After a few years, it’s time for another edition of “The Gremlin,” where we ask one of the many Engineers around our fleet some questions about their character. It’s a great way to learn more about the tool-pushers in our community.
In this edition, we had the chance to talk with Lieutenant Commander Ethan Brice. As you may recall from an earlier news story about Odd Jobs in the fleet, he currently serves as Research and Development Engineer aboard the USS Independence-A. He was gracious enough to answer some of our questions.
Nathan Baker: What is your earliest recollection about Star Trek?
Ethan Brice: Wow, that takes me back! I remember watching “Next Generation” with my dad; he was always a big Star Trek fan. My earliest memory was watching the beginning, with Patrick Stewart’s voice over and just feeling a rush of excitement and I suppose you could call it emotion. I suddenly wanted to be part of that world simply through one man’s voice.
NB: How long have you been Simming with the UFOP: SB118?
EB: I’ve been with the UFOP since December 2004, with the same PC. When I started, I was under the command of Fleet Admiral Anassasi (who was a Captain then) on the USS Independence. My Chief Engineer was Lieutenant Idril Mar, who was very inspirational. I still admit now that some of my best writing was done in my early years with the group.
NB: Do you remember how you found the group?
EB: I stumbled upon it actually, looking for Star Trek fan sites. I’d hit a bit of a lax period in my career and was on shore base a lot, so I needed something to stop my brain from melting. I saw the website, got reading and from then I was hooked.
NB: What made you want to have your character be an Engineer?
EB: I’ve always been interested in Engineering in Star Trek and just how completely complex but utterly simple it is. For me (all bias aside) the Engineer is the crux of the vessel and a lot of plots do depend on the Engineering team in some way or another. I still think now that an Engineering character, just like the others, can bring the most unexpected aspects to a plot and it really gives the best angle for introducing plot twists. Besides, crippling the ship mid-mission is always a fun thing to do.
NB: What’s the most fun aspect about being an Engineer?
EB: Eeh gads… I love the intricacies of the systems and how they tick. When having to deal with a specific threat to the ship, to the computer, to the hardware, coming up with some ingenious feat of Engineering and being able to get through it by the skin of your teeth is just thrilling. When something goes wrong, it’s Engineering’s fault and their job to fix it; it throws up some really interesting scenarios and really makes you think about how to do it.
NB: What’s the most difficult part?
EB: I’d have to say trying to integrate yourself into plots when it doesn’t call for much Engineering expertise. Of course our mission writers try to create missions that tailor to all character positions, but it is difficult and it’s understandable! We wouldn’t have much use for an Engineer running about with a spanner during a first contact mission unless something went wrong. So, I try to make my character usable in a lot of situations, which is why the jump from Chief Engineer to Research & Development was easy enough to make. You tend to create a niche for yourself and span out from there.
NB: Now you’re the only R&D Engineer in the Fleet and you said it created a niche for you. How do you play that role and what new avenues has it opened up for your character?
EB: Quite a few really. I wanted to expand my character’s scope from the beginning of his career in Starfleet so he’s spent time at Utopia Planitia, been involved in the creation of vessels and especially the building of the USS Achilles. So, coming from that kind of background that I’d already envisioned for Ethan, I had him continue down that line of work by creating new technologies and manipulating old to fit the purpose of the mission at hand. If something needs building that hasn’t been built before or some new technology is required that hasn’t been designed, the first call is to R&D. So I get a lot of requests from the crew for some very interesting technology. Recently, the team has had to come up with a method of stopping a being using an phase-variance device from walking through forcefields.
NB: Do you play (or have you played) any other player characters in the fleet? (Secondary, Another Primary, ETC)
EB: My only other major character which I’ve played in the UFOP was Sarah Reed, another Engineer and, as stated on her biography, a “ferocious tomboy”. From the offset, she had a mind of her own and I’ve never been able to pin her down exactly. A lot of the other writers I’ve SIMmed with have a big appreciation for Sarah, not just because she was integrated into the story arcs, but because of the character she is. I had her leave the Independence-A a few years back and I got emails from other writers saying how emotional they found the departure and how sad they were that she was leaving! I’ve kept a few afloat since then, just a few NPCs but no one as special as Sarah. She is the only character I would consider taking over as my Primary if Ethan ever got incapacitated enough.
NB: What piece of advice would you give to any fresh faces just getting started with our group?
EB: I’d say keep at it. In times of grim despair when the plot is dragging its feet, really just stick with it. I’ve met some amazing writers and some I do like to call friends by being part of the group and you do become part of a “family”, so to speak. Pay attention to the senior Officers on the ship you’re assigned to, because they know what they’re talking about, they’ve been a wet-behind-the-ears Ensign themselves and climbed the ranks. Aim to be a better writer with every SIM, even if it’s something as simple as reading it through again, making a draft, even reading it aloud to yourself. I’m not the best, I’ll never be better than some of the writers in this game but striving for it isn’t bad. Aim for the moon and end up in the stars.
NB: You’ve given us some broad advice, but what specific advice would you give to an new Engineer just out of Training?
EB: I would advise any new graduating Engineer to use the resources available to them that fans have already put in place and to try and expand on this knowledge as much as possible. With links like Memory Alpha and Ex Astris Scientia, there’s more than enough information out there on nearly every aspect of Engineering that you could possibly want. In regard to SB118, the Starfleet Engineering Corps is always willing to lend a hand when needed and again, our Wiki is full of information regarding Engineering already and being improved and expanded all the time. I’d suggest that any newly minted Engineering Officer reads up on as much technology for their mission as they can and without being a miracle worker, try and add to the mission by using the technological aspect as much possible.
And now, the 5 questions I will ask all of my interviewees here at “The Gremlin”
NB: Favorite Star Trek TV Series?
EB: Ahh, easy one! Next Generation, without a doubt. Nothing can beat that initial introduction I had into becoming a young fan and it just got better from there.
NB: Favorite Star Trek Movie?
EB: Now that is a divided line between First Contact and Generations. I love the beginnings of the Federation in First Contact but Picard and Kirk together on one screen just gets me every time.
NB: Kirk or Picard?
EB:Can I pick both? Kirk, for his impenetrable wit. Picard, for his stature, his poise, his authority, Englishness and baldness. Bald Captain’s are the way forward.
NB: Favorite piece of Treknobabble?
EB: I’ve come across that many, it’s hard to pick one in particular. I loved Picard’s explanation to Moriarty about how the transporter worked; I just thought that was genius and complete pseudo-scientific gibberish, but in the world of Trek what isn’t?
NB: If you could visit any world from the Star Trek universe, which would it be and why?
EB: Probably Romulus; before Hobus, of course. (Wouldn’t be much point going afterwards.) I tend to think that the Romulan’s have a lot more to tell, another story, a lot more back-story than has been created thus far and if I could go there, I would. Armed with a stab-proof jacket. Maybe a helmet.
Thanks to Ethan for taking the time to talk with us. Join us next time where we’ll interview another engineer from around the fleet. Until then, happy simming!