Captain, first officer, chief of security, chief medical officer. These posts, and many more, are staples of every simming ship and installation. But what about the lesser known positions – the intelligence officers, diplomats, and nurses of the fleet? In this series, we’ll examine some of the less traditional posts and the characters and writers behind them.
Ensign Oliver Weston, Intelligence Officer, USS Drake
Starfleet Intelligence has been a part of the 118 experience for many years, at least as far back as the Black Tower simming installation. But since that group’s last posted sims are from 2003, what are new members who are interested in intelligence? Adam, who writes for Ensign Weston on the Drake, acknowledges this difficulty: “There really isn’t any ground work to build off of for Intel, so everything that I end up writing feels a little different to me.” Further, regarding canon information, “there hasn’t been much of a precedent set in any of the series (aside from a smattering in DS9) for it to be a standard duty posting.” However, he views this as a great freedom, both for the character (“[it] allows me to call on a wealth of data on species, technology, current happenings”) and for the writer (“[it] gives me a wonderful creative outlet to actually put that data on paper”). Access to that data and the creative freedom it brings can be dangerous, so Adam makes sure to keep himself firmly grounded. “I often find myself staring at the keyboard thinking ‘What the hell would an Intelligence Officer do here?’ Starfleet Intelligence isn’t a group of super spies sent to defend the Federation from the Tal Shiar or Obsidian Order, and I don’t believe that any past or present Intel Officers believe that they’re futuristic James Bonds. I try not to sim that way either. Oliver doesn’t have a wealth of secret high tech gadgets at his disposal, wrist chrono phasers, personal cloaking device, jetpack.” This restraint results in a more realistic simming situation for all involved, and avoids the strained credibility of one character continually saving the ship – something that it took the TNG writing staff several years to figure out.
I was also interested in learning about the challenge inherent in writing an intel ensign. In the Black Tower simming group, it appears that many officers were commanders and captains; even in the fleet today, you’re unlikely to find an intel officer below lieutenant (Captain McCall, the Discovery‘s intel officer, is the subject of the next profile). So how does Adam rise to that challenge? “I often think ‘How much would they tell an Ensign?’ or ‘Would Oliver have access to this level of information?’ when I’m writing and that helps put things into prospective. I assume an Ensign in Starfleet Intelligence’s primary job would be to gather actionable intelligence rather then act on certain leads.”
While the previous articles in this series have been mostly devoted to the pros and pluses of writing for unusual postings, Adam was the first who admitted difficulty in his writing. “Intelligence Officers don’t have it terribly easy finding a groove, or at least I didn’t. We don’t have a duty station on the bridge, we don’t have a department head to report to or take guidance from, and as a Junior Officer you wont have an Office or even private quarters to work out of. During a crisis on the ship or bridge there isn’t anywhere you’re supposed to be, no where to report to, so you might find yourself floundering at first.” However, he has several suggestions regarding how to deal with such difficulties. To begin, he was assigned to the Drake under Captain Reynolds, a former intel officer. Even more helpful is the background he created for Oliver: “I made sure to identify that Oliver studied a specific Minor (Operations) while he took his Major in Intel. That gives me something solid to root myself too if I’m a little lost in the aether.” As with any posting, deep background and character interest keep things interesting for Adam and his shipmates and help create a unique and intriguing simming experience.