Lower Decks – Lieutenant JG T’Ama, USS Constitution

Lower Decks – Lieutenant JG T’Ama, USS Constitution

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 T’Ama playing a Vulcan/El-Aurian female operations officer assigned to the USS Constitution.

DeVeau: Tell us a little about the writer behind the character — where in the world do you hail from, hobbies, interests?  Anything you’d like to share!

T’Ama: Hi, I’m Melissa and I live and grew up on Florida’s Space Coast. That’s where Kennedy Space Center is located which is where they launched the missions to the moon from, the space shuttles, and now tons of commercial rockets. I now only have one cat, but I love animals and used to have dogs and cockatiels. I would say my big passion in life is fiber arts. I quilt, knit, crochet, cross stitch, dye yarn, and I’m currently exploring spinning and weaving. I’m also very into indie nail polish, fountain pens, and computer games, though my original childhood obsession was purebred dogs. Professionally I have a background in web development, but most of my job now is advanced integrations and supporting legacy web applications.

What was your introduction to Science Fiction in general and Star Trek specifically?

T’Ama: In third grade I ordered the first four Animorphs books from the Scholastic Book Club flier that my school sent home, and then I collected the entire series over the years. One of my regrets in life is that I didn’t take them with me when I moved out and they were donated to that original school I went to when I got the first ones.

For Star Trek specifically I didn’t grow up with anyone watching sci-fi in the house. I went and saw the 2009 movie in theaters because Zachary Quinto was in it and I liked him from Heroes, and I liked it so much I bought it on DVD – which is extremely high praise from me because I do not watch movies. I am not a movie person. So I said to myself, this is great, I want to get into this, and I tried to watch TOS, and TOS was not the place to start. So then I spent about 5 years not being into Star Trek but wanting to be into and not really understanding that there were multiple shows or how to find my way in. Until one night I randomly decided to put on Voyager as background noise for my knitting and it hooked me. I spent the next three months watching all of Voyager.

What is your experience with roleplaying?

Again, I was a bit of a late bloomer on roleplaying. I got into TTRPGs in my late 20’s with a group of friends from high school. I’ve played in various groups over Discord in various systems and was eventually invited to a forum based Vampire: The Masquerade (VtM) game which was my intro to written roleplaying.

What brought you to SB118?

A number of converging factors, really. I was at a time in my life where I had left the long time internet community I grew up in and was part of for 20 years and I was looking to fill the void. Starbase 118 has a lot of the same vibes. Totally different subject matter and kind of game, but the sort of founded-in-the-90’s, highly structured, lots of rules, lots of history, expectation of maturity vibe was really familiar to me. I had also played in a Star Trek: Adventures group that I had a lot of fun in but fell apart when the GM left and I could not convince my high school friends to play a Star Trek game with me (they are more into Star Wars). I also don’t consider myself a writer, but it was a thing I wanted to explore and I needed something that would force me to because I obviously wasn’t writing on my own. However the forum based format of the VtM game was incredibly unhealthy for me. I got really addicted to it, so I did have my reservations but the PBEM format is better for me.

Anyway, I found it randomly from Googling one day and then stalked the wiki a lot and really thought about it because I knew it was going to be a commitment and then just decided to try it out. I spent probably the first 6 months taking it slow, getting it integrated into my life, and vetting if this was somewhere I wanted to stay. And I’m still here, so it was!

Why did you choose this specific character and duty post?

You know how you make up a self-insert character in your head when you’re obsessing over something? T’Ama is not that character. That’s actually her grandmother, Faye Lowell. Faye is my total Mary Sue self-insert and when I was choosing a character for that first Star Trek: Adventures game I knew I couldn’t be Faye. All I knew about T’Ama at that point was that she existed and was Faye’s teenage granddaughter and I thought she was shy and quiet. So I aged her up and made her a pilot for that game, though I knew that wasn’t really what she was, and what came out in the first session was so unbelievably spicy I was like “Who is this person?!”

Anyway, that was a lot of fun and then it ended, so I knew right from the start I was going to play T’Ama again. She’s close to my heart. She also predates Lower Decks so any resemblance to Mariner is purely coincidental.

Operations is mostly because my favorite TNG character was Data, and it also appeals to me as a duty post that potentially has its fingers in many pies. I’m attracted to versatility and hybrid classes in RPGs too.

Where do you see your character five years from now?

Well T’Ama wants to have her own command. That’s her dream so we are going to try. Whether or not I, myself, can pull that off and have time for that IRL remains to be seen. She has a lot of growing to do still and I probably do too. So we’ll see how it goes and if there’s any room or opportunity to do that!

Thanks for your time, Lieutenant JG T’Ama!

You can read more about Lieutenant T’Ama on the wiki.

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