This is the second in a two-part article interviewing members of the Science duty post. You can see part one here.
We pick up where we left off, with LtCmdr. Trellis Vondaryan of StarBase 118 Ops interviewing John Valdivia (Chief Science Officer, USS Darwin-A), Merrick R’Ven (Science & Cybernetics Officer, USS Darwin-A), and Ayiana Sevo (Chief Science Officer, USS Gorkon).
Trellis Vondaryan: Any interesting items, species or phenomena that you have discovered?
John Valdivia: For my personal interests (as in real life personal), the most interesting object would be a Dyson Sphere. And during his career, Valdivia has found two! And they are amazing objects in that they have nothing to do with each other. Each Dyson sphere gives you a new world to explore. Actually, something several million times the size of a world. And it’s like discovering a new race. You can take it on a mission, or extend the exploration for several missions, or years. Other amazing things I remember dearly were the Reman Vampires, or the Mini Air Ones, a group of nanobots that were the Star Trek version of an old Catalan legend (the Minairons, hence the name).
Ayiana Sevo: The episodes and sims I remember the most are ones that affect Ayiana in some way. The first mission on the Gorkon, A Sinking Ship, involved us rescuing a Starfleet ship. On board, the crew had been driven insane by escaped parasites. They had set traps all over the ship, severely hindering our ability to save them. At one point, Ayiana found herself and her group, including Captain Reynolds, trapped in a jefferies tube filling with water. She had to use her exceptional swimming skills (which I made up right there) to save the day. Other times, I have thought up fun, scientific ways to turn the tide in a conflict. In the same episode, I came up with a way to nullify phaser discharges using her tricorder.
The thing that fascinates me the most is Quantum Slipstream. Ever since VOY introduced it, I have been enamoured by the concept. It was explored even further in Andromeda (another great sci-fi show). It is the reason why I made Ayiana an expert in it. One of the last missions of the Victory had her doing a shakedown cruise after a major refit. Ayiana was glued to the computer, analyzing every single detail of the new QSD. Speaking of that mission, it saw her engage Tholians, a very interesting race.
Merrick R’Ven: Well there are two of note I would think:
In an episode called A Series of Unusual Events the crew of the Apollo encountered a runaway experiment with Quantum Entanglement. This was the brain child of whomever was running the episode, but in the episode an alien race had managed to find a way to create the technology and use it in an attempt to leech energy from their sun but had actually opened up a hole into other quantum realities. In the end the crew saved the day and R’Ven has been pondering what to do with this technology since then.
In another episode called Awakening, this one on the Darwin-A, the crew encounter the Borg however their nanoprobes have become sentient. In the Darwin’s investigation they found a machine that seemed to be at least partially, if not wholly responsible for the Borg’s predicament. At the moment there is somewhat of a debate about whether the machine was constructed to control/reprogram the sentient nanprobes, or if it was the machine itself that had actually granted the nanoprobes sentience in the first place. However the original mission has ended and now the machine is sitting in the Cybernetics lab and R’Ven is trying to unlock its secrets.
Have you managed to do anything with those discoveries in game, or do you plan to in the future?
Valdivia: Most of them lasted a mission and were the main subject during the whole mission. Some of them spanned during several, or as a B-plot that stayed with us for some time. In particular the last Dyson sphere has become a base of operations for the Darwin in the Delta Quadrant. And we haven’t even been able to get inside yet! This one is intended to be there for as long as the Darwin is, and we will be pulling missions out of it for as long as we can think of them. And then some scientific projects were my character’s pet projects (the Mini Air Ones, for example), so he used them on shore leave and free time, lasting for some time until another project came up.
Sevo: I want to. Its mostly a matter of the right time. I have ideas for various real-world quantum mechanic concepts I want to sim. I am trying to do some OOC activities, like starting a scientific journal to explore the concepts I think of, or things Ayiana comes across in her career.
R’Ven: At the moment R’Ven has not. I know he plans to finish his study of the machine and perhaps write a doctoral thesis on it. In the last episode R’Ven was partially assimilated by the sentient Nanoprobes. But since the nanoprobes were no longer precisely Borg, neither really is he, although some may not quite look at that way. He hopes that the machine will help him to understand how the probes were created, and what they… and possibly he, will ultimately become. Which is another fear he is dealing with.
He has also developed a… fascination for the machine. What will become of that when the machine is eventually sent elsewhere or proves to be hostile will be interesting to play out.
Any advice to new players interested in this position?
Valdivia: Be aware of powerplaying. I think science is one of the departments where it is easier to powerplay inadvertently, and even get away with it. You are even sometimes induced to do so. So you have to be very careful to sim coherently.
For instance, what are your character’s interests? If they are a physicist, they will not know a lot of exobiology. Maybe the basics, but be sure to delegate that area (even if it is to an NPC created on the spot). The same applies to any other area. Your character will easily expected to know everything science related. And you will need them to (for the sake of the plot). It’s just a matter of expliciting where they go and check with others, or even with the computer, the parts they don’t know.
And similarly, if you see Star Trek, science can solve everything. A bit of Treknobabble here and there and any problem finds a solution. This can be fun if you allow others into the solution (as I said before), but you also have to be careful to avoid solving every problem with some Trek magic.
Sevo: I’d say you have to enjoy science. Many of its concepts are not easy to grasp. You have to explain something in a way the layman will understand. As said by Valdivia, you have to be careful not to make your character too knowledgeable. Every real-life scientist has a particular field of study they are experts in. Stephen Hawking may have taken numerous different science classes as part of his general education and postgraduate work, but he focused on only one aspect. The same is true of Ayiana. She loves physics, and chemistry to a lesser extent. However, she hates biology (as do I).
R’Ven: First, figure out who your character is, their interests, their focus, their drives and subjects of interests. It is these things that color the way your character will see the world. Try to develop what their area of knowledge is and perhaps any areas that they are lacking (weakness can be as character defining as strengths) and play it to the hilt! Don’t be afraid to take chances and have your character fail. That is something I am still working on, but I find it an interesting challenge and one that is helping R’Ven to grow. Also never be afraid to talk with your mentor, captain, first officer and any of the other experienced people on the ship, they can provide invaluable advice. Lastly, have fun!
Have you seen (or written) any sims that highlight a good science officer?
Valdivia: I have seen them, and I would like to think I have written some. But I’ll show some posts to illustrate what I said before, the part where your job is to explain what is going on so it makes sense form a Star Trek point of view.
These are joint posts by the then science officers of the Darwin. On a mission, we found an O-class planet (oceanic) governed by a religious order of Zolrak, the God of Water. But the planet had been in the past of M class, so the whole mission was of underwater exploring and archaeology. Which had the following question passed on to the science department: how exactly does an M class planet become an O class planet? And specially in such a short time. So the sims don’t even feature our characters, but on we went to sim it. Later our characters found the recordings of these moments as an explanation: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Sevo: I don’t recall many sims of other people. In my time in the fleet, the science positions haven’t been filled very much, so I haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot of other scientists. One person I do recall with fondness was Lt. Tarsii Asmara, a real-life scientist Brazil. While he had trouble with English, his scientific concepts and methodologies were excellent. I also have a great Lt. JG on the Gorkon who shows promise.
As for me, I think sims showing Ayiana applying her knowledge of the universe to be some of my best. A few examples are her dissipating phaser energy, using stone, chemicals, and her hair to start a fire, and confusing an enemy fleet’s sensors to impede their targeting.
R’Ven: Besides my own!!! LOL!!
Seriously I am playing under another Science Officer right now who is showing me what it is like to actually be in charge of a science team which is really cool! Actually it was he that placed R’Ven in the cybernetics section which was a perfect fit. Merrick has had a Borg fascination from the beginning, but placing him there crystalized a lot of things in his character and has made playing him SOOO much easier and fun. I can’t point to any one sim, mostly because I have a bad memory, but watching of the progression of quality sims have shown me a lot, especially that there are different ways that science officers can be played and that there is no one right way.
Not every science officer is going to be Mr. Spock, and wouldn’t it be so boring if they were?
Thank you all for your time.