In this edition of ‘The Lower Decks’, we have a sit-down with the newly promoted Lieutenant JG Maxwell Traenor from the USS Apollo. The writer behind the character is a lifelong fan of both Trek and the Sci-Fi genre. What started at first as self-described merciless mocking of TOS as a kid morphed into a lifelong love that he maintains today even after the shows have stopped airing. “Imagine two young boys watching syndicated reruns, carrying on their best (worst) MST3K-style commentary in front of the TV screen. Drove our parents nuts! Yet, by the time TNG came out, that good-natured derision had shifted into unabashed passion, and I have found it to be my favorite sci-fi universe ever since,” says Jason, the writer behind the mask of Traenor.
And that passion, coupled by a simple web search, brought him to the doorstep of Starbase 118. He claims that the organization behind the group drew him in, while the Academy and mentoring that we offer aboard our ships got him involved quickly. He’s got experience too. Of this, he says, “I have been involved with several IRC and PBEM Star Trek roleplays through the years, and not a one held a candle to the level of support and encouragement that SB:118 provides from the moment you send in your initial application.”
Of course not everyone draws 100% of their inspiration from Star Trek, and Jason is no different. His character is based on a number of influences that may have included the underdogs of Trek – like Barclay, Rom, and Phlox – as well as similar characters throughout the science fiction genre. “I’m immediately drawn to and gain inspiration from the clueless and/or uninspiring antihero,” he says. He also explains how this character has a lot of himself in it, perhaps more than any other character he’s played before. This is reflected in some of the character’s backstory as the writer looks at situations he might have explored differently if given the chance. “Maxwell gives me an outlet for fantastical introspection and say, “what if you you got a second chance at squandered opportunity?”
That backstory itself is interesting too. Unlike the many ‘fresh baby-faced 22 year old cadets’, Maxwell rose through the ranks and applied to Starfleet Academy only after he seemed to hit a dead end in his career path. This was how the writer behind the character approached character creation in a way that would make the character different while offering him a challenge as a writer. It’s given him plenty of avenues to discover as well. “Why had he been so apathetic until now? Why now such a radical career shift? What happened in his past life, and how might that reflect on his current challenges? The conscious decision to make him “too” normal, and see how he grows and changes when surrounded by and contrasted against the elite of Starfleet, was too tempting a concept to ignore,” says Jason of his character’s story thus far.
But perhaps the best part of that story is that is hasn’t all been figured out yet. It can be fun to plan out a character and explore some specific situations and circumstances, but it can be equally enjoyable to create something with a story yet to unfold. A great example of this is Traenor’s injured knee. Though the injury is on file as being present, the writer has yet to come up with the circumstances surrounding it. “I don’t know yet… but it will be boring, I’m sure! I find great humor in the droll and inane. Though it would be cool to say he fought off a pack of wild targ, or slipped while scaling the warp core escaping from the Borg, I think that would be too easy. Someday, I’ll find just such a droll and inane reason for the injury, and then the fun will be in finding a way to write about it in an interesting and engaging way,” he says, which is something everyone on the Apollo is sure to enjoy reading about.
What Jason did plan ahead for, as many of us do, is the departmental strengths of his character. As one who loves to use treknobabble, he used to play only engineering characters. With everything the Starfleet engineer has at his disposal, however, it became to easy to succumb to the same problem over and over – the one where the miracle worker solves everything with some kind of fantastic treknology. Since that’s not something science officers are generally looked to for, he decided science was a better route this time around. He explains, “The role is generally that of a support specialist, which is much more enjoyable for me. I don’t want to resolve the plot, I want to provide the information for others to resolve the plot. And I want to use treknobabble while I accomplish that. So, a scientist became a natural fit.”
Though fairly new to the Fleet, Jason and his character Maxwell Traenor has become integral parts of the ship he serves on, the USS Apollo A. As such, we asked him to speak about his future with us and tell us where he thinks he’ll be in a few years. “I’d be lying if I said that the allure of my own command isn’t a siren song, but it’s tempered by my desire to grow and progress at a reasonable rate first. If I can’t be a supportive and effective member of SB:118 first and foremost, then I won’t be having fun, and if I’m not having fun, then I wouldn’t be an effective captain. I still feel really new, and I want to build a strong network of friends both on the Apollo and throughout the fleet before command ever becomes a priority for me.”
For now we will have to wait and see, and enjoy the contributions that this science officer, and his writer, bring to Starbase 118.
Looking for more information about this ‘Lower Decks’ spotlighted officer? Check out his wiki page here. And if you or anyone you know is interested in being the next officer to appear in ‘The Lower Decks’, please contact Fleet Captain Kalianna Nicholotti today!