We’re here for another interview with a newer member of our community. The title of this column is “Lower Decks,” hearkening back to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled “Lower Decks,” in which junior officers aboard the Enterprise-D speculate on the reasons for recent unusual actions taken by the command crew near the Cardassian border.
This month’s interview is with the writer behind Lieutenant JG V’Len Kel playing an Andorian/Trill hybrid male assigned to the USS ‘Oumuamua.
DeVeau: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from? Anything you’d like to share?
Kel: My name is Don. I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I’ve worked in pharma for the last 4 years and prior to that, I worked for a contract toxicology lab. Obviously, I’m pretty scientifically oriented. I’ve also had several medical challenges in my life, so playing a doctor puts me on the “other side of the bed” if you will. I have a splendid wife and 3 brilliant kids. Of late I’ve been working with a rabbit rescue, not only grant writing but also working with the bunnies. I guess I should mention I have 3 rabbits of my own and 2 dogs. My family loves to travel and discover “strange new” parts of our world. I can’t say I’m into adventure travel, but experiencing other cultures is always fun.
What was your introduction to Science Fiction and Star Trek specifically?
I used to watch the first Space Shuttle launches on TV. I had a toy shuttle, so when the real one launched I would run around with my toy. So I loved stories about space travel from a young age. I read Asimov, Clark, Herbert, Tolkien and many others. I really loved a series called Robotech, and it led me into a love for Anime and Manga. I feel the genre has changed so I’m less into it now. I took a sci-fi writing course in high school and I’ve taken other creative writing courses as well. I started collecting comics in high school and I still do, though the titles have changed.
Star Trek III is the first movie I clearly remember seeing in a theater and the scene where Kirk and company steal the Enterprise may be my favorite in all of Trek. I started getting into The Next Generation as I got into high school. I missed most of DS9 because of college. In 2000, I spent 3 months in Johns Hopkins Hospital having heart surgery. Voyager started from Episode 1 and I watched the first 3 seasons while at Hopkins. I think Voyager is my favorite series. I’m currently enjoying Strange New Worlds and… I’m not sure I can say this… the Orville. My wife does not like Trek (Dr Who fan) and I could not sell it to my kids. They will tolerate Lower Decks, but that’s about it.
What is your experience with roleplaying?
In High School, I watched a little show called Robotech. Palladium books made an RPG based on the series and my cousin and I spent our summers at my grandmother’s cabin in the woods running the RPG with some other folks who were in the area. From there I played a little of the Rifts RPG. A few years back, I did some D&D with my kids. Nothing super serious, just a bit of fun.
What brought you to SB118?
I saw some SB118 character art online and on Facebook. When I saw SB118 was recruiting, I thought I’d try it.
Why did you choose this specific character and duty post?
Given my background as a scientist, I was psyched to see that SB 118 needed science officers and doctors. I didn’t originally see myself as a doctor, but I have loved the role. A lot of it is an homage to the eminent doctors I’ve had throughout my life.
As far as V’Len himself, he came from the confluence of events. I was listening to Garrett Wang and Duncan McNeil’s Voyager podcast and was listening to Tuvix. I also saw some art by NumanSkog on Deviantart of a Trilldorian. I put the two ideas together and V’Len was… born?
Where do you see your character five years from now?
Jeez, I’m bad at answering this question in job interviews. I think V’Len loves helping other people and I think he’s content doing that. He’s not one to push to command a ship or lead a fleet. I do hope that he might get moved to another ship or an outpost. I think in the tradition of Julian Bashir, he’d enjoy practising “frontier medicine”. Maybe at the end of 5 years, he’d consider becoming captain of his own medical vessel, in the tradition of Beverly Crusher in “All Good Things.”
Thanks for your time, Lieutenant JG Kel!
You can read more about Lieutenant JG V’Len Kel on the wiki.