Discovery’s Ensign Tilly – Time for Promotion?

Star Trek Discovery's Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has come a long way. Literally. But we're not talking about her taking the plunge
Ensign Tilly

Tilly’s Tale

Star Trek Discovery’s Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has come a long way. Literally. But we’re not talking about her taking the plunge 900 years into the future. We’re concerned with her future, specifically. In last week’s episode, there seemed to be a big moment, concerning it. The scene where she was discussing where Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) was, held a lot of significance. Undoubtedly, Saru (Doug Jones) views Tilly in extremely high esteem. Her commitment to Starfleet and “the badge” is absolute. This was pointed out to Saru, who stated that he has no doubt that she would have followed the orders given, regardless of personal feelings and their implications. An especially meaningful comment,  given Tilly and Burnham’s relationship.

Back in season one (don’t worry, we aren’t going to bash that here – our article on how far the show has come does a fine job of that), the two first encountered one another. They ended up as roommates. It wasn’t long until the young Ensign Tilly decided that Burnham would be the ideal role model. At the same time, the two became firm friends, as Tilly helped Burnham ease into her humanity more. For example, she helped Burnham with dating. It was an interesting dynamic. Not entirely dissimilar to that of Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in TOS and later the TOS movies. It’s always a good way to explore the human condition. This incarnation was an interesting take, given that Burnham’s fully human, though brought upon and as Vulcan. Tilly was cast as the junior of the two. Not just in rank, but more importantly, in terms of being responsible. But, that’s no longer the case . . .

The Case for Promotion

As Ensign is the lowest rank, giving Tilly an extra pip would afford the character growth, but not so much as it would be too much in one go. It could also be the start of a journey, which she has declared to see happen. A Captaincy, eventually. Her talk with Saru showed that she has the character to go far. Surely, nobody would deny that. She’s also incredibly capable, mentally. Her intelligence has been an important weapon in the arsenal of U.S.S. Discovery. On more than one occasion. It’s never really been in doubt that she’s a gifted engineer. Perhaps her being promoted would mean that she’s listened to more. And, that she commands the respect that she deserves, from the other crew members. For example, Stammets (Anthony Rapp). It’s about time she did. Now seems just right for it.



A boost to Tilly’s confidence might be just the thing she needs. After sacrificing everything, her state of mind has taken an absolute battering. As is the same for the rest of the crew. But a promotion should never be given out of sympathy. That doesn’t bode well. In fact, it would be insulting to any being. Tilly has earned the extra pip, and seeing her as a Lieutenant junior grade would allow a new side to her character to emerge. Perhaps she could even have ensigns assigned to work for/under her, from amongst Starfleet’s ranks.

Thinking not just about Tilly, but the show is important too. If Discovery ends up running for at least the same number of seasons as TNG, DS9 and VOY, she should definitely get promoted. More than once. Otherwise she might end up another Harry Kim (Garret Wang). The somewhat ill-fated eternal Ensign from Voyager. Unfortunately, he never once got a promotion. Despite the various heroics and going beyond expectations for seven long years. On multiple occasions, too! There’s the argument that Starfleet staff are just doing their jobs. But people need things to strive for. To be acknowledged. Other Ensigns would benefit from seeing a promotion occur. Tilly really is the perfect character to have an “ambition arc”. Plus, it’s already been set up from day one, too, which helps.

2 Comments on this post.
  • Shawn
    30 November 2020 at 3:01 pm -

    It was a stupid decision. Can you really see her leading away missions?

    • Benjamin Cassidy
      30 November 2020 at 8:48 pm -

      No. Too big an ask. Like you say, a bit daft. Thanks for reading Shawn, great to hear your input. I’m doing a follow up piece that’s due out tomorrow. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.