster reinforcements are complete." Paris beams.

Riga arrives, carrying a whole lot of stuff, almost too much for him to handle. "Excuse me...Am I in the right place?"

Paris gets a bemused look, and walks toward the Monean. "Welcome aboard. I see you like to travel light." Riga explains that these are his scanning instruments. Seven says that the Delta Flyer's instruments will be more than sufficient. Riga's face falls; he clearly wants to be helpful, but these aliens seem to make him feel as useful as a spare tire on a snowmobile.

Paris makes him feel welcome, though. He wants nothing to spoil his mood.

*

Delta Flyer slips easily out of the shuttle bay and heads toward the surface of Waterworld. Kim and Seven shout out that all systems are go.

K 20,000 kilometers to the surface.

"Anchors aweigh," Tom says.

And with a mighty splash, the Delta Flyer becomes the Delta Floater, and continues its descent.

Kim looks more excited than usual. In the unlikely event of a water landing, Seven of Nine can be used as a floatation device. (I'm proud to say that I actually stole this from Star Trek: Insurrection. Funny dang show. Go early, go often.)

But nobody could look happier to be here than Lieutenant Junior Grade Thomas Eugene Paris, whose dreams of the sea have finally come true.

* * *

We see a beautiful, expansive, and very active, undersea structure. Paris asks what they are; Riga says they're the Moneans' pride and joy: their oxygen refinery and desalination plant. Seven is impressed by the design; she calls it "efficient."

"We're very proud of what we've built here," Riga says. Tom, eyes wide with childlike wonder, can't help but say, "I can see why."

*

Janeway is staring out her ready room window into space, in a pensive mood. Her door chimes, and Chakotay and Deputy Consul Burkus enter. "Come in," Janeway says, voice sad.. "I'm afraid we have some disturbing news. We've run a computer simulation to determine the rate of dissipation. It's worse than Mr. Riga thought." Chakotay delivers the nutshell: "According to our estimates the ocean could experience a complete loss of containment in less than five years."

Burkus doesn't like that at all. He blames the data (dang politician), doubting its accuracy. Janeway says they'll try to find solutions. Burkus wonders what happens if there aren't any. "You might have to consider evacuating," Janeway says reluctantly.

Burkus' political-survival mode kicks in. "I'm supposed to go back and explain this to 47 regional sovereigns?" (Ding ding!) "They'll pass their first unanimous resolution...calling for my head!"

Janeway is not usually impressed by politicians, and she's not now. But she tries to sound sympathetic. " I can imagine how difficult this must be for you...but you will have to tell them."

"Perhaps," says Burkus, distracted. "But I'll wait until your Delta Flyer returns. Maybe they'll find something tangible."

*

560 kilometers down, the hull starts to creak. Riga freaks a bit-remember, none of his people have ever been down this far, and mere hours ago he may have doubted it could be done-and he's half-expecting sea monsters. Well, maybe not. He looks like the skittish type, but more a nerdy Monean scientist than someone with an active imagination. Harry assures him they've got it under control, and with a few taps of the controls, the creaking stops.

Seven detects a structure a dozen kilometers away. Riga can't believe it. "At this depth?"

Paris adjusts course. It's too murky to see anything without help, but thankfully, Greased Lightspeed is fitted with halogen headlights. Harry does the honors.

Everyone gapes at what they see. Riga in particular. Harry reports that it appears to be a field reactor, powerful enough to keep a water world together...over 100,000 years old...and still working.

Dang.

Riga wonders if the machine's broke, which might explain their dwindling ocean. Paris figures if it is, maybe they can fix it. Riga is intrigued by the device, and immediately starts asking questions-who built it, where did they go, etc.

Harry may have the answers soon enough-the thing's got a computer. He does a scan.

*ding* You've got mail!

Kim smiles. "I'll try to upload the database and get some answers."

(A certain review boy raises his hand timidly in the corner. "I believe you mean download."

Tom Paris looks in his direction. He shrugs. "Whatever.")

While Harry and Seven of Nine work on the database, Tom and Riga discover that something out there...is moving.

It's long. And it's got teeth. A mouth big enough to swallow the Delta Flyer whole. And it's putting off more volts of static electricity than a millipede moonwalking on a shag rug in leather-soled shoes.

Well, Captain Nemo, it's your call....

Riga freaks, wonders what the heck it is. "It's your planet," Kim reminds him. "No one's ever been this far down before. We don't know anything about marine life at these depths," Riga says.

"You are about to have the opportunity to make a detailed study," Seven says, practicing the bon mots she learned from Tuvok.

Every time the electric sperm whale brushes by the Delta Fryer, stuff inside shorts out. Soon, the shields and thrusters are gone. Seven of Nine sets phasers on fillet, and soon that threat is gone. (Don't worry; no undersea leviathans were harmed in the making of this episode.)

But they have no shields or propulsion...and they just sprung a leak.

But on the plus side, the "upload" is still proceeding nicely.

*

In his cell, Ensign Tom Paris is still talking to his dad, very much into his tale now.

"600 kilometers underwater, propulsion off-line, water pouring into the cabin..." Tom laughs at the memory of it; however perilous it sounds, he was enjoying every minute of it. "It was like something out of one of those Jules Verne stories you used to read me when I was a kid."

The recording is interrupted by the familiar klaxon. Janeway's voice is heard over the intercom. "Red alert! All hands to battle stations."

The Brig guard takes off. Paris yells after him. "Hey, what about me? If we're in trouble we need our best pilot at the helm! You can't just leave me here!"

But leave him they do.

When the ship is rocked by weapons fire, Tom is knocked off his feet, lurches into the wall, and slumps unconscious to the ground.

* * *

The Doctor, with his special brand of bedside manner reserved for Tom Paris, employs some health care techniques he picked up from Crell as he patches up Paris' head wound.

Tom seems more hurt that the battle went on without him. "Five ships? And they just opened fire without warning?" Yup, Doc says, applying anaesthetic in the form of bamboo shoots under the fingernails.

"How did we get away?" Tom begs to know.

Doc's grin is feral. He's enjoying this little visit. "Apparently, Ensign Culhane confused the enemy with a brilliant series of evasive maneuvers. I hear Captain Janeway is considering him for chief conn officer."

Paris winces; Doc's having a little too much fun adding insult to injury. "Oh, yeah? Well, you just tell the Captain that Culhane's brilliant maneuvers almost knocked me unconscious. You'd think he'd never flown a shuttle, much less a Starship."

Doc's ministrations, as soon as they begin, are over. Before Tom's done griping, Doc's already packing up. "There we are," Doc says dismissively.

"That's it?" Tom asks, beginning to panic. "Aren't you going to run a neurological scan? Maybe I should be granted a medical reprieve."

Doc rolls his eyes. "Your injury was what Naomi Wildman refers to as a boo-boo."

"Come on, Doc! You don't understand what it's like being down here all day, every day. I'm going crazy!"

Doc waits for the force field to go down, steps through, and the field reactivates (he can't just walk through because he's using his portable holo emitter.) walks through the force field. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the idea?" And off he goes.

Paris shouts after him. "No, seriously, Doc! You might want to take me down to Sickbay for a full psychiatric evaluation. Three or four days of observation at least!"

"See you in 20 days," Doc says from the corridor, just before the doors close.

"Dooooooooc!"

Man. Tommy Boy is on one serious Janeway Dookie List.

Paris sighs. He goes back to his only reliable companion, the PADD. "Resume recording. Okay, Dad, where were we? Ah, right. We had just sprung a leak..."

*

Tom welds the leaks shut. "Nothing like a cold shower to wake up the senses," he says, now dripping wet.

The Delta Flyer's status is not good. The best they can hope for is to jettison all the junk they can and float to the surface.

But Tom wants to stay.

"Tom, don't you think maybe you're carrying this Captains Courageous thing a little too far?" Harry asks.

"Look...it's a good bet that the reactor's malfunctioning. We're only going to get one shot at fixing it." Harry still gapes at him. Tom sets his jaw. "You want to leave? Fine. Give me an environmental suit and you can pick me up after you've repaired the Flyer."

"You're going for a swim? Are you crazy?" Harry asks. He refuses to let Tom stay here alone. Riga says he'll stay too. Tom looks at Seven for her opinion. "It is in my nature to comply with the Collective."

Tom smiles. The adventure continues.

*

Meanwhile, we see water escaping into space. Tuvok reports a breach in the containment field. They begin measures to stop the process while Chakotay tries once again (without luck) to hail the Delta Flyer.

Burkus asks Janeway what happened to the away team, and Janeway has no ready answer. "What am I supposed to tell the council?" the Monean whines.

Janeway takes the deputy consul aside. "Clarify something for me," she says, looking up into the taller but less imposing figure. "Are you more concerned about the lives of the people on that shuttle, or your political career?" Burkus says nothing.

*

Meanwhile, back on the Flyer, Seven of Nine notes that the reactor is doing something unusual. Seven calls it unstable, but Harry's analysis tells a different story: the reactor is doing this on purpose. In short, it's sacrificing some surface water to save itself, without which all the water would dissipate. Paris says this could explain why Waterworld is shrinking.

"Looks like the density of the water's been increasing over the past few years. It seems the reactor's just trying to keep itself from being crushed!" Harry says. Tom asks if they can give the reactor a power boost using Delta Flyer's batteries. Seven says it will probably work, but only temporarily.

"That's better than nothing," Tom says.

Let the recharging begin.

*

We watch as the fountain subsides, and no more water escapes into space.

Tuvok reports that full containment is back. Janeway tries to take credit, but Tuvok says the fix seemed to come "from within."

The deputy consul is pleased. "It looks like our team has succeeded."

Chakotay reports that the Delta Flyer is taking its sweet time floating to the surface.

*

Back aboard Voyager (I suppose), Riga finds Tom Paris working at a computer console. "You found something?"

Paris nods. "I've been studying the generator's database. You're not going to believe this, but apparently, your ocean used to be part of a landmass. As far as I can tell it was part of a planetary ecosystem inhabited by a very advanced civilization."

"Really? What happened to them?"

"That's a good question," Tom says. "All I know is they launched this reactor into orbit. They used some kind of elaborate kinetic transfer system to draw the water and everything in it up to the reactor." We see a visual of water being drawn from a planet into space, becoming a massive floating ball of water.

"Extraordinary!" Riga breathes. "Why would anyone want to move an entire ocean?"

"Maybe there was some kind of disaster on the planet--or maybe it was just an experiment." Yikes. Sounds like Bill Nye got a little carried away...

"That must have been a massive undertaking," Riga says. "Took them almost 200 years," Paris agrees. "I wonder what they'd think if they knew we settled here and built another civilization." Riga says.

Paris frowns. "Actually, I think they'd be pretty concerned." Riga is surprised. Paris explains. "This field reactor that they designed--it's a pretty amazing piece of technology--durable..." Paris hesitates before continuing. "I don't think it's responsible for the loss of containment."

"But as soon as we made the recalibration the water stabilized. I don't see what else it could be," Riga says.

Paris tone grows urgent. "Riga, your mining operations are destroying the ocean!"

*

A little boy with blond hair sitting on the floor plays with an ancient sailing ship, each of its many sails promising high seas adventure. He waves it in the air, imagining it cutting through mighty waves,

A stern, disembodied male voice causes the boy to look up. "You'll never get into Starfleet Academy by playing with toys. Do your homework! Are you listening to me, Thom--"

The man's voice blends into a woman's. The boy's face whips around to the source of the new, but unseen by us, voice. "-omas Eugene Paris. I hereby reduce you to the rank of Ensign and I sentence you to 30 years of solitary confinement...."

The father's voice takes over again. The boy's head whips around. "...Go to your room, young man. That's an order. Stay there and think about what I've said." The last sentence sounds like it comes from both Admiral Dad and Captain Mom.

The wide-eyed child finds itself sitting on the floor of a prison cell. A new voice is coming toward him. A familiar, friendly voice. "Tom..."

*

This one's for real. It's harry, and he's shaking Ensign Paris awake. "Tom...Tom, wake up!"

Tom bolts up, gasping, before he gets his bearings.

"Bad dream?" Harry asks. "Oh...You could say that," Tom says. "You know, you look like hell," Harry tells him, smiling sympathetically.

"Thanks. How'd you get past the guard?" "The Vulcan neck pinch," Harry says. "Come to spring me?" Tom asks.

"Well, the Captain finally gave me permission to visit," (knowing Harry, he probably pestered her incessantly until she gave him permission) "but I've only got a few minutes."

Tom doesn't look entirely grateful. "That's big of her." He sits up, throwing his legs out and planting his feet.

"How are you doing?" Harry asks. "Oh, thirty days? No problem," Tom insists, fooling neither of them.

More subdued, Tom asks, "How's B'Elanna?" Harry says, "she misses you." Tom exhales heavily. "Yeah. I know the feeling."

Kim tries to lighten the mood. "So, what have you been doing to pass the time?" Paris chuckles. "Thinking and...Thinking." He laughs again. "Trying not to think." Tom shakes his head. "Actually, I started recording a letter to my father," he confesses.

"Really?" Harry knows about Tom's rocky relationship with his dad. "Yeah. For some reason, I...I wanted to explain to him how I ended up in here. I didn't want him to think..." Tom shakes his head miserably. "Well, anyway, I realized how ridiculous it was."

"You should finish it!" Harry says encouragingly. But apparently Tom isn't in the mood for encouragement. "Give me one good reason." Harry thinks. "Maybe he'll hear it someday." Tom's voice is soft: "Doubtful." Harry tries again. "You'll feel better getting it off your chest..." Tom snorts with disgust. "Are you bucking for ship's counselor, Harry?"

Harry's tone gets a little snappish. "What are you going to do, delete the letter? That would be pointless."

Ooh. Wrong approach, counselor. Tom's current state of mind is summed up by his next comment. "At least I'm consistent," he says, voice barely a whisper. If Janeway was looking to take the wind out of Helm Boy's sails, she's succeeded.

Harry senses his friend's desperation. "Tom..." But Tom cuts him off at the knees. "Thanks for the visit, Harry!"

Harry takes the hint. He gets up. "See you in 14." (Well, at least he's passed the hump.) Ensign Tom Paris, head down, wallows in his misery.

He hears Harry's voice in the darkness. "What was it you once told me?"

Tom looks up. Harry looks at him, appraisingly, sternly. "That your father used to say you never finished anything?" Harry leaves him with the thought.

Tom sighs. Alone. Again.

* * *

"Resume recording," Tom says to the PADD. "So, we told Consul Burkus about the alien field reactor and how his oxygen refineries were destroying it. He took the news pretty well...At first."

*

In the conference room, Burkus and Riga, Janeway and Paris and Torres, discuss the Moneans' situation. Burkus is speaking. "The council's very grateful for your help, Captain. They've asked me to request the shield and thruster schematics for your Delta Flyer. We're hoping to design a probe that will allow us to monitor the containment generator." Janeway offers everything they've got. (We've come a long way from the days of the Kazon, haven't we? Are they really going to hand over schematics for a ship that incorporates Starfleet, Borg, and other Delta Quadrant technology?) Torres also volunteers an oxygen replication system design that could let them begin to free themselves from the ecologically dangerous desalination refineries.

"I'm sure it'll be very helpful," says Burkus, who sounds entirely uninterested in it.

Riga jumps in. "Our oxygen extraction levels are still dangerously high. I'm going to recommend shutting down refineries four, five and six."

"We'll take it under advisement," says the deputy consul, Bureaucratese for "when pigs fly." He wishes Janeway and her ship a safe journey. Bureaucratese for "come again when you can't stay longer." Janeway says she's got some more suggestions, but Politics Boy shunts her off to Riga. His political bacon is out of the frying pan for the moment; he'd rather not make waves. "He'll include them in his report." Bureaucratese for "nice tie."

Tom jumps in. "I'm curious. Who's going to read that report?" His tone is mildly accusatory. Janeway gives Tom's back a moderately irked look, but says nothing. Burkus says it'll go to a subcommittee, which should tell you everything you need to know about how seriously he intends to take the report. Riga tries to press on the consul the importance of immediate action, and complains that proper channels will result in months of delay.

Burkus says "Thank you, Mr. Riga," which is Bureaucratese for "...and the horse you rode in on."

"You should listen to him," Paris says a little too forcefully. "If you don't make some serious changes around here soon, that ocean won't be here much longer." Janeway shakes her head, doing a slow burn, but doesn't intervene.



Paris takes the offensive, even going so far as to tell Burkus that this really isn't Burkus' ocean, either. They just found it.

Janeway intervenes. "Lieutenant..."

But Burkus, the consummate politician, fields the accusation. "It's all right, Captain. I'd like to respond, but not as a diplomat. As a Monean. You came here claiming you wanted to learn about our way of life--and now, having spent three days here, you're suggesting we abandon it! We have an expression: brine in the veins." He looks at Riga. "Tell him what it means."

Riga, voice soft, tells them. "It's used to describe someone who has special connection to the waters."

Burkus resumes. "My family has lived here for ten generations. We protected this ocean, cultivated it, lived in harmony with the animals that inhabit it. Can you say the same?" Tom has no ready answer.

"I didn't think so. Good day, Captain." With a final unpleasant look at Tom Paris, Burkus, and the reluctant Riga, exit.

Paris turns his agitation to the captain. "We can't just let this go!"

"What do you want me to do?" Janeway asks, softly-that "someone's about to die" softness, like when a rattlesnake stops rattling just before it strikes.

Paris snorts with disgust. "Of course. The almighty Prime Directive," he scoffs.

Uh oh.

"Would you please excuse us, Lieutenant?" Janeway says. It's not a request. Torres leaves, with a farewell to Tom. "I'll see you later." The door closes.

Janeway rises from her seat, and stands nose-to-chin with her conn officer. Her voice is dangerously even, excruciatingly soft. "I know you're upset, Lieutenant, but when you're in a room with me you check that attitude at the door. Understood?" Tom tries to interrupt, but he's no match for her. "We can't expect an entire society to change because we think they should."

"Then you agree with me," Tom says, encouraged.

"Yes. And we gave them the help they asked for. We told them what we know. Now it's up to them to do what they think is appropriate." Whoa. That's not the Action Kate we know and love-she's a replicant!

Paris is clearly angry. "You heard that consul They're not going to do a damn thing!"

"Maybe not, but that's their prerogative." Paris protests, but she slams the door shut. "End of discussion, Lieutenant. At 1400 hours, we'll resume a course for the Alpha Quadrant. Is that clear?"

Tom says nothing.

"Is that clear?" Her eyes begin to glow. He has five seconds to comply, or she'll melt him where he stands.

What a whirl.

Paris blinks. "As a bell."

Janeway nods, satisfied, and leaves him alone in the conference room with this thoughts.

I can see why Tom had trouble telling this part of the story. Janeway essentially just told him to get his mind out of the ocean and back into Starfleet like a good little boy, just like his dad used to.

*

And so we go from brilliant color to the stark Black and White of the Captain Proton program. But the bridge of the heroes rocket ship is nearly empty. There is no action, no adventure. No Dr. Chaotica or killer robots. No redheaded Twin Mistresses, buxom with Evil; no helpless sidekick defiantly waiting for Godot.

Captain Proton is even out of uniform; all we see is Lieutenant Tom Paris, sitting on a set of steps, lost in thought. We see him from across the very large room, where he looks very small indeed-less the heroic center of attention than a small prop blending into the scenery.

B'Elanna Torres appears in the doorway. Her arms are folded, her voice compassionate. "Hey." She pauses. "Here to stamp out intergalactic evil?" There's a gulf between them; the room echoes her words.

Tom chuckles, without mirth. "It's funny," he says softly.

"What?" B'Elanna approaches, leaning over a chair a few meters away. Forgive me for noticing, but her hair looks really good today, as expressive as her other facial features.

"I went on this mission expecting to play out a childhood fantasy. But along the way...when I realized that ocean would just be...gone one day...It started to matter to me."

He shakes his head, laughing softly at himself. "Sounds pretty stupid, huh?"

Torres smiles. It's a nice smile. "No," she says. She walks over and sits next to him. The camera zooms in so all we see is them. B'Elanna leans toward him, and her hair brushes his right shoulder. "No, it sounds like you've found yourself a cause," she says, eyes brimming with affection.

Paris is surprised. He looks at her. "I never thought of myself as a Cause Kind of Guy."

"Well, for what it's worth, I'm proud of you," says B'Elanna, the consummate Cause Kind of Gal.

"Thanks, he says, smiling gratefully. But then his smile fades. He looks skyward. "But Captain Proton's not going to be able to save the day this time, is he?"

Torres also looks up. "What about tom Paris?"

A few seconds later, their heads turn toward each other. Their eyes meet.

Gears start to turn.

*

Riga carries his equipment to the transporter room and asks the crewman on duty to beam him to the council chambers.

Paris breathlessly arrives before transport begins. "Riga..." he faces the guy at the transporter. "You're dismissed, crewman." The man dutifully leaves.

Tom turns to Riga, who looks confused. "I want you to tell me honestly. What do you think's going to happen now?"

Riga's expression is downcast, his tone frustrated. "I think the bureaucracy isn't going to make more than token changes."

"Isn't there anything else you can do?"

Riga's not much for lateral thinking. "I don't see how, other than taking the oxygen refineries off-line."

Paris' eyes light up. "What would happen--hypothetically--if someone were to shut down the refineries?"

Riga thinks. "Well, I suppose they'd have to be rebuilt."

Paris jumps on that. "Yeah, and they'd probably be more willing to redesign them while they're at it. If nothing else, it would grab their attention."

Riga's eyes widen. "Are you suggesting...?

Paris cuts him off. "I'm just asking questions...because I'm not supposed to get involved in the internal affairs of alien worlds...unless, of course, someone makes a direct request..." he adds with a wink and a nudge.

Tom's words sink in. Riga gives him an earnest look. "If you can get me down there, I'd be willing to do it."

Paris saves the caveats for after the sale is made. "You'd be risking your life." And mine, he doesn't add.

Riga swallows, but is unswayed. "I know."

Butch and Sundance, together again...

*

Janeway arrives on bridge, presumably at Tuvok's request, because she goes straight to Tactical.

"Captain, there has just been an unauthorized launch from Shuttle Bay One," he reports. "The Delta Flyer."

Janeway whips around to face the forward viewscreen. "Tom..." The camera cuts away while she's still too stunned for any succeeding reaction.

*

We look into the Delta Flyer from the shuttle's nose. Tom and Riga both look grim as the reflection of Waterworld grows larger.

Then we see what Tom Paris sees, the wraparound window view of the approaching ocean, as it rushes to embrace the vessel. We follow the shuttle's journey right up to, and past, splashdown. (Great visual, by the way.)

And so, Star Trek: Voyager: Insurrection begins.

* * *

Ensign Kim reports that Deputy Dawg Burkus is hailing, and sputtering. Janeway assures him that Tom and Riga's excellent adventure is most unauthorized. "I have to assume they intend to take some sort of...radical action to protect the ocean."

Burkus gives the captain a hard look. "Then I presume you intend to take radical action to stop them."

Janeway gives the rear-echelon weenie one of her best Skunk Eye o' Death looks, and the viewscreen, for its own structural integrity, ends the transmission.

*

Three vessels fire on the Delta Floater, but they're taking on the Best Damn Pilot in the whole goldang galaxy. Tom's taking them straight down, beyond the depth range of the Monean vessels.

Inside the Flyer, it's dark and claustrophobic, like a scene from Das Boot. The computer shouts out warnings about hull pressure. Riga also shouts out a warning, but Paris ignores him; the water pressure worries him less than the weapons fire.

Janeway hails the Flyer. "Return to Voyager immediately."

Paris looks genuinely sorrowful. "I'm sorry, Captain. I can't do that."

"Lieutenant, you are disobeying a direct order," the voice, sterner now, cold as ice, makes him wince. His response is a soft plea for understanding. "I know."

*

"He cut us off," Chakotay says, surprised.

"What the hell are they up to?" Janeway says aloud.

"Looks like they're heading directly beneath the industrial complex," Harry reports.

"Can we reach them with phasers?" the captain asks.

"Unadvisable. It would create a hydro-dynamic shock wave," Tuvok says.

Chakotay gets an idea. "What about an old-fashioned depth charge?" Why, you...

"It should be possible to modify a photon torpedo," Tuvok adds quickly.

"We could program it to detonate once it's in proximity to the Delta Flyer," Chakotay adds.

Harry is properly horrified. Tuvok and Chakotay are practically jumping at the chance to blow the snot out of Helm Boy. He's surprised Doc doesn't show up to volunteer as well.

Janeway barely hesitates. "Do it."

*

Delta Flyer, headlights on, navigates smoothly between the various pieces of the Monean refinery, heading toward the central complex.

*

Tuvok reports that the torpedo is ready, but that the USS Greenpeace is out of range. Harry reports that Consul Dorkboy is on the line again. Janeway orders it on screen, and is greeted by the expected howls of protest. The refinery workers, he says, have been given five minutes to clear the structure. He accuses Janeway of forcing an evacuation on them.

Janeway tells him to clear his people out of there, but assures him she'll protect the refinery. She cuts the line before Burkus has a chance to rant further. Nothing feels better than slamming the phone down on the truly annoying.

Tuvok suggests that if Paris intends to fire on the refinery he'll have to bring his shuttle much closer to the surface, a mere 2000 meters beneath the surface.

"Giving us a window of opportunity," Janeway says coldly. "Precisely," Tuvok says.

Harry protests. "Captain, this is Tom we're talking about. We're not going to open fire, are we?"

Janeway's look would freeze lava. Her hair grows redder as she speaks. "As far as I'm concerned, he forfeited his status as a protected member of this crew the second he launched that shuttle."

Harry gulps.

No question about it. Tom just crossed the wrong woman.

*

"How long till we reach our target?" Riga asks.

"36 seconds."

*

"He's started his ascent," Chakotay says.

Janeway, seated, enunciates her order. "Hail him." Harry opens the channel. "Lieutenant Paris, this is your final warning."

"He's not responding," Harry says.

Janeway closes her eyes briefly. When she opens them, the whites are incandescent. "Arm the torpedo."

Kim blanches. This is all happening too fast. But he does his duty; he doesn't dare do otherwise. "20 seconds to weapons range," he says, voice cracking slightly.

*

In the Delta Flyer, Tom looks back to Riga. "Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

Riga hesitates, then nods. "You?"

Paris returns his attention to the controls. "I've taken you this far. We better arm that missile."

Riga enters the commands. "Missile armed."

Janeway hails immediately. "Stand down, Mr. Paris-"

*

"--or I will open fire," says the captain from the Big Chair.

Ensign Kim is sweating in earnest. "Still no answer."

*

"Time," shouts Riga.

Tom checks. "Ten seconds."

"Nine..."

*

"Eight..." says Tuvok.

"Seven..."

"Six..."

*

"Five..." says Tom.

"Four..."

"Three..."

*

"Two..." says Tuvok.

"One."

Janeway's voice is like the crack of a gavel on mahogany. "Fire."

*

"Fire!" yells Tom.

A green star springs from the Delta Flyer, heading for the refinery.

*

An orange ball of fire leaps from Voyager's right torpedo tube and dives toward the surface.

*

We see the two torpedoes, Paris green and Janeway orange, converge on the same location, their paths destined to meet.

And as expected, when they connect, there's fireworks. A new star is born underwater.

The refinery is saved.

Inside the Delta Flyer, Tom and Riga go flying, as do sparks from a dozen systems.

*

"The Flyer has been disabled," Tuvok reports.

"Their missile?"

"Deflected."

The captain's hands move from her lap to the armrests on her chair. Her eyes roll upward; she squeezes them shut. When they open again, the flames are gone. Only sadness remains.

Mission accomplished.

The immediate mission, anyway. But as for her long-term objective...

*

Captain's log, Stardate 52179.4. After salvaging the Delta Flyer we've resumed our course toward the Alpha Quadrant. I now have to turn my attention to a matter of discipline.

In the captain's ready room, Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Paris stand nose-to-chin. Janeway looks up at Tom; he looks straight ahead, over her head. Two guards stand at the doorway.

Whoa. Deja vu.

There is a difference, though. The camera, which before was looking godlike from the ceiling on the spectacle, now focuses closely on the face of Tom Paris.

Janeway's eyes bore into Tom's nostrils. Her voice is stern, officious. "Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris. You are guilty of insubordination, unauthorized use of a spacecraft, reckless endangerment, and conduct unbecoming an officer. Do you have anything to say?" (What, like "welcome to the club"? At last count, the only sentient creature on board that hasn't committed one or more of those offenses is Naomi Wildman....)

Paris' look is defiant, righteous. "Riga needed my help."

"In doing so, you disobeyed my direct orders," she says.

"Yes, ma'am." No contrition.

"You violated the protocols that govern this crew."

"Yes, ma'am." No fear.

"You nearly caused an armed conflict with the Moneans. And frankly, you're lucky to be standing here right now. I would have destroyed your shuttle if necessary."

"Yes, ma'am." No clue.

Paris finally looks at the captain. "Permission to speak freely." After a moment, Janeway nods.

Tom's demeanor changes instantly. Softer. More intense. "Riga's people weren't going to listen. They were going to ignore our warnings."

"You don't know that."

"Riga knew. And I was the only one who could help them." Earnest. Craving understanding.

Janeway's gaze does not soften. "I understand your passion." (See "Threshold.") "But passion alone doesn't give you the right to take matters into your own hands." That's her job. "Four years ago, I released you from prison and gave you a fresh start. Until now, you've been a fine officer. Your service on this ship has been exemplary. I really believed you were past this kind of conduct."

For just a second, the old, first-season rogue returns. "I've never been very good at playing by the rules." But that doesn't last. His intensity rises. "That doesn't mean that serving under your command hasn't changed me--for the better." J/P fans rejoice! "At least this time, I broke the rules for a reason--for something I believed in."

Janeway's gaze never wavers. "I admire your principles, Tom, but I can't ignore what you've done."

She strips the black-centered pip from his collar. "I hereby reduce you to the rank of Ensign, and I sentence you to 30 days solitary confinement."

She stands back. The FlyCam view returns. "Take Ensign Paris to the brig."

The guards advance. The guy from Fine Young Cannibals grabs his elbow; Paris shakes it off. "I know the way."

*

Tuvok approaches the force field in the brig. "Rise and shine, Ensign. Your 30 days have been served."

Tom Paris squints. His PADD is held in one hand. Groggily, he awakens, and stumbles toward the entrance.

"Report for duty. You may want to shave first," he says, noting the barest hint of stubble on the ensign's chin. (Yeesh; after thirty days I get more facial hair than Chewbacca. Paris looks more like Don Johnson's perpetual two-day beard in the Miami Vice days.

Paris, still trying to wake up, mutters a weak, "Yes, sir." The fire in his eyes is gone. He forgets to take his jacket along, entering the brightened corridor with hand shielding his eyes, his bare arms reflecting the glare. Standing at the open doorway to the brig, Tom looks around. That elusive corridor, so often taken for granted, he is now free again to roam.

*

Tom emerges from his bathroom shaved, showered, dressed in a new uniform. He towels off his face.

"Torres to Paris."

"Go ahead," Tom says, talking to the ceiling.

"Rumor has it you're free for dinner."

Paris smirks. "Gee, I don't know. Are you sure you want to be seen associating with an ex-con?"

Torres' voice is stern. "My quarters, 0700. That's an order, Ensign." After all the times Lieutenant Paris pulled rank on Lieutenant Torres, she enjoyed that way, way too much. But I'm sure we'll forgive her.

Paris certainly has. "Yes, ma'am," he says, smirking.

Tom throws the towel on his bed. The PADD is there. He picks it up, and takes a seat in a chair a few meters away. "Resume recording."

A pause. "Well, I'm out now and back to my duties....I honestly don't know if I'll ever understand you, or what went wrong between us...but I hope this letter helps you understand me a little better."

"Computer, file letter in my personal database...and transmit when we're within range of Earth."

Well, what do you know. He finished something. He didn't quit. He saw it through to the end, reached the light at the end of the tunnel.

And he completed the letter, too.

[Analysis]

Some folks are spittin' mad over this one.

How dare they demote Helm Boy!

How dare Janeway be so hypocritical!

How dare Tom Paris go native!

How dare they take five years to show the Delaney sisters!

You get the idea.

But you know what? I don't care. I liked it.

Demoting Paris is an interesting move, though strictly speaking rank means diddly on Voyager. There's the captain, and there's everyone else. Ensign Kim is as much "senior officer" as everyone else, and I doubt sincerely Tom Paris will be any less the main character now that he's an Ensign rather than a Lieutenant. It will change only a couple of character dynamics: Torres now outranks him, and technically (I believe) so does Harry, since he's been an Ensign longer. So he might have to say Yes Ma'am and Yes Sir a bit more often. But how often does he call B'Elanna or Harry by their rank or last name? Or for that matter, the Commanders Tuvok or Chakotay?

For example. "Infinite Regress" was produced after this episode, but aired earlier. How many of you noticed Tom had only one pip? (A few of you did. But I didn't.)

Like I said. The only person Paris tends to call by honorifics of rank is the Captain, as it should be. Some of the officers, particularly Chakotay and Tuvok and Doc, might take particular glee in calling him Ensign from time to time, but "Tom" and "Mr. Paris" are still likely to be used most of the time. Heck, the first couple of seasons they played musical ranks and nobody paid much attention; I think Harry was an Admiral for a few weeks before Wardrobe got the memo.

As far as I know, "Ensign Paris" is an open-ended deal. I haven't heard any news about when he might get his rank back. But I sure as heck hope Harry gets there first...or at the same time.

The personal dynamic, however, certainly changes.

Torres encouraged Tom to consider how Tom Paris could save the day where Captain Proton could not. She likes the new, activist Tom, who even as a Maquis was in it more for the beer money and the chance to fly ships in adrenaline-pumping situations than for any particular cause. Torres, who has frequently had causes greater than herself to fight for, and Paris, who has typically engaged only for friends (loyalty) and for fun (you gotta fight for your right to party).

This post-"Nothing Human" Torres also has reason to bear grudge against Janeway, who let a holographic rendition of a Cardassian butcher save her life. Janeway ordered her to get over it, but it doesn't quite work that way. Torres is another character who has chafed against the Mighty Prime Directive when her conscience wouldn't let her stay silent, though she's never pushed Janeway as far as Paris did here. I doubt Torres imagined that Paris would go as far as he did, though.

*

The "message" part of the plot may have been a red herring. In your average Message show, good triumphs. The captain may spank the conscience-riddled subordinate, but manage to ensure that good still triumphs. In "Remember," Torres nearly sparks an intergalactic incident when she accuses a species of genocide in the middle of a diplomatic reception. Janeway gives her an official tongue-lashing...and a few clandestine suggestions for accomplishing the desired social awareness. Torres had to do most of the work herself, but Janeway provided the back door.

Here, Janeway lets the Prime Directive rule her actions. You can offer help, but you can't cram it down the throats of the unwilling. And you must go through official channels.

Unless you're the captain, of course.

Tom going native is slightly above his pay grade. Lieutenants, Ensigns and Commanders are answerable to the Captain. The Captain has to make the big calls, answerable to the Admiralty but still given leeway because they are the top-ranking officer on scene. Ultimately, captains are answerable to history, as we saw in "Living Witness" and in countless episodes of the Original Series. Kirk was frequently called on to clean up the messes of earlier captains...and Picard and Sisko still felt the occasional repercussions of Kirk's exploits. Such as all those aliens that bear a striking resemblance to Shatner.

But as we know from TOS's "Court-Martial," as a junior officer, James T. Kirk was a relatively straight arrow, a stickler for details. He didn't start flexing his independent muscles until he had his first starship, and Captain Kirk kept most of his junior officers on a short leash, particularly when they got uppity. Rank has its privileges, because it also has increased responsibility

So Janeway comes down on Paris like a ton of bricks. She likes Tom. She has high hopes for Tom. She stomps him because she cares; she'd much rather take the starch out of his sails than blow him out of the water. By showing us the thirty days of Tom's incarceration, we see why he's there. He goes in bravely, but he comes out a changed man.

We get an interesting contrast here.

At the beginning of Tom's letter to his dad, we see him as Captain Proton, hero and star of his own universe. It's shown in black and white, and so are the characters: the good are really good, the evil revel in their badness. The clash is clear and good always triumphs. It's in the script.

Contrast this to the situation with the water planet. Here the "evil" is a good deal less clear-cut, fighting City Hall rather than guys with names like Chaotica. The Deputy Consul is an officious twit, better at protecting his own backside than knowing what's in the best interests of his people, but that's more a matter of incompetence than malevolence. Or perhaps not; we don't really get to know the full extent of Monean politics, economics, etc. Janeway doesn't much like Burkus, but she's not going to exceed her mandate. The Moneans are free to choose their own destiny.

Paris' approach, the big heroic action ("Who wants to live forever?"), feels good on its surface, but its result would have been an act of ecoterrorism. Burkus as right in this respect: his people had been there for generations, and Voyager had been there for three days. Who is Tom Paris to make those decisions for them? Sure, he was joined in his quest by a native Monean, but Riga had little real clout in his society, and he's not what you'd call a natural born leader. He's more a natural-born sidekick, allowing Tom to take the lead.

Is it a bad thing that Tom went overboard? Yes and no. His mission was ill-conceived, and deserved to fail. But his discovery that he can get swept up in a cause greater than himself is a revelation, which brings him closer to B'Elanna. His period of incarceration gives him time to think-and little else-and he makes a sort of reconciliation with his father, a spectre he's been fighting or fleeing most of his life. With nobody else to talk to, Tom chooses to address the one person whose presence he feels even 70,000 light years away (and they're much closer now). That he feels that presence most keenly at the moment of his greatest shame tells us much.

The letter and the flashbacks are broken up by the occasional visits from crewmates. Neelix, about five days in; Doc, ten days in. Harry, sixteen days in. Throughout those first two weeks, Tom has abandoned all his proud resolve and descended into pleas for attention from anyone and everyone. Even Doc is better than nobody. But by day 16 he's turning Harry away and even abandoning his letter, deep in self-flagellation. His friend turns him around by reminding him of something Tom's father often said: you never finish anything.

What hasn't Tom finished? First and foremost, his life. He knew when he left the ship that he was risking his life and Riga's. He was willing to take that risk, but he was giving up a life that's still worth living. He's got a god job, good friends, good girlfriend. The crew depends on him-but not as much as he may think. Just last week, Janeway made a controversial life-and-death decision to save B'Elanna's life. This week, we learn that there's a talented ensign named Culhane bucking for the job of Helm Boy #1, and that Tom is not indispensable. That sobering realization, that life went on even in a crisis while he was stuck behind bars, shook him to his shoes.

Tom emerges from his thirty days of solitary a changed man. Sadder, wiser, more appreciative of what he's got. He realizes that while Janeway can be a proud mama bear when he's doing well, if he crosses her he's just another bogey with a radar-lock on his Six, and she can make him as miserable as good old Dad could once she hunts him down.

It may do something else important: it puts him in a position he seems to prefer-struggling to prove himself. Recall in "Vis a Vis" how miserable he was, stuck in the rut of responsible adulthood. Now he's a bottom-feeder on the officer food chain, with competition for his job and nowhere to go but up-or out. He's tried Out before, and knows it's a dead end. Up is more fun.

*

The Delaney sisters were fun to watch; their introduction through the Proton program was a good choice, since the mythical Sisters have pretty much been the stuff of boyhood fantasy anyway. It's also an interesting way to show just how far Tom has come the past four years. In seasons 1 and 2, the Delaney sisters were all Tom could talk about. By time we meet them, he's clearly beyond such superficial attraction. He doesn't even bother to distinguish between them. He treats them not as people, but as archetypes, the ship's official Hot Babes. Later, in the Proton program but not playing, we see the man behind the aviator goggles, and his more realistic, three-dimensional love interest, B'Elanna. But even with her, he still sees things in black and white, just like the setting. The Moneans need a hero, he believes. Only he can set things right.

But to quote a friend from her newest story, "Even Heroes..." sometimes even heroes lose. Never in the black-and-white fantasy world, of course, where the details are known in advance and the outcome is inevitable. But real life isn't like that. In real life, actions have consequences. Sow disobedience, reap discipline. Particularly if you're Starfleet.

If it seems unfair that tom Paris has been demoted, consider who else in all the history of Trek has been so treated. I can think of only one: Captain James T. Kirk, who also took his demotion stoically (even eagerly), because "the chain of command must be respected." For Kirk and company, even treason and grand theft starship and sabotage and trespassing and causing intergalactic incidents could be forgiven if his heroics were sufficient...but if you disobey a direct order from a superior officer, Kirk's tush is grass and the Admiralty is a lawnmower. It's a serious infraction, but it's not fatal. In fact, for Kirk, captain beats admiral anyway, as long as he gets assigned the Big Chair on a ship named Enterprise. Just as for Tom, Ensign may well be as good as Lieutenant as long as he's the top gun at the helm.

For a time, Tom Paris captained his own vessel, the Delta Flyer. He inspired the loyalty of his crew. He accomplished his mission in the depths of the sea, and returned his people safely. We know Tom Paris has the potential for greatness. We know Captain Janeway sees that in the young man, and has worked diligently to foster his growth. She stomps him here because he needs it, but she also does something nobody has ever done for him: given him a prison sentence he can actually complete. He was sprung early from the Federation penal colony. In "The Chute," he was jailbreaked by a gun-toting Mama Kate herself. In "Ex Post Facto," she helped exonerate him when he was wrongly accused of murder. He's never endured the full weight of punishment before, never completely paid for a specific wrongdoing. He's always been rescued by someone else (usually the captain). Here, it's the captain who imposes the sentence, and there is no reprieve. Not even in a ship's crisis. Tom must endure to the end. When his term of punishment is fulfilled, he's told to get back to work. "Finishing" is a theme here. He finishes his letter. He completes his sentence. He makes an egregious error, but he doesn't quit. He returns to his post. This is the first time in his life he's been granted such a gift-he has a job to return to.

His chastening is complete. Now, he has his chance to prove himself again. Tuvok talks to him with kindness, Torres wastes no time scheduling their next date. If things are to be different for him as an Ensign, they won't be appreciably different. His friends are still talking to him. He still has a job at the helm. It may not be Captain Proton, but it's still a pretty good life.

*

Some have complained that they've taken a major step back with Paris by making him act like First Season Tom. To a degree, that's true, but like Tom says, "this time it's different." He didn't run away from his responsibilities. He ran toward something this time, something he cared about. He was out of line, yes, but he had a reason that many can relate to. It was a worthy cause-saving an ecosystem-but he bucked the system, and some feel that Tom would never do that. Or if he would have, it would have stopped happening long ago.

Well, I disagree.

We began to see last season a more activist Paris. He was willing to challenge Chakotay when he thought the Commander was ignoring his duty in "Year of Hell." He squared off with Tuvok in an effort to rescue Chakotay in "Nemesis." He went behind Janeway's back, and spoke up inappropriately (if understandably) in her presence, in "Random Thoughts." We saw him challenge both Chakotay and Tuvok in "Nothing Human." Lieutenant Paris has been gaining some serious chutzpah since he successfully lobbied (over the protests of Chakotay and Tuvok) for the creation of his preferred away team vehicle, the Delta Flyer (a multi-person vehicle that makes him essentially a captain of his own ship). Even his newest holoprogram lets him adopt the title of Captain, of his own heroic rocket ship. He's been getting a bit big for his britches, bit by bit, and perhaps it was inevitable that he would begin to think like a captain-with all that entails-rather than as a lieutenant. Janeway needed to reassert her position, which she did about as thoroughly as anyone could have expected her to.

*

Performances were excellent. I loved the interplay between Tom and Harry, in both the good times and bad. His funny lines were genuinely funny; the script crackled with mirth in all the right places. Tom also played well off of Janeway, both in their affectionate scene when he talked about his love for the sea, and in the scenes where they squared off against each other. The "two captains" scene near the end, Voyager v. Delta Flyer, worked nicely. We saw Janeway's anger mixed with her sense of responsibility, and her concern for Tom Paris. Tom is one of those rare people who actually lives to regret crossing her. We got to see the larger issues of Starfleet principle combined with the more intimate issues of two people with very different outlooks both coming together and moving apart. In the depths of Paris' despair, the captain is no different from his despised father. But during his sentence, he speaks to his father, comes to terms with him at least a little, and by extension, he's also worked through his anger with Janeway (if any) as well. He's reconciled himself to authority.

Special kudos to McNeill, Mulgrew, and Wang, who made this episode a joy to watch. Particularly McNeill. Jeri Ryan was also fun to watch as the reluctant player in Tom's real-life fantasy; Seven of Nine is making excellent progress, and her Zinger nicely zing. The Miller/Biller script was emotionally satisfying if not logically bulletproof, and the use of camera angles and color and black and white by director Kolbe was effective.

On my four star scale, call it (* * * ). Strong character episode, and it's nice to know that there will be long-term consequences (no confirmed plans to make him a lieutenant again anytime soon). I imagine we'll see more of this "rebel with a cause" Tom from time to time, but he knows how far he can push Janeway before she locks and loads and unleashes on him.

Next Week: After four and half long years, Captain Kate finally gets some snugglebunnies of her own. But not (save your screams, ladies) with Chakotay.

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Copyright © 1998 Jim Wright

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Last Updated: December 13, 1998
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