Christopher Pike is a terrific character in any timeline.
I am still trying to figure out if I want Shelby Pike to be related to him. But why the hell not? Hell, maybe she should be.
Christopher Pike Origins
In the Original Series, he is a handsome, intelligent captain . He is just as impulsive as Kirk. But Pike has a tragic accident yet gets a kind of illusory happy ending. In the JJ Abrams universe, he dies heroically.
Like most of us, Pike does not consider what might happen if the unthinkable were to occur. But it does. In the prime universe, he is rather badly injured. Just how conscious and aware is he? I write him as being heartbreakingly conscious of the world around him. This is so much so that he flashes Morse code. It is better than any therapy when Nyota Uhura understands him.
To go along with this month’s AOS selection, here are some questions to chew on, since so many people feel that the JJ Abrams universe somehow is not Star Trek.
What does it mean to you when a story is described as being Star Trek? What are the characteristics? Is there a bright line between Trek and not-Trek?
What Does it Mean When We Call It Star Trek?
I think it’s mainly about Roddenberry’s general values. It isn’t ships, because people get off the ships (and who’s the say that they won’t stay off the ships for a while longer than just a quickie mission?). It isn’t just phasers and Vulcans and shuttles, because the time of Colonel Green could easily fit into Trek (hell, it’s canon!) and none of those things exist yet.
But maybe not … too much. After all, Roddenberry also, at times, had some ridiculous notions, such as that humanity would somehow be ‘advanced’ enough that mourning the dead wouldn’t happen, or at least not for long, and that trauma would be minimized.
So I think there are some limits there. I think repairing older and antiquated ideas, too – I have no problem with doing that and still calling it Trek. For example, our current smartphones and tablets are far more sophisticated than they ever dreamed of in the 1960s. Why not have the technology reflect that? I have characters sending and receiving email, and performing what are essentially Google-style searches. I do not imagine those behaviors ending any time soon, and I do not believe that Star Trek loses anything by slipping those bits of reality into the mix. Hell, I think it makes the stories stronger.
What are some of your favorite explorations of AOS on Ad Astra? How do you think these stories would change if they took place in TOS or one of the other series?
I like Niobium‘s take on the AOS, and I also enjoyed ErinJean‘s take. I’d love for her to continue in her explorations.
I believe many of us also grab bits and pieces of AOS and dovetail them into ENT or TOS
I find questions of what is and isn’t Star Trek to sometimes be a bit disingenuous. People said that ENT wasn’t Trek. They said that DS9 wasn’t. I think a lot of them will come around to AOS being Trek. As for me, the distinction is fairly clear albeit not perfectly. I know, for a fact, that Jane Eyre is not Star Trek. After that, though, sometimes, I’m not so sure.
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.
But what I am talking about is my own fanfiction. So I’ve got a different take on him.
Tripp/Trip – What?
First off, I spell it as Tripp, with two P’s. Why? I knew a guy who was a third, and he spelled it that way. To me, one P just looks off. And I am well aware that readers may see the two P’s as being off. So be it. I recognize that this is me being quirky and stubborn, and certainly breaching canon. That cannot be any more than the people who, let’s see, make Tucker gay, make him bi or make him essentially a superhero. Not to mention the folks who insist that he didn’t die in These Are the Voyages.
The writers did a lot to Tripp throughout the course of the show’s four seasons. He got pregnant, he had a relationship with First Officer T’Pol (a Vulcan), he was cloned, he rescued a princess, he lost his sister in the Xindi attack and he met his end, too. In all honesty, I had seen so much of him on screen that I was a bit sick of him when writing my own fiction. He was a major character on the show, but television shows are of a finite size. Therefore, the more screen time for him, the less for other characters.
For me, obliquely referencing him and his exploits often did the trick. In The Reptile Speaks, he’s mentioned in a teenager’s film about sex, as an example of unconventional relations. For the two teenagers talking about him, he’s a source of some amusement.
In Razor, he’s barely referenced, although his identity should be clear to the reader.
A Regular Guy
For me, one of the fun things about writing him is playing on his being, essentially, a regular Joe. In Letters from Home, a riff on the mail distribution scene in the film Stalag 17, he gets a lot of correspondence, but it’s not necessarily of the welcome kind.
Well, maybe not always heroically romantic. In Intolerance, he eagerly participates in the competition to woo the female medical students, and comments quite a bit on the woman he’s originally assigned to, Pamela Hudson.
In Together, he’s paired with Hoshi who, in the end, realizes that she doesn’t feel about him the way he feels about her.
As of this writing, I am working on a set of E2 stories, and his relationship with T’Pol is covered, including the cultural differences between them. For example, what Tripp sees as a symbol of commitment, T’Pol sees as a religious article – and not of her faith.
A Working Stiff
In Reversal, it is he who does most of the heavy calculations necessary, and he ends up risking his life in order to perform a rescue.
In Temper, he gives his all in service to the Federation, in what feels very much like a lost cause.
Not every character has a theme, but Tripp does, in Together. The song is Matthew Sweet’s Sick of Myself. I particularly wanted this song for the line, “When I look at you, something is beautiful and true.” That story also has couples’ songs. His (with his partner) is Joe Jackson’s Kinda Kute. I wanted that one for its opening lyric, “You make a guy feel humble.”
At the end of the second canon MU ENT episode, Tripp is about the only one of the main characters who is likely to survive to see another day. Severely scarred, bitter and angry, he epitomizes the skewed life led there.
I have written the MU Tripp as being just as angry, but it’s later, so he’s sicker, and realizes he’s dying. He becomes gentler than he normally would be, and seeks solace with an old girlfriend, Beth Cutler, who accepts him for who he is. In Reversal, the MU Tripp has a lot at stake, and plays off people against each other in an effort to save himself. It is, ultimately, his wish to save others that redeems him, in a way.
In Temper, the MU Tripp again shows a small degree of selflessness, and by doing so he helps to undo the lost cause which threatens the Prime Universe. As I write the MU, everyone is keenly aware of what they owe others, and Tripp is no exception. Since he owes Doug something, he recognizes the debt, and repays it.
In Fortune, the MU Tripp has come full circle but is still a bit wary about strangers. A dynasty is foretold, which shows a major divergence between his fate and that of the Prime Universe Tripp.
In the Prime Universe, his death is canon, so I don’t mess with that. He is mourned and remembered, and there’s even a charitable foundation named for him, mentioned in Fortune.
“But we’re here to explore and to, to take risks. And I don’t think this is a foolish one.”
I enjoy the character but, as I’ve mentioned, I think he was overused, often to the detriment of other characters. But he’s more than just engineering, an accent and a romance. In many ways, his observations are our observations, as an audience and, I hope, as readers.