Twelve years ago, Ensign Mal Avatar was assigned as the H/C/O officer to the USS Kodiak-A. Avatar, the first PC of StarBase 118’s resident historian, Glenn, rose up through the ranks to become a captain and captain-at-large to the Executive Council back in 2005. Nowadays, you’re more likely to recognize him as his newer PC, Ra-Uleyra, or via his ongoing history projects, including the Fleet Timeline and the Family Tree. In his capacity as historian, I was able to ask him several questions about the group’s history, the lineage of captains, and plenty more about the 20-year-plus timeline of StarBase 118.
Q: Just about a year ago, 118’s roster of COs had been stable for some time. Now, five of those nine COs have retired, another has become a CO and taken a LOA, and we have four new COs. In your experience, are such turnovers common?
A: They tend to come in bunches it would seem and for a variety of different reasons. Most common reason for departing is real life. In my experience as a former commanding officer, the duties of the CO are far more time consuming than the life of your typical simmer. After awhile, this can be a drain, which is why often former commanding officers continue to write with the group as part of the rank and file.
Q: What are the largest (by number of COs) and quickest turnovers (again, in terms of time and number of COs) you’ve come across, and what might have caused them?
A: For a multitude of reasons, 2379 (2002) was a particularly bad year where 7 commanding officers departed their command. Most cited real life commitments as the number one reason. As someone who analyzes data for a living, I have mined the information to attempt to determine a correlation between some factor and the longevity of a commanding officer. In all cases, there appears to be no one determining factor that would explain success as a CO. I tested hypotheses such as length of time in the group before assuming command or how long the commanding officer served as a first officer before taking a ship. In all of these cases, there appeared to be no obvious trend. As a fascinating tidbit, Admiral Hollis, who holds the record for longest time in the captain’s chair as nearly 8 years went straight from second officer to captain. Obviously the rules of the group have changed significantly since as that would never happen today.
Q: I’d actually heard (I think via one of your projects) that Hollis went straight from second officer to CO. I know that it’s unlikely that something like that couldn’t happen again (if not impossible), but it also seems that it was much more common in the past for COs to rise up fairly quickly, including those (like Hollis and Jessa Anassasi) who made it to full commander in a year or less. I don’t want to ask a black-and-white question like “was it better then or now?” because I think our current processes for promotion to commander and captains are quite good — but, with that said, have you come across any correlations between amount of time in the CO spot and the length of time it took to get there?
A: As much as I would like to find a correlation to quantitatively explain why some captains have a longer time in the captain’s chair versus others, I cannot find one. It truly is a unique experience for everyone that has become a commanding officer. Some captains have a very fast rise to captaincy, while others have taken their time. There is no best route. I would even argue that just because a simmer is a great writer, there is no guarantee that he or she will succeed as a captain. Ultimately it comes down to leadership and finding ways to get your simmers to participate in the group and to keep your plot moving.
Two primary resources come to mind. First and foremost is Yahoo! Groups. There are times when you have no other choice but to dig deep into the official sims of the group. Fortunately Admiral Wolf has held onto our archives over the years which allows us to read up on some of our oldest sims. Secondly there is a great tool that someone had the foresight to create in the mid 90s called the Wayback Machine. If you go to the website archive.org, you can load old versions of any website ever. That includes our own group’s website. There are times when it is necessary to look at old versions of our website or climb through individual ship websites that were once a major part of our group.
A: Many of the more recent ships in the group have been associated with the group originated with Star Trek: Online, however in the older days of the group, STO did not exist and often times captains would create a ship design from either scratch or from secondary sources. It would also appear that as soon as a new ship class entered canon, it would not be long before it appeared in our group. Even though the Dauntless Class was not really a Federation starship, the Kodiak-A used its design not long after appearing on Star Trek: Voyager. The same can be said for the USS Caledonia, which was our first Prometheus Class ship. The captured Romulan warbird as a playing ship was definitely unique!
Stay tuned for the next installment of this intriguing interview!