DTI Character Notes

Agents Lucsly and DulmurSTAR TREK: DTI: WATCHING THE CLOCK Character Notes

(Beware: contains extensive SPOILERS for DTI: Watching the Clock!)

LUCSLY & DULMUR

In 2010, the Star Trek Online tie-in novel The Needs of the Many by Michael A. Martin included a chapter featuring “Wolf Dulmer” and “Adam Lucsly.”  Why didn’t I follow Mike’s precedent?  For one thing, I did my outline before I read it, and already had my own clear ideas about where I wanted to take the characters.  Moreover, that whole chapter was basically an extended X-Files riff, building on the fact that the characters’ names are anagrams of “Mulder” and “Scully.”  In that chapter, “Dulmer” is portrayed as someone who’s seen as a conspiracy nut, spouting claims about alternate histories that no one else believes, while Lucsly is his faithful but skeptical partner. The thing is, if I wanted these characters to stand on their own as protagonists in a novel, they needed to become more than just an in-joke.  So I chose to avoid any references to The X-Files altogether (which is one reason I went with the official spelling of “Dulmur” from the script).  The fact is, if you look at the characters in “Trials and Tribble-ations,” they really have nothing in common with Mulder and Scully beyond the letters of their surnames.  For one thing, Lucsly is pretty clearly the senior partner.  Though Dulmur talks more, he defers to the more knowledgeable, stiffer Lucsly.  So I ignored the in-joke and based my characterizations on what was there in the script and in the performances of James W. Jansen (Lucsly) and Jack Blessing (Dulmur).  And yes, I let Mike Martin know that I was diverging from his approach, and he had no objections.

Gariff Lucsly: Why “Gariff?”  I figured that Lucsly’s family came from a colony world, probably settled before subspace radio so that it was isolated from Earth, allowing phonetic shifts in their names.  So Locksley would’ve become Lucsly.  I wanted a first name that was a variant on an existing name, and something offbeat to help explain why the character didn’t use it much.  Gariff, a variation on Gareth, was the first name that occurred to me, and it felt perfect.

William Leisner’s “Gods, Fate, and Fractals” in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds II is a delightful Dragnet pastiche with Lucsly as Joe Friday, and though I didn’t make it quite as blatant an homage, I used it, as well as Jansen’s sour, severe performance, as my starting point for Lucsly’s characterization.  I decided I didn’t want Lucsly to have some deep, dark, tragic reason for becoming a DTI agent.  I wanted him to be someone who became an agent because it was the only thing he was suited for — because he was a savant about time but lacking in social skills, essentially a high-function Asperger’s Syndrome type of person.  In a lot of ways, he’s an exaggeration of aspects of my own personality.

But that meant Lucsly was basically what he appeared to be: a very dull, stiff guy.  The question was, how do you make a character like that interesting?  I decided the key was to hint at hidden depths, to create an air of mystery around him.  I borrowed from the portrayal of Agent K in the first season of the animated Men in Black: The Series (the later, dumbed-down seasons don’t count).  While the movies’ Agent K was basically, well, Tommy Lee Jones, the first-season animated version was a far more reserved, aloof character with an uncannily Joe Friday-like voice (provided by Ed O’Ross in that season only).  He was hard to know, a walking enigma with a secretive past.  He was a fascinating character.  So I decided that I wouldn’t explain how Lucsly became an agent but would start with him already there, and I’d establish that he has the trust of temporal investigators from other governments and centuries without ever explaining how he earned it.  By raising questions rather than giving answers, I’d make him mysterious.  Truth be told, the answers would probably be rather dull, so not revealing them is more dramatic.

I also borrowed from Phileas Fogg, lead character of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days — a very prim, regimented man who’s obsessed with time and precision and totally lacking in social skills.  There are a lot of fictional characters of this type, so there were a lot of inspirations to draw from.  There’s some Sherlock Holmes in Lucsly as well, and some Spock.  There are elements of Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters — a stiff, serious character whose lines are funny in their very deadpan earnestness.  And maybe there’s just a smidge of Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters (the one person on this list who isn’t fictional, though he is mythic in his own right).

I was thinking of including a subplot where Lucsly was flirted with by a pretty neighbor and didn’t know how to cope with it, even suspecting her of being a spy for a Temporal Cold War faction because he couldn’t imagine any other reason a woman would take an interest in him.  But I discovered that it was more fun to drop hints that Lucsly might have a secret romantic life — so long as I kept those hints very subtle.  It made him seem cooler, and let me give him a couple of great punch lines.

Marion Dulmur: In this case, I straight up wanted to give Dulmur an embarrassing first name, one he’d be reluctant to use.  I wanted these guys to be Lucsly and Dulmur throughout, to stick with last names in keeping with their onscreen personas.  But while Lucsly’s the type who’d just naturally go by his last name, the end of “Tribble-ations” established Dulmur as someone capable of being more relaxed and sociable.  So I needed a reason why he’d prefer to avoid his first name.  Again, Marion was the first possibility that occurred to me and it just plain worked.  I may have been influenced by my father’s first name, Myron, along with his middle name Carolan, which could be mistaken for a feminine name.

Now, the thing about Lucsly’s inspirations is that most of them have partners who serve as contrast, balance, or comic relief.  Holmes had Watson.  Agent K had Agent J.  Spock had Kirk.  Jamie Hyneman has Adam Savage.  The pattern is to balance the stiff, reserved, hypercompetent character with a more accessible everyman and play up the contrasts.  I couldn’t really do that here, since “Tribble-ations” established Dulmur as just as serious as Lucsly.  The key came from that final scene where Dulmur relaxed and told Sisko he would’ve spoken to Kirk too, while Lucsly just glared in disapproval.  That told me that, while Dulmur is just as much a “suit” on the job as Lucsly, he can turn it off at night.  So while he’s a largely serious and driven character, he has a more laid-back, human side.  That gave me the contrast I needed.

It helped a lot when I realized that Dulmur and Lucsly are basically like Kirk and Spock, at least in the early first season of TOS where Kirk was a very serious military man.  That, along with Holmes and Watson, provided the foundation for their relationship, a businesslike partnership that is nonetheless a close, if unexpressed, friendship, the most important and defining relationship in either man’s life.

Otherwise, though, I didn’t have as many literary or fictional inspirations for Dulmur as for Lucsly.  I largely just based him on my mental image of Jack Blessing.  To that end, I borrowed from the first role I saw him in, McGillicuddy in Moonlighting.  That’s where I got the idea that he started out as a private detective.  There was a bit of Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) from Dragnet in his character as well, and maybe an element of Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) from Law & Order.

I didn’t want Dulmur’s beginnings as a DTI agent to be particularly dramatic or cosmic either, like, time travellers killed his father or something.  The episode portrayed L&D as drab, unromantic figures, and as humorous figures. I wanted to stay true to both of those.  So I wanted Dulmur’s origin story to have an amusing banality to it.  Having him get into temporal investigation because he lost his job was perfect.

But it was more than the job that really motivated him.  Dayton Ward’s “Almost… but Not Quite” in Strange New Worlds II mentioned in passing that Dulmur had an ex-wife.  Building on that led me to the idea that the stresses of the DTI job had cost Dulmur his marriage, and to the idea that he cherished family and was torn between it and the work.  That proved crucial to his characterization, so thanks, Dayton.

TERESA GARCIA

A lot of stories introduce a featured group or organization from the viewpoint of a newly joined character who serves as the audience’s entry point.  For instance, this was a recurring pattern in X-Men adaptations: it was done with Kitty Pryde in the ’80s animation pilot “Pryde of the X-Men,” Jubilee in the pilot of the ’90s animated series, Rogue and Wolverine in the first movie, and Nightcrawler in the pilot of X-Men Evolution.  A more recent example is Wendy Watson (Natalie Morales) in the lamentably short-lived sci-fi comedy The Middleman.  So when I decided to include a novice agent as a point of audience identification for learning about the DTI and its methods, I just went with my first impulse and based her on Morales.  It’s probably just as well that I didn’t get around to watching The Middleman on DVD until after I finished the manuscript, because I probably would’ve thrown in too many in-jokes otherwise.  (But aside from that, you have to admit, my plan was sheer elegance in its simplicity.)

Garcia’s surname is itself an in-joke; Russell Garcia was the composer for George Pal’s The Time Machine.  I don’t think “Teresa” is a similar allusion; it’s just the name of a couple of friends I used to have (though they spelled it “Theresa”).

I made Garcia an archaeology student because it seemed a useful discipline for a DTI agent or researcher.  It turned out to tie in pretty well thematically, though.  I contemplated suggesting that she’d been a student of Picard’s during his tenure as a lecturer in The Buried Age, but that would’ve been too Dickensian a coincidence.  I’ve left myself sufficiently wide open to charges of Small Universe Syndrome as it is.

I wanted to have one protagonist in this book who became an agent after travelling through time; that would be an effective way to bring her into the story as the subject of an investigation at the start, then move on from there through her training and early cases.  I considered using someone from the future, but that would put too many constraints on the character, so I did something different with that idea (see below).  Someone from the recent past seemed like the best way to go.  I liked the idea of contrasting the peaceful early-TNG era with the aftermath of the chaotic events of later years.

MEYO RANJEA

The Deltans have always proved a difficult species to handle in the literature.  You can’t get too graphic given the target audience, so most authors tend to shy away from their sensuality or treat it obliquely.  I always wanted to find a way to confront it and use it in a tasteful way, to elaborate on Gene Roddenberry’s original concept of a species that’s not just more sexually open than humans, but more sexually and emotionally mature, more at ease with their sexuality as an integrated, healthy facet of their being.  For years, I’ve been awaiting the opportunity to feature a Deltan character prominently in a novel, and this was it, since I got to create a whole new cast.  I opted for a male character for two reasons.  One is simply that we’ve already had a major female Deltan character in Ilia from ST:TMP.  More importantly, I wanted to avoid seeming exploitative or prurient.  It’s an unfortunate double standard, but in our society, a male character can be treated as an object of sexual desire with less loss of perceived dignity and respectability than a female character.  And I do admittedly have a tendency to play up the sexuality of my female characters (and to get them out of their clothes a lot), though I do try to keep it respectful and mature.  Making my most sexualized character male helped me resist the temptation to do self-indulgent things that might’ve undermined what I was going for.

I’m not sure how well I succeeded in making Ranjea more than just a token Deltan, though.  It helped a lot when I wrote his backstory chapter and the business with Riroa emerged.  That gave me something I hadn’t had before, a real motivation for Ranjea to join the DTI, and it helped give him some complexity and individuality, once I went back and folded it into his earlier scenes.  His relationship with Garcia was also quite interesting to develop.  I think that, without consciously realizing it, I was drawing on my own life experience with a woman that I fell madly, unrequitedly in love with in college, but who later went on to become my best friend for quite a few years.  I’ve always wanted to tell a story based on that, since I’ve felt it would be a nice departure from the usual formulaic love stories.  Platonic love between friends is something that’s too often undervalued in fiction.  And now I’ve managed to do that without even consciously realizing I was fulfilling that goal.  I guess the idea has just been part of me for so long that it emerged spontaneously.

I didn’t have a specific person in mind to base Ranjea on, but eventually I ended up imagining Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes, Covert Affairs) in the role, using his Indian accent from Heroes.

SHELAN

The Suliban are another species I’ve long wanted to do something with.  I tried to incorporate one in a small role in my very first work of professional ST fiction, SCE: Aftermath, but that was while Enterprise was still on the air and the studio didn’t want to risk letting a tie-in do anything that could be contradicted — though my thinking was that, since the Suliban were a scattered, nomadic race, there should’ve been no problem depicting a separate branch of them that was unaffected by whatever happened with the Cabal.  Anyway, that character ended up being rewritten as a Vulcan.  But now, ENT is over, and since I had free rein to tackle the Temporal Cold War here, it was the perfect opportunity to feature the Suliban at last.  As I hoped to do before, I focused on the innocent majority of the Suliban, the nomads who had no allegiance to the Cabal but were persecuted anyway.  Though giving Shelan a Cabal ancestor helped give her a personal motivation to want to combat the Cabal’s creator and sponsor, to make her a microcosm for the two primary known facets of her species — plus it proved an important story point later on.

Given my time constraints, I ended up having to discover Shelan’s character as I went, but I tried to make her appealing, someone the audience would sympathize with, to give more impact to what ultimately became of her.  I didn’t create the character with the intention of doing what I did, but once the idea occurred to me, she was the logical character for it to happen to.

I didn’t have an actress in mind when I wrote the manuscript, but since then, I’ve been tending toward Eureka‘s Erica Cerra.

JENA NOI

Jena Noi is named after Jen Scott (Erin Cahill) from Power Rangers Time Force (the second-best season of that franchise and the most apposite one here) and Noÿs Lambent from Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity.  I couldn’t resist an in-joke reference to “Noi’s lambent eyes,” thought that misrepresents the pronunciation of Noÿs; the dieresis over the y indicates it’s pronounced as a separate vowel, “no-ees.”

Why create a new Temporal Agent instead of using Daniels from Enterprise?  Several reasons.  First is simple logic.  Daniels can’t be the only member of his agency, and since his focus was apparently on the 22nd century, it stood to reason that someone else would be assigned to the 24th.  Second was variety; between Lucsly, Dulmur, Faunt, Peart, and Ducane, the book had enough white male human temporal operatives already.  And third: Daniels is boring.  Maybe that was the point of him, to be nondescript and blend in, but he was just kind of there.  I already had blandness covered by Lucsly & Dulmur, so I wanted someone more engaging for this role.

All along, I wanted to riff on the trope of the local cops who are shut out of a case by the feds who insist it’s out of their jurisdiction.  I ended up making the “fed” more sympathetic than I’d expected, which might weaken that dynamic a bit, but it does allow Noi to be a more nuanced character.

I was in a Doctor Who mood when I came up with Noi’s description, so I initially had Freema Agyeman in mind as the basis for her appearance.  But as I wrote her, she ended up being “played” in my mind by Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Gargoyles, Eureka).  This might be because the Ocampa ears I gave the character reminded me of the character Richardson-Whitfield played in DS9: “Second Sight,” though it’s more likely because Eureka was airing while I wrote most of the novel.  This mental casting helped make Noi a more likeable, sympathetic figure, but still a strong one.

So what’s Jena’s species mix, aside from Ocampa?  I’m not certain.  Probably some Vulcanoid in there, accounting for the greenish tint to her skin and her exceptional strength.  The ridge over her nose probably isn’t Tandaran, but may be Bajoran.  The golden eyes suggest… I don’t know what.  Possibly some species not yet contacted.  As for her Ocampa genes, they probably give her some psionic abilities, but I’m assuming they don’t shorten her longevity, due to 31st-century advances.  And though I didn’t mention it, I assume Noi is genetically enhanced — not so different from Harnoth, just less inclined to use her enhancements as an excuse to claim the right to dominate.

OTHER CHARACTERS

Clare Raymond: The idea that Gracie Harrison’s character from TNG: “The Neutral Zone” might end up counseling other temporal displacees was a natural, and was part of my earliest thinking about the project.  I wanted to follow multiple characters in parallel and use them to explore the various responsibilities of the agency, and she was a good fit for the Temporal Displacement Division.  I figured she’d need to find some way to be useful in the 24th century, and her experience as a displacee was the one special skill she seemed to have.

Laarin Andos: The director is a Rhaandarite because, given what I’d established about their psychology in Ex Machina, they seemed like a species with the necessary emotional stability for DTI work.  Also their considerable longevity allowed me to make the director a character who’d been with the agency from the beginning, allowing me to give backstory on the DTI’s history from her point of view.  I have no actress in mind for the character, since there aren’t a lot of 2.44-meter actresses out there.

T’Viss: The book needed a character to give the physics exposition in the training sequences, and in order to smooth it for the audience, I wanted to take the sheer technical complexity of it to such an extreme that it became comical.  T’Viss was where I poured all my tendencies to lecture in extreme technical detail, while keeping the viewpoint characters at a remove that’s more relatable to the audience as they struggle to make sense of what she’s saying.  As such, it seemed natural for her to become a crotchety scholarly rival to the more innovative temporal theorists.  Her name is an homage to Senior Computer Twissell from The End of Eternity.

Professor Vard: I initially built Vard from elements of various incarnations of the Doctor from Doctor Who, notably the Third, Fourth, and Sixth Doctors.  Hence the flamboyant attire, the arrogance, and the scanning device that strongly resembles the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.  However, as the writing progressed, I ended up imagining him as John Noble (who plays Walter Bishop on Fringe).  His constant abuses of Dulmur’s name allow me to poke fun at the Dulmur/Dulmer spelling inconsistency as well as befitting his personality as an egomaniac who can’t be bothered to make the effort to get another person’s name right (unlike Walter, whose constant mangling of his assistant Astrid’s name is a symptom of his memory problems).  Vard’s name is a play on Manse Everard, the protagonist of Poul Anderson’s The Time Patrol series.

Korath: This is a younger version of the character Vaughn Armstrong played in the 2409 portions of VGR’s finale “Endgame,” the Klingon from whom Janeway stole the chrono-deflector.  The episode is ambiguous on whether he created or merely acquired it, but I chose to go with the former.  I liked the idea that a Klingon would be the first person in modern times to invent a practical time machine.  The script gave little to go on for Korath’s personality, but I drew what I could from it and from Armstrong’s performance, which suggested a deliberate but greedy man who reacted poorly to not getting what he wanted.

Dina Elfiki: This character was created by David Mack for the Destiny trilogy, based on a real-life friend of his, and has been a minor supporting player in several TNG novels.  After checking to make sure that Dayton Ward didn’t have any major plans for her in Typhon Pact: Paths of Disharmony, I decided she’d be the best choice for what I had in mind, a Starfleet science officer flung a few months back in time and placed in the position of having to keep her future knowledge quiet until she caught up with herself.  I thought that would be a nice, unusual challenge for Clare Raymond as a TDD counselor.  Initially I contemplated someone from further in the future, but that would’ve risked giving away too much.

While this is Elfiki’s most prominent role to date, it’s certainly not the definitive word on the character.  There’s plenty of room for others to develop her.  But hopefully I’ve added a few things to the tapestry and given her some depth.

My image of Elfiki was based on a photo of Dave Mack’s friend, but Dave has suggested actress Sarah Shahi as a candidate for the role, and I think it’s a fine choice.

Juel Ducane:  VGR: “Relativity” portrayed the 29th-century Temporal Integrity Commission as a fairly straightforward continuation of Starfleet, but I found their tactics, such as trying a man for a crime he never committed, to be morally reprehensible, suggesting that Starfleet had lost its way by that century.  Jay Karnes’ performance as Lt. Ducane suggested a man who was amiable on the surface but had a nasty side underneath, and it served my purposes to play up the latter.  Ducane’s relationship with Jena Noi is ambiguous; there’s clearly no love lost between them and their agencies, but they’re on a first-name basis.  I wondered if this was a contradiction, but I decided it was a believable one, helping to convey the idea of two people who’ve worked together for a long time and know each other pretty well while still having some fundamental differences of ideology.

Since “Ducane” strikes me as a future version of “Duquesne” with the spelling simplified, I chose “Juel” as a simplified spelling of the French given name “Jules.”

Cyral Nine, Rodal Eight, and Meneth: Greg Cox’s Assignment: Eternity established that the Aegis has no operatives in the Federation, a society considered mature enough to get by on its own.  So I needed my Aegis operatives to come from somewhere else, a society still in turmoil. Cardassia seemed a good choice.  And I couldn’t resist the idea of portraying a washed-up former Aegis agent who’s become a bitter drunk due to the fate that befell Cardassia in the Dominion War.  However, once I established Cyral’s downfall, I needed another Aegis character for the later portions of the book, so Rodal and Meneth came about.  Rodal is basically just a Cardassian Gary Seven, dapper, serious, and somewhat superior.  I’m disappointed I didn’t get to do more with Cyral, but writing Meneth was fun.

Jamran Harnoth: Harnoth of the Omega Cabal is an allusion to Gene Roddenberry’s original Assignment: Earth pilot proposal, in which Gary was a time traveller battling the evil shapeshifting Omegans, Harth and Isis, who sought to alter history to eradicate their future enemy, Earth — an idea which presaged the Temporal Cold War by decades!  Initially I wanted to call the character Harth as a more direct homage, but I wasn’t sure of the legalities — CBS owns Star Trek and all its characters, but would they own the rights to a character from an unsold pilot that was later reworked into a Trek episode without that character?  Besides, I just didn’t care for the name Harth; it sounds like a fireplace.  The name I ended up with is a blend of “Harth” and the name of the character’s onscreen portrayer, James Horan.

Unfortunately, the structure of the story didn’t give me much room to establish or develop the character.  There’s not much substance there beyond the surprise twists.  He remains little more than a plot device.  But then, that’s all he ever really was.

Lirahn: As stated in the Annotations, I originally developed the Axis of Time concept for a TOS novel proposal that didn’t go forward.  Lirahn was intended as a romantic foil and antagonist for Kirk, so it was easy enough to switch that to Ranjea.  I welcomed the opportunity to tie her together with the Talosians and Sargon’s people, both of which were devastated in great wars about half a million years ago.  It was a natural to combine those into a single galactic conflict and add some other combatants.  I made Lirahn a member of a separate species because the original proposal was intended to be as light on continuity as possible, so that any link to those other species needed to be kept implicit.  Here, though, I was able to tie into that history more directly.  I still kept her a separate species, though, because it gave me more flexibility to give her the attributes I wanted, and it let me tie into established Trek history without getting too much into small-universe territory by reusing an established species.

Lirahn is a broader, more clear-cut villain than the nuanced, sympathetic antagonists I usually write, but sometimes I just want to try something different.  And sometimes people really are just megalomaniacal and ruthless.  In retrospect, though, maybe I should’ve made her more sympathetic in contrast with Harnoth.

The actress I had in mind for the character was Gina Torres, using the seductive-sociopath voice she employed as Superwoman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.

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