After Kes leaves the series Tom Paris, a pilot, is selected to act as a part time nurse in the sick bay.

In-universe, the reason given is that he studied some biochemistry at Starfleet Academy. However, there are plenty of blue shirts still on the ship who, with a science background – including Ensign Wildman who was a xenobiologist – would be better suited for the role. Indeed, on more than one occasion a couple of blue shirts are seen acting as field medics and triage nurses anyway.

I’m not even sure it makes sense out-of-universe. Kes was given the role to give the character something to do. Paris is already chief helmsman and a bridge officer so didn’t need the extra screen time. If it was to avoid casting a new main character then I don’t recall any episode where the role was so vital to the plot it couldn’t have been fulfilled by a non-speaking extra.

  • 3
    Remember that Janeway had him released from the penal settlement because she needed his knowledge of the Maquis; she didn't fully trust him or even like him or the attitude he brought with him onto Voyager. When a field medic was required, he was right there, and from Janeway's perspective, the assignment might improve his attitude, and at the very least, manage a nuisance. Justifying the choice based on his biochemistry studies was only an attempt to rationalize the choice and avoid any further discussion of the matter.
    – Anthony X
    Jun 6, 2020 at 23:45
  • @AnthonyX I’m not sure about that. This was three years in when he had already proven himself and they were one big happy family.
    – Darren
    Jun 7, 2020 at 8:49
  • 4
    The scene in which Janeway makes the assignment actually occurs in the second episode of the first season ("Parallax"). Although Kes spent much of her time on Voyager as a medical assistant apprenticed to the EMH, leaving a gap on her 4th season departure, Paris was "volunteered" before Kes found a place for herself in sickbay. I haven't re-watched to confirm this, but assigning Paris to sickbay duty following Kes' departure would be a resumption of the assignment originally made way back near the beginning.
    – Anthony X
    Jun 7, 2020 at 14:09
  • Out universe it was an opportunity to set up the love triangle with Kes who was also assigned to sickbay. Though that plot kind of fizzled out I'd say. Aug 29, 2022 at 19:35
  • Well, one argument might be that often there isn't much for the pilot to do. I mean, 99% of the time, you shouldn't need him. It's just that we only see the 1% of the time when his piloting skills are needed that happen to be the times worth depicting in an episode. On the other hand, the times you need a field medic and also likely to be those same periods.... Sep 12, 2022 at 17:54

1 Answer 1


Janeway 'volunteered' him after he made a snarky remark about the EMH's poor bedside manner. She needed a field medic and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

TUVOK: It is an Emergency Medical Hologram and its abilities are limited. It can only operate within the confines of Sickbay.

PARIS: Not to mention its lousy bedside manner.

CHAKOTAY: Perhaps we should assign somebody to train with the hologram as a field medic.

JANEWAY: Good idea. Lieutenant, I understand you studied biochemistry at the Academy.

PARIS: Er, only two semesters.

JANEWAY: Close enough. You just volunteered to become a field medic. Report to Sickbay as soon as we're finished here.

VOY: Parallax

Afterwards he evidently proved to be sufficiently competent that the Doctor didn't object to him being there on an ongoing basis (despite making numerous snarky remarks). As to Janeway's motivation, it makes sense to give him extra duties so that he'll stay out of trouble, plus this seems to amuse her.

  • Not really sure this adequately explains the reasoning either in or out of universe when there are surely better candidates available.
    – Darren
    Jun 6, 2020 at 11:42
  • 5
    @Darren - He was standing right there.
    – Valorum
    Jun 6, 2020 at 11:43
  • 8
    Her choice follows the practice of "You think he's so bad, then you get to do it better."
    – Verdan
    Jun 8, 2020 at 4:16
  • To misuse a different analogy, not so much "Mr. Right" as "Mr. Right Now"....
    – Spencer
    Aug 29, 2022 at 17:30
  • 2
    @Darren I’ve worked at several places where the person who gets assigned to a duty is the one who first opens their mouth about it, not the most qualified person. The other qualified people are supposedly there to do their other work, but the loudmouth apparently has free time to be thinking about someone else’s job. This management technique seems to work pretty well in terms of both getting stuff done and keeping people from being overly critical. Sep 13, 2022 at 14:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.