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.
back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Corporal R. Ryan, a recurring character appearing on Enterprise.
("Why is it the enlisted never look too happy to be around?")
Ryan is one of the enlisted crewmembers who is part of the MACO force assigned to Enterprise during the Delphic Expanse mission. As a result, he shows up on many critical away missions and as a guard on multiple episodes, although his role is nearly always a background one.
The MACO, or Military Assault Command Operations, had access to weapons three or more years advanced than the Enterprise crew, keeping them on the cutting edge for future combat. Thus, Ryan is a sniper who has access to the newest toys, including better scopes and particle rifles. He uses this sniper rifle to shoot a mine foreman on a planet where Captain Archer needs to be rescued. That mission succeeds, as do many when this character contributes to them. It is interesting that this shooting role was written for the leader of the MACO's Major Hayes, but this was reconfigured during filming to give Ryan the spotlight in his first of a dozen appearances over 4 seasons.
His gunmanship comes in handy when Captain Archer needs to retake the ship. This includes kicking the Triannons off the Enterprise after they had taken over, and defending the Enterprise from a Sphere Builders invasion while the bridge crew is away on mission. Sometimes, he is just a simple security guard, holding unwanted visitors out of meetings and carting people like Arik Soong and Malcolm Reed to and from the brig.
Having MACOs on board is a constant reminder that space exploration requires a strong military hand in the early days of Starfleet. Especially when conflicts arise like with the Xindi, these guys are the little known backbone that keeps the ship out of harm's way.
Ryan is one of the few recurring characters who makes more than 10 appearances while being played by two different actors. Both actors who played him are regular background actors, Jason Collins and Aaron White. Collins is more of a television actor, but he has appeared in the movies The Frozen Ground, National Treasure Book of Secrets, and Treevenge. Yes, TREEVENGE. White has not acted as much, but he did appear on the TV show 24 as well as in the recent movie Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie. This actor swapping can be a bit confusing when characters are a bit faceless without much personality, but it is a necessary evil of weekly episodic television sometimes for non-regular characters (who may have other acting gig or jobs).
We've covered similar small characters on this segment before like Engineer Alex, and guys like Corporal Ryan are good consistent background scenery for the most part. It would be nice to see some of these familiar faces develop more personality and character, like in the TNG episode lower decks, but it's hard enough to spread out sufficient time to an ensemble major crew let alone minor crew members. I guess that's what we have The Redshirt Diaries web show for!
Until next time, live long and prosper...