Quantum Scans—Starfleet Ship Names, Uniforms, Captain Away Teams, The Ten Front War, & The Return of the M.A.C.O.S.Aug 15
There’s something odd happening to Starfleet in our game. Thanks to a combination of Cryptic’s gameplay, it’s devotion to giving players vast customization options, the desire to offer (often sell) a variety of ships from every Trek era, and the fact that our characters lead away missions in place of our Number Ones, among other details, has given me a sense that Starfleet has gone a bit odd. This is definitely the most speculative of all my observations. Like with constellations, I may be connecting the dots here, but I’m adding a lot of lines to create a picture of my own devising.
But I think it’s an interesting picture. And I think it could serve as a background for Foundry stories or at least for characters within them.
There are several permutations of this, but one of the biggest is that Starfleet is becoming nostalgic. Sure, maybe all of the Excelsior class ships we’re flying are a century old or so (though they all have 9XXX + registry numbers). Maybe all the different constitution class models were brought out of museums, New Battlestar Galactic-like, to serve in a war that needs ships. (Same problems with registry numbers). But we absolutely know for a fact that the NX class ships we’re flying around are newly built, because Starfleet Engineers wanted to build them using new techniques. Maybe that’s true for some of those other old-style Starships.
OF course, there are newer classes of ships, like the Stargazer class, named for the Stargazer-A.
Wait: The Stargazer-A?
Throughout all the Trek series, only the Enterprise has ever been shown as being given a lettered successor. (Unless one counts the Excalibur-A from the New Frontier book series. But despite Mackenzie Calhoun’s presence in the game, its not clear whether we can count on that being part of our story. And if we can, then that ship merely becomes the vanguard of a new era in nomenclature.) Sisko had to be given special permission to change the São Paolo’s name to the Defiant and to use the same registry number as the previous Defiant. (Which was not the same registry number as the Constitution-class Defiant).
Suddenly, in the 25th century, any ship can be the “bloody -A, -B, -C, or -D”. Or up to 22 letters more. And, at the Captain’s discretion, officers can dress in any older uniform back to that of the original Terran Starfleet. All over, I see Starfleet harkening to the past and emphasizing legacy.
Like I said: nostalgic.
In episode 63 of PodcastUGC, there was a discussion of the presence of M.A.C.O.S. in Star Trek Online. And while all agreed, the real reason they’re in the game was that M.A.C.O.S. are deemed cool and memorable, the question was raised as to why we never saw them between Enterprise and now. Were they hiding? What about Starfleet marines?
I don’t see it as a big problem. True one could construct a way for them to have been hidden in Starfleet or part of an Earth Defense Force that had been transferred to Starfleet during this crisis and used to augment or supplant the Starfleet Marines. But one could equally well imagine that at some point M.A.C.O.’s ceased to be. Then, in a fit of nostalgia, Starfleet Command resurrected the name because they, too, thought it sounded “cool.”
Why would Starfleet be nostalgic? And how would that affect its members? Does the Ten Front War distress them? Do they long for a time with fewer powerful enemies? Before the Borg? Before the Dominion? When the only dangerous shape shifters were lone members of dying species seeking to steal your salt. Are there high ranking Starfleet officials who think Starfleet or the Federation as a whole has gone wrong? And what are they willing to do about it? There has been a coup attempt once. Could there be one again?
I’ll get into holograms later, but in this era when there are more than just “Emergency Medical Holograms,” when holograms can run prisons and lead away missions, won’t organics start to worry that soon everyone will be “Captain Dunsel?” (http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Dunsel) Why bother dreaming of a horizon that Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the Engineering Hologram, and a pod of exocomps will be sent to explore?
Looking to the past can be harmless. It can be entertaining. It can be beneficial if one studies the range of human possibility (and in Trek’s case, Andorian possibility, Pakled possibility, etc.) and what has worked and what has failed. But it can also lead one to become mired in tradition, afraid of the new. It also suggests one fears the future. If one thing could pose more of a challenge to Rodenberry’s optimistic vision than the Dominion War, it’s a Starfleet that’s pessimistic about the future.
Imagine missions in which players face people mired in just such an attitude. Perhaps they’re the antagonist. Perhaps their view of the world is portrayed as having virtues or even being the right one. What could someone who hates the future and loves the past do in a world with multiple means of time travel? What old traditions would a nostalgic Starfleet want to bring back? They need not be bad traditions. During my tenure as a “Real Admiral, Lower Half” I sure wished they’d resurrected the rank of Commodore.
What does nostalgia mean for a society in which different people have wildly different lifespans? What for humans was generations back, for middle aged Vulcans would be childhood. And for Ocampa — there are Ocampa in the Federation now (), the time of Nemesis and the finale of Voyager would, at best, exist in stories told by their grandparents. Would this cause division as different species looked back to their different peoples’ transitions, or would they go back to the ancestral well only to add that water back into the multicultural pool of the IDIC?
Is this affecting exploring? Exploring means seeking the new. Do some Starfleet officers think this is less important now than the war? Might they have a point? Or are they to, like Picard did, asking “Do you remember when we were explorers?”
Would it lead people to be too eager to make peace, make them willing to accept bad deals in negotiations or become desperate to seek out something to finally end the crisis? Would they use that fractal that Enterprise-D considered giving Hugh to shatter the Borg Collective? Would they be more willing to side with Section 31’s plans? Would ordinary Federation citizens, with no dreams for the future, withdraw from public life into a holodeck adventure’s private life and ultimately, apathy?
And of course, the past can mean different things to different people. People who long for different eras or hold different views of the same golden age could come into violent conflict.
Even if most of Starfleet and most of the Federation aren’t mired in unhealthy thoughts of the past, someone in your mission might be. It could cause them to be obsessed with the wrong thing, become a hindrance to your mission. It could be a player’s task to remind them that we’re all supposed to be boldly going somewhere.
And when we do beam down to another planet, it’ll be the ship’s Captain leading the away mission. Which is because this is a game, and we created our character to play not to stay on the ship when a Boff beams down to scan five objects. That’s the real reason. But in the game world, this appears to be a return to Kirk’s style of leading away missions, another hint of nostalgia. That’s not the only change from the way Captains commanded ships in Picard’s era. For one thing, we seem to be commanding a whole bunch of ships. In game, I don’t know whether we can say that each of us commands a fleet, or if each time we switch ships, it’s because we’ve been ordered to take command of another vessel. If it’s a vessel we commanded before, what a coincidence. But if the “choose your ship” officer is a real position in this gameworld, it seems like a whole bunch of Captains are amassing fleets. Or rather, a whole bunch of Vice Admirals are. Maybe all that fear of the future is making them overcompensate.
Kirk would be positively envious that one could accept promotion and still stay on the bridge of his/her ship of choice. Now we all get to be “All Good Things’” Admiral Riker, choosing flagships. And we even get to decide for ourselves what the ship’s uniform is. Well, for our bridge officers, at least.
And when one combines Boffs and Doffs, the people serving on our ship can include not just Klingons and (allegedly) Liberated Borg, but Gorn, Orions, Jem’Hadar, Tholians, Hirogen, and one of Obisek’s Remans. Voyager welcomed Seven of Nine, but Voyager was out of contact with Starfleet Command, and they were (or should have been) in desperate need of resources and allies. Maybe our Captains call Starfleet to check on letting a Reman considered a terrorist by the Romulans join our crews. But all we see in game is our Captain checking with Obisek. It has diplomatic implications for the Federation. We may fight the Romulans, but it doesn’t seem like an all-out war, like with the Klingons. Yet letting the Reman in seems to be at the Captain’s discretion. A whole lot of things seem to be the “Captain’s Prerogative”.
I’m not saying Starfleet Admirals, with their personal fleets and private enlistment services, are starting to become like warlords. But I am saying that its starting to look like they wouldn’t need to work as hard as they formerly did to begin acting like them. See the story potential? And are there other characters, in game, who see the potential risk I see? What if they see that risk in your players character, who I’m sure would never contemplate such activities?
Oh, and then there’s the saluting. Some people I spoke to claimed there was saluting in Star Trek II. (Nicolas Meyer always was the Trek writer/director who identified Starfleet most clearly as military.) But I didn’t notice that. What I noticed was how Starfleet characters basically didn’t salute. It was one of Rodenberry’s mandates. Another was that Starfleet wasn’t the military. Picard even said so to Mark Twain. I’ve even seen former military Trek fans say Starfleet personnel behaved amongst themselves more like members of a police force rather than true military. There is that little matter of having ranks and deadly weapons and being involved in wars. But like the moneyless advanced economy, I’ll just accept that somehow that works out. So, to this day, I’m annoyed whenever I run through ESD’s conference room and am saluted. But what if that’s not just there to personally annoy me? What if that’s a sign that this “exploration and self defense force” is becoming more clearly identified as a military? The Jupiter uniforms are the most martial since Star Trek II-IV’s All-Reds. And the M.A.C.O.S., whyever they’re here, certainly do seem more military than the average Starfleet officer. That’s what the “M.” stands for. There are plenty of wars on. As always, the Borg do concentrate the mind. And it does make a kind of sense that the people wielding deadly energy weapons sending their redshirts (or white doffs) to risk death to save far flung colonies be considered the equivalent of the Navy rather than the Coast Guard.
But is this causing conflict in Starfleet? Is this causing conflict in the Federation? Some people and some species might prefer a more militarized Starfleet. Others might loath it. Enough to consider leaving the Federation?
Might differing views of what Starfleet is cause tension in the ranks, conflict between different branches in the service? Might someone who signed up to scan comets have to go to their Female Orion Counselor (http://starbaseugc.com/index.php/trailers/essential-viewing/quantum-scans-orion-female-counselors/) to deal with their nineteenth doff mission to Reinforce Troops on Starbase 24? And what if they snap?
Combine a more military attitude with the personal fleets all these potentially pessimistic Vice Admirals have, and one could create quite the schism in Starfleet. Even with the coming of Season 6 and a potential shift in focus form personal fleets to fleet fleets, Starfleet still has the appearance of being divided into smaller units than we’ve seen onscreen. Those units will even have their own bases, built by the fleet members not by the Starfleet Corps of Engineers (unless the relevant doff mission say they are).
The vision I’m conveying is a bit bleak, and I certainly would not want to it to end up as how Starfleet is seen. (The good news is, I know I don’t have that influence.) Rather, I would encourage Foundry authors to consider stories in which individuals or groups within the Federation succumb to the malignant versions of the changes I see. One could also include the positive version of these apparent changes. Military professionalism, people developing an interest in history, and so forth.
But in any changing system, there is conflict. And these changes I see could open up great possibilities for Foundry missions, whether it’s the basis of one or the atmosphere surrounding it. Whatever you chose to do with these possibilities, I salute you. Or perhaps I just stand at attention with my arms behind my back.