Tag Archives: Uhura

Portrait of a Character – Nyota Uhura

Portrait of a Character – Nyota Uhura

Origins

Uhura (Zoe Saldana version)
Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana version)

Nyota Uhura. The character is, of course, canon.

I have always loved this character’s quiet competence. She was perhaps the first actress I ever saw who worked under the hood of a display, with a screwdriver, as wires sparked. It meant, to me, that she was not just another pretty face and she had more going on. She was an important and valuable member of the crew and not just some eye candy.

Portrayal

As in canon, the character is played by Zoe Saldana when young and by Nichelle Nichols when more mature.

I was particularly thrilled when, in the JJ Abrams films, she showed her competence by making it clear she could speak Romulan. This was a great check back to Hoshi and to what communications people really should be in space.

Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols version)
Uhura (Nichelle Nichols version)

In the Original Series, she was always the calming presence on the ship. If you heard her voice, you knew that, no matter what, everything was going to be all right. For young girls growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, she proved that you can be young and beautiful and feminine, but also powerful, intelligent, and adventurous. I hope Ms. Nichols knows just how many people she inspired.

Personality

Friendly and kind, Nyota is almost the mother hen of the ship in either timeline. She is its heartbeat.

Relationships

Spock

Like a lot of fans, this relationship seems a bit odd but maybe it can work. In the Eriecho series, I give their relationship some play.

Mirror Universe

Mirror Universe Nyota is canon.

Mirror Universe Nyota (Nichelle Nichols)
Mirror Universe Nyota (Nichelle Nichols)

Quote

“It is, and maybe I’m not helping things by calling you sir. Still, uh, I want you to know that, in this timeline, there’s something between us. And I was wondering, in your timeline, was there ever anything?”

Upshot

I do not write enough of her, and I mainly write her in the context of the JJ Abrams timeline. I should revisit her.

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Review – The Tribe

Review – The Tribe

Background

I wanted to cover a moment where unlikely allies would work together.

Review – The Tribe
In Between Days – The Tribe

The end of Mary Reed’s first day at work proved a great backdrop. I also had wanted to revisit her new job, and so this prompt  made for a great opportunity to do just that.

Mary would be needed – and that can sometimes be an issue for people with grown children. How do you find a new purpose so that you can feel needed again? For this little story, Mary was absolutely indispensable.

Plot

Review – The Tribe

As Mary takes the maglev train home to Kota Baru after a long day at work, the train suddenly stops. Briefly, the lights go out, which is a little scary but not a lot. This is her first day on the job, and she was asked to start on the day of her interview, so the whole thing has been even more unexpected. Nearly as importantly, her husband, Stuart, has not been fully supportive of her working outside the home, even as a part of the Earth-Romulan War effort. And now she is going to be late, and his supper will be delayed. It is hardly an auspicious beginning to her working career.

When the power comes back on, a heavily pregnant woman sitting across the aisle from her looks mighty uncomfortable.

Review – The Tribe

A young Tellarite male comments, and it becomes obvious very quickly that the pregnant woman’s water has broken. Except for the young Tellarite, all of the men in the train car leave.  Two Vulcans come over and begin timing the contractions. A few women donate sweaters or the like to create an impromptu pillow. Mary’s job is to talk to the woman, whose name is Penda (this is a reference to a possible canon name for Uhura).

When the train finally starts moving again, the people are not friends. But  they have shared something all the same. And Mary, like the pair of Vulcans and the young Tellarite and others, returns to her life.

Story Postings

Rating

The story is Rated K.

Upshot

I liked this little slice of her life, and how even in the future something like a birth could have the potential to truly go wrong, or at the very least get messy.

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Character Sexuality/Relationship Mixes

Boldly Reading’s Blog Prompt #10 asks about characters’ sexualities in Star Trek Fanfiction. And that can be a bit of a minefield. Here’s what it asks –

Your Questions, Should You Choose to Accept Them

  • There has been a dearth of even minor characters with, shall we say, less mainstream sexual preferences and relationships. Often, a character would behave in this fashion if in the Mirror universe, or under some sort of duress. How would you change that?
  • What would happen to canon characters if their preferences or their relationships were changed? Beyond the obvious choice of bed partners, how would known characters change?
  • Are there circumstances under which characters would behave differently but still within the fullest context of canon?
  • Have you created any original characters who follow less mainstream preference/relationship models? How do you get across their inner workings without continually announcing in every other paragraph something like, I’m gay! Now, let’s get a pizza. ?
  • Television programs and films naturally cater to worldwide audiences and have investors for which they need to show profits. That can hamper all forms of creativity, including the creation of less mainstream characters of any sort, and not just in the sexual arena (e. g. minorities, obese persons, persons with disabilities, etc.). Throw away the budget! How would you rewrite a canon episode or film to showcase a character (main or not) with a less-mainstream preference?

Bonus questions!

  • Have you read others’ non-mainstream characters? Which are your favorites? Which relationships are the most believable? Which scenarios, outside of relationships, are most believable for these characters?
  • Again, throwing away the budget, what would you do if you could make your own new Star Trek series from scratch, where at least one or two characters would be out of the mainstream? How would you handle showing the differences for HBO, or PBS, or ABC Family, if any of those networks deigned to carry your show?
  • Do you read slash (male-male relationships) or femme slash (female-female relationships), either on Ad Astra or elsewhere? Aside from PWP, how did the authors bring home ideas about their characters’ sexuality? Was it clichéd? Did it succeed? Was it hit or miss?

Bringing True IDIC to Canon

What happens when canon characters are altered?

Chapel and crew member
Chapel and crew member

Is it as simple as having, say, Nurse Chapel from The Original Series mooning over Uhura or another female crew member, rather than Spock?

Does the character lose anything? Does the story line?

Do we, as the members of the audience (or the readers, as the case may be) lose sympathy for her if her object of affection is of the same sex as she?

Chapel and Spock
Chapel and Spock

And this scene, from Plato’s Stepchildren, would have a far different subtext.

Or flip it again. What if, in that episode, Parmen had the two kissing couples (Kirk and Uhura are the others, in what was one of the first interracial kisses broadcast on American television) switch partners in a few different ways?

When Chapel and Uhura are forced to kiss, or Kirk and Spock, how do we react as an audience? Do we cheer? Are we repulsed? Do we shrug as if we’ve seen it all before? Do we react cynically, figuring it’s just a ploy to bring in more ratings?

I hope this sort of change would not elicit revulsion. And I certainly hope it would intelligently amp up the drama. Truthfully, if the episode were being aired today, it would likely be far more than kissing, or at least such would be implied. It would be Platonian porn. And that porn would not have to be male-female.

IDIC Original Characters

MACO Private Frank Todd
MACO Private Frank Todd

I’ve enjoyed adding characters with different sexualities.

Diana Jones, Preece Ti, Leonora Digiorno and Leah Benson are all lesbians. Melissa Madden is bi. Preston Jennings, Dave Constantine, and Luke Donnelly are all gay men.

And then there’s Frank Todd.

Frank started off as a protest against various homophobic slurs I was seeing on Trek United several years ago. I wanted a tough but kind character, and so he was written into There’s Something About Hoshi and was given a prominent role. He is so friendly to Hoshi, and so protective of her, that the Arisians even think they are a couple.

Boy, are they ever wrong.

Truth be told, Frank and Dave’s relationship in that story was far more stable and assured than Hoshi and Ted’s. Ted Stone comes across as kind of wimpy, and certainly shy and anything but an Alpha Male, worshiping Hoshi, more or less from afar. Frank and Dave, in contrast, have an easygoing affection. Understated, yes, but they look at each other lovingly and there is a great deal of feeling behind Frank saying, “I’ll see you later.” The subtext should be – I can’t wait to see you later. It was particularly satisfying to add more depth to them, in the E2 stories and also in Detached Curiosity and Idle Speculation and its sequel, The Way to a Man’s Heart. The latter is in the context of a celebration of Turing/Stonewall Week, meant to be a week in June devoted to gay rights and accomplishments.

I love this character so much that I am hunting around for more places to feature him. After all, Frank does more than date.

Favorite IDIC Characters from Others’ Works

Give it up for Andy in SLWalker’s One Minute!

What I like about Andy is that he’s a fully realized character. He has body parts that aren’t genitalia. He has a story line that isn’t wholly about sex.

For Andy, who wants to reach the shadow, it only starts off as being about sex. It very quickly becomes more about human contact. Why is the shadow shunning it? What could possibly hurt that much? Is there any way for the shadow to be healed?

Throwing out the Budget: A New Show with IDIC

If I had full control over a Star Trek series, I would love to be able to add at least one or two IDIC characters, and not necessarily in the context of being a couple. Surely there is room for a character like Jake Sisko, or Chakotay or Chapel, who has a same-sex preference?

Or let’s go for broke.

Maybe that person is the captain.

HBO

For a channel which showed naked men before and more frequently than most others, this posited series can show a lot more flesh. I think the trick would be to keep it from being almost a bodice-ripper.

Excuse me, codpiece-ripper.

It might even be a struggle with the network suits to show exploration, and get the characters out of their bedrooms. I can see it working as almost a modern-day version of Hill Street Blues, a show that had rather gritty police realism but then, at the end, it was often an image of Furillo and Davenport in bed together. It was network television and it was the 1980s and so they were talking with a kiss or two and not much else. But they were still there.

Archer and Daniels in the deep future
Archer and Daniels in the deep future

I can see the time period for this series as possibly being in the deep future, much like Times of the HG Wells.

The extreme future could also allow for showing more interspecies relationships, including bedroom scenes.

PBS

With this more factually-based network, I can see story lines becoming more documentary-like in look and feel. Because I love the earlier years of Trek, I can see it in a pre-ENT time period.

Lily Sloane and Zefram Cochrane in 2063
Lily Sloane and Zefram Cochrane in 2063

For a grittier time, maybe even pre-First Contact (e. g. prior to April of 2063), the Earth would be a post-nuclear horror. Bedroom time would be more urgent and a lot tougher to come by. People would be scratching out their survival. Hence a shaky camera-type realistic story line could work. And what could be more real than a team or a family or a crew or a group or a movement that wasn’t a monolith?

There is also no reason whatsoever why some of the people involved in building the first warp ship couldn’t be gay, lesbian or intergender.

ABC Family

With a far more restrictive network, it used to be that intimations of less-mainstream sexuality had to be a lot more metaphoric. And the same was more or less true of heterosexuality. While a kiss between a man and a woman could be perfectly acceptable, having them wake up in bed together in anything other than pajamas after a good night’s sleep was just plain not going to fly. For a gay or lesbian couple, even a kiss could have been going too far. Would so much as hand-holding be a problem?

Actually, no.

During the 2010 – 2011 season, GLAAD cited ABC Family as being one of the more inclusive networks, with the lesbian character, Emily, in Pretty Little Liars. Their praise for ABC Family continued into the 2012 season, in GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index report. Even for a network with the word ‘family’ in its very name, times have changed, and characters of all sexualities are embraced and welcomed, and aren’t just cast as victims, self-loathing suicides or criminals.

Scheduled fun for students on Voyager
Scheduled fun for students on Voyager

For ABC Family, I feel that a Starfleet Academy scenario could work the best. This would provide story lines surrounding coming of age, and that can mean discovering and communicating to others about one’s sexuality. This might work best in a post-Nemesis time period, where the technology could be bigger and brighter but not wholly unfamiliar and, if not set too deeply into the future, guest characters could believably interact with the new series’s characters.

Slash

Perhaps the hardest sell for a lot of people is slash, and the problem is that it is often misunderstood as to what slash truly is. In its original form, it was TOS-based, and it showed a sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock, essentially pulling their friendship to the extreme.

Slash takes tons of forms, e. g. m/m (two men), f/f (two women), chanslash (underage children), original slash (both characters are original ones), etc. It also does not, necessarily, contain overt sexual situations or behaviors (reverse slash). Then there’s also PWP (porn without plot; or plot, what plot?), which is pretty overt porn with little to recommend it beyond basic titillation.

While I have read slash, and I enjoy excitement as much as the next person, I’ve found straightforward PWP to get unintentionally amusing after a while. Hence I personally tend to stay away from it, but that’s for all forms of sexuality that it may showcase. I kinda like plot with my sexy stories. But hey, that might just be me.

Contamination by Odon is a femmeslash story about Hoshi and T’Pol that brings together

Hoshi and T'Pol
Hoshi and T’Pol

Pon Farr and bi-curiosity in a way that is safe for teens (the story is, to my mind properly, rated T) but gets across the characters’ sexuality immediately. Could this even work on a more conservative network?

I don’t see any reason why not. Hell, it’s actually a bit less sexy than what the UPN network was really showing when ENT was in first-run.

Upshot

A character’s sexuality is as much a part of a person as their eye color or their height, and it’s just as mutable, particularly after maturation. To create a ship or a series with absolutely no one with an alternative view is downright unrealistic. The percentage of out-and-out 100% homosexual persons is rather small, but the percentage of people who are bi, bi-curious and/or sympathetic to gay rights is considerably higher.

There is a lot of room under the umbrella called Star Trek, and fan fiction proves that anyway, by bringing poetry, different pairings, horror stories, alternative timelines, expanded universes, original characters, and extremely long story arcs which can work side by side with what happened on screen and in the officially sanctioned books.

To keep non-mainstream sexuality out of Star Trek is a misplaced notion.

IDIC for the win!

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Inspiration – Names

Background

I take names seriously, and, truth be told, that’s actually Star Trek canon. A lot of the named characters, particularly the ones who do not have English-style names, have meaningful appellations.

Nyota Uhura
Nyota Uhura

Take Hoshi Sato, for example. The first name means “star”. The surname means “at home”. Hence, she is “at home in the stars”.

A similar situation exists with Nyota Uhura. Nyota means “star” and Uhura means “freedom”. Are communications officers required to be named Star?

Canon to Fanfiction

For my characters, names have meanings that draw from heritage, repeat in order to show familial relationships, and have meanings unto themselves.

In Between Days

Doug Beckett is so named because Douglas means “dark stranger”, which is exactly what he is – a stranger from the Mirror Universe, first experienced in pitch darkness.

Lili O’Day‘s full name – Charlotte Lilienne O’Day – evokes several themes. Her first name means “free woman” and her middle name is of course a flower (and Malcolm refers to her, in the prime timeline, as Lili-Flower). Her surname sets up the contrast to Doug, for she is quite literally “of the day”.

Malcolm Reed (alternate timeline)
Malcolm Reed (alternate timeline)

Because the name Malcolm means “a devotee of Saint Columba“, and that is the patron saint of poets and bookbinders, I make Malcolm a gifted poet. The reed (which of course is the lower, non-flowering part of a plant), is evoked as he and Lili, in Together, talk about the flower and the reed, and she assures him that the flower is pretty and all, but the flower can’t live without the reed.

For Melissa Madden, in part it’s a shout-out to future canon character Martin Madden.

Melissa means “honey bee” and she is a rather earthy individual. As for Leonora Digiorno, Leonora means “light” (Malcolm incorrectly refers to her as the Lioness) and Digiorno is the same as O’Day, “of the day”. Her relationships are purely in the day, hence she is solely a daylight character.

Times of the HG Wells

The Wells characters were less name-driven but there are some highlights. Sheilagh and Darragh are both Irish-type spellings, meant to impart a somewhat exotic flavor. HD Avery is really Henry Desmond, with the middle name being a shout-out to Dominic Keating‘s first real role, in a British sitcom called Desmond’s. Carmen means “garden”, an offhanded joke as the character is a sophisticated urbanite. The characters Tom and Kevin hearken back to the In Between Days series and are meant to show a relationship to that earlier series.

Otra, the half-Witannen character, has a name meaning a small animal, like a mouse. I also used Glyph as the name of a Ferengi, as short nouns are canon for Ferengi names (e. g. Quark and Nog). Von is another Ferengi name, but I grabbed that one from baseball – Von Hayes (yet another shout-out to Steven Culp).

Interphases

For this series, character names have to evoke a time period properly. Rosemary Parker’s name fits in with her birth in the 1920s, whereas Jacob, Benjamin and Dorcas all evoke the 1700s. Jim, the son of Benjamin and Dorcas, is a shout-out to Mark Twain’s Jim character in Huckleberry Finn.

Emergence and Mixing it Up

For both of these series, since there are several aliens, names had to be made up. Skrol is meant to sound a bit like Slar, the only known named Gorn. Etrina, Tr’Dorna and Sophra are all made-up names, meant to sound feminine. Bron is intended to evoke a feeling of brawn.

For Daranaeans, female names end with vowels whereas as male names often (but not always) end with an -s. Prime Wife females, being considered superior, are given names with a soft th- sound in them, such as Thessa, Dratha and Kathalia. This is the th- sound in thistle, rather than in the. The sound, anywhere in the word, is meant to mean “smell”, with a positive connotation. Secondaries get somewhat pretty names, often with m- sounds, like Morza and Mistra, but sometimes not, like Cria and Inta (in all fairness, the younger Inta, a secondary, is named after a last caste female). Third caste females tend to get shorter names, like Darri and Fyra and Cama. The men’s names are all over the place, from Elemus and Arnis to Craethe and Trinning.

Calafans

Calafans love names and meanings so much that it’s a standard greeting to a new person – “what is your name, and what does it mean?” The first time Lili hears this, in Local Flavor, she is a bit appalled as it is a part of a come-on.

Men often get the -wev ending, which means “master of”, whereas women often get the yi- prefix, meaning “student of”. But the differences are not intended to be sexist. With no middle names and no last names, a lot hinges on a name, and they cannot be repeated. Therefore, names are given out by the government, and parents often petition for a name for their baby while the child is still in utero. Names are then released upon death. Names without either prefix include Treve (messenger) and Miva (clay).

Upshot

For me, the naming of characters is a deeply person act. Alien names are a great deal of fun to come up with, as I put together sounds I like or that seem to harmonize, and then attach meanings to them. Sometimes a character doesn’t really “click” until he or she has been named. Then, suddenly, it can all fall into place.