If I Could Journey to the Farthest Stars, Jamming, 06/03/2015

You could do so much with a CGI Enterprise.
Regularly reading and engaging with the community of commenters around the Star Trek blog Vaka Rangi got me thinking about some alternative ideas about the show. One of the unfortunate constraints of Star Trek as an intellectual property is that it has a strictly defined canon. 

Unlike Doctor Who, for example, which has just plain given up on the idea of keeping every story internally consistent with continuity points introduced in previous works, Star Trek is governed by this impulse. Even J. J. Abrams’ new continuity of the TOS era in his films had to give an in-canon explanation for it, the alternate timeline that began with Spock’s time travel. 

But there’s no need to stick when canon when you reimagine something on a blog, a different vision of the Starship Enterprise that exists solely for the sake of imagining new journeys in your mind, and perhaps in the imaginations of your readers and friends. So here is my imagined crew of the Starship Enterprise, playing with established character ideas from existing Star Trek, or conceiving new directions altogether. 

Vincent Ebrahim is a veteran British
TV actor who can do drama and
comedy easily, just as the role of
Captain Bajwa would require.
Captain Sidarth Bajwa

The captain is a wiry Indian man in late middle age. Star Trek has never really set about making the captain a comedic figure by default, and I’d like to try that with Bajwa. His strength is as a diplomat, and his diplomacy lies in being able to defuse situations with self-deprecating humour. He’s the affable captain who approaches the daily business of running a starship casually. You know things are getting serious when even Captain Bajwa gets serious. 

His spiritual beliefs take centre stage in some stories, particularly his philosophical take on them. He has a strong element of Hindu and Buddhist attitude in his character, but is basically agnostic in his religious belief. There’s always a temptation to make Indian characters in Western-written stories extra spiritual, monk-like. I want to avoid that, but also subvert it, turn the expectation into a joke. For example, Bajwa is a vegetarian, even though replicators can create meat dishes without ever having killed an animal. But it’s because he grew up in a largely vegetarian household and just doesn’t like the taste of most meat. 

Commander Erib P’Trell, First Officer 

One virtue of the much-maligned Enterprise was developing more of the Andorian people, but this Star Trek would be the first with an Andorian major character as a Starfleet officer, and a female one too. Leader of most of the away missions, she’d be primarily a headstrong, emotionally intense officer, with quick reflexes in dangerous situations. She'd be our route to explore how Andorian culture changed after spending centuries as a central power of the Federation, how a proud cultural history of warriors adapted to a lifestyle of relative peace.

Tell me Star Trek fans wouldn't
enjoy a female Andorian First Officer
who had a biweekly jujitsu fight.
P’Trell would also do most of the fistfights on the show, and occasionally whip out her traditional uushan-tor blade at especially climactic moments of ass-kicking.

Lt. Cmdr. Natalie Bondar, Chief of Security. 

Ukrainian, perhaps with a slight accent, named after Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut. Lt. Bondar would be my attempt to do the basic concept behind Tasha Yar right. She grew up on a human colony planet that had gone neglected by the Federation for a century. She lived a harsh childhood mostly on the streets where criminal gangs were the most powerful political force.

After some interplanetary incident (Romulan incursion, terrorist plots, piracy; I’m not sure yet) brings the Federation in to restore law and order, Bondar leaves her planet at the first opportunity. She works for a few years in the comparative paradise of Earth, and joins Starfleet as the path of greatest upward mobility in the Federation. 

Perhaps the first season would have a story arc that slowly revealed the truth about Bondar’s origins. Maybe a villain or two — a Romulan secret agent and his equally ruthless human counterpart — return as the Enterprise stumbles on a covert operation that had its beginnings in the gang violence of her homeworld. The storyline would be central to developing Bondar’s character, as well as the captain’s. 

The teenaged Bondar would have been quite bitter toward the Federation for their borderline imperialist behaviour in occupying her planet after ignoring it for generations. But an officer with one of the Federation starships befriended her, teaching her all the potential for progress and peace that a life journeying through the stars can hold. An affable young man in his 30s named Lt. Sidarth Bajwa.

If Star Trek: The Farthest Stars was greenlit for 13
episodes on Netflix in 2016, I'd do whatever I could to
get Tatiana Maslany to play Natalie Bondar.
Bondar also has the largest personal weapon collection on the Enterprise, proudly displaying it on her wall. I imagine it quite shocking Ensign Nichols the first time he sees it.

Lt. Cmdr. Katy Zhang, Chief Engineer

Zhang would carry on the Star Trek tradition of Chief Engineers who love the ship like a spouse, though she wouldn’t go quite as far as Geordi LaForge did in “Booby Trap,” and actually make out with the Enterprise. She’s the problem-solver, the most analytic member of the crew. Ironically, given the prominence of a Vulcan on the cast, but this is how I’d like to play with audience expectations on my Star Trek.

On an Enterprise where Captain Bajwa is an affable eccentric, Commander P’Trell is the action hero, Security Chief Bondar is the ex-gangster, and the one Vulcan in the regular cast is more mystical than straightforwardly logical, Chief Engineer Zhang is the most level-headed member of the crew. 

Given the people who surround her, I’d say she’d end up being the most sardonic and sarcastic member of the entire crew. This would be especially appropriate since she’s most often put in charge of the youngest, less mature, more impetuous, less experienced members of the main cast, Solomon, Diamond, and Nichols. This would also make her the one woman put in charge of wrangling a bunch of impulsive young men. No wonder she feels more comfortable puttering around the engine room.

An actress with the gravity and nuance
of Angela Bassett would be perfect
for a role like Dr. T'Laina, who would
restore some of the mysticism to
Star Trek's depiction of Vulcans.
Dr. T’Laina, Chief Medical Officer 

A Vulcan doctor whose family has produced Starfleet officers since the Federation first came into being. As a doctor on a starship travelling to dangerous situations, she combines the terse attitude and utilitarian ethics of a stereotypical Vulcan with the strength of duty that her family’s Starfleet history has planted in her. 

T’Laina also approaches her job on the Enterprise as a healer, and so combines her better-known Vulcan characteristics with the more mystical approach to the world that Spock’s journeys have always incorporated. She’s also the oldest cast member, played by an actress in her 50s, and the oldest character of the regular cast, approaching 200. Her experience and compassion combines with her sense of logic and philosophical education to make her the closest Star Trek has had to a genuine shaman since Guinan.

Lt. Alexander Solomon, Science Officer

He was born on Khohav ben Zion, a world-ship that’s home to 500,000 Jews, Yazidi, and a few Vulcans, which travels around central Federation space. His scientific studies and knowledge are the product of his religion, a development of Jewish mysticism which considers mathematics to be the fundamental language of nature and God. 

His home society has developed close links with the Vulcan Science Academy because of natural affinities between its philosophy of mathematics and their concept of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. It only makes sense, since IDIC was developed as a riff on ideas of Rambam anyway, and the “Live long and prosper” hand sign is a rabbinical gesture representing one of the Hebrew names of God.

I think it would be quite cool if Solomon sometimes wore
an IDIC medal, showing the philosophical connections of
Vulcan and Judaism.
Solomon himself is a young man, though. He is eager to learn, which is why he and T’Laina have such a close friendship, as she acts as his philosophical and scientific mentor. But Solomon is also eager to practice, which is why he’s frequently on away missions with P’Trell and Bondar facing various levels of exciting danger.

One episode would feature Solomon and Nichols stuck in some perilous situation, perhaps the wreck of a small starship on a planet where they’re surrounded by dangerous predator animals and threatened by the dangerous ion storm that brought the ship down. Solomon would end up in the senior role, a position he isn’t accustomed to or all that comfortable with.

A storyline about Solomon and T’Laina’s friendship would feature allusions to the philosophical ideas of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, a new twist on the better known utilitarian ideas of Vulcan ethics. 

His nickname for Nichols is “Q.” This will probably not be significant at all.

Paul Diamond would fulfill all the potential for smart
comedy that Captain Jack lost as Torchwood grew
increasingly angsty.
Lt. Paul Diamond, Helm

There’s always one character on most Star Trek shows who’s a bit of a ladies’ man. It started with Kirk’s green ladies of the week, continued through Riker’s submissive promiscuity, and Tom Paris’ immature charm. Well, Paul Diamond goes about as far into omnisexuality as we’ll probably be at our most progressive edge by the 2300s. 

I don’t yet have much of an idea of what Diamond would be as a character aside from everything Jack Harkness could have been if he’d stayed the loveable cad that Steven Moffat wrote. But that’s a good place to start at the first episode.

En. Quentin Nichols, Transporter Tech and New Guy. 

A recent graduate of Starfleet Academy, the show would begin with Quentin’s transfer to the Enterprise, the newest addition to an already-established crew. His early storylines would have him form friendships with the rest of the cast, starting with Zhang and Solomon, as he’d have the most professional contact with them. It wouldn’t take long for him to establish himself as a valued member of the crew, though his storylines would also demonstrate how green he is.

The Problem of Wesley hangs over a character like this, but the key to making him a character that viewers would actually like is making him humble. He’s no boy genius, instead an earnest young man happy to be serving on the Enterprise for his first major assignment. He knows his way around a transporter, is learning wider ship’s engineering, and finds himself at the centre of ship-side events when half the cast is on an away mission.


  1. Niiiice. Good stuff, man!

    I love your thematic ideas, character concepts and headcasting. I'm particularly taken with the characters of Bajwa and P'Trel. It's neat to see how you went to the extent of making your own Star Trek spin-off with brand new characters and everything: I'll admit I've done this little mental exercise a fair few times myself, but I tend to limit myself to redeeming the cast and core ideas of TNG and DS9 through my own "Parallels"-esque takes on those shows-I guess I'm too connected to and invested in those specific characters and settings for me to get bolder with the concept.

    What's always bugged me about Star Trek is twofold: The canon issue, as you're so good at pointing out, and the increasingly problematic weight of Starfleet and the Federation's militaristic roots. I think a lot about ways to combat that in Star Trek, and, if I may say so myself, I feel my own recent Trek jamming session produced some workable results. Maybe I'll share some of that at some point somewhere...

    1. The underlying concept behind my idea of Capt. Bajwa is kind of simple, but also very subversive of Star Trek paradigms: What if someone with the impish sensibility of Doctor Who (particularly Hartnell's, Troughton's, McCoy's, and Capaldi's) was the captain of the Enterprise. He'd take the lead in all the adventure-of-the-week plots, as the Captain does, but when it comes to character arcs, he acts primarily as a catalyst in the narratives of the other characters, nudging them in the progressive directions appropriate to Star Trek's utopianism on an individual level.

      It's interesting that you latched onto P'Trell, because she's the character that I haven't actually thought too much about yet. I imagine she'll have a regal bearing toward most people, kind of haughty. Maybe there would be a running gag every few episodes where people would mistake her for the captain because she acts more like she's a superior. I expect that she'd be from a rather well-off family too. But she's much more relaxed when her guard is down. I imagine a close friendship would have already been established between P'Trell and Bondar. I imagine a lot of frequent trips to holodeck shooting galleries for them.

      I expect the canon problem will be important once you eventually get to cover Enterprise on Vaka Rangi, as I found that the three biggest problems the prequel series faced was 1) having to constrain the possibilities of its stories so they conformed to canonized Trek history, 2) the horrifying temptation to fanwank stories which they gave in to far too often, and 3) that the show's producers weren't capable of maintaining Star Trek's utopianism in the face of 9/11 themes. But that's for another time.

    2. The image of the world-ship of Jewish exiles has been floating around my head for about six months now, as well. Its name, Khohav ben Zion, means a Zion of the stars.