Thomas serves as John Smith's best friend, fellow soldier, accomplice, and sidekick in the film. Thomas appears to be a fairly young man, as he is show saying good-bye to his parents and little sister before boarding the ship. He also appears to be very inexperienced. For most of the film, he is fairly incompetent, being a poor sailor, soldier, and shooter. But, by the end of the film, he is able to take leadership among the settlers and have Ratcliffe arrested, after Ratcliffe showed his true colors when he shot John.
Role in the film
At the beginning of the film, Thomas is one of the settlers going to the New World as part of the Virginia Company. We first see him say goodbye to his family as he boards the ship. He meets Ben and Lon, and later is amazed to learn that the legendary John Smith is going to be the captain. Thomas remarks that he has heard some amazing stories about the man.
During the voyage, a storm strikes. Thomas is attempted to help secure the ship's cannons, but falls overboard in the process. Thankfully, he is rescued in a daring move by Smith. Thomas later confides to John his plan to make his fortune in the New World.
At the New World, Thomas is assigned by Governor Ratcliffe to help dig for gold. During the process, the settlers spot a small group of Indians. Assuming they are there to attack, Ratcliffe orders a defense. Thomas grabs a gun, but trips over a log, resulting in him nearly shooting an enraged Ratcliffe. After the battle, Ratcliffe singles out Thomas, and orders him to learn to shoot properly. Later, Thomas nearly shoots at a returning Smith. When Thomas remarks that he could have killed John, John notes that his horrible aim, in which he shoots with one eye open, makes that doubtful. John advises Thomas to keep both eyes open when he shoots. Brief tension arises between John and Thomas when John claims to have made friends with an Indian woman, Pocahontas, and suggests that they find a diplomatic solution instead of fighting the Indians.
That same night, Thomas spots John sneaking out of camp. Thomas is ordered to follow John, and to shoot any Indians he comes upon that may approach him. Ratcliffe leaves Thomas with a warning to not disappoint him again, citing his earlier failures as a sailor and soldier. Thomas follows John, and finds him kissing Pocahontas in Grandmother Willow's glade. He watches as John is suddenly attacked by another Native American, Kocoum. Believing his friend to be in danger and about to be murdered, Thomas intervenes and kills Kocoum. An enraged Pocahontas charges at him, but John stops her. As other warriors arrive, John orders Thomas to leave, choosing to take the blame in the hopes that Thomas will alert the other settlers.
At camp, Thomas informs the settlers of John's capture, and begins rallying the settlers to attempt a rescue mission. Ratcliffe takes advantage of the situation, and incites the settlers to kill all the savages and save Smith. Secretly, the greedy governor wants the gold he believes the Indians to be hiding. Though most of the settlers are quite happy to comply, Thomas is shown looking somewhat discouraged, having seen John and Pocahontas kissing, a sign that a diplomatic solution may very well be possible.
At the battle, Thomas watches as John's execution is prevented by Pocahontas. Ratcliffe orders the settlers to fire, but Thomas refuses, citing that John has been let go and that the Indians have no intention of fighting them. Ratcliffe, still hungry for gold, takes matters into his own hands and attempts to shoot Powhatan, but hits John, leading the settlers to believe that he had done it intentionally, now realizing John was right all along and they should never have listened to Ratcliffe in the first place, Thomas takes control, and taking Ratcliffe's gun, he orders the governor to be arrested, chained and gagged, and runs to John's aid.
Later, Thomas oversees the preparations to return both John and Ratcliffe back to England. When Pocahontas arrives, he personally tells her that John must return to England for medical treatment, or he will die, to which Pocahontas responds by putting a hand on his shoulder, indicating that she has forgiven him for killing Kocoum, knowing he had to to save John's life. After Pocahontas talks with John, Thomas sees John off, choosing to stay at Jamestown with Lon to carry out and continue the settlement there.
- This character was most likely named for Thomas Gates, who once was governor of the Jamestown settlement, due to his taking charge at the end of the film. He is also based on the young English laborer, Ensign Thomas Savage who did not arrive in Virginia until January 8, 1608 when he was thirteen years old. In the film, he and John Smith arrived in Virginia together.
- Christian Bale who voiced Thomas in this animated film later portrayed John Rolfe in New Line Cinema's "The New World".