Sunday, July 7, 2019

New School, Old School - Starship Officer Rosters Over Time

The previous post described how we used the senior officer roster to guide group character creation in Star Trek Adventures. This time, let's look at how that organization differs over time and how that might influence the game.

This is the roster of senior officer posts on a Federation starship as presented last time with the snarky commentary edited out:

Commanding Officer (CO)
Executive Officer (XO)
Operations Officer (OPS)
Chief Engineering Officer ("Chief Engineer")
Chief Security Officer ("Security Chief")
Chief Medical Officer (CMO)
Flight Control Officer (CONN)
Ship's Counselor ("Counselor")

This is intended to be a complete list for the game's default year of 2371. I'm using the term Executive Officer instead of the more often used First Officer since it fits the abbreviation XO, the source material uses the titles pretty much interchangeably, and I happen to like it better. To check the accuracy of this list, let's compare it with the roster of a ship that operated for (most) of that year - USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-D as featured in TNG:

Commanding Officer Jean-Luc Picard
Executive Officer William Riker
Operations Officer Data
Chief Engineering Officer Geordi LaForge
Chief Security Officer Worf
Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher
Ship's Counselor Deanna Troi

Enterprise-D has an almost complete roster of senior officers, the exception being a regular CONN. It's no surprise that the flagship is fully staffed. With every senior officer post filled, there were no gaps in expertise. Captain Picard could draw on a variety of views and on a deep well of knowledge on pretty much any subject. A Galaxy-class starship with a full staff of talented personnel led by an experienced captain was a powerful tool for the Federation. This may explain why Starfleet was keen on putting that same crew back into space as soon as it could after the loss of Enterprise-D in late 2371.

Let's take a moment to look at the revolving door that is the CONN post on Enterprise-D. It was filled by Geordi LaForge before his promotion to Chief Engineer, Wesley Crusher prior to his acceptance into Starfleet Academy, and Ro Laren until she ran off to join the Maquis. Otherwise, the Flight Control console was operated by a number of folks who would be considered Support Characters in game. A player character CONN may work better for games featuring starship combat as regular occurrence - Main Characters have better stats and access to the full range of abilities to enhance their effectiveness. My headcanon for the "revolving door" on Enterprise-D is that officers who could meet Picard and Riker's high standards for the post were quickly promoted out of it. Service on the flagship looks good on a young officer's record and Starfleet had a need for highly qualified officers elsewhere.

Shifting back to the 23rd century, we have the senior officers of USS Enterprise, NCC-1701 as featured in TOS:

Commanding Officer James Kirk
Executive Officer/Science Officer Spock
Chief Engineering Officer Montgomery Scott
Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy
Senior Helmsman Hikaru Sulu
Chief Communications Officer Nyota Uhura
Navigator Pavel Chekov

There are a number of differences from how things are done in the default year of 2371.

  • Combining the XO with another senior officer post seems to be common practice. Another example is from Captain Christopher Pike's tenure as NCC-1701's CO - Number One, who was XO and operated the Helmsman's console.
  • There is a position for the Science Officer on the bridge in order to directly advise the rest of the senior officers on scientific matters. This responsibility seems to have been split between various other posts by the 24th century, with most of it falling on OPS.
  • Doctor McCoy, in addition to being CMO, is the head of the Life Sciences department, NCC-1701's head surgeon, and seems to have some responsibility over the mental health of the crew in general and the CO in particular. It's not clear how much of that is common practice for the CMO of a 23rd century starship and how much is unique to Doctor McCoy.
  • Operating the ship's flight control systems and navigation are the responsibility of separate officers in different divisions. Combining the two roles into CONN may reflect the increasing automation aboard starships as time goes by. 24th century starships seem to be able to take up much of the burden of flying the ship and plotting a course. It should also be noted that the Helmsman's burden also included operating the ship's weapons during much of this era. Starfleet did experiment with adding a Weapons Officer's console to the bridge during the 2270s, but it seems to be missing from NCC-1701-A.
  • Communications is a role for a senior officer with a console on the bridge. The Communications Officer operates and maintains the communications systems, provides translation when the Universal Translator is not up to the task, and is an expert on codes and encryption. The disappearance of this position by the 24th century may reflect increasing computer control of the communications systems. Opening hailing frequencies and responding to incoming transmissions are mostly done from the Tactical console by the 24th century.

Captain Kirk had a wide range of experts available to consult when needed. However, Kirk lacked a permanent Security Chief during the run of TOS. (Chekov was promoted to the post in the movies featuring the TOS cast.) Perhaps he was unable to find one that met his standards. While Kirk had a high enough Security Discipline to make up for some of the lack, a player group probably doesn't want to fill the Security Chief post with a Support Character. A Main Character would be more capable and works well for a player interested in an action-oriented character.

Moving even further back to the 22nd century, we have the senior officers of the United Earth's first warp five capable starship, NX-01 Enterprise:

Commanding Officer Jonathan Archer
Executive Officer/Science Officer T'Pol
Chief Engineering Officer Charles Tucker III
Chief Medical Officer Phlox
Senior Armory Officer Malcolm Reed
Helmsman Travis Mayweather
Communications Officer Hoshi Sato

There are similarities to the lists of officers who served with Kirk and Picard.

  • Like the 23rd century, the duties of XO are combined with that of another senior officer. There are hints that, even if T'Pol had never boarded NX-01, Tucker would have served as Archer's deputy rather than having an officer serving solely as XO. In this case, it could be simply due to the relatively small crew aboard a NX-class starship.
  • The Armory Officer would eventually evolve into the Security Chief post. The Armory Officer's intended roles seemed to be limited to operating the ship's defensive systems and shipboard security. NX-01 appeared to have little ability to project force on a planet's surface or while boarding another ship until the addition a MACO detachment in 2153. It should be noted that any MACOs aboard a Starfleet ship would be under the command of a MACO officer who answers directly to the ship's CO rather than the Armory Officer.
  • There is no Navigator position on the bridge of NX-01. The Helmsman seems to be responsible for plotting courses, much like a 24th century CONN. The Armory Officer controls the ship's weapons, unlike NCC-1701, allowing the Helmsman to concentrate on getting the ship were it needs to go.

Like the other Enterprises, there is an omission from NX-01's senior officer roster. In the case of NX-01, it has to do with the needs of the crew rather than a lack of capability in operating the ship or in deploying Away Teams - the lack of a mental health professional. The intended mission of the NX-class was deep space exploration. By its very nature, this involves operating for months or years away from the Sol system and any support from United Earth. Ship's Counselors didn't exist yet and the CMO seemed to be mainly concerned with and qualified to address the physical health of the crew. A psychologist would have been handy in managing stress (especially during the Earth-Xindi conflict) and monitoring the mental health of the crew.

Next time: A look at how senior officer rosters can reflect different circumstances by looking at commands not named Enterprise.

1 comment:

  1. It's entirely possible to use an uncontrolled Supporting Character as Flight Controller - most normal movement actions are Difficulty 0 default, so they can move the ship "for free" as part of another character's action (assume they move on the Commanding Officer's turn), and more taxing stuff can be handled with the Direct task (which isn't 1/scene when used on uncontrolled Supporting Characters). It's a useful way to fill out a bridge crew in smaller groups.