Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Voyager, Season 5: Thirty Days, Season 5
"Thirty Days"
Airdate: December 9, 1998
101 of 168 produced
102 of 168 aired


Tom Paris is reduced in rank and confined to the brig after disobeying orders in his attempt to save an alien ecosphere.

Meanwhile, Harry Kim gets into some light bondage with the Delaney sisters. Safe word: "Libby"


Matthew: This episode features a flashback structure, which I really kind of enjoyed. Paris' letter to his father mimics the "Captain's log" idea in some ways, but connects us more to the emotions of the character delivering the flashback dialogue. It also gives us a lot of detail about Tom. He has a love for the sea, sea stories, Captains Courageous, the "Federation Naval Patrol," that sort of thing. His tension with his father is fleshed out from his perspective. His ability to get caught up in a dream, and to disobey Starfleet chains of command as a result, is effectively dramatized. Do I have questions? Sure. 30 days in the brig seems unnecessarily cruel. Wouldn't confinement to quarters have sufficed?

Kevin: Yeah. He didn't kill anyone. I think this is one of those times where the structure of the episode kind of dictated some plot elements. It's not fatal, but it does get a little...odd. By modern standards, that would be cruel and unusual punishment for even violent criminals. It just feels like the framing device got away from them. They wanted to give time for the letter to unwind, and I appreciate that, but I think they could have found a less extreme way to do it. I think my problem is even Janeway's anger, regardless of the procedural particulars seems out of step. I understand the idea that Janeway would take a special interest in Paris' rehabilitation, but was this really that lapse? Literally EVERYONE on this ship has disobeyed orders for a noble cause. She can be pissed and have to pull rank, but she's playing this like a more personal betrayal, and that seems discordant with the actual crime.

Matthew: So this is obviously an ecological story. As those stories go, I would say this is among the better ones. It lacks any obvious sermonizing about the crazy twentieth century that we barely survived, and it doesn't present the Moneans as obvious dipshits. I basically understood and found believable their establishment's viewpoint. Did the science make sense? Nah. "Mining" the ocean was... increasing its density? How could any of their activity have any meaningful effect in either direction on the planet's density? I also generally liked Janeway's take - she believes the science and does her best to entreat the Moneans, but she's not about to forcibly insert her values into their world. I wonder if the equation would have been different if it weren't a particular biosphere she was saving, but if sentient beings were under threat? Anyway, I did find her hardball with Tom to be a bit hard to believe. Would she really have destroyed the Delta Flyer (which included a Monean citizen as well), killing him to preserve the sanctity of the Prime Directive? I believe some captain somewhere might have done so. But Janeway? Hmm.

Kevin: Yeah, the particulars of the ecological disaster are a little thin, but it's certainly not an egregious use of technobabble. Technology X causes Problem Y but we can't abandon it without major upheaval. Classic Trek story. I agree that there should have been something to ramp up the tension, like a danger to a sentient species or something. And as much as I like the work done by MacNeil in the episode, I feel like "love of the ocean" is a little tacked on as a character trait. They could have given that trait to any character. Still, it's not bad, it's just a little by the numbers.

Matthew: There's a lot of fun stuff in this episode. I really enjoyed the slice-of-life stuff with Captain Proton, Harry, and the Delaney sisters. I'm a big fan of Captain Proton for what it does to the holodeck - makes it into something real, being used in the way we (fans) might really use it. I liked the idea that Harry was attracted to the wrong sister, and I enjoyed the idea that people get into character to use the holodeck.

Kevin: My one nagging complaint is that I wish this episode had referenced in some explicit way whatever caused Paris' fall from grace the first time. I've always just kind of filled in the gap with Nick Locarno, but this seems like an episode where it would have been pretty organic to discuss it.


Matthew: It's a real acting clinic for Robert Duncan McNeill, with plenty of solo scenes in the brig and basically screen time for the entire episode. I think he was up to the task. Is he Olivier? No. But he is relatable and believable throughout. I've always liked his everyman sort of charm, and he was also quite good chafing against his punishment. I wish the script would have let him go a little insane, which 30 days like this seems bound to do. This was also quietly a really good Garrett Wang episode. He can definitely play low-key, disappointed, pining for a woman's affection, that sort of thing. Kate Mulgrew was unusually stern in this episode.

Kevin: I largely agree. He's never been my favorite character the way he's been yours, but I certainly can't fault anything here. I agree that he should be a little more...out of the end, but the arc of the framing sequence of the episode was really well done.

The Moneans were pretty good. Riga, played by Willie Garson (the squirelly gay guy with small colored glasses  in "Sex And The City") had a good, nerdy awkwardness that lent itself well to the character. Consul Burkus, played by Benjamin Livingston, was an effectively douchy bureaucrat, but I can't say I liked him. I guess that was the point, though.

Kevin: It is slightly jarring seeing Stanford in this context, but he did a good job. He had the right energy of an overburdened and unheeded bureaucrat.

Production Values

Matthew: The ocean world effect was pretty good, especially for the era. The lighting, water movement, and sound effects were pretty well done. I also liked the shot of planet out of the ready room windows. It was a great idea, and helped sell the locale, but I will admit the compositing looks a little "early" as far as CGI goes. The scenes underwater were pretty convincing, though the lighting did tend towards the muddy. Realistic, perhaps, but less exciting than starker lighting.

Kevin: I think a show made today would have had a little more license to do those scenes more realistically. It would really just be a single light cutting through jet black and I can imagine a conversation going something like how you can't not show the shuttle in the shot. Still, for all of the ways it could have gone off the rails, they did a good job.

Matthew: I really liked the ship/sub designs, they looked comfortable both in water and in space. The details and lighting effects were good on them, and they're among the best ships on the series so far. The creature out of Delta Flyer window compared pretty favorably to the sea creatures in Star Wars Ep. 1, which premiered around the same time as this show. 

Kevin: The makeup work while being pretty "Westmore-head" was still pretty solid. They looked like sea creatures. I do think those wimples were re-uses of the surgical scrubs from earlier series, but I'm not overly annoyed at it.


Matthew: I could easily see a 3 or a 4 for this episode. It probably depends on how much interest you have in the Tom Paris character. Since I like him quite a bit, I found this episode to be above average entertainment. The science and ecological angles weren't realized perfectly, but the character story was way above average, and the effects and acting were pretty good, too. So I'm going with a 4.

Kevin: I think this stays inside the 3 range for me, probably in part because I respond less powerfully to Paris' arc. It's a good episode, but I think if both the crime and its punishment felt a little less contrived to allow the letter writing device to move forward, I may have had a stronger reaction. Still, a total of 7 is nothing to sneeze at.

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