Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tom Paris Defies Orders For A Good Reason, About Three Seasons Too Late In “Thirty Days!”

The Good: Decent acting, Engaging enough plot, Good character work
The Bad: Terrible timing in the series, Imbalance among the characters.
The Basics: When Tom Paris works to save an ocean in space, the viewer is proud of him, but wonders why the episode did not come much, much earlier in the character’s development.

Sometimes, the worst aspect of an episode in the Star Trek franchise is its timing within the series. The prominent example I frequently pick is the characterization of Major Kira Nerys in “The Maquis” (reviewed here!). The writers of that episode put early first season Major Kira into a late second season episode and her role there stands out as something of a non-sequitur. “Thirty Days” is like that in Star Trek: Voyager as it completely misses the past three years of Tom Paris’s character development.

Tom Paris, by the fifth season of Star Trek: Voyager has grown to be a responsible, intelligent, reformed convict who has more going for him on Voyager than he would back in the Alpha Quadrant. Like Neelix and Seven Of Nine, Tom Paris is in no particular rush to get home and, as a result, he is quite content on Voyager. When he began the series, though, he was a badass rogue. He, however, quickly rose to the occasion when Janeway offered him the Chief Helm Officer position and made him part of her inner circle. In fact, it was almost a stretch beyond belief in season two when Paris went rogue leading up to “Investigations” (reviewed here!), which put him on the outs with Chakotay.

By the time “Thirty Days” comes along, the viewer has to believe that Paris has suffered a complete relapse of his character to buy the premise. Had this been in the first season of the series, it would have been magnificent. However, in the fifth season, “Thirty Days” stands as a dud from writer Kenneth Biller who, frankly, ought to have known better.

Demoted by Captain Janeway, Tom Paris is sentenced to thirty days in the Voyager brig. There, he begins composing a letter to his father – with exceptionally brief interruptions from Neelix, the Doctor, and Harry Kim. In flashback, he describes how he ended up in the brig. Voyager encountered an ocean floating in space without a planetoid below it. Attacked by submarine spaceships, Voyager makes contact and when Paris, Seven Of Nine, Harry Kim, and Riga (a scientist from the ocean world) discover a structure deep under the surface that is malfunctioning, they work to repair it, but find the planet is on the verge of destruction.

When Tom exhibits frustration with the bureaucrats from the ocean in space, Janeway puts him in his place, evokes the Prime Directive and orders him to prepare to head back for the Alpha Quadrant. But a conversation with Riga clues Paris on how real change could happen. Paris takes Riga and the Delta Flyer into the ocean again to help Riga destroy the oxygen refineries in the hope that the citizens of the planet will build more environmentally responsible refineries when they rebuild. For violating her orders, Paris is sentenced to solitary confinement and demoted to Ensign.

“Thirty Days” is wonderfully focused on Tom Paris, but the other characters are hardly as well-defined or realistically utilized. Chakotay appears exceptionally late in the episode in a token support role. He does not speak up for the good cause and Janeway turns on Paris remarkably quickly.

Ironically, for an episode that is important in the continuity of Star Trek: Voyager, “Thirty Days” illustrates little appreciation for the continuity of Tom Paris’s character. Paris forces Janeway’s hand and is given the solitary confinement and the demotion that lasts more than one season. Tuvok is characteristically efficient in working to thwart Paris and that is about as much character as the episode actually presents. Other than that, the significance of “Thirty Days” is that it marks the appearance of the Delany Twins.

That, sadly, is not enough to make the episode worth watching. As refreshing as it is to see Tom Paris stand for a principle, it seems forced and like Paris picked a particularly lousy time to violate orders. Even so, on its own, the episode is not bad.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the season here!

For other works with Willie Garson, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Zoom: Academy For Super Heroes
Just Like Heaven
Sex And The City - Season 3
Sex And The City - Season 2
Sex And The City - Season 1
NYPD Blue - Season 4
“Sisters” - VR.5
“Episode 20” - Twin Peaks


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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