Sunday, November 15, 2015

Character Insight No. 168: Best of 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, we continue the "Best Of" series with a look at the best episodes featuring Tom Paris, from Voyager.

(Tom Paris, courtesy Memory Alpha)

Tom Paris is the chief helmsman on board Voyager.  As the journey continues and the crew grows thin, Paris also takes on the duty of auxiliary medic for when the holographic doctor is unavailable or overwhelmed. He's a sometimes brash son of an Admiral from a long-serving Starfleet family, but his development comes in overcoming his own life's obstacles. His character was also loosely based on the Nicolas Locarno character the actor played in the TNG episode The First Duty. In this way, he serves as an interesting character contrast for his best friend Harry Kim.

Here's some of his best quotes and moments. 

In the Season 2 episode Threshold, Tom addresses his past aspirations and disappointments of his family line face-on, as he has a chance to test the first ever Warp 10 flight in space. The experiment goes horribly awry and he de-evolves, as does the show writing in what perhaps ends up being the worst episode of the whole Voyager show. However, Tom's character bits in the first half of the episode are fantastic, including his debate with Captain Janeway when he is initially not medically cleared to do the test flight:

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.

In the Season 4 episode Day of Honor, the slow-budding romance between Tom and Engineer B'Elanna Torres finally advances when both characters are stranded in space following an attack on their shuttle while trying to recover an ejected warp core. B'Elanna eventually admits her love for Tom, which will lead to a marriage and a child by the last season of the show. She still plays coy in the process though, as shown here:

Tom Paris: When we first met, you didn't have a very high opinion of me. B'Elanna Torres: That's putting it mildly. I thought you were an arrogant, self-absorbed pig. Tom Paris: Flattery won't get you any more oxygen... Do you think I've changed? B'Elanna Torres: A lot. Now you're a stubborn, domineering pig.

The best Tom Paris episode is likely an easy choice, that being the Season 5 episode Thirty Days. In this episode, Tom recalls in a message to his father the series of events that led to his demotion to Ensign as well as a 30 day stay in the ship's brig. On a meeting with delegates of an ocean planet, the Voyager crew discovers that some oxygen-mining units and a central reactor at the core of this planet is causing water loss at a rate that will destroy the planet in 5 years. The delegates and government do not want to impair lifestyle to change this, which leads to Tom Paris breaking the Prime Directive to use the Delta Flyer to destroy some of the oxygen-mining units.

Captain Janeway: Four years ago I released you from prison and gave you a fresh start. Until now you've been a fine officer; your service on this ship has been exemplary. I really believed you were past this kind of conduct. Lt. Tom Paris: I've never been very good at playing by the rules. That doesn't mean that serving under your command hasn't changed me - for the better. At least, this time I broke the rules for a reason - for something I believed in. Captain Janeway: I admire your principles, Tom. But I can't ignore what you've done.

He struggles with the decision on whether to actually finish the letter and/or send it to his father, but with Harry Kim's guidance, he ends up deciding this moment is one where he could earn his family's trust back again.

[last lines] Tom Paris: [in his letter to his 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.

Paris does not suffer from some of the same character development flaws as other characters on this show, and he comes full circle from a Maquis sympathizing small-time criminal to a family man over the course of the show. Although episodes focusing on him are a little few-and-far-between, the ones we get are pretty strong.

Until next time, keep striving to make yourself better, whether for family or for other reasons. 


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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