Portrait of a Character – Michelle (Shelby) Pike
Keiko Ishikawa O’Brien of TNG and DS9 is a Botanist. Because the NX-01 has real food cooked by a real chef, and it is out there far earlier in time, I figured they had to have someone growing food plants. And, perhaps, studying alien vegetation. Hence I decided there would be a Botanist on board. In my older story, If You Can’t Stand the Heat, the Botanist is named Naomi Curtis. But that is intended to be a different person, and that story has been reworked in order to fit into my regular universe. It now takes place not too long after the initial launch of the Enterprise, and Naomi is meant to be a character replaced at the start of the Xindi war, much like Lili is brought in, to replace Chef’s three helpers. You need room for MACOs on the NX-01, and more skilled people need to be brought on so that there can be fewer of them. Hence Naomi leaves.
As for her name, Shelby’s name is a perfect blending of two canon characters (Commander Elizabeth Shelby from TNG and Captain Christopher Pike from TOS). However, I didn’t name her because of that. It’s just a happy coincidence.
Actually, Shelby was a part of a small universe of original stories I worked on over twenty years ago, which were murder mysteries set in and around Boston. Shelby was supposed to be our heroine’s boyfriend’s impossibly beautiful ex. She was also supposed to be darker-skinned, but was still African-American. And she was a ballet student. Hence the Shelby Pike of my Star Trek: fan fiction is a former ballerina in the Prime Universe.
Unlike most characters, Shelby is portrayed by two separate people. As a young girl, I see Erica Gimpel from Fame. I well recall seeing this actress – this was the first time I had ever seen a ballerina who was not Caucasian, and she stuck with me.
I had a vision of a stick thin young girl dedicated to her craft.
But then personal disaster strikes, and she blows out her knee, and has to quit dancing. What to do? Shelby goes back to college, and gets hooked on plants. She becomes a Botanist, never dreaming that that would get her into space. For an adult Shelby, I chose ballerina Aesha Ash.
Either way, Shelby is delicate and beautiful.
Friendly and smart, Shelby keeps to herself quite a bit of the time. It’s a necessity when your closest companions, most of the time, are living things that cannot speak. She is unused to formal meetings, so she ends up embarrassingly raising her hand during the meeting shown in Shell Shock. She is more than competent, and Malcolm brings her on board the USS Bluebird where she continues to work as a Botanist.
During Temper, it’s revealed that they dated. Due to the height difference, Malcolm and Lili joke that the mechanics are somewhat confusing. At the end of the E2 stories, José reveals that he’s considering asking her out.
In Fortune (and earlier, in Apple, which takes place during Reversal), Shelby makes the first moves with Travis. However, by the time of the events of Equinox, he has instead married a woman named Ellen Warren (also referenced in Day of the Dead).
In the E2 stories, because the kick backs in time occur before Lucy Stone joins the crew, Andrew and Shelby get together in both iterations. As two mid-level Science people, they have a lot in common and are thrown together quite a bit whenever the full senior staff meets.
In the Mirror Universe, Doug reveals Shelby’s background to Lili, and notes that, while he often had girlfriends during the time he knew her (including the Redheaded Bombshell, Jennifer Crossman), he would inevitably cheat on all of them with Shelby, and that there was just something about her that appealed to him, and he was incapable of staying away.
Francisco (Frank) Ramirez
By the time of The Point is Probably Moot, they are together and are trying to figure out how to get away from the Empress Hoshi Sato. For that couple, they cannot be open about their relationship, so life is filled with stolen moments. In Bread, they’re almost caught.
For the Mirror, I’m back to Erica Gimpel portraying Shelby. Because no one cares about Botany, she works as a pilot. And because no one cares about ballet there, her earlier profession was far different.
Doug confirms that she worked as a prostitute, and more or less still did, when he knew her.
Doug notes that there were ways to see her without really being with her, and is essentially describing the future Mirror Universe take on phone sex.
“I have pumpkins ripening in the Botany Lab. They’re so pretty. Would you, uh, want to see them some time?”
I was thrilled to be able to reuse this character and change her up. I like that she brings a little art and culture to the NX-01 (much like Chip Masterson does) and the USS Bluebird (like Declan Reed‘s drawings do, too). I’m also enjoying getting to know her as a person, and giving her more dimensions than she had in my failed fiction from two decades ago. I’m sure I’ll continue to learn more about Shelby.