What we can learn from the hobbies of Star Trek officers

While trying to develop my own science fiction and fantasy short stories (I haven’t been very successful yet…), I’ve turned to watching a hell of a lot of television for inspiration.

It’s a different medium, sure, but Star Trek has been able to captivate millions of viewers around the world. The series has also evolved over time going from retellings of fairytales and fables to dealing with modern issues of race, religion, gender, and everything in between. It’s also the show’s 50th anniversary this year, so there’s that too.

The show’s characters too have evolved and continue to promote diversity on television. One of the most interesting aspects of the series’ characters I’ve found are the hobbies they take on over the course of the show.

You have hundreds and sometimes thousands of people travelling through space together, so they’re going to need a way to relax, right? The way they relax says a lot about their character and hobbies can also be a good way to flesh out a character, but they can be a double edged sword.

While a hobby can deepen the reader’s connect, some can feel like they’re overcompensating for a lack of actual development. So we’ll start with the captains who are almost always very well-rounded and make our way to the lower decks of the ships.


The Captain


Jean Luc Picard

Baldness has never looked so bold.

Baldness has never looked so bold.

Jean Luc Picard is a true renaissance space man. With a breadth of experience that few other humans can claim, the long-time captain of the Enterprise has developed a few hobbies over his career.

Picard’s include: archaeology, reading/collecting vintage books, playing the Ressikan flute, horse riding, acting (in minor roles), enjoying pulply holodeck stories, and painting… poorly.

What I like the most about Picard’s hobbies is how well realized they are. There are reasons why he enjoys the hobby and the writers found ways to use them for added depth. Often circumventing one type of interest with one its complete opposite can be interesting.

For instance, Picard enjoys reading sophisticated literature, so of course he loves pulpy detective novels on the holodeck. His ability to like storytelling from disparate genres shows us that he can still appreciate varying aspects of literature.

That isn’t to say that the writers don’t deliberately give him hobbies that tie in directly with the plot.

Jean Luc with his favourite archeology professor Richard Galen.

Jean Luc with his favourite archeology professor Richard Galen.

Given to him in the excellent episode “The Inner Light”, the flute becomes part of a larger story about a dead civilization that now rests only within Picard’s memories. In essence, Picard lives an entire second life within the probe.

Even as late into the series as “Lessons”, we see that he’s kept up with practicing and playing. He’s conflicted in the episode because he finds a woman with whom he can share his music and thus his very literal second life. This also leads us to Picard’s hobby of studying civilizations, which, for a Star Fleet captain who is exploring the universe, seems like it should be a pretty standard interest.

The last and probably his most short-lived hobby is actually pretty interesting.

From Commander Data’s breakdown of Picard’s painting in “A Matter of Perspective” we learn that his attempt to meld various painting techniques results in a melange of clashing styles. It’s one of Picard’s failings, which is a rare thing for the scholarly captain. It shows the audience that, yes, even Captain Jean Luc Picard can suck at something.

Anyway, Picard’s hobbies are never shoved into our faces nor do they often take over the character. His hobbies help him grow by providing contrast to our expectations while colouring in certain aspects of his life i.e. his leisure time.


Benjamin Sisko

Baseball! Isn't really that relevant in the future.

Baseball! Isn’t really that relevant in the future.

Benjamin Sisko is a pretty tough dude when you think about it. He survived the encounter with the Borg at Wolf 359, became the Bajoran peoples’ emissary, and lead the fight against the Dominion.

Sisko’s also tough enough to be a complete dick to Jean Luc Picard on their first meeting after he arrived at Deep Space 9. From that meeting, we’re shown that Sisko is going to be very different from Picard, so, of course, his hobbies are different too.

Sisko’s hobbies include: studying Earth’s history, baseball (though mostly an obsession with Buck Bokai), cooking, piano, and, in one instance, building a ship in a bottle.

Also playing James Bond villains in one case, but it wasn't his decision.

Also playing James Bond villains in one case, but it wasn’t his decision.

While one could make an argument that raising his son Jake could also be considered another hobby, I think his relationship with his son goes a little deeper than collecting trading cards. Anyway, Sisko’s biggest hobby is arguably his love of baseball, specifically early 21st century baseball.

The deeper hobby that we see developed here is a love for Earth’s history that continually informs Sisko’s decision making. In several episodes, we get to explore Sisko’s nostalgia for the past through meetings with prominent figures like Buck Bokai and Jim Kirk. He also literally becomes Gabriel Bell in episode “Past Tense”, a 21st century man who helped the world learn about the abuses going on in the Sanctuary Districts.

Anyway, Sisko’s passions ultimately show his love for the people and events that have made Earth the utopia it is today. His appreciation of the past makes him into a guardian, a custodian for the Bajoran people who have a history just as long and just as deep as humanity. This nostalgia is also a conflict as Sisko struggles against change on Earth as a military coup it set off in episode “Paradise Lost”.

It’s no surprise that one of the main debates in the two-part episode takes place in Sisko’s father’s restaurant, a symbol of peace on Earth. Sisko struggles against the tides of change while being a constant agent of it in the fight against the Gamma Quadrant.


Kathyrn Janeway

Janeway's got it tough being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Janeway’s got it tough being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Unlike Benjamin Sisko and Jean Luc Picard, Kathyrn Janeway is primarily a scientist by trade.

The problem with this is while archaeology and history can be seen as hobbies, science is really more of a vocation and it certain is for her. But in many ways, Janeway’s science background is never really explored and serves more as background knowledge to get Voyager out of any situation.

Although science is Janeway’s true passion, she does have a few hobbies too. One of her most notable is the time she spends in the holodeck and her love affair with the town of Fair Haven. In the episode, we learn of the toll the burden of command has had on her personal life.

Janeway probably loves Pioneer Villages.

Janeway probably loves Pioneer Villages.

Unlike Picard or Sisko who can still find companionship, being so far off in the Delta Quadrant means that Janeway is utterly alone. There’s no Vash or Kasidy Yates to fall in love with (also Chakotay just wasn’t going to work out ever). On top of that, we also know of Mark Johnson, her fiancee, and just two seasons in we’re told that he married another woman.

While Fair Haven is one of Janeway’s main holographic retreats, we also learn about her relationship with a holographic representation of inventor Leonardo da Vinci. He is one of Janeway’s main advisors in stressful situations often bringing a scientific eye to her quandaries.

One hobby I’ve seen listed online in regards to Janeway is her love of coffee. Seeing that she only really drinks one kind of coffee, I don’t know if this really counts. I mean, there’s no episode where she’s bugging Neelix about the quality of the coffee beans on the ship or even a scene where she uses anything but the replicator to make coffee.

***

The captains usually are the most well-rounded characters in the series often being given a breadth of development. As we’ve seen from all of the examples above, hobbies do play a big role in making the characters more relatable and likeable. Rarely do we see a hobby in a captain that goes beyond the realm of believability. That isn’t to say there aren’t bad examples.

Jonathan Archer from Star Trek: Enterprise has no hobbies other than his dog. Taking the time to develop a character’s hobbies isn’t always necessary, but it can sometimes help audiences get to know them on a deeper level. Archer is just this well-spoken guy who commands a star ship.


The First Officer


William T. Riker

I'd make love to that beard.

I’d make love to that beard.

William T. Riker is your quintessential man’s man. From his beard to his stature, his character screams that he’s in control and that he’s proud to be the Enterprise’s first officer. He takes his job quite seriously and holds onto it with a death grip refusing to leave his position even when offered star ships of his own to command.

Anyway, Riker’s main hobbies are playing the trombone, losing at poker, acting once in a while and the completely ridiculous martial art of Anbo-jyutsu.

While Anbo-jyutsu is pretty dumb, I think poker is a pretty telling hobby for Riker. What’s Riker’s general strategy? The bluff. Making others believe that you have the upper hand and forcing them to back down is a tactic used throughout Star Trek, and it’s a risky strategy. Riker on three occasions uses bluffs while playing poker, twice to win and once where he lost. Yet it shows us that he’s a risk taker, someone who is willing to bet everything using strategy. Poker also reveals that, yes, Riker was once a young man who used the game to get into better standing with his commanding officers aboard the Potemkin.

He also does impressions.

He also does impressions.

Riker’s other hobby of playing the trombone, but I think this quote from an A.V. Club interview with actor Jonathan Frakes says pretty much everything there needs to be said on this.

F: Gene Roddenberry, the late Great Space Bird Of The Galaxy, had asked me originally not to smile, that he wanted Riker to be played with what he referred to as a Gary Cooper, Midwestern glint—not a scowl, but not smiling. And my nature is to smile, so I looked, or thought I looked, very uncomfortable—certainly in the first season—because I was playing Roddenberry’s wish, his note. But Maurice Hurley came on the show and sat me down and he said, “So what do you do?” And I told him about the trombone and the jazz, and then all of a sudden the character started to have a few of the qualities that I could relate to personally. And then after the writers’ strike, I’d grown a beard because I hated to shave. And Roddenberry fell in love with the beard, and the beard became a part of the character in a way that was, as Gene described it, was a nautical, decorative beard, which he took great pride in designing on my face. [Laughs.] So somewhere in there, I sort of found my legs, and I felt like we were really off and running. Link: http://www.avclub.com/article/jonathan-frakes-talks-william-riker-playing-trombo-100891

Once in a while the actor seems to get in on the character’s hobbies and because Frakes is actually a pretty decent trombonist it can feel pretty legitimate.


Kira Nerys

I always loved her hair.

I always loved her hair.

Major Kira Nerys doesn’t really have any hobbies unless you count her liking Springball.

I think Kira is an example of a character who probably doesn’t have time for many hobbies. She’s practically ends up being the only person keeping Bajor together near to the end of the series and her responsibilities aboard Deep Space Nine are really overwhelming. Tacking on a hobby like playing the Bajoran flute or showing her grinding her own coffee beans for Raktajino would just feel forced.

She does become a surrogate mother for a while, but mostly because Nana Visitor was pregnant at the time.

She does become a surrogate mother for a while, but mostly because Nana Visitor was pregnant at the time.

Sometimes officers in Star Trek can develop without the need for hobbies or personal interests and there’s a lot to the major.

Speaking of tacking on hobbies…


Chakotay… doesn’t have a last name

Chakotay is Janeway's Number One, but he's a pretty boring dude.

Chakotay is Janeway’s Number One, but he’s a pretty boring dude.

Chakotay is a former Star Fleet officer who resigned his commission to join the Maquis. This group of rebellious humans sole aim is to protect human colonies from the Cardassians, a good cause if there ever was one. When pulled into the Delta Quadrant and learning that he was betrayed by his tactical officer, Chakotay tucks his tail between his legs and becomes Janeway’s first officer while pissing off the disgruntled Maquis who also join the crew.

Chakotay goes through a hell of a lot during the series. He confronts his former crew over their misconduct, he goes undercover to find the crew when they go missing, he gets a weird disease that leaves him stranded on a planet, and a whole bunch of other crappy stuff. As well-rounded of a character he is, Chakotay still somehow manages to be boring.

There are layers to his character including his religious beliefs and his struggles later on trying SO DAMN HARD to have sex with Seven of Nine. His religion is really more of a way of life for him and definitely not a hobby, so we can’t talk about that too much.

He does have one hobby though: boxing.

He boxes, I guess.

He boxes, I guess.

Robert Beltran, Chakotay’s actor, is not a boxer. According to some production notes, Beltran had asked for about three weeks notice before the episode went into production to train himself up, but apparently he was only given 10 days notice.

Unless you’re someone like Jonathan Frakes who can already play the trombone, why give someone like Beltran the responsibility of learning how to box for this episode? You can’t act athletic prowess. Robert De Niro actually entered real boxing matches before starring in Raging Bull, winning two out of the three.

Anyway, I think this is the first example of a hobby completely falling flat for a character. It’s simply a matter of it not fitting the typically gentle Chakotay and feeling like the actor was shoved into the role without much knowledge of how to actually box.


The Engineer


Geordi La Forge

Eyes so deep you could hide them with a metal visor for seven seasons.

Eyes so deep you could hide them with a metal visor for seven seasons.

Geordi La Forge is probably the best engineer in all of Star Trek despite being shocked, rocked, and blown up by his ship more times than he can probably count. His expertise with the ship gives him some pretty impressive skills although his interpersonal ones are a little lacking. Basically, he never gets a girlfriend throughout the series.

Anyway, during the hours he spends alone in his quarters, Geordi does have a few hobbies including ship building, playing poker, swimming, and holodecks. Ship building is pretty much the only hobby we end up seeing results of his labour; however, I think Geordi’s biggest hobby is Data.

Data is the universe’s only semi-sentient android capable of understanding human beings without killing them horribly. Geordi, being a master engineer, sees Data as a marvel of human ingenuity and throughout the series he helps the android become more human by improving its understanding of others and itself.

Despite the clinical evaluation of their relationship above, they really are friends. La Forge plays Watson to Data’s Sherlock Holmes in a few episodes and patiently helps the android through many ethical quandaries, so you can tell that they do have a real friendship.

Data is going to wreck that model.

Data is going to wreck that model though.

And through Data’s constant questioning of human relationships, we end up learning a lot about how La Forge sees the people around him. We also learn of his anxieties around women and dating despite having characters like Sonya Gomez throwing themselves at him all of the time.


Miles O’Brien

O'Brien goes from chief petty officer to chief pretty much in charge of everything officer.

O’Brien goes from chief petty officer to chief pretty much in charge of everything officer.

Miles O’Brien is your every man, a jack of all trades. He’s also the former transportation chief aboard the Enterprise and the Chief Engineer aboard Deep Space Nine, for whatever reason. As with most characters aboard the Cardassian space station, Miles finds himself with a lot of spare time despite being tasked with keeping the station from imploding.

There’s darts, there’s model building, there’s being a First World War pilot (in the holodeck), there’s forcing his wife to eat Irish food, and there’s a litany of other things that the engineer does. However, I don’t think his hobbies really matter in the long run when compared to the deeper aspects of his character including his hatred of Cardassians.

Most of the time, playing darts is just a way to get a scene where O’Brien can talk with Julian Bashir, a hyper-intelligent super human who could be considered his opposite in almost all regards. This friendship through hobbies allows two different kinds of intellect to collide, one pragmatic and the other based in science.

Why do Star Fleet officers like building models so much?

Why do Star Fleet officers like building models so much?

O’Brien is probably one of my favourite characters in the series, but only when he’s given a chance to get out of his role as an teleporter operator and chief engineer. When he’s outside of his job we get to learn about his past in Star Fleet, his PTSD after fighting at Setlik, and the love he has for his wife.

Outside of those few good episodes he gets during Next Generation, we do start to see the need for hobbies. If he’s on Deep Space Nine, he has to be all work and no play because the station will explode without constant minding, but if he stays like that then he won’t build relationships with other characters. That’s why O’Brien’s main interactions happen at the bar on Deep Space Nine. People can let their hair down and just chill out instead of worrying about a blow fuse or a radiation-filled Jeffries Tube.


B’Elanna Torres

Neck pain sucks.

Neck pain sucks.

Like a lot of other engineers, B’Elanna’s main hobby is keeping the ship she’s on from exploding. B’Elanna is a little different from say Geordi La Forge or Miles O’Brien though in being half Klingon meaning she should have double the personal interests than most people, but she really doesn’t have many.

B’Elanna is all work and no play… most of the times. There are examples of her taking on personal interests, but like Chakotay they’re really just there for plot. In the episode Extreme Risk, B’Elanna shows off that she likes Orbital Skydiving not unlike James T. Kirk. However, her personal interest also involves quite a bit of risk as she takes off the safety protocols in order to make the simulation more dangerous.

More dangerous than a half-Klingon in full battle gear.

More dangerous than a half-Klingon in full battle gear.

The episode came about from a discussion between producers Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller, and Roxann Dawson (Torres) over dinner. They wanted to play with the idea of self-harm for the episode.

Shortly after Roxann Dawson received the script for this episode, she described the teleplay as “a very nice script for me, with a lot of character development.” Moments later, she commented, “It really addresses a lot of B’Elanna’s inner demons. It was nice to get back to doing that again, and it should be a good episode.” (Star Trek Monthly issue 44, p. 35) At about the end of the fifth season, Dawson remarked, “It was really great to see some of my ideas about B’Elanna’s darker side explored by these writers. I was pleased with the writing. It’s always hard to explore a subject like that [….] I think for the most part it really did accurately explore a very difficult quality to put on film, without being trite and without being predictable. I think that they explored this self-destructive nature of hers in a really original way, and I appreciated that. It’s also an area that Star Trek doesn’t deal with very much. I appreciated their risk, to quote the title, of going there, spending time in a show exploring just one aspect of an emotional nature that had nothing to do with science fiction.” (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 36) In a retrospective interview, Dawson cited the installment as “one of my favorite episodes” and went on to say that this was because she herself had been instrumental in its development. The actress also enthused, “I think they came up with a great episode. And I love the title, ‘Extreme Risk’, because – with B’Elanna’s character being as bold as she was – people wouldn’t question her wanting to take risks. It would only be B’Elanna that would know that she’s taking these risks to the point of possibly injuring herself and that injuring herself comes from a self-loathing, a self-hatred that she would need to explore. So it became a wonderful physical drama, but also a psychological one, and I think that they explored it very well.” (Voyager Time Capsule: B’Elanna Torres, VOY Season 5 DVD special features)

B’Elanna does show some interest in her Klingon side, but cultural understanding I really wouldn’t consider hobbies.


The Logical One


Data

Ci n'est pas une android.

Ci n’est pas une android.

Data is an android who doesn’t have any emotions whatsoever at least until much later in the series. He does, however, have a great many hobbies that he takes up in order to emulate his colleagues. He plays poker like the rest of the senior crew, he paints like Jean Luc Picard, he plays music like William T. Riker, he acts once in a while, and he builds models like Geordi La Forge.

Data is a really strange character if you really think about it. He’s a hyper-intelligent being that’s been placed on the Enterprise following several other assignments across Star Fleet. At some point he had to go through Star Fleet Academy with a whole class of bright-eyed humans and aliens, but he still manages to flourish despite his inability to feel. I chalk up his success around humans to his ability to emulate and understand human beings, but they might not be the best examples to follow.

I also chalk up a lot of his hobbies to his creator Noonian Soong who seems like quite a patron of the arts. Soong is a veritable genius who was able to create Data and his brother Lor almost by himself. Even the best Star Fleet has can’t even come close to creating something similar to Data. Data even has trouble creating Data as we see in the episode where he creates a child, but is unable to keep her alive.

I have a feeling Noonian Soong had some influence on Data's hobbies.

I have a feeling Noonian Soong had some influence on Data’s hobbies.

Anyway, Data does have some hobbies, but he doesn’t really need them. In his efforts to look more human, he takes them on to get the full experience. The thing about Data though is as a semi-timeless being, he’ll still be alive long after most of his friends are dead. In a few thousand years, he might be closer to being an entirely different race of beings than a human being.

Basically, Data’s hobbies are a tool to help him become more human. He doesn’t actually feel passion for them because he’s unable to, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good at composing music, creating art, or acting in plays.


Odo

I always thought his makeup was scary as a kid.

I always thought his makeup was scary as a kid.

Much like Data, Odo is an outsider doing his best to understand the beings around him. Odo was originally found by the Bajoran and he was “brought up” by a scientist in a lab. His appearance, in fact, is largely based off of Dr. Mora Pol who taught him the basics of communication and gave him a rudimentary understanding of his shapeshifting abilities.

Odo now works at the head security chief of Deep Space Nine and held the role for both the Cardassians and for Star Fleet. He lives a rather humdrum life until Benjamin Sisko and his colleagues decide to shake things up. During this time, we really start to see Odo flourish as a being until, of course, the other Changelings show up and he becomes an insufferable asshole. He’s also super naive.

Anyway, some of Odo’s major interests include: kayaking, eating food (an actual hobby that I’ll explain), taking part in cultural exchanges, and watching Quark from around the corner.

He also really liked being an umpire in that one episode.

He also really liked being an umpire in that one episode.

The last of his hobbies really is more of a vocation, so we’ll skip that one for now. Eating food is something of a reoccurring situation for Odo who finds enjoyment in simulating the experience with his human and bajoran colleagues. Unlike mono-form beings, Odo doesn’t have to eat, but he does so anyway (often transforming his hand into a cup and drinking himself… ew). The problem is this is as deep Odo goes into the monoform way of life. Of course, he tries to gain an understanding of humans and bajorans through talking to and interacting with them, but he doesn’t develop a real interest. The only human being he does become close to is just a holographic representation of one! C’mon Odo, you’ve got to try a little harder and then maybe you’ll see why helping people like Kira Narys when they’re in need is more important than the Great Link.

Unlike Data, Odo arguably feels a little too much as a character. During the final seasons, he’s so damn torn between being a Changeling and his loyalty to people like Kira Nerys to be anything more than just an annoyance aboard Deep Space Nine. There are moments where his character shines, but they really only appear when you know he’s having fun doing something. If he’s interrogating Quark, he’s happy. If he’s learning more about his culture, he’s melodramatic and conflicted. If he’s punching Quark, he’s happy. If he’s having to decide whether to leave his monoform budding forever to join the Great Link, he’s sad. Basically, Odo is at his best as a character when trying to enjoy the work he does.


Seven of Nine

I wonder if she has to regularly clean her implants.

I wonder if she has to regularly clean her implants.

Seven of Nine is a borg turned back into a human, and unlike Jean Luc Picard who went through a similar procedure, she was a borg for a lot longer. She was abducted by the semi-mechanical alien species when was six years old and then liberate eighteen years later by the Voyager crew. That’s a heck of a long time to think as part of the Collective rather than as an individual, so you can probably expect to have pretty few hobbies.

However, Seven of Nine, in part due to some lessons from the ship’s holographic doctor, learns how to become more human and takes up some interests. They include: working in the astrophysics lab, regenerating, and playing Kadis-kot, which aren’t quite as many as I thought she had.

At least she's having fun.

At least she’s having fun.

Anyway, Kadis-kot is an interesting past time for Seven of Nine to have. Much like Tuvok, Spock, and Odo, Seven possesses “logic”, a power that often has more downsides than… upsides. This power allows characters like Seven to see past the emotional attachments characters have to whatever plot thing they’re going up against. Their voice often brings clarity to most situations, but it’s typically a synthesis between points of view that allow for the plot to resolve itself. Kadis-kot is a board game that allows Seven to flex her logic while interacting with characters like Neelix, an alien who doesn’t think like humans, and Naomi Wildman, a child whose innocence thought process often leads to startling revelations.

It’s important to remember just how long Seven was a Borg, a part of an entirely different culture. As part of the Collective, her entire being was dedicated to efficiency. She didn’t have interests and she didn’t have a personality. Unlike Jono from the episode “Suddenly Human“, Seven is repeatedly denied the chance to return to her people by Kathryn Janeway. In many ways, humanity isn’t really Seven’s true culture anymore, so it’s not too surprising that she doesn’t bother developing hobbies.


The Doctor


Beverly Crusher

A way better doctor than Pulaski.

A way better doctor than Pulaski.

Beverly Crusher is the Enterprise’s doctor and spends most of her day tending the various wounds the crew suffers every other second. I think she’s the only actual doctor aboard the ship although sickday is well attended by nurses and helpers. That’s a lot of people to be in charge of, so not a lot of time to really have any hobbies, or so you would think.

Beverly’s hobbies include: theatre, dancing, martial arts, studying Klingon, and growing flowers. The two hobbies mentioned at the start are probably the most important to her character.

Theatre is a reoccurring activity aboard the Enterprise often bearing some resemblance to the plot that unfolds in the episodes its featured. Onboard the Enterprise, Beverly is the main organizer of a theatre troupe, but also wrote her own plays including Something for Breakfast and Frame of Mind. This allows her character to escape the lab, but also allows the actress to use her Bachelor of Arts in theatre and her training in choreography.

Wouldn't want to get my toes stepped on by Data.

Wouldn’t want to get my toes stepped on by Data.

Beverly was once known as The Dancing Doctor, according to Data who wanted to learn how to dance for a wedding he was set to attend. The moment in the show where Beverly teaches Data how to dance is an interesting one for the two characters who seldom interact. Think about it, when does Data really need to go to the doctor?

I think this another case of the actor getting some of their personal experience into the character, which makes her hobbies feel legitimate. In 1986, Gates McFadden helped choreograph Labyrinth and you can check out the clip below for a deeper look into that:


Julian Bashir

Julian Bashir, once so young and bright-eyed, winds up probably one of the show's most cynical characters.

Julian Bashir, once so young and bright-eyed, winds up probably one of the show’s most cynical characters.

I really like Julian Bashir, although he can be annoying. Julian is an enhanced human being with a cognitive capacity many times that of Miles O’Brien, specifically. Genetic engineering is illegal in the Federation and his parents certainly knew that, but as a boy he was slow compared to the rest of his peers. Now he exceeds his peers to a somewhat suspicious degree and he’s eventually found out.

Anyway, as a exceptionally smart person Julian does share some rather mundane hobbies mainly with his best buddy Miles including darts, reenacting battles in the holo suites, and model building. Because of his abilities, Bashir has to stand double the space away from the board than Miles to make the game even. These hobbies aren’t the kind of thing his type of character would normally like. He’d usually be into books or doing research in his off hours, but instead he’s usually at the bar living it up with Miles. I think this points to a drive to seek companionship in his character who is both young and has had to live a lie most of his life.

I think one 0f Bashir’s most interesting hobby is the cultural exchanges he has with Garak, the sole Cardassian who lives on Deep Space Nine. I call his relationship with Garak a hobby because I don’t think you could consider the two character friends, at least in a traditional sense. Garak is one of the most secretive characters in the entire series with a past steeped in lies and painted in the blood of his enemies. Bashir and Garak are close in sharing books with one another, but never close enough to be friends.

Ooo getting a little romantic.

Ooo getting a little romantic.

I think in Garak, Bashir finds someone who could be his intellectual equal, but not through sheer intellect alone. The mystery Garak’s past provides gives Bashir a never ending quest to learn more about him and thus stimulation. Garak does give little hints to his past and the character do build a relationship through being stuck in internment camp, an episode where Bashir has to help Garak get rid of an implant that’s killing him, and in one case acting as spies in a holographic program.

Garak is one of Bashir’s greatest projects, but I wonder if the doctor doesn’t realize that it could well be vice versa.


The Doctor

I hate you so much.

I hate you so much.

There aren’t too many characters in Star Trek that I simply can’t stand, but the Doctor is one of them. The Doctor is the Emergency Medical Hologram aboard the Starship Voyager and a replacement for the ship’s actual doctor who was killed when the ship was pulled into the Delta Quadrant. The hologram starts off being a very stern, very gruff saw bones, but eventually becomes a very sensitive, very artistic semi-human.

This journey toward being human is akin to Data’s similar quest, yet the Doctor is more freely able to express himself from the start. He has emotions, he has whims, and desires. His desires grow too from wanting to be turned off when people leave sickbay to wanting the ability to freely move about the ship. Luckily, he’s able to exceed the bounds of his program and becomes humanity’s first truly sentient hologram.

Anyway, as something trying to become more human the doctor picks up quite a few hobbies over the course of the show. They include singing, photography (holography), and writing. Most of his pursuits outside of his role as the sole caregiver for the ship are on the artistic side, which I guess is pretty much a given because of the ship’s huge database of the arts and being able to integrate this knowledge into his programming.

Writing holo novels, however, is his true passion.

It's also one of Tom Paris's passions too.

It’s one of Tom Paris’s passions too.

During the series, the Doctor becomes evermore interested in the growth and eventual emancipation of artificially intelligent beings like himself. One of the ways that he expresses his struggles is through writing, but his first holo novel doesn’t exactly paint the crew of Voyager in a great light. In fact, the novel winds up getting him in quite a bit of trouble, especially when a satirical version of it is sent to a publisher back in the Alpha Quadrant (a plot that smacks of the show going on for too damn long). The freedom of expression he sought to use becomes entangled in a debate about whether or not the Doctor could be considered an actual living being. Eventually, he wins the case and the book is retracted by the publisher.

Through writing, through the arts the Doctor is able to find a human voice; however, the arts are also a source of frustration for him. In the episode Virtuoso, an alien species become enthralled with the Doctor’s ability to sing. This boosts his ego, but also makes everyone hate him. It also hurts doubly so when the aliens develop their own hologram that can sing better (kinda) than he can. As a hologram, the Doctor can program himself to be the greatest at any of the arts, but he does have limitations.

These efforts to exceed his programming are the Doctor’s truest hobby, but it’s hard to really categorize them as such. Eventually his efforts to free holograms like the ones captured by the Hirogen in the later seasons becomes more of an active passion on his part. He also plays a role in helping an artificially intelligent weapon learn that its main directive in blowing up another civilization had been called off years ago. He becomes an AI messiah in a lot of ways, but he can still be an insufferable dick when it comes to his friends aboard Voyager and the danger he puts them in whenever he wants to grow.


Token Alien


Worf, son of Mogh

I don't think Worf ever wins a hand of poker.

I don’t think Worf ever wins a hand of poker.

Imagine you’ve never met a Canadian before. The first one you meet is a tall white guy who says “eh” when he speaks and wears plaid. You might think to yourself that all Canadian are probably a bit like this, but when you meet a group of us you might be surprised. This is Worf, well, not exactly.

If you met Worf and thought that all Klingons would act something like him you’d be in for a big surprise. Worf is one of the most intriguing characters in the series because of his restraint. As a Klingon raised by humans, he has a relatively unique upbringing. There are only a handful of characters like him with B’Elanna Torres and K’Ehleyr being another. What’s common for all three characters is a certain frustration when it comes to understanding and interacting with their Klingon heritage.

As such, Worf’s partial binding to his culture does limit his ability to take part in human recreational activities. Instead he focuses his energies on getting closer to his Klingon side by practicing Mok’bara, honing his skills with his bat’leth, and occasionally playing poker with the senior crew, although I bet he saw it as a mini battle every time he played.

He even won a tournament one time, although he didn't exactly win, but then he did again. Time travel plots are confusing.

He even won a tournament one time, although he didn’t exactly win, but then he did again. Time travel plots are confusing.

The Klingon hobbies Worf takes on seem to reflect a kind of misunderstanding of the modern Klingon culture. Being Klingon is about being joyous going into battle, not brooding over every little thing that affects you in life. Worf doesn’t sing, he doesn’t drink, and he certainly doesn’t feel joy. He’s also one of the most honour bound Klingons in the universe almost always to a fault. Once because of his honour and a severe back injury, he tried to get his toddler son to take his life as part of a ritual suicide. You’d think being raised by humans he might try to think like one for a change, but it always feels like his understanding of Klingon comes from a textbook.

Worf’s hobbies are a way for him to reassure himself that he is in fact Klingon. If he can best a group of warriors using his bat’leth then he has to be Klingon. If he can try to die in battle once in a while then he has to be Klingon. He would never think to pick up a Shinai (kendo practicing sword) and see if he could become the best at a human martial art because he isn’t human even in the slightest, or is he?

While Worf is Klingon, he can’t deny that there’s a human side to him as well being brought up on Earth. It’s something that is never reflected in his hobbies other than poker, but it does show once in a while.


Garak

I love you so much.

I love you so much.

Garak is my favourite person in all of Star Trek. This former operative of the Obsidian Order turned into a tailor is one of the most deceitful, mysterious, and violent characters on Deep Space Nine and therefore one of the deepest and most interesting characters too. He’s also been banished from Cardassia, so there’s that as well.

You’d think that Garak would have a bevy of hobbies to keep himself busy onboard the space station where most people hate him, but he really doesn’t. His only hobby, which you could also consider his job, is being a tailor. In a way, his tailoring is symbolic of his ability to change his outer appearance to fit in anywhere as he was able to on Deep Space Nine.

However, his role as an actual tailor is rarely utilized, but for a former Cardassian spy he manages to make himself a good living on the station. Think about it, he has to pay rent for his shop, taxes to the Federation or Bajorans, and pays bills for electricity usage, so he has to be selling product.

This ability to take on an entirely new life and new role shows us just how adaptable Garak is in any situation. He could probably have gone off to become a mercenary or a killer for hire, but instead chose a tactical and tactile role aboard an important space station. He also creates fashion that can be sold up to 17 strips of latinum, which is equivalent to the average pay for a dabo girl or about two holosuite programs.

Anyway, Garak does have a few other hobbies including sharing literature with Julian Bashir. However, as find out in the series he isn’t exactly your typical kind of Cardassian. Most who we meet in the show are usually stolid and rigid unable to crack a smile or a joke like Ducat or Damar.

Garak and Ducat are Cardassians with similar aims, but very different methods.

Garak and Ducat are Cardassians with similar aims, but very different methods.

It’s very interesting to have a character like Garak around who can show viewers that Cardassians can be different, especially when it comes to their skills and their dress sense.


Neelix

I have sideburns and my don't even compare.

I have sideburns and my don’t even compare.

Neelix is a Talaxian who joined Voyager’s crew in order to start a new life after one of being a huckster and drifter. He has a wide variety of skills including knowledge of warp theory and waste disposal, but he takes up being the crew’s chef in the mess hall. With his knowledge of the Delta Quadrant, he certain is an expert in intergalactic fauna, so he’s ideal for the job.

He does have a lot of hobbies too, but they don’t really become important until Kes, an Ocampa who Neelix saved, is off the ship. Until she goes, Neelix is stuck in this weird love triangle with Tom Paris and Kes, which I think made his character a little insufferable for a while. The tough this for Neelix’s character in that most of the things you could consider being a hobby also are part of his role as the ship’s morale officer and chef.

I guess for him studying up on human culture and Klingon culture in one circumstance must have been an interesting, but again that falls under his responsibilities. One of his actual hobbies was creating a television show for the crew called A Briefing With Neelix that he used to uncover the true reason why Tom Paris left Voyager for a brief amount of time.

Him not really having hobbies doesn't make him leaving any easier.

Him not really having hobbies doesn’t make him leaving any easier.

Other than those few small hobbies, Neelix really doesn’t have many interests outside of his job. I do find it interesting how touched the Voyager family has been by his presence on the ship. Having a person in the mess hall gives it a personal touch that a replicator certainly can’t provide.

***

What I’ve discovered writing this piece is that hobbies simply can’t be thrown at a character. A hobby needs to be something that’s rationalized really well or something that the actor can bring into the role. Jonathan Frakes and Robert Beltran are the greatest examples of this working and not working. Frakes can play the trombone and Riker being able to play feels natural. Beltran can’t box, so when Chakotay tries to box it comes off as being fake.

A hobby has to fit the character. Tom Paris is a pilot, so he likes fast cars. He’s also about 375 years removed from our current timeline meaning that he holds nostalgia for muscles cars when they haven’t existed for about that long. It doesn’t really make sense in a world building sense, but it does make sense thematically. I mean, you’d think he’d like hover speeders or something like that. Anyway, it fits and his hobby is often used as a way to explore his character.

Integrating a hobby into your own characters can be a tricky thing. It has to feel real, so perhaps it has to be something that you have experience with. It needs to fit the character in a way that’s realistic. It can’t also be the only thing that makes your character too specialized or else they’ll end up using the hobby as a crutch. Like a detective who loves reading Roman myths and somehow magically his cases always reflect this knowledge.

As far as I’m concerned, the hobbies of Star Trek characters are mostly great and serve as a good example of how they can be integrated into characters in a way that feels natural and fun. Just some thoughts and observations from a television series with a lot of good characters. Feel free to comment below on characters I missed!

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3 thoughts on “What we can learn from the hobbies of Star Trek officers

  1. A very interesting take on many of the officers of the Star Trek Universe. Its interesting that you have characters like Data who has a wealth of interests and hobbies against ones who are fairly one dimensional like Deana Troi, whose only hobby apparently is eating chocolate, in the same show, yet both are major characters. One of my favourite hobbies was Tuvok playing kal-toh with various crew members. I’m a bit surprises you didn’t cover him or the entire Original Cast for that matter. Enterprise….well no one cares about them.

    • Oh hey, it’s my bro! Decided not to take on the original crew just because I’ve never really watched any of the show. Felt like writing from my own personally viewed experience would be best. Tuvok was someone who I definitely missed, so might have to put in a few additions into the piece.

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