Tom Paris is demoted to Ensign and confined to the brig for thirty days. While there he dictates a letter to his father about how this came about. It started when Voyager came across a celestial body that is essentially an ocean held in a planetary shape by a containment field. After making contact with the world's people, the Moneans, the crew learns that the world is losing its water and that the Moneans themselves are causing it with their oxygen-mining operations, and that if they don't cut back or cease, they could lose their world altogether. Paris wants to help the Moneans stabilize their world, but their ruling council and Captain Janeway prevent him from doing so, with the latter citing the Prime Directive. Paris decides to go against the captain's orders and steals the Delta Flyer, taking one of the Moneans with him to destroy one of the oxygen-mining refineries so that they could have time to rebuild it better. Captain Janeway finds out what Tom Paris is doing and stops him from achieving that purpose, which leads to his demotion and thirty days of incarceration.
This episode has the following tropes:
- Alien Non-Interference Clause: Janeway tells Tom that having given the Moneans what they needed to fix their problem, it's up to them now. Starfleet can't impose its solutions by force.
- Applied Phlebotinum: 'Immersion shielding' is used to turn the Delta Flyer into a deep-sea submersible.
- Artistic License – Physics: Zigzagged Trope; the water planetoid is only about 1200 km in diameter (about a third of the Moon, for comparison), and is composed entirely of water (meaning that's only got a density of 1 g/cubic center, less than a third that of the moon), so its gravity will be correspondingly less (hence the need for a containment field, as the math comes out to about 2% of Earth's gravity), and the water pressure will be massively reduced compared to Earth as a result. Still, water doesn't get denser without turning into ice, so the climax action doesn't really work...
- Ascended Fanboy: Tom Paris gets to indulge his passion for the ocean, denied when his Fantasy-Forbidding Father insisted he join Starfleet instead of the Federation Naval Patrol.Paris: Ah, boatswain. Ready to shove off?
Seven: What are you talking about, Lieutenant?
Paris: Call me Skipper.
Kim: Sailor talk. You'll get used to it.
Seven: I think not.
- Attack Hello: The first thing the Moneans do is fire upon Voyager, which doesn't work and makes Voyager knock out their weapon systems easily, causing them to try communication instead.
- Axis Mundi: Paris is incarcerated in Voyager's brig for an unknown crime, that isn't revealed until the end of the episode. As we see in flashback, Voyager visited a planet, known as "the Waters", that, as one can tell by the name, is completely water; no landmasses or atmosphere. It's being held together by a containment energy field. Unfortunately, the humanoid beings who live there, the Moneans, are in danger of losing their home, because of an unknown crisis that releases water from the planet. When they collaborate on a mission to figure out what is causing the loss, they find a 100,000-year-old computer-driven structure in the center of the water mass that seems to be generating the containment field. Furthermore, the structure is delibrately releasing water to ease pressure, caused by the Monean's oxygen refineries extracting the gas from the water. When the Moneans refuse to do anything to fix their problem, Paris, along with one of the Moneans, attempts to destroy a refinery in violation of the Prime Directive, only to by stopped by Voyager, whereby Janeway demotes his rank and sentences him to thirty days of solitary confinement in the brig.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: Captain Proton is introduced flying through outer space with his Jet Pack, protected only by a leather jacket and flying goggles.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Captain Janeway drops the Team Mom act the moment Tom disobeys orders. She makes it clear that she would have destroyed his shuttle if required.
- Cabin Fever: Tom is going stir-crazy locked up in the brig. Even though he's had a similar experience being driven stir-crazy (due to a cranial implant) while imprisoned in the earlier episode, "The Chute".
- Call-Back: The scene of Paris being given the leola root stew is a callback to "The Chute" where in one scene, he mentions that he would go for leola root stew. Given that both episodes were essentially written by the same person, it seems to be less of a coincidence!
- Comm Links: Proton has a wrist radio.
- Continuity Nod: Megans mentions working on some star charts for Seven of Nine, a reference to the twins working in Stellar Cartography.
- Denied Food as Punishment: Tom is restricted to a leola root stew diet. The horror...
- Description Cut: Tom says that it all began with something his Fantasy-Forbidding Father would consider a complete waste of time. Cut to Tom as Captain Proton!
- Distressed Dude: Proton's trusty Side Kick Buster has been captured by the Twin Mistresses of Evil!
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mining operations are destroying an ecosystem. Efforts to introduce recycling are hampered by pride and politics.
- Downer Ending: Unless the Moneans make radical changes to their technology in the next few months, their planet and entire way of life is doomed within the next five years. To say nothing of Tom, who gets the harsher end of Janeway's discipline.
- Femme Fatale: Demonica and Malicia, the Twin Mistresses of Evil, are the Delaney sisters' attempt at this. Harry can't help enthusing, "Great, you're doing great!" while the Delaney sisters are caressing his chest and purring how they're going to turn him into their groveling slave.
- Framing Device: Tom narrating a letter to Admiral Paris, from his cell.
- Go to Your Room!: In a dream sequence, we hear a voice over from Admiral Paris, obviously being the typical 'Great Santini' style bully he was. An unusual way of imparting teachings, albeit in a militant way, but that's Owen Paris, much akin to his talking down to his son in Persistance of Vision.Admiral Paris: Go to your room, young man. That's an order. Stay there and think about what I've said.
- How We Got Here: The episode starts on Tom being stripped of his rank, then shows via flashbacks why.
- If I Wanted You Dead...: The Moneans greet Voyager with phaser fire, but even three-to-one they're no match for Voyager. Once Janeway loses her patience, she has Tuvok disable one of them to get their attention, then points out how she could have blown up the ship if she wanted to. This gets them talking.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Tuvok bull's-eyes a missile fired from underwater by the Delta Flyer with a photon torpedo launched from orbit.
- In Medias Res: A non-action variety: the episode starts us off with the hook, as demotions are rare in the franchise. About five minutes in is where the story chronologically begins.
- Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: The episode opens on Janeway removing one of Tom's pips, demoting him to Ensign. The commbadge he removes himself, as he enters the brig.
- Ironic EchoKim: What are you going to do — delete the letter? That would be pointless.
Paris: At least I'm consistent.
- List of Transgressions:Janeway: Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris, you are guilty of insubordination, unauthorized use of a spacecraft, reckless endangerment, and conduct unbecoming an officer.
- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Lampshaded by Tom re Harry, who's attracted to Ice Queen Megan while rejecting the advances of the equally-attractive (literally) Jenny.Paris: Well, you've done it again, Harry. Fallen for the unattainable woman. First it was a hologram, then a Borg, and now the wrong twin.
Kim: At least I'm consistent.
- Lost Technology: The Delta Flyer discovers a 100,000 year old machine in the centre of the planet, that was used by Precursors to transfer the entire ocean of a planet into space for unknown reasons.
- The Main Characters Do Everything: Averted; after the ship is attacked by unknown hostile aliens, the Doctor enjoys informing Paris that he's not indispensable at the helm.
- Meaningful Look:
- Chakotay gives a WTF? look when Captain Janeway offers to give a tour of Voyager to the aliens who've just fired on them. Fortunately they're not a Villain of the Week.
- Tom and B'Elanna share a look after she points out that Captain Proton might not be able to save the day, but what about Tom Paris?
- Military Mashup Machine: Three Monean vessels fly out of the ocean to attack Voyager in orbit.Paris: Are those starships or submarines?
- Military Maverick: Harshly deconstructed. Janeway nearly kills Tom to stop his one-man crusade, and demotes and imprisons him when he's recovered.
- Mind Probe: The Brain Probe, though it's more of a Mind-Control Device given the description.
- Minor Injury Overreaction: Tom gets what Naomi Wildman would call a "boo-boo", but begs the Doctor to take him to Sickbay for a full medical examination. This is mostly because of his growing case of Cabin Fever.
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Captain Janeway provides the technology enabling the Moneans to solve their problem, but whether they're going to use it is something else.Burkus: I'm supposed to go back and explain this to forty-seven regional sovereigns? They'll pass their first unanimous resolution, calling for my head!
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Even after Voyager gathers conclusive evidence that the oxygen refineries are going to destroy the ocean, Butkus says that the results are going to be sent to sub-committees for review, all but guaranteeing that any action to be taken will be too late.
- One, Two, Skip a Few: Tom starts doing push-ups in his cell. He's only got to three when Neelix enters, whereupon he immediately jumps to 98...99...100.
- The Only One: Deconstructed; Tom thinks he's the only one capable of Saving the World. Janeway makes it clear that he is not the Designated Hero of this series.
- Parental Substitute: Tom dreams of himself as a boy, being scolded by both his father and Captain Janeway.
- Permission to Speak Freely: Janeway tells off Tom for his outspokenness, so he makes a point of asking her permission before defending his actions to her later.
- Polar Opposite Twins/Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tom is bemused that Harry cares which Delaney sister takes a fancy to him.Kim: They're nothing alike! Jenny's aggressive, and sometimes annoying, but Megan — she's quiet, artistic, and she's got that cute little dimple in her right cheek.
- Proscenium Reveal: Our first sign that Demonica and Malicia aren't holodeck characters is when Megan says, "Sorry, Harry!" after missing her cue.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: Justified; Captain Janeway might violate the Prime Directive on occasion, but that's her prerogative as The Captain, not Tom's.
- Protector Behind Bars: Subverted when Voyager is attacked while Paris is in solitary. Though he begs to be let out, he isn't; and it turns out one of the extras was able to pilot the ship just fine.
- Ragnarök Proofing: Averted; the machine at the core of the planet has been there for millennia, but oxygen-mining is increasing the density of the water, forcing it to divert power to prevent it from being crushed. This means the ocean will eventually dissipate into space.
- Rule of Symbolism: Tom Paris saving the day in the Black-and-White Morality world of Captain Proton, versus the complications of planetary politics that Starfleet has to deal with.
- Rule of Three: Tom tries three times before getting the introduction to his letter right.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Tom Paris screws the Prime Directive to try to save an ocean planet that was slowly being destroyed by an oxygen-mining operation. He gets a demotion and thirty days in the brig for his effort. And he didn't even save the planet.
- Sea Monster: A giant electric eel with teeth attacks the Delta Flyer.
- Shoot the Bullet: Tuvok hits the missile fired from the Delta Flyer with a photon torpedo fired from orbit.
- 'Buster', the part Harry Kim plays on the holodeck, is a Shout-Out to actor Buster Crabbe who played Flash Gordon in the 1930's film serial, of which The Adventures of Captain Proton is an Affectionate Parody.
- Sci-fi pioneer Jules Verne is also homaged, as Tom tells Captain Janeway his enthusiasm for the ocean began with reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
- Show Within a Show: Yet another exciting chapter of...The Adventures of Captain Proton.
- Single-Biome Planet: Voyager comes across an ocean world with no landmass whatsoever.note In its center is a machine created by Precursors, that stops the water from dissipating out into space.
- Single-Minded Twins: Demonica and Malicia pout in unison.
- Slouch of Villainy: Demonica is introduced reclining at the control console of Proton's rocketship.
- Space Clothes: The Twin Mistresses of Evil both wear flowing metallic robes and high-heeled boots.
- Sub Story: More literal than usual for Star Trek, as they convert the Delta Flyer into a makeshift submarine. This also gives Tom a chance to use sailor lingo.
- Team Mom: Captain Janeway indulges Tom's passion for the ocean planet by putting him in charge of the mission to explore its depths. This makes his betrayal all the more difficult for her.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Tom anticipates his father's reaction to him starting the letter by saying he's been demoted and put in the brig. "Wait! Just listen; don't turn this off..."
- That's an Order!: B'Elanna gets her revenge for Tom pulling rank in "Displaced".Torres: Rumor has it you're free for dinner.Paris: Gee, I don't know. Are you sure you want to be seen associating with an ex-con?Torres: My quarters, 0700. That's an order...Ensign.
- Captain Janeway gives a direct order to Tom to turn back before firing on him.
- Title Drop: In the very first sentence of the episode, Janeway reduces Tom Paris' rank and sentences him to thirty days of solitary.
- Toasted Buns: Captain Proton flies through space with a huge sparkler scorching his trousers. According to actor Robert Duncan McNeill, his rear caught fire and the on-site nurse had him drop his pants right there to make sure everything was all right. He claims Tim Russ has photos.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Harry Kim greatly enjoys being chained up by the Delaney Sisters and threatened with mental enslavement via their evil Brain Probe, so much so that he insists Captain Proton not be hasty in his rescue.
- Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Both Tom and Tuvok complete a single countdown before firing their respective torpedos, Tom to disable the refinery and Tuvok to disable the Delta Flyer.
- Underwater City: The entire Monean civilization lives underwater.
- Unseen No More: The Delaney sisters make their glorious debut.Jim "Reviewboy" Wright: These are the Delaney sisters? Oh my. The legends are true...Gee, Mr. Braga, it's not even my birthday!
- Voiceover Letter: Tom is dictating the letter to his PADD, producing the same effect.
- Violence is the Only Option: Tom and Riga try to destroy the oxygen refinery so the Monean bureaucracy will be forced to make changes. Janeway stops them with a well-placed photon torpedo.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Tom still feels the need to connect to his estranged father."I honestly don't know if I'll ever understand you, or what went wrong between us, but I hope this letter helps you understand me a little better. Computer, file letter in my personal database, and transmit when we're within range of Earth."
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Tom. Janeway isn't impressed.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The ocean planet was created by draining all the water from an M-class planet like Earth. So where is that planet? One of Tom's theories is the planet suffered some sort of catastrophe. Possibly all the way up to an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
- With All Due Respect: Done without respect, as per usual.Burkus: With all due respect, who are you to tell us what to do with our ocean?
Paris: With all due respect, it's not your ocean.
- The Woman Wearing The Captain's Mask: After Tom is hauled off to the brig by Security, Captain Janeway visibly struggles to maintain her composure.
- You Are Grounded!: Tom Paris is essentially this as a result of the events of the episode.