Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Top 5 Trek: Tom Paris Episodes

As my "My Favorite Character" Essay indicates, Tom Paris is my personal favorite Trek character. So, in inaugurating this new series of essays, "Top 5 Trek," I figured why not focus on Tom Paris episodes, and determine which, personally, would comprise my Top 5?

Without further ado, here we go!

5. Caretaker

"Caretaker" is a very good pilot show for just about every major Voyager character. Chakotay is never this badass again, Harry gets some great scenes on DS9, we get to see Janeway's lost romance. But Tom's story always stuck out to me personally as the most identifiable. Here we have a guy down on his luck, reputation in tatters, who is given a second chance. He doesn't trust this lucky break at first, and there are no end of authority figures ready to judge him based solely on his past. But his baseline goodness comes out when he helps Harry on DS9, and his desire to make himself a better man guides him through the rough events to come in this episode. 

4. Non Sequitur
The great thing about "alternate timeline" shows is that you can see how things might have turned out differently. Remember all that great character development from "Caretaker?" Well here, none of it ever happened. Tom got out of prison, took to wearing swishy vests and bile-yellow tee shirts, and hung around Chez Sandrine's drowning his sorrows. But Harry, caught in an alternate timeline in which he never boarded Voyager, seeks Tom out and appeals to the person he knows is buried inside this downtrodden drunk - the Tom Paris who desperately yearns for a second chance. And yet again, Tom comes through.

3. Future's End
This two parter, like "Caretaker," is definitely an ensemble piece. Many characters get a bunch of fun material. Well, maybe besides Harry, Kes, and Neelix, anyway. Tom, though, gets a lot to do. He and Tuvok need to track down a 1990's scientist who has spotted Voyager in orbit in order to keep a lid on things. Tom has to improvise on the fly, mixing charm, guile, and a knowledge of twentieth century schlock science fiction in order to keep Rain Robinson (pictured) from being too gung ho about pursuing an investigation into Voyager.

2. Day of Honor

Awww. Awwwwww......  AWWWWWW!!!!! Yep, I had to include one of Tom's shining romantic moments in this list. That's not to say there weren't a bunch of them. Tom was pretty great when he refused to bang B'Elanna while she was going through her... Pon Farr... (long story). He was also understanding and supportive, though righteously indignant when she endeavored to genetically erase their daughter's ridges in the womb. But in this episode, when the chips were down (and after a bunch of rather bitchy put-offs from B'Elanna), Tom declared his love to her, not knowing whether they'd ever be rescued adrift in deep space. They shared their last gasps of remaining air, and had a faceplate bump kiss-hug before their eventual rescue. Awwww.

1. Thirty Days
Anyone who's studied even a little drama knows that when the stakes are raised and a character is dealt severe challenges, that character can shine the brightest. This episode had a great teaser, with Tom being busted down to Ensign and placed in the brig for thirty days. Pretty dire circumstances! The episode's story is told very well, with a letter to his estranged father, a nice Captain Proton vignette guest starring Harry Kin and the Delaney Sisters, and good eco-terrorism plot in which Paris plays Captain Planet to a threatened alien biosphere. What's not to like? 
I mean, come on. It's got Captain Proton in it!

(Dis?) Honorable Mention

What, you say? The worst episode of Voyager, and perhaps the Trek franchise altogether? Both are debatable propositions, if you ask me. Yes, it goes completely off the rails, with both a horrendous understanding of evolution, and a show-breaking conclusion (since the Doctor cures the lizard sickness, why not use transwarp to get home?). But it's actually a pretty good character story until that point. Tom wants to distinguish himself, to tame his childhood demons and make his father proud, however belatedly, by entering history along with the likes of other pioneers such as Chuck Yeager, Yuri Gagarin, and Zefram Cochrane. 

There are loads more great Tom Paris episodes. But these are the ones that stick out to me.  Let me know what you think in the comments!


  1. If only we knew how filthy Sarah Silverman actually was back when she played Rain Robinson. It would've made that episode MUCH different...

  2. I do think about that when I watch it now... but this was before B'Elanna, so it's OK.