Over the years since star trek first hit the small screen, there have been a staggering amount of additions to the franchise. Space adventures range from The original series, who started it all, down to the last addition New strange words, which, despite being the most modern, is very nostalgic for the 1960s classic.
Over these years, audiences have been introduced to a wide range of characters: captains with troubled pasts, lieutenants with criminal backgrounds, and let’s not forget the important ensigns that keep the whole ship running smoothly. Among these “lower floors”, there are a few who go above and beyond every time they appear on screen, their heroic actions saving the day countless times over, but many of them don’t. not get the recognition they deserve. Of all these heroes, which deserve a promotion?
Sato was the communications manager and xenolinguist (foreign language expert) in an era before the use of advanced translation technology. She was positioned on the historic Enterprise NX-01 under the command of Captain Jonathan Archer, as an essential part of the crew from start to finish. During that time, his character has taken leaps and bounds, starting out as a timid officer with little to no self-confidence during the first season of Company, to take command of the ship in the penultimate episode when Archer and Lt. Reed were absent.
Not only did she fill their shoes with great authority and skill, but during the show she played a vital role in the creation of the linguacode, a translation matrix used by Starfleet during first contact when the primitive Universal Translator was of no use. It was the basis of all communication between unknown extraterrestrial races from that time on. Without Sato’s genius, communications across the galaxy would be far less streamlined in the continuing series. Company.
Despite this, in the 10 years she served aboard the Enterprise, Sato remained an ensign throughout, never having been promoted for her actions. It is revealed in the episode “In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II” that after the show she ended up retiring to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, but while that recognition was great, it should have happened some years before.
Lt. Commander Data, the ever-vigilant android, served as Captain Picard’s second officer aboard the iconic Enterprise D in GNT. Data’s story is interesting, beginning as a records clerk aboard a remote Starfleet station, until his potential was seen by the one and only Picard, who helped further his career.
Data spent three years as an ensign, followed by twelve letters as a lieutenant, until he was promoted to lieutenant commander, all aboard the USS Trieste. He served for another four years until he was chosen by Picard to be his second-in-command aboard the Enterprise. He remained aboard the ship until his untimely death in the film Star Trek: Nemesisthe last of GNT movies.
That left him with 19 years in Starfleet at the start of GNT, but no further progress since his arrival. This plays into a problem that many fans have with the GNT series, especially as they progressed on film: the majority of the bridge crew seemed stuck in time. There were clues and references here and there about their progression through the ranks, but after the experiences they had and the adventures they had, it would make sense that each of them had been given a command, and quite quickly. Fans felt like their talents were wasted aboard the Enterprise, with Klingon history expert Worf essentially pressing buttons to fire lasers, and Riker just relaying orders from the captain.
Ensign Kim’s lack of promotion has become somewhat legendary among fans, after serving aboard the USS Voyager in Traveler. What makes Kim’s denial of any career advancement all the more unfair in the seven years he served under the questionable leadership of Captain Janeway is that those close to him and those close to him were seemingly getting promotions all the time.
Although he may not have started and is Kim’s dearest friend, Tom Paris was the perfect example of how other crew members (who were far less professional and did not have Kim’s perfect record) aboard Voyager were promoted. Paris literally started out in prison on Earth before being asked to pilot the ship to find the Marquis’ rebels. Even then, he was not officially Starfleet, his position being merely an observer. In fairly quick succession, however, Paris was promoted to lieutenant, then demoted to ensign, then promoted again to junior lieutenant.
There are a few in-universe explanations for Kim’s lack of promotion, but they all come across as fairly weekly justifications for keeping this talented bridge operations manager stuck as an ensign. These reasons include that there were no positions available for him, and that if they had promoted him, they should have promoted everyone on board, leaving Janeway with an entire ship full of commanders after 7 years.
While each of these lower deck heroes was vital to the survival of their ships and crew, they never got the on-screen career pat they deserved. They all progress in their own way past the point where audiences let them, but since most of these series not only spanned years, but took place over several years, they all passed beyond on-screen recognition. At the end of the day, star trek places a lot of importance on the fact that it is not the position or the work that one does that is important, with a lack of monetary incentive, but that there is a high level of job satisfaction and that people do what they want because they love.
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