Tom Paris is demoted to ensign and is sentenced to thirty days in the brig, for taking illegal action to try to save a vast, inhabited ocean floating in space, that is in danger of destruction.
Captain Kathryn Janeway, commander of the Federation starship USS Voyager, stands in her ready room aboard the vessel, face to face with her flight controller, Lt. (J.G.) Tom Paris. Two security officers are present at the door.
Janeway regards Paris sternly. She pronounces his full name and her punishment against him: demotion to the rank of ensign and incarceration for the next thirty days in the brig. Paris stands at full attention, staring straight ahead, silently, defiantly. She reaches for the two pips on his collar, one black and one gold, indicating his Lt. (J.G.) rank, and plucks the black pip away, leaving only the gold one, the insignia of an ensign. She then orders the security officers to escort him to the brig, pointedly referring to him by his new, lower rank.
The officers advance, but Paris shrugs them off, telling him he knows the way. He turns briskly and leaves, the officers behind him. Janeway stares silently at him as the door closes behind them. He is seen marching along the corridors, the officers behind him. He looks neither right nor left, as passing crewmates pause and stare, some with great concern. He enters the turbolift with the officers.
Arriving alone at the brig, they enter. They stop at the "turnkey station," where Paris removes his combadge and surrenders it to the officer on duty. He enters a cell. The officer activates the cell entrance's force field, sealing him inside. He lies down on the bunk at the back, and does not move again, breathing slowly. The daunting task of enduring thirty days confinement looms large on his face.
Paris has removed his uniform jacket. A security officer is on duty, monitoring him. Neelix, the ship's Talaxian chef, enters with a tray of food. But it is only basic nutrition. Paris complains, but Neelix responds that the Captain has ordered he receive only basic nutrition for the duration of his incarceration. Paris then asks him about his request to the Captain for time on the holodeck, but he is again disappointed; she has denied it.
Neelix then turns to leave. Paris asks him to stay and talk, but he replies that the captain has issued an edict about that too: "No nonessential conversation with the prisoner." He is to be punished psychologically as well as with confinement, by being denied all his favorite things: good food, company and his beloved "Captain Proton" adventures. Neelix leaves, genuinely sad at having to do so.
But Captain Janeway has granted one of his requests: access to a PADD for him to 'write' with; it would be akin to torture to have him confined and isolated with absolutely nothing to do. He picks it up from the food tray and sits on the bunk.
He begins to dictate on it a letter to his father, Admiral Owen Paris. He has no idea if he will ever receive it, not knowing, of course, if Voyager will ever return to the Alpha Quadrant. He also knows his father, whom he believes never thought much of him, will probably not be surprised to hear that he is again in jail. So he takes great pains to describe the circumstances that led him to the brig in detail, so that the elder Paris will know that this time, unlike the last, his incarceration is not for disgraceful reasons, but for noble ones. (VOY: "Caretaker")
It started, he begins, on a morning that found him doing something he knows, he dictates, "you would find a complete waste of time." He is seen playing Captain Proton on the holodeck. In this adventure, he is joined by his usual partner, Operations Manager Ensign Harry Kim, playing Proton's sidekick, Buster Kincaid. Also joining them, playing the part of the villains Proton must defeat, The Twin Mistresses of Evil, are two female officers: monozygotic twin sisters Jenny and Megan Delaney, friends of Paris and Kim.
But their fun is interrupted by a hail from First Officer Commander Chakotay, ordering all senior staff, of which Paris and Kim are a part, to the bridge. They leave and Paris and Kim quickly obey, not bothering to change out of their costumes. They arrive on the bridge. Captain Janeway informs them that a very strange reading his been picked up on sensors: a celestial object that is not a planet, but teems with life. Paris and Kim go to their stations.
The ship comes within the sensors' visual range of the heavenly body. Janeway orders an on-screen view. What is seen astonishes all present: it is a planet-sized globe made entirely of water; literally, a "world ocean." There is no land at all anywhere in its composition, only water. Kim scans it and reports that a containment field is holding it together. Paris gazes at it in great, childlike wonder.
Suddenly three small ships burst forth from the surface and rush up toward them. Janeway orders an attempted hail, but they do not respond, instead, firing on Voyager. Their weapons do no damage. She calls a red alert and again orders an attempted hail. But again the only answer is weapons fire. She orders Tuvok, the Vulcan chief tactical officer, to return fire, targeting the lead ship's weapons. He does so, disabling them. She again orders an attempted hail. This time, they respond.
On the viewscreen appears an alien wearing a jacket and a hooded undercoat. He identifies himself as Deputy Consul Burkus of the Monean Maritime Sovereignty. He orders Janeway to withdraw. She responds that she and her crew mean them no harm, explaining that they are explorers and are simply fascinated by their "world ocean," and would like to learn more about it and them. This is evidenced, she submits, by the fact that Voyager could have easily destroyed them all, but has not. Burkus accepts this, noting the impressiveness of Voyager. Janeway smiles and offers him a tour.
Janeway, Tuvok and Neelix, who functions in these first contact situations as captain-appointed Starfleet ambassador, take Burkus and a party of his people, called Moneans, around the ship, ending in a visit to the bridge. Here Neelix asks them if the Moneans have always lived in this "world ocean," which the Moneans call The Waters. Burkus responds that their ancestors found it 300 years ago, and decided to settle there, farming aquatic vegetation and extract oxygen for their ships and undersea settlements. The group leaves, but before it does, Janeway invites Paris to join them. He gleefully does so.
Voyager orbits The Waters. In the briefing room, the Moneans explain further about The Waters. Riga, another of the party, tells them they have no idea how The Waters were formed, but he theorizes that they formed in the way a gas giant does.
But, he explains further, their lack of knowledge about its formation has led to problems: it has begun to shrink, as the water has recently begun to dissipate through the containment field. They believe the answer to stopping the loss is to be found at the center, 600 kilometers down, but their ships are unable to go down that deep. Paris enthusiastically (and inappropriately, earning him a surprised and somewhat irritated look from Captain Janeway), tells them that Voyager can help them do so.
Later, in her ready room, Janeway sits informally with Paris, having tea. She asks him about his enthusiasm in trying to find a way to assist the Moneans save their "world ocean." He responds, somewhat glumly, that he has always had a keen interest in the sea as a child, back on Earth, even wanting to join the Federation Naval Patrol. But his father, Admiral Paris, was adamant that he be a Starfleet officer. He earnestly insists that a few adjustments to the Delta Flyer, a specially designed shuttle he developed for Voyager, will make it capable of submarine operation. With a smile, Janeway approves, much to his great joy.
The Flyer is made ready. Paris and Ensign Kim make ready to depart, along with a third crewmember, Seven of Nine. Also a companying is Riga, one of the Monean party. The Flyer leaves the shuttlebay and, after a quick final systems check, Paris, the pilot, puts it into a controlled nosedive. It plunges into The Waters, disappearing beneath the surface.
The Flyer descends into The Waters. It passes a large, active industrial structure, which Riga identifies as one of their oxygen refineries. The Voyager crewmembers find it most impressive. Paris gazes at it in wonder.
Captain Janeway is in her ready room, looking out her windows at the surface of The Waters. First Officer Chakotay and Deputy Consul Burkus enter. Chakotay reports to her, in Burkus' presence, that the rate of water loss is worse than previously thought: the entire "world ocean" will dissipate in less than five years. They may have to consider evacuating if a stop is not put to the loss. Burkus, hearing this for the first time, shows typical first concern as a politician: for his own position. He doubts the accuracy of the data, and fumes about having to report this projection to the members of the government, the 47 regional sovereigns. They will, he grouses, undoubtedly pass a resolution demanding his political head. Janeway seems somewhat annoyed at this, and insists that telling them is the right thing to do. He sighs and responds that he will wait and see what the Flyer finds first.
The Flyer is 500 kilometers down and still descending. The hull creaks a bit, to the consternation of Riga, the first Monean to be at these depths. Kim assures him all is well, and makes a few adjustments to the controls. The creaking stops.
Then Seven detects a structure twelve kilometers away. This shocks Riga; what structure could there be at this depth? None of his people have ever been so far down, so it cannot be theirs. Paris heads for it, turning on powerful external headlamps so they can see it out the windows. Kim scans it and surmises that it is a field generator; this may be what is generating the containment field that is keeping The Waters together. Even more shockingly, its age appears to be over 100,000 years. Kim finds that the thing has a computer system, and begins downloading its database.
But then a shadow passes. An immense aquatic creature, eel-like, and many, many times larger than the Flyer, appears. It is a predator by the look of its mouth, which is rimmed with dagger-like teeth. Like the Earth fish knows as the electric eel, it discharges large amounts of electricity that begin shorting out systems on the Flyer. Riga has no idea what it is; not having been at these depths before, his people have no idea what lurks down here. Seven, however, uses a few shots from the shuttle's phasers to convince the creature to find easier prey.
However, the damage has been done: they have lost propulsion, shields and are leaking.
Paris sits in his cell, recounting the incident, as the PADD records it. Suddenly, Voyager is shaken. Janeway's voice comes over the com, sternly calling red alert and ordering all hands to battle stations. The officer on duty quickly departs. Paris calls after him; if the ship is under attack, he, Paris, the flight controller, should be on the bridge at the conn station. But the officer does not respond, and a second jolt throws him into a wall, knocking him unconscious.
Paris comes to and finds The Doctor, the crew's holographic chief medical officer, over him, ministering to his injuries. They are not serious, no more than a bump on the head. Paris gets up, sits on the bunk and asks him about what happened.
The Doctor informs him that they were attacked by five ships. He then takes the opportunity to frighten Paris, for all the times Paris has annoyed and exasperated him, by telling him about the sterling performance at the helm of Ensign Culhane, who has temporarily replaced him as flight controller. He twists the knife even further by suggesting that Captain Janeway may be considering making the appointment permanent, from what he has heard.
Finishing his ministrations, The Doctor packs up his medkit and turns to leave. Paris pleads with him for a neurological scan or something, to get him a medical reprieve and an early release; the confinement and isolation are getting to him now; he has been here for ten days and has twenty more to go. But The Doctor will not do this; it would be unethical, and would land him in hot water with the captain, should she find out; she may confiscate his mobile emitter, confining him to the sickbay as Paris is confined.
After he has gone, Paris sighs, returns to the bunk and resumes dictating his letter to his father. He is seen in the Flyer fixing leaks. He is soaked. The leaks are plugged, but without thrusters, the only way they can surface is to jettison what they can to achieve positive buoyancy and float up. However, Paris insists on staying; this may be their only chance to study and fix the containment field generator. Kim strongly disagrees, given the state of the Flyer. But Seven also decides that they should stay, and so Kim goes along.
Aboard Voyager, on the bridge's viewscreen, a great frothing disturbance appears on the surface of The Waters. A huge column of vapor extends from the center of the disturbance, into space. Tuvok reports to Janeway that it is a containment field breach. She orders measures taken to stop it.
Burkus asks her about the Flyer. She has no ready answer, as they have been out of contact for a while, but not long enough to be alarming. Burkus becomes flustered, wondering aloud what he is going to tell the council. This greatly annoys Janeway; she sternly asks him which one he cares about more: his political career or the lives of the people on the shuttle trying to help his people. He does not answer.
On the Flyer, Kim, who along with Seven, has detected the breach on the sensors, finds, however, that it was not a malfunction, but done "deliberately" by the field generator. He finds that the density of the water has been increasing over the past few years, and the generator is periodically creating breaches in the containment field to release the building pressure on itself, to keep itself from being crushed. Paris surmises that they can boost its power using the Flyer's power cells, thus enabling it to handle the increasing pressure without releasing water. Seven agrees, but cautions that the effect will be only temporary. They carry out the procedure, and then begin floating to the surface.
Aboard Voyager again, Riga finds Paris working at a computer console. He has found information that shows that The Waters used to be, in fact, part of a land mass; they were the oceans of a planet that was home to a very advanced civilization. It is unknown what happened to them, but they were the ones who created the generator. They launched it into space and it kinetically drew all oceans unto itself, along with all life in them.
Riga is stunned yet again; neither he nor any other Monean had ever thought of this as an explanation for the origin of The Waters. He asks Paris why this civilization would have done such a thing. Paris can only guess.
But this is not the biggest shock Riga has in store; that comes from what Paris tells him next: the generator's periodic dropping of the containment field is not what has been causing the water loss. It is the Moneans themselves; their oxygen-mining operations are the cause.
Paris lies in his cell, having an unpleasant dream about his father sending him to his room for playing with ancient sailing-ship models, instead of doing his homework. His father's voice morphs into Janeway's voice, speaking her punishment against him. The unpleasant dream fades away, however, as Ensign Kim, who has come to see him, wakes him up.
Paris now looks as haggard as he feels. His face is covered with stubble, and he looks disheveled. Captain Janeway has finally relented a bit on allowing him visitors, but has ordered Kim to keep it to a few minutes. Paris has fourteen more days to go.
He asks Kim about his, Paris', girlfriend, Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, the chief engineer. Kim responds that she misses him. He asks Paris what he has been doing to pass the time. Paris tells him of the letter he is writing. But he is unsure if he going to finish it, or wants to. Kim is shocked; he insists that Paris should finish it. But Paris does not want another lecture, and snaps at him to leave. Kim does so, but not without a cutting parting comment about him proving his father right: he never finishes what he starts.
Paris continues his letter, recounting the presentation of his findings to Deputy Consul Burkus. He, Captain Janeway and Torres are seen in the briefing room discussing them with Burkus and Riga. The Starfleet officers offer to provide alternative oxygen production technology to the Monean government, but stress that the oxygen mining must be cut back or cease, to stop the water loss and save their world.
Burkus, acting like the politician he is, diplomatically promises to take the findings under advisement, when it is patently obvious he has no intention of doing anything about it. His only concern is the political backlash against him for recommending that the mining operations be stopped. Paris sees this, and begins to angrily remonstrate with him. This angers Janeway. Burkus leaves in a huff. Riga follows sadly. Not being a senior official, his hands are tied.
After they have gone, Janeway angrily rebukes Paris. She stresses that, according to the Prime Directive, their hands are tied. Paris' response, borders on insubordination. At this, Janeway dismisses Torres and very angrily warns him to "check the attitude". She stresses that she agrees with him, but they can do no more; they cannot force the Moneans to accept their recommendation. She tells him in no uncertain terms that they will be departing. He acknowledges, fuming, but careful to keep it controlled.
He goes to the holodeck and has the computer activate the "Captain Proton" environment, but without the characters. He sits glumly in the simulated bridge of Proton's ship. Torres enters and sits with him. He resignedly tells her that he had thought that this would be the chance to revisit his childhood love of the ocean on a scale he could not ever have imagined as a child, but finds himself unable to save this world ocean. Torres suggests he may still find a way to do so.
Paris looks at her. A plan forms in his mind. He has thought of a way. He goes to one of the transporter rooms and finds Riga preparing to return to The Waters. Paris dismisses the crewman at the controls and asks him conspiratorially about taking more decisive action to make the government listen. Riga is in agreement.
Captain Janeway arrives on the bridge in response to an urgent call from Tuvok. He informs her that the Delta Flyer has left the shuttlebay, without authorization. She immediately knows who has taken it. Aboard, Paris and Riga are grim-faced as Paris takes the craft down and nosedives it into the water.
On the bridge, a hail comes in from Deputy Consul Burkus. Janeway orders an on-screen answer. He agitatedly tells her Monean sensors have detected the Flyer. Janeway informs him who the occupants are, and tells him her assumption that they are planning "to take some sort of... radical action to protect the ocean." Burkus agitatedly voices his hope that she is planning to stop them. Her angry glare is confirmation that she intends to do just that, and she ends the communication.
Beneath the surface of The Waters, three Monean ships fire on the Flyer, but Paris' expert piloting skills makes the Flyer easily escape them. A hail comes through from Janeway. In an extremely stern voice, she orders him to return immediately. He refuses, his voice sad.
On Voyager's bridge, Chakotay reports with disbelief that Paris has cut the communication. Kim reports that they seem to be heading for one of the oxygen refineries. The implication is clear: Paris intends to damage the facility to force it off-line. The Starfleet officer is about to commit more than a violation of the Prime Directive; he is about to commit an act of terrorism.
Janeway asks about the possibility of using phasers to stop him. Tuvok advises against it; it would create a hydrodynamic shock wave throughout The Waters, causing massive damage to the Monean infrastructure and civilian populations. Chakotay suggests using a photon torpedo as a depth charge. Tuvok agrees that this will work. Janeway agrees without hesitation, her expression extremely hard. Ensign Kim is horrified.
As the Flyer approaches the complex, Tuvok reports the torpedo is ready, but also reports that the Flyer is too far down for it to get close to the craft. Burkus hails, thoroughly agitated. He accuses Janeway of authorizing Paris' action to force the shutdown of the refinery. Janeway coldly responds that an evacuation is advisable, but she intends to protect the facility. Burkus begins to protest further, but she orders the transmission cut.
Tuvok informs her that Paris would need to come up closer to the surface, away from the blast range, if he intends to fire on the complex. This would put the Flyer within range of the torpedo. Janeway orders Tuvok to fire when this happens. Kim, horrified, asks her if she really intends to fire on Paris. Janeway coldly responds that Paris forfeited his status as a protected member of the crew the second he began this action.
The Flyer begins to rise. Janeway hails it and issues another warning to Paris to stand down. He does not respond. He asks Riga if he is really ready to go through with it. Riga hesitates then nods. Paris arms the torpedo he intends to use.
Janeway issues one final warning to Paris. He does not respond. Tuvok begins counting down the seconds until the Flyer is within range, as Paris counts down the seconds until he launches the torpedo. At the last second, Janeway orders Tuvok to fire. There is absolutely no hesitation in the command. The Flyer fires at the same time as Voyager. Its torpedo streaks toward the complex at the same time Voyager's torpedo races down into the water, toward the Flyer.
But Tuvok has made a slight adjustment. Instead of targeting the Flyer, he has timed the shot so that he would hit the Flyer's torpedo upon its firing, and not the Flyer itself. He succeeds. The two weapons meet and explode, knocking the Flyer away and disabling it. Inside, Paris and Riga go flying amidst a shower of sparks. Tuvok reports that the Flyer is disabled, but not destroyed. Janeway's eyes close in relief. But when they open, they show sadness, along a steely resolve to deal with Paris for his actions.
Janeway stands in her ready room face to face with Paris. Two security officers are present at the door. Janeway regards Paris sternly. She angrily lists his offenses: insubordination, unauthorized use of a spacecraft, reckless endangerment and conduct unbecoming an officer. She demands to know what he has to say for himself. He resolutely responds that he did what was necessary to save this world; Burkus and the government would never have done what they needed to do.
Janeway responds that she understands his passion and his reasoning. But he had no right to take matters into his own hands in this manner. She expresses disappointment over his conduct, musing aloud that she thought he was past this sort of thing. (VOY: "Caretaker") He responds quietly that this time he broke the rules for a good cause. She responds that she admires his principles, but she cannot ignore his actions.
She pronounces his full name and her punishment against him: demotion to the rank of ensign and incarceration for the next thirty days in the brig. Paris stands at full attention, staring straight ahead, silently, defiantly. Janeway reaches for the two pips on his collar, one black and one gold, indicating his Lt. (J.G.) rank. She plucks the black pip away, leaving only the gold one, the insignia of an ensign. She then orders the security officers to escort him to the brig, pointedly referring to him by his new, lower rank. The officers advance, but Paris shrugs them off, telling him he knows the way. He turns briskly and leaves, the officers behind him. Janeway stares silently at him as the door closes behind them.
Tuvok enters the brig and goes to Paris' cell. His sentence has been served. Tuvok rouses him and drops the force field. Paris steps out, and Tuvok orders him to clean up and report for duty. Paris leaves, the PADD with the letter in his hand.
In his quarters, Paris emerges from his bathroom, shaved and in a fresh uniform, his one gold pip on his collar. Lieutenant Torres hails him and invites him for dinner that evening after his duty shift. She jocularly makes it an order, eliciting a smile from him.
He sits down with the PADD and ends the dictation with a notice that he is out and has returned to duty, and the voicing of a hope that it will allow the elder Paris to understand him better. He orders the computer to file it away and transmit it when the ship is in range of Earth.
"Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris, I hereby reduce you to the rank of ensign. And I sentence you to thirty days solitary confinement."
- - Kathryn Janeway
"Do 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."
- - Tom Paris, while he is the only person in the brig
"It is in my nature to comply with the collective."
- - Seven of Nine
"Captain, I am reading an unauthorized launch in the shuttle bay – the Delta Flyer."
- - Tuvok and Janeway, realizing Paris has left for The Waters
"Lieutenant, you are disobeying a direct order."
- - Janeway and Paris, when Paris refuses to return to Voyager
- The working title for this episode was Down Deep
- After five years of references, the infamous Delaney sisters appear for the first and only time.
- Because of his actions in this episode, Tom Paris is reduced in rank to ensign.
- This is the second time in the Star Trek franchise that a main character is demoted in rank. The first occurred in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when James T. Kirk was demoted from admiral to captain.
- It is not explained what happened to Riga at the end.
- Captain Janeway stated that they were giving oxygen replication to Moneans, contradicting her stance in earlier episodes when she refused to give it to the Kazon.
- Benjamin Livingston's costume was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. 
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series. Trek nearly swept the category that year. Also nominated were VOY: "Dark Frontier", "Timeless" and DS9: "What You Leave Behind". "Dark Frontier" won.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.5, 7 June 1999.
- As part of the VOY Season 5 DVD collection.
Links and References
- Willie Garson as Riga
- Benjamin Livingston as Burkus
- Alissa Kramer as Jenny Delaney and Malicia
- Heidi Kramer as Megan Delaney and Demonica
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; brain probe; bread; brig; Captain Proton; Captain Courageous; consul; containment field; Culhane; deflector; Delta Flyer; depth charge; electric eel; Federation Naval Patrol; field reactor; Goodheart, Constance; gravimetric discharge; high school; immersive shielding; kinetic transfer system; leola root; mind control; Moby Dick; Monean; Monean Maritime Sovereignty; Monean reasearch vessel; multiphasic energy; ocean; oxygen refinery; Paris, Owen; photon torpedo; pizza; Prime Directive; shock wave; structural integrity field; thermic discharge; Twin Mistresses of Evil, The; Verne, Jules; volt; Waters, The
|Star Trek: Voyager