Each month, we interview a captain or first officer of the fleet to gain more insight into what it takes to command a ship and learn more about how each of these staff members found their way into these roles, and what’s been happening under their command.
This month, we’re interviewing the Commanding Officer of Amity Outpost, Ambassador Rivi Vataix, a Betazoid recently taking up residence on the Federation Diplomatic Corps installation in the Barossa Sector.
DeVeau: You’ve been interviewed before, so we know a little about you already. Instead, I’d like to focus a bit on your character. Since I joined SB118, you have played Roshanara Rahman and were even my captain for a time. Recently, you not only moved from a ship to an outpost, but you have created a new character – Ambassador Rivi Vaitax. Would you please share some things about her?
Vataix: Niarivi “Rivi” Vataix is a Daughter of the Eleventh House of Betazed and before she became a Federation ambassador, she was a Betazoid socialite. At age 36, she’s a little younger than Captain Rahman and is married. She and her husband take care of both a son of their own and her first cousin, once removed, Ayeden Blake, son of Rivi’s cousin Sky Blake (a character you and others may recognize as the former first officer of the USS Veritas and now a retired Starfleet officer who serves as a Colonial Coalition Marshal back in the Shoals).
Having played Starfleet officers for all of my previous primary characters (and most of my PNPCs), I was excited to try something quite different, and Rivi being a civilian who’s been put in charge of a large diplomatic facility has been a fun and exciting new challenge for me as a writer and player. The crew of Amity know this already quite well, but Rivi is a stark contrast to Captain Rahman and the image we have of what a commanding officer should be from previous Star Trek series. She’s more casual with how she addresses her officers (usually using their first names instead of rank, more like what you might imagine in an office setting), and she has an unrelenting optimism and cheerfulness that can catch many folks off-guard.
What made you decide to make the move from the USS Veritas to an outpost rather than another ship?
In the fourth year (or “season”) of Veritas, I thought about where I’d want to take the story of my characters and the crew at large. So often I’ve seen how captains, first officers, and others have to eventually leave the game because of real-life and whatnot, and so I knew that I had a rare opportunity to end Veritas (or at least *my* tenure of Veritas) with her original first officer and show the development of a few key story arcs we’d had since year one to satisfying conclusions while still leaving it all with the feeling that there were other stories that could still be told if we wanted to. I much preferred then departing the Shoals in that way rather than feeling like we’d simply exhausted all of our stories there.
Once I knew we’d be leaving the Shoals, I thought of what campaign region and setting (ship or station) would be different from not only what we’d been doing on the USS Veritas but also the USS Invicta (my first command) before that. The 118 fleet had ventured into the Delta Quadrant before with Outpost Unity and the Darwin, and I wanted to go back there even farther out to see what had been happening in the quadrant since Voyager last travelled through.
So with the campaign region decided, then I considered whether we’d be on a ship again or pick a station or planetside location. I liked the “what if” consideration of how DS9 might have looked if it were Major Kira in charge and Sisko and the Starfleet crew just supporting this Bajoran-led station (since DS9 was supposedly a Bajoran station that was simply administered by Starfleet but in the series it felt more like a Starfleet station first). Thus, with Amity Outpost, I wanted the station not to be a Starfleet one but a Federation Diplomatic Corps facility (again cementing that this was a civilian-led station) with the Starfleet officers in a supporting role. I encouraged as many of my staff to either take on civilian roles with their primary characters or develop a PNPC that would have a place on the civilian side of things, and we’ve since seen the junior players take inspiration from that and begin adding even more civilian characters of their own!
What are some of the differences in how missions and scenes are done on the outpost versus a ship?
Like what we saw on DS9, the biggest difference we’ve seen in our first few missions is that the consequences of those missions stay with us on the outpost. We can’t simply warp on to the next planet and the characters we introduce in one mission may very well stick through shore leave and into the next.
We do have our own ship (the Defiant-class USS Independence-B) for when we want to venture away from Amity Outpost for a more traditional ship-based story, but the outpost is our main setting. In terms of scenes, everything on the outpost just feels much larger. Though we aren’t nearly as large as StarBase 118, I told Amity’s first officer Danny who plays Wil Ukinix that I want Amity to feel like a small city in space, and we’ve made deliberate choices about what kind of features we have on the outpost. We use trains to get between sections of the station instead of turbolifts and the habitat areas are more like apartment buildings rather than crew quarters.
It’s been a lot of fun to see everyone contribute their own ideas of what’s aboard the station as they flesh it out into a real place.
What are some of the adventures you and your crew have embarked upon since Amity’s launch?
Since we are a diplomatic facility and Rivi is a Federation ambassador, you can imagine that our first few adventures have had a diplomatic and political focus. If the setting of Amity is like DS9 set in Voyager’s region, the stories/feel of Amity is a bit like The West Wing or Madam Secretary in space. Amity Outpost is located in a solar nebula (a developing solar system) rich in benamite (the resource needed for the quantum slipstream drive), and our first mission involved our crew becoming mediators between the miners and a group of religious pilgrims when spaceborne animals that were interfering with mining operations were discovered to be sacred to the pilgrims.
Our second full mission was about an exposition that Rivi and the crew were hosting aboard the outpost as a sort of “open house” invitation for the Delta Quadrant species to come together for scientific and cultural exchange, but the arrival of the Vidiians soon brought about protests and threats of boycotts by those whom the Vidiians had victimized for the past two millennia.
Our upcoming mission is going to be a break from the diplomatic stories as Captain Rahman and her new command, the Galaxy-class USS Kitty Hawk, have finally arrived in the Delta Quadrant to begin a three-year-mission of exploration, and the Amity crew will be joining along aboard the USS Independence-B for a classic Trek sci-fi adventure!
What are some things you hope to see for Amity and her crew in the coming year?
I’m looking forward to seeing how the storylines play out of both the primary characters I’ve come to know and love from Veritas as well as the PNPCs the crew has introduced on Amity. As a diplomatic facility, Amity Outpost also features something we didn’t really explore as much on Veritas before: a lively press corps! We’ve had several writers introduce journalists who have provided fun “IC” articles we can read and then have our characters respond to, and it’s been interesting to see how the actions of our crew can be interpreted so differently from their intentions.
Since we are in the Delta Quadrant, I’m certainly looking forward to revisiting more species that we only saw once or twice in Voyager. Back in the Shoals, I described the Tholians to our crew as our “Cold War” antagonists like the Klingons were in TOS. On Amity, I want that to be the Hirogen.
Finally, before Amity Outpost was Amity, it was a Starfleet R&D center known as Copernicus Station (as featured in the old Star Trek: The Experience Voyager ride Borg Invasion). There might just be a few leftover experiments with dangerous Borg tech lying around somewhere…
What words of wisdom would you like to offer to those who are currently commanding officers, or who look forward to being one someday?
It’s important to continue developing your own characters and stories while you lead others and provide for them to tell theirs. I think becoming a good commanding officer is also knowing how to delegate and surround yourself with people who can best support you and your ship. Know your own limits and be respectful of your own time constraints and obligations beyond the game. It’s far better to do a few things well than overcommit and do a bunch of things poorly.
Finally, I’d encourage all commanding officers and those seeking the position to remember it’s fine and good practice to take short breaks, vacations, or even a step back from command when you need to. Communicate with your staff, crew, and the Executive Council when you do so, and develop and trust the abilities of your first officer, second officer, and staff members so that you don’t feel like everyone would fall apart if you need to step away.
Thanks for your time, Ambassador Vataix!
You can read more about Ambassador Rivi Vataix on the wiki.