Lower Decks interview: Lieutenant JG Charles Matthews, USS Astraeus 

Lower Decks interview: Lieutenant JG Charles Matthews, USS Astraeus 

We’re here with 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 Charles Matthews who is currently serving as a tactical and security officer aboard the USS Astraeus.

Nilsen: We’ve talked a few times on the discord but this is the first time we’ve had a chance to sit down and talk. Why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from?  Anything you’d like to share!

Matthews: Hi! Thanks for having me. I do enjoy your bin updates so it’ll be good to have a chat! ::chuckles:: My given name is Shakeel, though I usually go by Shak, and I currently live on the edge of Solihull where it meets the city of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England. At the moment, I work from home and have done since the dark days of the pandemic, providing administrative and financial support remotely. Being at home during the day, I’m often sitting here bored out of my brain, thinking of what trouble I can get Matthews into and what problems I can cause for the crew of the Astraeus! Whether they appreciate that is another matter. What else about myself? I like playing the odd computer game from time to time, though I don’t play as much as I used to. I’d also say I’m quite creative. I obviously now write casually for SB118, but I like to draw and paint and I would like to try my hand at a little bit of clay sculpting and modeling one day, and I also enjoy building Lego sets as well. I’m toying with the idea of learning the guitar, which is a talent I’ve just added to my character’s current list of hobbies, but I’m not sure I have the knack for it!

Nilsen: Ah, I see you like to get your character into trouble as well. What was your introduction to Science Fiction in general and Star Trek specifically?

Matthews: Honestly, I don’t think I’d have any interest in Science Fiction if it wasn’t for Star Trek. Trek definitely came first and it has been there for as long as I can remember. I used to pester my uncle for his VHS box set of the first six movies; at that point those were the only movies that existed, and he had to eventually pester me in return because I would keep them for weeks and weeks at a time. I’m sure I used to watch regular repeats of The Original Series on BBC Two back in the day. If I remember it correctly, they would alternate between episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Simpsons at 6pm, followed by Star Trek. Though don’t quote me on that. I used to manage to find odd episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise from time to time; but it wasn’t until I got Netflix that I was able to watch them all through fully. That’s mostly what I grew up with and I’m definitely still a classic Trek fan. When Destination Trek came to Birmingham a good few years back, I even managed to get a photograph with William Shatner and one with Walter Koenig. Unfortunately, Nichelle Nichols was taken ill and couldn’t attend but it had felt like I’d died and gone to nerd heaven!

Nilsen: I too watched Star Trek on BBC Two, don’t mind us Brits, we’re just reminiscing. What is your experience with roleplaying?

Matthews: Very limited! I used to think I was into role playing games but, after seeing what others say that they have played, I’m not into a whole lot in comparison. As said, I do enjoy playing computer games and I have enjoyed many role playing games in the past, but there isn’t much more to say other than that. Some of the games I have enjoyed most have been those when you as a player can fully choose the dialogue or the outcomes, games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect, Skyrim, or the Telltale games. I think the last game like that I completed was Star Trek Resurgence, which I would recommend, but I’m always on the lookout for others. Even if they just sit in my library on the PlayStation, staring at me when I start writing for Charles again! I don’t have any experience in games like Dungeons & Dragons or others in that ilk. I’m not opposed to it, I just never found the opportunity when I was younger.

Nilsen: There’s a lot of love for those games here. What brought you to SB118?

Matthews: In a few words, it was Facebook and their intrusive algorithm! A “randomly” suggested page popped up for another Star Trek RPG and I decided to look into it. I can’t actually remember the name now. I did sign up but it didn’t go much further than my first training sim. It wasn’t a PBEM method that they were using, the sims were posted on a website, and it just didn’t feel right. The website didn’t work amazingly well for me at the time, which didn’t help, so I soon knocked that on its head. Then a little while afterwards, I was just searching to see if there were any others. Eventually, I found the SB118 Wiki page and the rest, as they say, is history. What impressed me the most was the website and how detailed it was. I must have been reading through it all for hours before I submitted an application. The content on that page is so detailed. It’s crazy! Kudos to those who have filled it and continue to maintain it.I liked the idea of posting by emails as well, personally I think it’s a cleaner process.

Nilsen: The wiki certainly does draw people in. Why did you choose this specific character and duty post?

Matthews: I totally played it safe with the creation of Matthews. Being new to all of this, I thought I’d stick with a human rather than a race I’d have to research before I added a new element to his character. That being said, because of the problems he has had, I did add a bit of history where he lived on Vulcan for a while before joining the Academy. I’d hoped it would add a bit of Vulcan stoicism and a controlled manner, at least externally. There is enough going on internally to keep our poor Counsellor busy for a while, and that struggle is breaking down his calm demeanour at times. In terms of the duty post, I didn’t choose it. Not that I mind. I applied as a Science officer, and that was how the character was written during the Academy test. Once assigned to the ship, that obviously changed but I’ve managed to include his scientific background with a Physics minor in his Academy Transcript and what some of his family are experienced in.

Nilsen: Looking back on your experience so far, what would be one piece of advice you’d give to anyone who’s just joined?

Matthews: Until I get comfortable with people, even digital ones, I can say that I’m quite the introvert and wary of approaching others. My one piece of advice to new members would be to not worry about reaching out to anyone. We all want the same thing; which is to stop, collaborate and listen! Bonus points if you recognise that lyric. ::laughs:: Seriously though, we all just want to enjoy the writing and enjoy the stories, and I think reaching out and collaborating helps that massively. Everyone I’ve gone to for help or advice or with ideas, has been way more helpful than I ever imagined they would be, and that extends to beyond those people who are part of the crew on the Astraeus. I’ve written sims for Matthews that I never thought I would; he even had a sword fight with his First Officer during his first shore leave! I’d originally thought of writing it as a Holodeck scenario but when I asked about the safety protocols in the ship channel, a sparring session was suggested and it just went from there. I think I learnt so much from the collaboration with the other writer, it helps you improve and you think about things differently. So, yeah, don’t worry about messaging anyone about anything is what I’d say.

Nilsen: Where do you see your character five years from now?

Matthews: There’s a question! I’d like to think more rounded as a character, maybe he finally gets over the grief that I burdened him with – because who doesn’t like to torture their characters? Though I think it will always be with him to a certain extent, and who knows what new problems will come his way! I’d like to think he’d be on the route to command by that point, all going well, maybe a stint as a department head. I’m not necessarily tied to Tactical & Security so if he shifts into another department, I don’t mind. He does have a minor in Physics after all! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t frequently look at the inactive ships list, considering which one I’d want to pull out of mothballs. I don’t know why but the Drake keeps jumping out of me!

Thanks for your time, Lieutenant JG Charles Matthews

You can read more about LT Matthews on the wiki.

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