In “Odd Jobs” we examine some less traditional posts and the characters and writers behind them to inspire you to investigate potential for your own character.
Today we have the pleasure of speaking to Major Tatash Ssiolassh, a male Gorn Marine Intelligence Officer assigned to Starbase 118 Ops.
DeVeau: Hi Tatash! Thank you for joining us! Would you please tell us a little about the writer behind the character? What would you like to share about yourself?
Tatash: Hello! Nice to be here, and thank you for inviting me. I live in a place called Hereford with my partner in the UK, it’s a small town surrounded by miles of countryside, no surprise since it’s the origin of the famous Hereford Cow. We’re also just down the road from a big military base which is the HQ for the SAS, a big inspiration for the direction Tatash has taken and they are quite noisy neighbours.
For my hobbies I enjoy exploring the local footpaths and go on many mile walks with my trusty best friend, Matilda. She’s a Border Collie/Australian Kelpie cross so she very much sets the pace and the range for our adventures. We’re hoping to get her into an agility display team so a lot of my spare time is taken up with teaching her.
For my real job I work permanently from home in a software development team, we look after an old workhorse of a system that a lot of housing authorities and companies use to maintain and manage their properties. I do a lot regarding designing improvements and changes to the UI.
Basically, a nerdy guy with a dog in the countryside.
Currently, Tatash is a Marine Intelligence Officer. Why that particular duty post?
Before I took a break, Tatash had rose up to become the Commanding Officer of the Marines on Starbase 118 and it was a role that I really enjoyed. He’d seen a lot of action and suffered a fair few injuries as a result, some fairly traumatic, but those were tremendously deep and nuanced things to write. I enjoyed crafting fantastic action set pieces, but I also enjoyed taking this hard-edged Gorn and slowly mellowing him out into a character that could crack a one liner and blow away the baddies, but had the depth to explore the real difficulties he faced and the trauma he experienced.
When I was discussing my return, I wanted to get Tatash back involved on Ops but I was very keen to avoid stepping on the toes of the Marine already in place, since I returned with my rank intact but there were other players really operating the Corps’ machinery but putting their own signature and spin on it. Keeping that and ensuring I didn’t interfere was a big priority for me. I was tempted to go into Intelligence full time, but that in a way would have detracted from the character and reputation that Tatash had built up over the years. It would have been a jarring direction to go.
So this role was invented as it can straddle between two worlds. This role is less about the macro lens where the real high level intelligence gathering is carried out looking at whole regions of space, and more operating as an asset on the ground getting the reconnaissance and legwork done.
It’s in the same way most real governments have their Operators drawn from special forces units that work hand in hand with intelligence agencies. It’s a chance to still do the cool, action orientated work but look more at the micro level, the ‘sneak behind enemy lines’ type of work.
How does this position differ from other Intelligence Officers?
I think the key difference is, an intelligence officer would usually look to gather the information and slip away quietly to build a team to respond to it, whereas Tatash can gather the information and take any direct action required if authorised too or infiltrate and hold a key position.
It would be an intelligence officer that would decide where to insert someone like Tatash into, to figure out where he’d be most effective or what (or who) in particular needs to be examined far more closely then through a scanner or second hand accounts.
I’m almost rolling my eyes at this analogy but he’s very much like a scaly James Bond (or Austin Powers, if he’s had a bit too much Romulan Ale). He has a deep military history, the tactical and strategic understanding and experience to be an extremely disruptive element if embedded in a hostile location. He’s also smart enough to know when to shoot, and when to ask questions while trying to keep a few steps ahead.
Maybe one day Tatash will end up a high stakes poker game against an arch enemy, while sipping a Vodka Martini, stranger things have happened on Ops!
What is the most interesting thing about serving in this capacity?
The ability to really push boundaries and delve into the more uncomfortable subjects of how far such a morally upstanding organization is willing to go in order to protect its interests without going too dark. Some of my absolute favourite Trek moments where when Deep Space 9 explored the side of the Federation that wasn’t the ‘Everything is fabulous’ squeaky clean PR perspective, and exploring that is very interesting.
Not only that, the ability to enjoy a bit of old fashioned spy romping complete with ludicrous bad guys is always a treat!
Everyone wants to avoid the trope of falling into the mould of ‘breaking the rules to get it done’ because let’s be honest things like Section 31 are slightly cringeworthy, so I make it a point that Tatash never has broken a rule (or at least hasn’t been caught…) and as a writer I strive to keep it light hearted and exciting rather than some grimdark portrayal of murky dealings.
How have you brought realism into your role and your simming as a Marine Intelligence Officer?
Enough realism to be believable, but not enough to ruin the fun! That’s my mantra.
I’m very much of the mindset that simming needs to be fun to interact with and read, and a lot of the time realism does need to bend slightly to keep that natural flow of things and most importantly keep things interesting for the reader.
Tatash has had a realistic rise up through the ranks, he’s done his time, he’s earned every award he has got and he can channel that as a character. Would I say every situation he’s found himself in realistic? Not by a long shot, but most good fiction operates on only semi-believable co-incidences and circumstances.
Suspension of disbelief is not a bad thing. How many times did our favourite Captains in the movies and TV series pull something out of their hat that was -complete- nonsense. Who cares though, if it’s fun and engaging and fits the narrative.
Operationally I suppose there is some realism in what Tatash does or how he fights. My family have always been in law enforcement and specifically my father was a counter terrorism officer before retirement, and went on to lecture and train. I always showed an active interest in what he did (because lets be honest it’s kinda cool) and he was happy to share. It may never be 100% correct but if you saw it on a big screen, at least it would look fairly convincing!
If someone wanted to serve in this capacity, what advice would you give them?
Don’t look at it like a serious, gritty role for a character despite what it says on the tin. Yes, you could easily become some tortured anti-hero, lurking in the shadows but I don’t think the role really suits that type of mindset.
It’s a really unique opportunity to get involved in the action and do some really fun things, but most importantly it’s a role that can be the catalyst for a lot of other players actions and scene setting.
It is an intelligence driven role for sure and it’s one that can be used to really set a scene or describe how a place looks and feels from the inside. You can set up the characters and interactions that other players can run with using your unique infiltration and observation based perspective.
In a way, to me, it’s like being a Dungeon Master-Lite. I’m the first in there and can add in some flavour like observing bunches of guards or describing how the security to a place operates, which makes it far more fun for other players trying to overcome these obstacles.
Finally, never be afraid to drop some amazing one-liners when you finally bring the bad guy down!
Thanks for your time, Major Tatash!
You can read more about Major Tatash Ssiolassh on the wiki.