Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery's New Promotion Makes Voyager's Harry Kim Look Worse

A heartwarming moment in Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is bad news for a certain Harry Kim. Since warping into the 32nd century, the Discovery's recruitment process has been somewhat fluid, to say the least. A mysterious human hosting a Trill symbiont? Give them a job. Michael Burnham? Second-in-command for all of five minutes. Cleveland Booker? Let him chill rent-free in the hanger. Among the many strange personnel decisions, however, Saru's appointment of Ensign Sylvia Tilly as acting Number one is perhaps the most surprising.

Due to a spree of insubordination, Saru was forced to rescind the decision to make Burnham his right-hand woman, and the post has now been offered to Tilly until a more suitable candidate can be found. As Saru himself well knows, these transitional positions invariably become full-time before long. The Discovery crew, including Tilly herself, were understandably shocked at Saru's call. Currently only an Ensign, Tilly had a ways to go before she climbed the Starfleet ranks high enough to sit by her captain's side. Due to the special circumstances in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, Saru has decided to forego the usual formalities of qualification, training and rank, and Tilly now commands the colleagues she was earnestly trying to impress not so long ago.

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Although Tilly's promotion represents quite the career leap, the promotion arguably makes sense in the context of Star Trek: Discovery season 3. Saru has already convinced Starfleet's 32nd century admiral that the crew must remain intact, preventing outsiders applying for the vacancy. Other high-ranking officers such as Stamets and Culber have duties away from the bridge, while Detmer (who might've been Saru's most realistic choice for Number one) is still struggling with the transition to the future. Saru had few options, but that won't be much consolation to Star Trek: Voyager's Harry Kim. Played by Garrett Wang, Kim was one of the main Voyager bridge crew, and saved the ship from countless close shaves. Alas, he was never promoted beyond the rank of a humble ensign.

Harry Kim's inability to ascend the ranks became somewhat of a running joke both within Star Trek: Voyager, and among the show's audience. Stranded in the Delta Quadrant, the Voyager found itself in a similar position to the Discovery in the 32nd century, but even without a pool of Academy graduates to compete with, Harry Kim couldn't catch a break. Tom Paris even managed to get demoted and promoted back to Lieutenant, while the diligent Kim kept plugging away unsuccessfully. Harry did air this grievance to Captain Janeway, arguing that he'd be a Lieutenant on any other Starfleet ship back home, only to be rebuffed, despite having a relatively spotless disciplinary record. In a unique case of life imitating art, Garrett Wang asked Star Trek: Voyager's writers for his character to be promoted, and was simply told "somebody needs to be the ensign."

Kim's lack of career progression was embarrassing enough, but looks so much worse thanks to Star Trek: Discovery. Until now, Tilly has effectively been the "Harry Kim" of her ship - a tenacious, dedicated, but inexperienced junior officer who often surprises her crew by digging the ship out of a hole. Not only has Tilly achieved in 2-and-a-bit seasons what Harry Kim couldn't in 7, she's leapfrogged all the way to Number one, adding insult to injury.

In this tale of two ensigns, very different attitudes to leadership emerge. From Saru's perspective, the Discovery's special circumstances mean the usual rules and regulations can be relaxed, whereas Janeway seemed to believe the Voyager's predicament should be an obstacle to promotion (although even she overlooked the rules for Tuvok, and when appointing Chakotay as her Number one). After seven seasons of frustration, Harry Kim is likely now wishing he was among the Star Trek: Discovery crew lost in the future, rather than in the Delta Quadrant where his talents weren't rewarded by way of official recognition.

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