“Nothing Human”/”Thirty Days”

Aw, it seems the no-dud salad days of Voyager season 4 are over. These episodes weren’t awful, but they didn’t come together the way the writers clearly intended.

“Nothing Human” begins as a blatant Alien riff as Voyager encounters a derelict ship with a pilot that appears to be some sort of crustacean that communicates in a piercing shriek that overwhelms the universal translator. The wounded pilot pounces on B’elanna and hitches a ride on her vital organs to sustain itself, forcing the Doctor to create a simulation of a famous Cardassian exobiologist to augment his own medical skills for the extraction surgery.

So far so good, but things take a wild swerve at the halfway point when one the Maquis crew member recognizes the exobiologist as the Cardassian equivalent of Josef Mengele. All of a sudden the episode stops being about saving B’elanna (though of course that’s still the ultimate goal) and becomes more an ethical debate about means and ends and animal testing. It’s pretttttty much an Operation Paperclip metaphor that asks whether or not it’s OK to make use of medical knowledge obtained through murderous means, and hoo boy does this particular script lack the substance to properly explore that question. I dunno, maybe it would have worked out better if the episode hadn’t wasted a few minutes of running time on the obligatory pointless alien attack halted at the last minute when Voyager satisfies the hostiles’ demands. And, also, if it hadn’t been like 85% boilerplate sci-fi plot and 15% hardcore moral debate.

“Thirty Days” is a decent standalone story that unfortunately hangs on the notion of Tom Paris being punished for being a doofus. It’s like… yeah, cool, toss that goober in the brig.

OK, there is something I like about this episode. It’s told largely in flashback as Paris, newly demoted to ensign, cools his heels in the pokey for a month (and he serves his full time — no commuted sentence, which means he misses out on some things that happen to the ship, such as one of those obligatory alien attacks — the episode practically lampshades the cliché). His crime, it ultimately turns out, is to attempt an act of environmental terrorism to save a strange “world” made entirely of water, where over-industrialization threatens to destroy the technology that holds the sphere together. It’s a noble goal but a dumb act, and it’s nice to see a Trek crew member actually held accountable for making stupid life choices. His actions here remind me of that one Next Generation episode where Worf basically teamed up with terrorists and Picard’s reaction was basically to be mildly annoyed rather than, say, busting him down through the ranks to Assistant Toilet Scrubber or kicking him out of Starfleet.

Anyway, since Paris is the worst-written Trek character since the first few seasons of Deanna Troi, it’s basically impossible to care about the process or outcome of this episode. That said, I appreciate that this episode’s FX shots did the Gungan City thing a full year before Episode One, and without Brian Blessed slobbering through a bad creole variant. Also, Naomi Wildman didn’t appear on camera, but the Doctor did invoke her name to make fun of Paris, which makes me like the kid even more.