I read this question, but it's not the same as mine: Why is Harry Kim senior staff?

ST Voyager "Nightingale":

JANEWAY: You've been in command on Voyager before.

KIM: On the night shift, for a few hours. It's not the same thing. You and Chakotay are always a couple of decks away, ready to take over if anything goes wrong. I've been on Voyager for almost seven years and I'm still an Ensign.

JANEWAY: If this is your way of bucking for a promotion

KIM: No, no, I understand there's a command structure and that our circumstances are unique. But the fact is, if we were back home, I'd be a Lieutenant by now. Maybe even a Lieutenant Commander.

During that same time Tom Paris went from a criminal prison, to Lieutenant, demoted back to Ensign, and then re-promoted back to Lieutenant.

Harry only had one (minor, fell in love w/an alien) mark against him in seven years and played a major role on the ship including being included in senior staff meetings and Operations Manager.

I realize Harry states in the quote above that their "circumstances are unique," to give the Captain an out in the conversation, but this is not an answer. Tom Paris was promoted in rank during those same circumstances and did not have the training/grades that Kim had, and had major marks against him including demotion and being thrown in the brig.

Why by this point wasn't Harry Kim promoted?

  • 7
    Tom wasn't promoted multiple times, he was demoted and then had his rank returned
    – Valorum
    Aug 9, 2015 at 20:40
  • 1
    Starfleet returned his rank, Janeway returned his rank. It's arguable whether he had one promotion or two
    – Valorum
    Aug 9, 2015 at 20:45
  • 2
    Paris was the son of an Admiral, had graduated Starfleet and piloted a ship before. Kim was a fresh graduate with no real off-world experience.
    – Valorum
    Aug 9, 2015 at 20:58
  • 1
    Only time will tell :-)
    – Valorum
    Aug 9, 2015 at 21:30
  • 4
    Because nothing good gets to happen to Harry Kim. He's essentially the O'Brien of Voyager. Aug 10, 2015 at 17:40

4 Answers 4


Out-of-universe, the answer is pretty much Janeway's. Garret Wang, the actor who played Kim, gets asked this in interviews a lot, as you might imagine. In a 2011 interview with StarTrek.com, for instance, he said:

During the fourth season, I called writer/producer Brannon Braga and asked him why my character hadn't received a promotion yet. His response? "Well, somebody's gotta be the ensign." Geez, thanks. Thanks for nothing.

It's obviously not an entirely satisfying answer, but it's the one given by the showrunners: every totem pole needs a bottom.

  • 6
    And the in-universe reason?
    – Valorum
    Aug 9, 2015 at 23:22
  • 8
    @Richard Is about 3 inches that way ↓ ;) Aug 9, 2015 at 23:28
  • 4
    It amuses me that the actor is that fussed. Does he get more cash if his character gets a 24th century promotion? Lots of good roles are 'the young one' or similar.
    – ThruGog
    Aug 10, 2015 at 10:27
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    I think that is he wrong way to look at it. Paris started out a prisoner. The maquis, because they had the power to group negotiate quickly were granted ranks suited to their experience and skills. Tom was just one step above a prisoner, was not trusted, and they simply did not need him as much. Eventfully he was granted a rank akin to his starting experience and skills (similar to what the maquis got). Note that Kim has zero experience starting out, while Tom has served on many vessels and is the best pilot on the entire ship.
    – Jonathon
    Aug 10, 2015 at 15:06
  • 1
    Yeah, but he's "George"! In the US Navy, "George" is the senior ensign on board a ship - he gets special, oversized ensign's bars and gets ribbed about it a bit. "Oh, there's something that needs doing? Let 'George' do it!" is the usual bit of banter. Sounds like Kim would be the senior George in the fleet - that's gotta be worth something..! :-) Aug 11, 2015 at 13:54

There's a few things going on in-universe;

Janeway is very stingy with her promotions.

Over the course of the show, we only really see her promoting a couple of characters; Tuvok to Commander in Voy: Revulsion and Paris back to Lieutenant in Voy: Unimatrix Zero. It's theoretically possible that lots of others were getting bumped up, but there's no special evidence that this is happening.

At least to begin with, Janeway wasn't even in a position to offer permanent advancement since all she can do is offer battlefield brevets. Without Starfleet to make her promotions stick, they're just temporary.

Harry Kim is very young

Although Kim proves himself an exceptional junior officer over the seven years they're adrift in the Delta Quadrant, the reality is that he's only just left the Academy. He certainly thinks he should be promoted, but Janeway evidently does not.

He's already been promoted beyond his grade

Kim is running the ops department and latterly heads up the night shift as OOD (Officer of the Deck). Although it's not really made clear what his duties are, this evidently involves ordering other (more senior) officers around as well as getting to sit at the big table during all senior staff discussions. Realistically, this is far more than he should expect at this stage in his career and frankly, he should be immensely grateful for the experience.

Harry had a blot on his record.

You've mentioned it in your question, but Kim openly and knowingly breached Starfleet protocol in Voy: The Disease. This resulted in him putting himself and the inhabitants of both ships in mortal danger just so he could get jiggy with an alien babe. Although this is pretty much Riker's defining characteristic in TNG, it's certainly possible that Janeway felt strongly enough to pass him over for promotion.

Everyone would want promoting

Although Kim's conduct is excellent, there's no major reason to assume that other crewmen haven't also comported themselves well. After seven years, not getting a promotion (when others are) would be massively demotivating. Better to not offer them and wait until they return.

He's Janeway's favourite.

Everyone knows that Kim is Janeway's favourite. Despite being fresh out of the academy she practically dotes over him, offers him plum assignments, invites him to Senior Staff meetings and all the away missions he wants. Frankly, if she was to promote him as well, I can see the crew really starting to hate him.. It's noteworthy that her first act after returning is to ensure that he gets a big fat promotion.

  • 5
    Actually I was wrong. He did graduate the academy. He was stripped of his rank & had it reinstated by Janeway of Lieutenant Jr Gr. She still had no problem putting a box on his chair, etc. after he was in the brig for 30 days & a year later got his pip back. It's kind of ridiculous that Harry after seven years did not get a single promotion in Rank. The blot on his record was nothing compared to the crap Paris did, especially trying to destroy a civilizations mining colonies in an ocean. Big deal Kim fell in love w/someone. If it were Tuvok, or Chakotay would she have been as hard on them?
    – JMFB
    Aug 9, 2015 at 21:02
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    @JMFB - Paris' promotion was largely in recognition of the enormous changes he'd made in his behaviour and personality.
    – Valorum
    Aug 9, 2015 at 21:48
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    "It's noteworthy that her first act after returning is to ensure that he gets a big fat promotion." Was that in a book? Was it canon, or? Aug 10, 2015 at 9:45
  • 7
    Id hazard the entire crew that makes it back gets a wave of promotions, I think the key point is, why would they even bother with promotions while they are trapped for 70 years, whats the point? after 70 years of promotions janeway would have had to promote herself to admiral, and half the crew would be admirals lol. When they returned after 70 years would her promotions even have mattered, ect. aka why promote when your all effectively stranded for life.
    – Himarm
    Aug 10, 2015 at 14:09
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    @Himarm Haha! "Grand Admiral Chakotay, who shall we send down on the landing party? High Admiral Kim, or Puhbah Admiral Paris?" "I don't know Grand High Admiral Janeway,we better send someone with less rank. Maybe Advanced Captain Wildman?"
    – user11521
    Aug 10, 2015 at 17:05

I don't know about out-universe explainations but in-universe there are some (if not explicit) certainly logical reasons for the difference.

1) Janeway gives several field commissions when the two crews first merge. Tom is made a Lt. (jg) since that is the rank he had when he was forced out. He had the experience, the skills and the position (Chief Conn Officer) to justify it. The Maquis in key positions are also granted ranks in keeping with their positions. At this point Harry is about a week into his first assignment and thus no matter his competence has no good reason to be prompted.

2) As others have pointed out Janeway is stingy with promotions and rightly so...she can't just promote the lot of them into the Admiralty. Tuvok is the only person who gets an actual step up in rank.

3) The Paris Demotion/Promotion is actually the harshest punishment that Janeway hands out. Tom admittedly breaks the PD and is according in hot water. He gets a demotion and 30 solitary which is rather vindictive especially since Janeway breaks it herself in the very next episode.

Tom gets his rank back because he is an exceptional officer, Harry is a good officer but he doesn't have the courage-under-fire leadership that Tom does. Tom still ends the series with the same rank he was given in "Caretaker" as does everyone else except Tuvok.

No doubt the whole lot of them were promoted once they returned, they definitely all earned it.

4) Lastly, about "crap on Tom's record". Tom's greatest transgression by his own admittance was lying about his own pilot error.

For that he was drummed out of Starfleet something Janeway is tacitly putting behind him by granting a field commission (time served so to speak).

The rest of Tom's record was mostly wrong place at the wrong time. After all even his prison sentence was for joining the Maquis, and one can hardly hold that against him on ship full of ex-Maquis.

On the pro side he saved the ship numerous times, undertook a dangerous undercover operation, and matured into a considerate and responsible husband and father.

  • Hello Meddwl, and welcome to the SF & Fantasy Stack. That's a great first answer! Can I interest you in taking the tour, nonetheless?
    – SQB
    Dec 11, 2016 at 8:29
  • Some actual references (script quotes, for example) would turn this from a good answer into a great one.
    – Valorum
    Dec 11, 2016 at 9:28

Everything I've read about Ops says it is a coordinator who organises Supply and Science into a useful workforce when the ship needs repairs or upgrades. This means the Ops Officer is usually bored, until a battle breaks the ship. Spock (as Chief Science Officer) often fills the Ops job reqirements, but never holds the position. Data (as Ops Manager ) often fills the job requirments of Science Officer, but is never shown to hold the Science Officer position. I think on a very large ship the Supply Department would have more to do. Enterprise-D was an ambassadorial ship. The Scientists seem to come and go as needed. Maybe nobody stuck around long enough to be Science Officer. Harry Kim is like a low-ranking Data, and T'Pol and Jadzia are more like Spock. Since an Ensign (Harry Kim) can be the Ops Mgr, we have to assume it is not a frequently needed position. Yes, I know, we see them in every episode! That's because if we saw the other things they do...well we would be as bored as they must be. The shows are only interresting when things are breaking or planets need help. The rest of the time they would just be standing around, maybe updating a log, or trying not to get caught daydreaming. Maybe that's why Harry never got promoted? Maybe anybody could have done that job.

  • Your answer seems to be based on speculation, are there any sources or clips you could provide to support you answer?
    – Edlothiad
    Jun 4, 2017 at 18:21

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