Although Paramount wanted a more regal Trek, Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) and his fellow actors tried to slip in comedy whenever they could.
McNeill, now a director/producer on Chuck, explained that there was a reason for Paramount wanting to keep comedy out of Star Trek. “The comedy in Star Trek is always very subtle, if it’s there at all,” he said. “You know, Paramount would always tell us that on Star Trek, they wanted to protect their franchise during those years, by keeping it very regal. There was almost this royalty quality felt, like Patrick Stewart or Scott Bakula or Kate Mulgrew. There was this regal aspect that they thought was very important to the show and [that meant] not making fun of it.”
That didn’t stop McNeill and fellow actors from trying to inject humor into their characters on the show about a marooned ship and crew. “We tried very hard to get light comedy into the performances, even if it wasn’t scripted, to find the humor in the characters,” said McNeill. “We had a lot of funny actors, and so yeah, it was important to try and bring the comedy. And one thing, one week you could do a murder mystery on Star Trek, and the next week you could do a light comedy, and the next week you could do a romance and action adventure.”
Some humor was unintentional and the result of equipment problems, as in the case with the jetpack for Captain Proton. “I had a malfunction on the jetpack that I flew through space on, and a burned bottom,” said McNeill. “I ended up with some blisters on my bottom.”
In addition to humor, Star Trek: Voyager featured a romance between Paris and B’Elanna, which McNeill didn’t favor at first. “Honestly, my opinion back in the early days was, ‘Why are we doing this? Why are we trapping both of these characters into this relationship that will prevent both these characters from exploring different opportunities and different stories and different planets that we visit?’ In the beginning, I didn’t think it was a good idea, kind of like a lot of people with Chuck and Sarah, but in the end Roxann [Dawson] and I really appreciated the opportunity to explore a real relationship. … But the way that Tom and B’Elanna ended up getting together really expanded that world of Voyager.”