Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 19: Tom Paris

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight!  This week, our subject is Lieutenant Tom Paris from Voyager.

Tom Paris serves as pilot and flight controller aboard the Voyager during the seven year stranding in the Delta Quadrant.  Paris was a Starfleet prisoner brought aboard as an observer and Maquis expert to help the Voyager track down Chakotay's ship Val Jean.  However, he is reinstated as a Starfleet officer by Captain Janeway in view of the lack of personnel available following the transfer to the Delta Quadrant.

The character of Tom Paris was based on the Nicholas Locarno character, who leads Wesley Crusher and four other cadets to perform an illegal flight maneuver in the TNG episode The First Duty. The show writers created a different character because they wanted this bad boy to be one who was redeemable, while Locarno was not.

Paris grew up as the son of a Starfleet Admiral, and his father put so much pressure on Paris that his childhood was very troubled. Rather than being able to pursue his first love of the sea in the Federation Naval Patrol, his father forces him into Starfleet Academy. As a result, Paris has a disposition towards acting out against the system he initially wants no part of.

Despite developing a passion and a talent for piloting, Paris is forced out of Starfleet after he covers up a piloting error that led to the death of three fellow officers on his first starship. He ends up joining the Maquis for a few weeks, and that is how he is captured and put in prison by the Federation.

However, his ties to the Maquis and his piloting ability lead to the situation where Janeway reinstates him to drive the Voyager. With only a couple of exceptions in the seven-year journey, Paris proves that he was worth giving another chance to redeem himself. His most notable contribution to the successful return of Voyager was the construction of the Delta Flyer shuttle, which was designed specifically for use in the hostile Delta Quadrant.

In addition to things related to the ocean, Paris is passionate about much of 20th Century American culture, including movies, internal combustion cars, and novels of the time period. Paris also has a flair for holographic narratives, highlighted by his repeating portrayal of a protagonist named Captain Proton, and his favorite bar in France which is used as the Voyager version of Ten Forward.

Although Paris was only promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade in the pilot episode, his character wears the rank pips of a full Lieutenant for several episodes before the mistake was caught. Paris had the middle name Eugene, which was a tribute to Gene Roddenberry.

The best episodes featuring Paris include: Threshold from Season 2, Worst Case Scenario from Season 3, Thirty Days from Season 5, and Lineage from Season 7.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Threshold:
Tom Paris: When I was a boy, my father used to tell me that I was special. That one day I'd do something significant. My teachers at school, all the kids, everyone used to say, "Tom Paris is gonna do something important when he grows up". Obviously that didn't happen.
Captain Kathryn Janeway: This isn't about personal redemption. We're talking about medical risk. Your life could be in danger, and we need you.
Tom Paris: Captain, this is the first time in ten years I feel I *have* a life to risk. 

Actor: Robert Duncan McNeill is the actor who played Tom Paris and Nicholas Locarno in TNG.  Although he took a break from acting for 10 years, he recently appeared on an episode of the TV comedy Chuck.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

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