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Why Ensign Harry Kim should've been promoted on Voyager

Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang): classy clarinet player, scrappy sidekick to Captain Proton, and practically the only officer on the U.S.S. Voyager not to get a raise. 

For seven seasons, Star Trek: Voyager left a Starfleet crew stranded in the Delta Quadrant. In all that time Harry Kim performed his fair share of heroics, and yet by the time Voyager finds her way back to Earth, he's still an ensign. That's messed up. If everyone onboard Voyager had stayed the same rank throughout, that would be one thing — but that's not what happened!

For one thing, half the ship isn't officially Starfleet — they're Maquis. The Maquis, whether you choose to see them as freedom fighters or terrorists, don't exactly hold to the rules and regulations of Starfleet officers. And yet, in the pilot episode, Maquis leader Chakotay (Robert Beltran) is immediately promoted to the rank of First Officer. B'Elanna Torres (Roxanne Dawson) is a member of the Maquis, too, but by episode two, she's the head of Voyager's engineering section. Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) is a criminal that Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) gave a second chance to. He starts as a lieutenant, gets demoted to ensign, and then gets promoted back to lieutenant. Neelix (Ethan Phillips) gave himself the job of ship morale officer before essentially waltzing in to the ship ambassador role.

What about Harry Kim, Star Trek: Voyager?

Bad boy Tom Paris kept Harry Kim from looking good

If Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is the primary obstacle to Data (Brent Spiner) getting promoted on the Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation, then the same can be said about Tom Paris when it comes to Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager.

Despite being the son of an admiral, Paris not only betrays Starfleet by joining the Maquis, but he openly admits that he did it for money. Just a quick reminder regarding the 24th century — people in the Federation don't even need money! Essentially, Tom Paris did crimes to look cool.

Unsurprisingly, both Starfleet officers and the Maquis aren't big fans of Tom Paris. For some, sweet, puppy-dog reason, though, Harry Kim decided that Tom Paris would be his best buddy, through thick and thin. Even when Tom tells Harry that their association will hurt Harry's career, Harry still sticks by Tom Paris. Paris pretty consistently makes mistakes in the first few seasons of Voyager. His ongoing disagreements with Chakotay aren't great. There's an episode ("Ex Post Facto") where Paris flouts Starfleet regulations entirely, participates in extra-marital hanky panky, and nearly drags Voyager into an intergalactic war as a result.

For every time Paris loses rank or falls in love with the A.I. of an evil ship ("Alice") for some reason, Harry stands by him. The rest of the crew eyes Harry Kim a little suspiciously as a result. If Tom Paris had only been a better friend and a better officer, Harry Kim would've probably been a lieutenant by season 3.

Harry Kim has persevered through incredible trauma

Harry Kim has faced quite a bit of trauma, and excelled basically every time. In the pilot episode ("Caretaker"), Kim and B'Elanna get kidnapped, infected, and held captive by an alien who drags Voyager unwillingly to the Delta Quadrant. While B'Elanna responds with rage and frustration, Mr. Kim keeps his cool, builds a rapport with the Ocampa, and works out an escape plan even though he's dying. This is, effectively, Harry Kim's first away mission and he absolutely nails it.

In "Emanations," the same thing happens again. Kim is accidentally whisked away to a parallel dimension where he has to handle first contact with a group of aliens for whom his very existence suggests their concept of an afterlife isn't real. Not only does Harry find his way back to Voyager, he also saves the life of a man he's never met who's about to be unfairly euthanized. Afterwards, Harry is so ready to get back to work that Janeway has to tell him it's okay to take a beat and process what's happened to him.

Speaking of Harry Kim being put through the absolute wringer, he dies trying to save the ship! Harry Kim dies in "Deadlock," but because the episode involves two Voyagers existing at the same time, another Harry Kim lives to tell the tale — saving the life of Samantha Wildman's (Nancy Hower) baby in the process. To be very clear: The Harry Kim we continue on with after "Deadlock" is a version whose ship and everyone on it were destroyed, but he just keeps on living and trying to get folks home!

Most people would never recover from any of these traumas, but Harry Kim keeps on keeping on. How is he not a lieutenant, at least?

Harry Kim has tried to get Voyager home so many times

Harry Kim also has a stellar track record when it comes to actually trying to get Voyager home. In point of fact, he's arguably come closer than anyone else except for Captain Janeway herself.

In "Eye of the Needle," it's Kim's keen eye that discovers what might be a stable wormhole back to the Alpha Quadrant. It turns out that Kim is absolutely right! Even though the wormhole is micro in size, Voyager discovers that there's a way to transport the crew through the wormhole to the other side safely. Unfortunately the wormhole doesn't just traverse space, it also travels backwards in time — approximately 50 years. While Kim seriously considers the possibility of traveling through the wormhole anyway, Janeway decides against it. Let it be known, though — Harry Kim found a way home by episode 7.

Not three episodes later, Harry Kim does it again! In "Prime Factors" while the rest of the crew is too busy hanging out on what is, essentially, a hedonistic planet full of swingers, Kim literally puts his own romantic life on pause when he realizes these aliens have the technology to get Voyager home.

There's a problem with this trip home, too (otherwise the show would've been very short). The current leaders of the Sikarians (the hedonistic aliens) don't want to trade, but another group on the planet is willing. Kim takes the information to Janeway, but she isn't able to seal the deal. While the technology would never have worked with Federation technology, given enough time it's hard not to believe that Harry and B'Elanna couldn't have found a way.

Harry Kim learned how to be a captain from Janeway herself

In the finale of Voyager, Admiral Janeway decides that the conditions which ultimately brought Voyager home were insufficient because of the consequences to some of the crew. As a result she travels back in time to convince her past self to use Borg technology and get the crew home years ahead of schedule. Short version: It works!

Part of what makes Janeway a great captain is that she's willing to shoulder the big consequences in order to keep her crew safe and get them home. Janeway's resilience and ability to navigate around Starfleet rules when it's necessary is a big part of what proves she's a truly great leader.

Let's talk about "Timeless" for a moment. In this episode, Voyager is prepared to use a slipstream drive to get home, but a miscalculation from the shuttlecraft guiding them leads them to an icy death instead. Just like alternate-future Admiral Janeway, an older Harry Kim who survived in the shuttlecraft dedicates the rest of his life to figuring out what went wrong so he can go back in time and correct it. Starfleet is against what Kim is doing, but together with Chakotay and the Doctor, Kim defies orders, and sacrifices it all to save Voyager from it's frozen demise.

Has Harry Kim shouldered impossible burdens? Yes, he has. Has Harry Kim done everything he can to get Voyager home, even at great sacrifice to himself? Yes, absolutely, he has done all those things. Is Harry Kim more deserving of a promotion than Tom Paris? Yes, so let's go back and time like Harry Kim would and fix this!