Each month we interview a First Officer or Commanding Officer of the fleet as part of our “First Officer in Focus” and “Captain’s Corner” columns to get to know them better, and learn more about what their positions entail.
This month, we’re interviewing the First Officer of the starship USS Thor, LtCmdr. Geoffrey Teller playing a human male.
GARCIA: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from?
TELLER: My real name is Brian, and my family and I hail from Bainbridge Island in the Pacific Northwest of the US. It’s about a 40 minute ferry trip across the bay to downtown Seattle.
Tell us more about your writing style. What’s your process for putting together a sim? How do you keep the story moving and get others involved?
Generally speaking, I do my sims in a single sitting and, for the first pass, actually use just plain old Notepad. Got into the habit early in my simming because it was the easiest way to normalise and strip formatting that different mail clients liked to apply. After I’ve got all the tags laid out that I need to respond to, I try to focus on either affirmative or additive statements – agreeing with or praising what has come before (with rare exception) and then encouraging additional conversation with pointed questions or concerns.
I find that it’s easy, especially for junior officers who haven’t developed their ‘voice’ yet, to get lost in big scenes – briefings, meetings, etc. I’ll specifically look for those people clinging to the walls and try to drag them in with a question related specifically to their speciality. It’s not a perfect system, but when a shy writer suddenly begins opening up and responding, it’s a great feeling.
What’s the biggest obstacle Teller has faced on his journey to becoming First Officer?
In Character, the biggest problem Teller has had to face is the fact Shuttles keep falling on or exploding around him. It’s like they’re allergic to the poor guy. Out of Character, the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome is balancing my time – at the Command level, our little game comes with a lot of OOC work that’s vitally important for the long term health and sustainability of a crew. Making certain I could give the time it deserved and required while balancing the responsibilities of being a husband and father has been a tricky thing, but I think I’m managing. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of coffee on hand.
What’s your favourite (and least favourite!) parts about playing a First Officer?
XO is an interesting role to develop because instead of having a department that you’re directly engaged with full time, you’re meant to move from place to place, interacting with all of the department heads on a ship, so you can coordinate and report up to the CO. It means your simming has to be especially flexible and inclusive and you should be engaging, on one level or another, with the entire crew. It’s vital training for people pursuing long term command, but there are times when I miss the simplicity and comradery of a smaller setting. Keeps me on my toes, that’s for certain.
Do you take inspiration from any of the First Officers featured in Star Trek? For example, are you more of a Riker or Chakotay?
I’ve been trying to sit in more chairs backwards, but that’s going about as well as my trombone playing. Tragically, Teller can’t cultivate a majestic beard, nor can he pull off the Mr. T/Burnham flattop, so I think all that’s left is a face tattoo. Only problem there is that anything that would honour Teller’s ancestors would probably get him kicked out of Starfleet.
Actually, I’ve heard talk in the mess hall of a tattoo … is there a story to share there?!
What started as a bit of a throwaway gag in a shore leave sim has turned into an enduring character trait, and frankly that’s something I love about 118. I introduced the idea of Teller getting a wildly inappropriate tattoo during some early shore leave shenanigans and had fully intended to get rid of it shortly thereafter, but several members of the crew and my CO at the time (who happened to be the subject of said tattoo) prevailed on me to keep it. The tattoo ended up being used in an interesting personal development arc for Teller and has gone on to be a great running joke and a bit of character detail ever since. Lt. Cmdr. Jo Marshall of the Gorkon and Image Collective was kind enough to create some art to bring it to life, and it has since been immortalised on the wiki.
Finally, looking back on your experience so far, what would be one piece of advice you’d give to anyone who’s just joined?
Trust your fellows! Some of the best times I’ve had in my time with 118 have been the unexpected facets that another writer can bring to your ideas. I once asked the incredibly talented Lt. Wil Ukinix on the Veritas to write a family member NPC for me and gave him few other guidelines – the character he ended up creating was so well liked, he stuck around post mission and was a crew favourite in plot lines for the whole of that shore leave. It’s not how I would’ve done it, and it definitely wasn’t what I expected, but it was fantastic fun. At the end of the day, isn’t that why we’re doing this?
Thanks for your time, LtCmdr. Teller!
You can read more about Teller on the wiki.