Join us for another in a series of interviews with winners of Duty Post awards from our recent 2020 Awards Ceremony. Our goal is to give you insight into how our fleet’s best simmers write, and imagine their characters.
This month we’re interviewing the writer behind Lieutenant Commander Addison MacKenzie playing a Human female Chief Medical Officer assigned to the USS Thor. She won the Prantares Ribbon: “Awarded to those Medical officers who has moved beyond competence to display a true gift for the healing arts in the context of space medicine. The officers given this award should display the ability to keep a steady hand in the often hazardous conditions in which they must practice, as well as the willingness to risk their own life to save the lives of others.“
MOON: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from?
MACKENZIE: Sure! Born, raised, and living in Cleveland, Ohio, right on Lake Erie in the U.S. I’m a former professor, but now a full-time musician and conductor when COVID isn’t a thing. I love reading and hanging out with my orange Maine Coon, Fritado.
Captain Aron Kells specifically called out your character’s “mature, professional but wryly funny” attributes. As a CMO character personal connections are important. What advice can you give others who want to create a nuanced bedside manner?
Well, I think that’s something that’s totally dependent on the character. Addison cares deeply about the welfare of her patients, as I think all good doctors do, but she also isn’t afraid to throw shade when someone deserves it. There were a number of people on the Thor who recently had physicals that resulted in some serious sass from their CMO… I think that’s just part of who she is, though. If she were a Vulcan, for example, she’d be a lot different. Probably still funny, but the humor would be very different.
In your character’s bio you note that she can be “blinded by own pride.” This can be a difficult character flaw to write. How do you show a flaw without hyperbole or taking it too far?
Addison is a consummate professional. She did pretty well in school, has advanced degrees, including an M.D. from the Academy and a specialized fellowship – she knows her stuff. It’s easy to let that translate to the idea that you have a lot of control in various situations. I think the key to writing that kind of flaw successfully is to balance it with humility… If you go into a scenario thinking your feces don’t stink, you have to do it in such a way that doesn’t throw it in anyone’s face… and if you do mess up (and you will), you have to really be humble and willing to acknowledge your shortcomings.
We have evolved significantly in our own medical advances which likely would have impacted the technology in Trekdom. How do you stay current on medical practices and integrate them into your simming?
I’ve always liked medical shows and gravitated toward medical characters. When I was young, I grew up watching shows like E.R. and Untold Stories of the E.R. One of my favorite Trek characters continues to be Beverly Crusher, and Addison is loosely modeled off a character from Grey’s Anatomy.
I’ve always thought the doctors are interesting from the standpoint of needing to balance being an officer and the idea of duty with the instincts that come from being in medicine. I think the cool, cutting edge medical stuff we have going on now is totally fascinating, and I love reading about it, though I never at any point thought about going into medicine. To me, one of the really great things about writing for a medical officer is doing the research about the science behind various maladies that our writers come up with for their characters. I try to make it as realistic as I can.
What kind of advice would you give someone that is interested in writing for a medical officer, but might not have experience in medicine?
You don’t have to have experience – I certainly don’t/didn’t. I think the best thing you can do if you want to successfully write for a medical officer is do your homework. Spend a lot of time on the Wiki – the medical database we’ve built there is pretty extensive. Beyond that, there’s so much material online that details maladies as we view them in the 21st century – it really only takes a little bit of work to figure out how they translate to the 24th century. That’s where the fun is, for me!
Thanks for your time, Lieutenant Commander MacKenzie!
You can read more about Lieutenant Commander MacKenzie on the wiki.