ashmh (ashmh) wrote,

Janeway's Law of Punishment


Every time I watch the "STAR TREK VOYAGER" Season Five episode, "Thirty Days", I feel a surge of anger. I am sure that this particular episode is familiar to many "TREK" fans. In it, Tom Paris is demoted to ensign and sentenced to thirty days in the brig for taking illegal action in an attempt to save a vast, inhabited ocean floating in space that is in danger of destruction.

This episode does not mark the first time when a member of the crew – specifically, a Senior Staff member – had commited an illegal act that angered Captain Kathryn Janeway. The following is a list of those officers and crewmen who pissed off the captain:

*B’Elanna Torres and Tuvok (with Joe Carey and Seska) acquires a matrix trajector from someone on Sikaris, behind Captain Janeway’s back, in order to use the technology to get Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway lectures both B’Elanna and Tuvok, but does not punish them. ("Prime Factors"; Season 1)

*Following a successful raid on Voyager by Seska and some Kazon, Chakotay decides to go after them to retrieve or destroy the Federation technology stolen by Seska . . . without Janeway’s permission. Janeway lectured Chakotay and enters a reprimand in his official file. ("Manuevers"; Season 2)

*In an attempt to acquire a map of the Nekrit Expanse, Neelix helps an old friend illegally sell medical supplies ("drugs") to a murderous drug smuggler at a space station. When Chakotay and Paris are arrested for illegal drug trading, Neelix keeps silent. Janeway punished Neelix with a lecture and by ordering him to clean out the warp plasma manifold for two weeks. ("Fair Trade"; Season 3)

*During an encounter between Hirogen hunters and a member of Species 8472 trying to return home following the war against the Borg, Seven-of-Nine disobeys Janeway’s order and transports the Species 8472 to one of the Hirogen ships in order to save Voyager from destruction. Janeway punishes her by limiting Seven’s access to some of Voyager’s systems and privileges. ("Prey"; Season 4)

*Tom Paris took illegal action by trying to save an oceanic world of Monea from destruction without the permission of Janeway or the Moneans. Janeway punishes him by demoting him to ensign and sentencing him to 30 days in the brig. ("Thirty Days"; Season 5)

*Harry Kim breaks Starfleet regulations by having sex with an alien without any medical or military consent. Janeway lectures him and enters a reprimand into his official file. ("The Disease"; Season 5)

*The Doctor becomes sympathetic with a group of holograms in rebellion against the Hirogen. He joins their cause and gives them Voyager’s shield frequencies following the latter’s brief fight with a Hirogen ship. He also gives the holograms data so that they can overload Voyager’s deflector dish and primary systems. The Doctor offers to hand over his mobile emitter to Janeway, which would limit his access to the ship. Janeway decides not to punish him. ("Flesh and Blood"; Season 7)

Has anyone notice something very disturbing? Out of eight Senior Staff members, only two are physically punished – Neelix and Tom Paris. Neelix was forced to clean warp plasma manifolds for two weeks. And Paris? He was demoted from Lieutenant Junior Grade to Ensign and forced to spend thirty days in the brig. All of the others nearly endangered Voyager’s crew or some alien planet one way or the other. Torres and Tuvok’s deal with the Sikirians nearly destroyed Voyager. Chakotay nearly endangered Voyager’s security system even further with his capture by Seska and the Kazon. Neelix’s action led to Chakotay and Paris’ arrests as drug dealers. Seven-of-Nine sacrificed an innocent’s life – the Species 8472 – in the name of self preservation. Harry’s little sexual escapade could have endangered the crew’s physical health. And the Doctor’s action resulted in the damage of some of Voyager’s systems. Yet, Paris is the only Senior Staff member to receive severe punishment by Janeway. Why?

After so many years, I think I may know the answer to my question. A member from a Star Trek discussion board had hinted a few years ago that like most parents or authority figures, Janeway had severely punished those whom she believed possessed the most potential. It is possible that she believed that Tom Paris had the most potential to be a successful Starfleet officer. And she wanted to ensure that he lived up to that potential. Perhaps she wanted to succeed where her former mentor, Owen Paris, had failed. Unfortunately, Janeway encountered a little problem that threatened to derail her goals. Namely Paris' confession regarding his true ambitions in "Thirty Days"

Early in the episode, Janeway noticed Paris’ enthusiastic reaction to Monea. She invited him to her Ready Room to discuss his Away mission to the planet and learned something new about her Chief Helmsman:

Later, in Janeway's Ready Room, Janeway and Paris have a sociable chat as much as discussing the mission ahead.

Janeway: "I had no idea you were such an old salt."

Paris: "When I saw that ocean today it reminded me of the first time I read Jules Verne."

Janeway: "'20,000 Leagues Under the Sea'."

Paris: "Mmm! I must've read it 20,000 times. I was obsessed with stories about the ocean. All my friends were busy with their holo programs. I had my head buried in Captains Courageous, Moby Dick...."

Janeway: "So your interest in history includes the 19th century as well."

Paris: "Ancient sailing ships were always my first love. I had it all planned: finish high school, join the Federation Naval Patrol....but my father had other ideas."

Janeway: "You'd think Admiral Paris might have understood his son's passion."

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

Janeway, surmising his enthusiasm: "And now you have an opportunity to make up for lost time."

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

Janeway: "Good. It'd take at least a week to make the necessary modifications to Voyager."

Paris: "Then it's my mission?"

Janeway: "Bon voyage."

As much as he loved flying, Paris had another love . . . namely the sea. He never had any ambitions to become a Starfleet officer, let alone end up with his own command. Paris wanted to join the Federation Naval Patrol. But he had given in to Owen Paris’ demands that he join Starfleet. This lack of desire for a career on the Starfleet fast track manifested in other "VOYAGER" episodes and scenes. Since "Thirty Days", the Chief Helmsman has never bothered to volunteer for Bridge command. He even ridiculed Harry’s ambitions every once and awhile. He maintained his contempt toward the Prime Directive (see "Blink of an Eye"). In "Bliss", his main desire for returning to Earth seemed to be centered around becoming a civilian test pilot at a facility in New Zealand. I am not that surprised, considering his exchange with the ship "Alice" in the aptly named Season Six episode:

Alice: "Sometimes you have to leave your family behind. They're not like us. They're trapped by rules and regulations. Velocity, freedom - they'll never understand these things the way we do."

Paris: "Yeah, maybe you're right."

Alice: "Of course I am. You don't belong here. You belong with me. You're thinking about your first flight, aren't you? Tell me."

Paris: "Dad took me up in an old S-class shuttle - two seats, no warp drive, manual helm controls. I was eight years old and I was scared out of my wits."

Alice: "You couldn't keep the ship level."

Paris: "No, not at first, but then came this moment of clarity when suddenly everything made sense."

Alice: "The clouds parted."

Paris: "I was flying! No matter how many starships I've piloted since then I'm still chasing that feeling."

I would not be surprised that both the sea and flying represented that feeling that Paris had been chasing since his first flight – namely freedom. And I cannot also help but wonder if the pilot’s confession regarding his true ambitions – namely to join the Federation Naval Patrol – had led Janeway to punish him more severely than she did other members of Voyager’s Senior Staff.


Tags: politics, star trek voyager essay, television, tim russ
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 1 comment