In the latest Star Trek Magazine, #30, which is now on the newsstands, actor Robert Duncan McNeill shares his thoughts on the two “bad boys” that he portrayed in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager.
According to McNeill, there is an important difference between the two troublesome characters. “Fundamentally there’s a huge difference between the two of them,” said McNeill. “Nick Locarno was somebody who appeared to be a really good guy to the Starfleet teachers, faculty and staff, but deep down was a rotten guy. I think Tom Paris was the complete opposite of that. He appeared to be a little rotten on the outside, but was really a good guy underneath it all. Initially, Voyager’s creators might have conceived the character to be very much like Nick Locarno, but it became clear to me quite early on that he had to be very different.”
“Nick Locarno was someone who was there for one story and to serve a very brief purpose,” explained McNeill. “But for Tom Paris to last, as well as be relevant, he had to be a real hero and a character who, underneath all his warts, faults and weaknesses, was someone that viewers would want to come back to every week. That’s why I felt it was necessary to bring a sense of humor to Paris. To me, Star Trek was its most successful whenever it had a bit of irony and tongue-in-cheek quality along with a sense of fun and adventure. So I tried to bring the spirit of that into everything I did, even if it wasn’t scripted.
For Tom Paris, being stranded on Voyager in the Delta Quadrant meant a second chance, but he had to prove himself to his captain and fellow shipmates.
“What was really important for our show was that this mismatched group of people came together with their strengths and became a team,” said McNeill. “That was a challenge, though, with Tom Paris, because he was initially meant to be a lone wolf. So I looked for opportunities to showcase his value as a team player.
“That began in the pilot with Harry Kim [Garrett Wang], where I wanted to show Tom as being sort of the wiser, older brother to this character. Even if it was lightly scripted, I tried my best to emphasize that while Tom might look like he doesn’t care about anybody else, he actually does care about Harry, who’s a little less experienced and needs a bit of help. The more I did that, the more, I think, our writers started writing to it.
“Something else I feel was unique about Tom was the fact that he was kind of a down-to-earth straight talker. With all the technobabble, sci-fi talk and complicated stories and situations, I tried to be the one who had a sense of plain speak and be a little folksy with my character.”