Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Thirty Days"

***

Air date: 12/9/1998
Teleplay by Kenneth Biller
Story by Scott Miller
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"My quarters. 0700. That's an order, ensign." — Torres to Paris, a dinner invitation (Can you say "sexual harassment"? And wouldn't 0700 be breakfast?)

Nutshell: A good, albeit not earth-shattering, character study of Tom Paris.

Just what exactly did happen between Tom and his father? How did their relationship become such a mess? Now, more than ever, I'm wondering what that letter sent from Tom's father back in "Message in a Bottle" actually said.

In the opening moments of "Thirty Days," Janeway demotes Paris to ensign and sentences him to 30 days in the brig. Why? Well, that's what the episode is all about.

But more so, this episode is about Tom Paris and what goes on inside that head of his. Unlike last season's dismal "Vis A Vis," this Paris outing feels more like something consistent with character growth rather than an aimless rehash of old Paris themes.

Granted, there's a lot here that is classic Paris fare—a guy looking for a cause, butting heads with authority, letting his feelings take control of the situation, and so forth. What's refreshing about "Thirty Days" is that the story uses the Paris of yesterday and melds him with the Paris of today, resulting in a Paris that seems plausible; he's a man looking for meaning while also looking at his past as a source of both wisdom and warning.

The story takes the right approach in being told in flashback, as Tom sits in the brig and records a letter to his father. ("Hey, Dad, I'm in jail again," he begins.) As the retelling unfolds, we see how Tom finds himself taken in by a cause in a way that probably surprised even him.

It all begins with a big ocean floating in space, which turns out to be a pretty neat concept. Bigger than the Atlantic and Pacific combined, it's essentially a giant sphere of water orbiting a star. It's maintained by technology at its center, which holds it together in a single mass. The problem: This technology is starting to fail, causing the ocean to disperse into space. The ocean's settlers, called the Moneans, ask Voyager for help in finding how to repair the damage before the ocean becomes seriously endangered.

Tom jumps at the opportunity. He has always been fascinated by the water (a newly conjured character trait, admittedly, but one that seems appropriate for him nonetheless), even though his father made sure he followed the Starfleet path.

Well, as luck would have it, with a few modifications the Delta Flyer also makes a good submarine. So Paris volunteers to lead a mission—along with Harry, Seven, and a Monean named Riga (Willie Garson)—to dive to the depths of which the Moneans have been unable to reach with their underwater crafts. The away team hopes to study the technology that keeps the ocean intact and come up with a solution to the problem.

Selling a setting always helps; as such, "Thirty Days" benefits from some nifty underwater special effects. The Moneans have submerged cities and power facilities, which have been well realized by the series' visual effects teams. The idea of an "all-ocean planet" is a fairly good one; even if the people we meet in the Delta Quadrant are still lacking in the awe category, at least the places they live cash in on the aspects of some "cool, different stuff." I can live with that.

After a brief survey adventure (including the brief but neat visuals of an underwater creature attack), the submarine team returns to Voyager with bad news—the Moneans' own use of technology is what is causing the ocean's field to dissipate. If something serious isn't done to correct the problem, the ocean will be gone within a matter of a few years.

The ecological implications here are pretty obvious, but sensible. While I generally don't respond much to messages like "ruining oceans with unsafe technology is bad," I do appreciate the notion of a bureaucracy that refuses to see the big picture; it strikes me as realistic. Bureaucracies tend to ignore the grim, hard facts if an expensive course of action needs to be taken as a result of facing that grim truth. As the Monean official (Benjamin Livingston) so adeptly puts it, his governments' first course of action upon hearing such news is likely to be "calling for my head!"

Bureaucracy, alas, is what appears to be winning out here, and Riga is convinced that the Monean government will probably do nothing until the problem is much more immediate and apparent—at which point, of course, it would be far too late to do anything to salvage the situation. Janeway is thanked by the Monean administrators and handed her proverbial hat.

Paris is furious. So he and Riga, against Janeway's direct orders, steal the Delta Flyer in an attempt to sabotage one of the underwater generators, forcing the Moneans to face the situation immediately. The action surrounding these events is nicely executed. It's not every day, in other words, that one of Janeway's bridge officers embarks on a rogue mission that forces her to open fire on him.

While the plot isn't something wondrous, I did think it worked well on the level of "simple and sensible." It's a series of events where the decisions behind those events become the real meat. For example, what about the implications of these overt acts of treachery? Janeway nearly had to destroy the Delta Flyer to stop Tom from interfering in a government that ordered no further interference. How can Janeway respond to something like this? What do you do when one of your typically good officers suddenly does something so severe that can't be ignored? Janeway's solution seems like the only possible one under the circumstances. (Of course, seeing that such disobedience is possible, one can't help but wonder if the crew is generally just a little too perfect given Voyager's isolation, but that's a whole other story, and I'm not going to start in.) In any case, it's nice to see Tom's actions have actual consequences (rather than stupid ones, as was the case with the "Paris becomes a rebel arc" that took place back in season two and culminated with his spy mission in "Investigations").

Most important about Tom taking matters into his own hands are the reasons behind it—and I for one thought his speech at the end was effective. Unlike in his past days with the Maquis, his actions in "Thirty Days" were for a cause he believed in and was passionate about. In short, he disobeyed orders for a reason. That to me is somewhat interesting, because it reveals a "real" Tom Paris. Not one who is watered down to brainless compliance, resulting in the token Lt. One-Liner we've often seen. Nor is it the pretense of brainless rebellion like in the "Investigations" arc or in "Vis A Vis." This is focused and motivated.

The flashback narrative makes a lot of his introspection possible. Since we know that Paris is to be demoted and thrown in the brig, the story becomes a sort of documentary of his downfall and what he thinks in looking back at it all. It's pretty clear that if he could do it all over again he wouldn't change anything—and that a demotion and 30 days of jail is a small price to pay for something he believes was the right thing to do.

I also enjoyed the little character details. Somehow, although we're not sure exactly how, Tom's problems all come back to his relationship with his father—a relationship where neither truly understood the other. Harry pressing the matter of Tom's letter provides a good voice for a friendly but forceful kick in the rear.

And to shift gears—at last, after nearly four years of throwaway lines, the much-talked-about Delaney sisters, Megan (Heidi Kramer) and Jenny (Alissa Kramer), finally make an appearance. Hopefully it won't be their last. I'd hate to think their limited screen time in this episode constitutes the extent of their screen presence. It would seem like an awful waste of such a long-standing Voyager gag. Regardless, their participation in the Captain Proton holonovel was fun.

I think that about covers it. "Thirty Days" is not a breakout installment of Voyager, but it's a good, fairly understated character outing that gets the job done through the use of personalities and choices. It's nice to see the show take some risks by somewhat regressing Paris in the eyes of Janeway and others in the crew. Let's just hope some of this sticks for a while.

Next week: Janeway is "sleeping with the enemy" on an all-new Voyager. Ack.

Previous episode: Nothing Human
Next episode: Counterpoint

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24 comments on this review

David Forrest - Mon, Mar 17, 2008 - 10:49pm (USA Central)
I would agree with most of your review here---this was defintely a solid outing from Voyager and a solid outing for Paris.

I have to say that the F/X were exceptional during this episode as those shots made the episode really worth it.
Rob - Sun, Jun 29, 2008 - 6:33pm (USA Central)
I liked the episode but I found the punishment a bit harsh based on the last time something like this happened. When Tuvok decided to take matters into his own hands in "Prime Factors", he got a slap on the wrist. Yet Tom is demoted and thrown in the brig for doing the same thing? I guess the captain does play favorites.
Rob - Sun, Jun 29, 2008 - 6:34pm (USA Central)
I liked the episode but I found the punishment a bit harsh based on the last time something like this happened. When Tuvok decided to take matters into his own hands in "Prime Factors", he got a slap on the wrist. Yet Tom is demoted and thrown in the brig for doing the same thing? I guess the captain does play favorites.
Aaron - Thu, Jul 31, 2008 - 1:53pm (USA Central)
When Sanford from "Sex And The City" as the fish guy explains in technobabble how the ocean works (and it's total Trek ridiculousness,) and Janeway says "makes sense," it totally reminded me of how much I missed this so-bad-its-great show.
EP - Sat, Feb 28, 2009 - 2:33am (USA Central)
The production of the episode is okay, no better or no worse than many of VOY's average episodes. I can't help but smile when I see those B&W Captain Proton sequences. And finally, the Delaney sisters make an appearance!

The internal logic of the script, however, is totally bogus. There have been numerous previous episodes where other characters have disobeyed direct orders (Tuvok, Seven, Torres, et. al), and every time punishment needs to be handed down, Janeway delivers a very logical and understandable "I want to punish you, but I can't afford to have you out of action, so life goes on." Makes perfect sense - Voyager's only been losing crew over the years.

But this time, she sentences a vitally important member of the bridge crew to 30 days restriction? I guess it's a good thing that Voyager didn't encounter the Borg, or the Hirogen, or 8472, or she might have had let him out early for expediency's sake.

Not to mention the fact that Paris gets demoted and promoted to Lieutenant faster than Harry can get to LTJG.
Cloudane - Sat, Dec 4, 2010 - 6:34am (USA Central)
Wow. I said after the recent Seven episode that Voyager could do with some character development (or regression) involving characters other than Seven for a change... I wasn't expecting it to actually happen. :)

And another thing that Voyager hasn't done for years: consequences that go beyond the single bottled episode. I was fully expecting Paris to, for whatever reason, be re-promoted to Lieutenant by the end of the episode. Glad to see I was wrong. I bet it happens within a couple more episodes though!

Got to say I have mixed feelings on the likeability of Janeway sometimes. She's pretty ruthless. Picard and Sisko certainly knew when to put their foot down but always with some air of fairness and sympathy. Janeway just does a lot of growling and seems a bit too comfortable sometimes about the idea of destroying ships and murdering people when in her eyes they are wrong (Tuvix, the toxic waste aliens, the intention to kill Paris etc). We've had Sisko gas an entire planet - after warning them to leave - which was probably his moment of being a jerk. But Janeway seems to be like that a lot more often. Scary lady.
Wilbur - Wed, Dec 8, 2010 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
Why would a planet made out of water need a gravity machine at its center to hold it together? Gas giants don't need gravity machines. Maybe the planet was too small to generate a large enough gravity field to hold itself together, but if that were the case, it would have been nice if the episode had actually SAID so. Europa (6th moon of Jupiter) is one big ocean covered by a layer of ice. But even if the ice melted, the water wouldn't just start floating away into space! (Europa has a silicate mantle and a metallic core, but that's not the point. Even if it were water all the way through, it still would generate enough gravity to hold itself together. Right? I'd be happy to be corrected by any astrophysicists in the room.)
Jay - Fri, Jan 28, 2011 - 11:48am (USA Central)
A planet that is oceanic all the way to its core would probably have pressures in the interior capable of forming exotic ices (like VII) due to pressure rather than temperature.
James - Sat, Sep 3, 2011 - 4:55pm (USA Central)
I noticed that the brig cells lack any kind of waste extraction facility...
Nathan - Tue, Nov 8, 2011 - 2:24am (USA Central)
James, they make Harry beam it out. Sucks when he can't get a pattern lock due to gaseous interference.
Rosario - Sat, Mar 31, 2012 - 8:19pm (USA Central)
This episode was pure drivel. I'm supposed to feel pity for Tom Paris? He's whining in that cell like a child within minutes. Holo-deck priveleges? "I had to try"? You're in solitary confinement. They should have turned the lights off. Janeway was 100% correct. We gave them the information, it is THEIR planet and THEIR choice to act upon, Voyager has NO right to interfere. This was not a Prime Directive issue, that only applies to pre-warp civilizations - this was a First Contact situation. Janeway should have court-martialled him and given him over to "local" justice for punishment.
Paul York - Tue, May 8, 2012 - 8:00pm (USA Central)
In response to the comment: "While I generally don't respond much to messages like "ruining oceans with unsafe technology is bad," I do appreciate the notion of a bureaucracy that refuses to see the big picture; it strikes me as realistic."

But it really is more than a case of bureaucracy, both in this fictional world and in our own, which this episode serves as a commentary on. The issue is maintaining an unsustainable status quo for the sake of endless economic profit. Mining operations in the fictional ocean and on Earth are responsible for environment destruction. And on Earth industrial development has led to the death of the oceans through global warming and pollution and over-fishing. I am glad for a fictional social commentary through Star Trek. Humans learn through narrative (vis-a-vis "Darmok"). The fictional government is much like Canadian and American governments today that ignore the hazards of what they're doing to the Earth's oceans. The popularity of Star Trek has a lot to do with its social commentary and its vision of a sustainable humane future. I don't understand the point of denying that.
Paul York - Tue, May 8, 2012 - 8:17pm (USA Central)
I think Paris' and Rega's actions were justified in this case. Earth Liberation Front (E.L.F.) would agree. Captain Janeway's approach would condemn that society and that ocean to death within five years. The Federation is not supposed to violate the Prime Directive, but that principle should be violated in situations where the good of the society and the environment and individuals' basic rights are at stake. It is a principle that make sense to prevent colonialism, not inaction in the face of injustice.
Nic - Wed, May 9, 2012 - 2:50pm (USA Central)
Yeah, that's a pretty strange mistake, isn't it? Maybe Torres was working the night shift, and as such would really want to have dinner at 7 a.m. :)
Michael - Fri, Apr 12, 2013 - 1:51am (USA Central)
Does the Prime Directive even apply to a warp-capable civilization? I think the Federation's non-interference policies (in foreign governments) are the issue here, but they have historically played fast and loose with those (Picard and the Klingons, Sisko and the Bajorans for examples).
mike - Sun, May 5, 2013 - 10:33am (USA Central)
Didn't move me. First off, a planet entirely of water is just as possible as a planet entirely of gas. We didn't need all this technobabble junk science to explain its existence. Secondly I don't think we learned anything more about what makes Tom Paris tick than we already knew. Paris is hot dog who bucks authority. Yeah, we know, and so what? We still need an interesting motive and this ecology story doesn't do it. The story failed to convey the danger the aliens-of-the-week were in. It was just some technobabble danger that really didn't impose itself visually. The water world was loosing its cohension? Ridiculous! The Delta Flyer can fire phasers underwater? Ridiculous! And let's get back to Paris again for a moment. You would think someone whose is no stranger to prison wouldn't act so stir crazy about 30 days in a brig. And how come Kim got to visit him INSIDE the cell no less but no one else could? Don't even get me started about the Captain Proton nonsense. It's the only thing sillier and more boring than Fair haven. I won't be viewing this episode again.


Jo Jo Meastro - Tue, Jun 4, 2013 - 12:04pm (USA Central)
I liked it, the way that the episode is simple yet effective in its' approach is very refreshing and there was a hint of vintage sci-fi about it which is my cup of tea. There's plenty of little touches and an attention to detail to help you really buy the story, not to mention Captian Proton is the best holodeck programme yet! So yeah, simple and very effective and quietly memorable is how I'd describe 30 Days. Jammer mentioned somewhere that so far season 5 has a tendency to split between really good Voyager to bland or bad Voyager each episode, not as consistent as I remembered season 4 being but I'm happy with the highs this season is hitting so long as it avoids too many lows.

I noticed a theme for season 5; characters on a low or struggles within themselves. We had Janeway in The Void, Torress in Extreme Risk, alternate Harry in Timeless, the Delta Flyer crew in Once Upon A Time, Seven in Infinite Regress, possibly the Doc et al in last episode and Tom in 30 Days. Interesting.
Mike P - Sat, Aug 24, 2013 - 9:38am (USA Central)
@Paul York
" I think Paris' and Rega's actions were justified in this case. Earth Liberation Front (E.L.F.) would agree"

Well, at least your consistent. In the comments for Nothing Human your arguments would put animal rights on par with human rights, an agenda P.E.T.A would be proud of.

Now, in Thirty Days, you advocate for E.L.F.

Dude, the fact E.L.F. would agree is definitely not proof an action was justified. Its would actually define a particular action as a terrorist act.
Strejda - Mon, Aug 26, 2013 - 9:04am (USA Central)
@Rosario what about that alien who asked him for help? I'm not saying Paris was in the right but is it really that horrible to do something that wouldn't really harm anyone that would save milions of lives? If our planet was about to be destroyed, and some alien would try to help even against will of our leaders, would you really blame him?
Caine - Mon, Nov 25, 2013 - 9:26am (USA Central)
HAHAAA!

Underwater buldings, submarine action, attack of the 50-foot killer croc-dino ... I love it!

This is probably my favorite action-episode on Voyager so far. Paris as the rogue hero, flying in the face of authority and beurocracy to take action ad "do the right thing" really made me root for him.
The "shock-start" with Paris' demotion and incarceration, Janeway forced to fire at the Delta Flyer, Paris' letter to his dad - lots of great dtials in this episode!

Sure, there are (as always on Voyager) stuff that doesn't make much sense ... but this is one of the episodes where this nonsensical stuff doesn't steal focus from the story, at least not for me. Maybe that's also due to the great pacing of this episode ... someone barely says somehitng moronic, then we're off into the underwater adventure on planet Raindrop.

I love it! 3,5 stars from me :)
john - Wed, Dec 18, 2013 - 2:49am (USA Central)
I think the capt was being a bitch. Anyone in their right mind would have stop the idiots wrecking the ocean if it was in their power to do so. She should have helped Tom, not stopped him.
Ric - Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - 3:31am (USA Central)
"I think the capt was being a bitch. Anyone in their right mind would have stop the idiots wrecking the ocean if it was in their power to do so. She should have helped Tom, not stopped him"

Yeah, because that's what Trek is about. About saying to other people, cultures, countries, planets or civilizations, what they should do with their destinies. Even more: forcing them to do what Voyager/we think is "for their own good". Nope fellows, that's just us in the 21st century US. And it seems there is not immediate hope for us in this century if we think it's pretty normal to do so.

That said, I find it amusing that people think Paris did not deserve that much of a punishment. He did not only disobey a direct order. He technically commited an act of terrorism in a foreing friendly planet! Not to mention interfere in the inner businness of a foreign planet (guys, having warp tech only means the civilization can be contacted, not treated as a puppet). Paris' punishment is the least he deserves. Let's just imagine that in all similar situations each crew member will just go there in a Rambo style imposing to other planets what Voyager decides to be better for them!

Now, it is not to mean that the episode was bad. On the contrary, it was a joy to watch. From the character development that was long needed for Paris, to the outstanding visual effects for that time in a TV show, from the acting to the plot itself and how it was played. I really liked this one. By the way, it is amazing how seasons 4 and now the 5th have shown huge quality improvement.
DLPB - Sat, May 3, 2014 - 4:35pm (USA Central)
Ric, if Star Trek was being consistent, they wouldn't be communicating with any culture when passing by. By communicating they are already interfering, or placing themselves in a position where they will.

Trek wants it both ways.
Ric - Sun, May 4, 2014 - 6:46pm (USA Central)
DLPB, sorry but no.

I have no idea from what show did you get such a concept. It is pretty established since much earlier in the franchise, that Starfleet ships and officers should avoid contacting civilizations without warp-drive, not "any culture when passing by". However, they should avoid interfering in the business of any culture, warp-drive or not, with quite strict exceptions (like being asked for help when it does not alter balance of power, etc).

So, these are two different things: not contacting pre-warp civs (exaclty because in that case just by contacting they would be interfering in their existence), and not interfering in any other way the business of any warp-drive civ.

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