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Civilians on a Starfleet vessel: what do they do?

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So, I'm running a Star Trek game on Hero. The PCs are crew members of an Ambassador Class ship (think Enterprise C) in 2380 (post Star Trek: Nemesis). I am assuming that the ship has civilians on board like the Odyssey class ships we saw in Next Gen, both dependents of Starfleet personnel and civilian contractors. My question is: what do the civilians on board a starfleet vessel do to pass the time and feel productive? The only examples I can remember from Next Gen are Wesley Crusher, a teenage genius who became an acting crew member and later a starfleet cadet; Keiko O'Brien, a biologist who passed the time teaching; and Guinan, who ran the bar/lounge and was not a dependent.

 

What kinds of jobs could the non-starfleet people on the ship have? What would they be trusted with as far as ship operations and security matters? Obviously the minor children on board will be in school, and there could be civilian as well as starfleet teachers working full or part time. I've already decided that the big recreation lounge (ala Ten Forward on the Enterprise D) will be run by a civilian. What other jobs can people think of? I'm looking at about 200 civilians on board and I don't want them all to be twiddling their thumbs.

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Bartenders serve a purely social function on board a vessel with replicator technology, so they are probably relatively rare. And you don't need that many teachers unless there are hundreds of children on board. If the ship is a research vessel, then a lot of civilian scientists might be on board.

 

But this asks a more fundamental question: just how militarized are Starfleet vessels in this period? For all we know, a good percentage of the crew is civilian, helping to operate and manage all areas of the ship not directly related to weaponry.

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Historically civilian shipyard workers have deployed on board in order to complete critical repairs (e.g. USS Yorktown in 1942).  Even today it is not unusual to find civilian contractors on board Navy vessels to fix existing junk or install new junk.  Taken to its logical extreme you could outsource any non-combat function to a civilian--mess hall, medical, unsecured comms, maintenance and housekeeping, laundry, research, and so on.

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 The crew handles the running and repair of the ship.  The scientists would also be a part of Starfleet.  Probably most of the civilians are dependents of the crew.  What the rest of the civilians do is provide services for the crew.  Think of all the services you use in your own life.  Replicators provide the food, but without someone who knows how to cook the food it probably tastes like paste.  So they may have a cook on board, but the cook spends most of his time programing the replicator.  The same would be true with a Tailor. Also

 

Think of a starship as a city instead of a vehicle.  Besides houses what types of things are in cities for people to do?

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In TOS, I believe the replicators did all food and beverage preparation. Cooks were unnecessary. I am confused as to why they would introduce a regression there.

 

The existence of replicator technology and nearly perfect AI (with complete access to all Federation databases) makes a lot of "old fashioned" jobs obsolete. Hell, even prostitution is a dead profession thanks to Holodeck technology. Aside from those performing mission tasks (which would include research for civilian scientists), there is really no reason for non-essential personnel (i.e., those necessary to operate the vessel, and those necessary to care for them, i.e., medically) to be on board. Sure, their dependents might be on board, but that doesn't help us figure out what they would do with all their free time. The ship itself certainly has no use for them.

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A replicator can recreate anything that it is programed for, but does not have anything else is beyond its capabilities.  Food like many other thing people enjoy is a matter of artistry and creativity.  Besides the replicators do not have a complete record of every food in the universe.  In the series finale All Good Things when Capitan Picard first came on board and requested his normal earl grey tea the replicator did not have it on file. 

 

There was a barber on Startrek TNG named Mr. Mott.  If they have barbers why would they not have other services available? 

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I always thought it was ludicrous that they had civilians (especially dependents) aboard a military vessel in the first place. (And the Enterprise was canonically THE ship to spearhead the defense of the Federation, so arguments that it's not a warship will fall on deaf ears. That said, here are some possibilities.

 

1. There's nothing to prove definitively that they're carting around the SAME civilians all the time. The Enterprise (and other Federation vessels) might well routinely transport scientists and other specialists from one world to another as and when they have the space to do.

2. Perhaps a lot of the scientists doing research on the Enterprise are civilians, not Star Fleet. Perhaps they book time aboard a starship that will be in the area they want to investigate. They book time to use the sensor arrays, probes, and whatnot, the same way various organizations or individuals will compete for time in observatories or on research ships today.

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17 minutes ago, sinanju said:

I always thought it was ludicrous that they had civilians (especially dependents) aboard a military vessel in the first place. (And the Enterprise was canonically THE ship to spearhead the defense of the Federation, so arguments that it's not a warship will fall on deaf ears. That said, here are some possibilities.

 

1. There's nothing to prove definitively that they're carting around the SAME civilians all the time. The Enterprise (and other Federation vessels) might well routinely transport scientists and other specialists from one world to another as and when they have the space to do.

2. Perhaps a lot of the scientists doing research on the Enterprise are civilians, not Star Fleet. Perhaps they book time aboard a starship that will be in the area they want to investigate. They book time to use the sensor arrays, probes, and whatnot, the same way various organizations or individuals will compete for time in observatories or on research ships today.

 

Star Fleet wasn't military. They were scientists and explorers foremost.

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    The Enterprise-D had Mr. Mot the barber, and the waiter who's name I forget from the "Lower Decks" episode, but neither of these two really scream exciting PC to me.

    Real world Naval ships do sometimes have civilians from other Govt. agency's serving on board such as NCIS  in the legal dept. or  CIA, NSA, or Naval Intelligence as support for a particular mission.  There is also often a civilian specialist Technician who working with new or experimental equipment. These however all seem to be more guest stars to an episode rather than week in, week out characters.

 

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8 hours ago, Greywind said:

 

Star Fleet wasn't military. They were scientists and explorers foremost.

 

Yes. They'd had peace and prosperity for so long they'd forgotten the other half of Starfleet's job - protect the Federation. Which is the real reason why they had disasters like Wolf 359 and their early defeats by the Dominion - Picard's era of Captains didn't really know how to fight. 

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There was also one episode that I forgot the name of that showed Dr. Crusher and Councilor Troi in a Spa.  What we have actually seen so far on the just TNG is a bar tender, a barber, a teacher a waiter, and the people working in the spa.  I doubt any of them are actual Starfleet personnel.  Besides a teacher you will also need daycare providers for children too young for school, or even young children when not in school. 

 

The Enterprise is often used for diplomatic function so it probably has a staff of people to take care of the functions.  This is probably where the waiter fits in.  It makes sense that when there is no formal function going on they have these people working for the crew.

 

Another type of civilian commonly seen is people who are being transported to somewhere else.  These will fall into one of two categories.  The first is the diplomatic missions I mentioned above.  The second is people who have been rescued from some disaster.  There was several episodes where the Enterprise rescued some group of people and transported them to another planet.  This actually makes perfect sense because even today the United States navy often sends ships to disaster areas. 

 

So breaking it down the civilians on board a starship will usually fall into one of several categories.  The first categories and most numerous will be the family of the crew itself.  Second will be those providing services to the ship and crew.  And lastly will be people being transported to other places. 

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TNG, and the series that followed, quietly retconned/rewrote quite a number of established elements in order to tell stories to a rather different audience (i.e., the casual sci-fi fan) who had no knowledge of or use for TOS canon. It’s one reason why I don’t particularly care for the Star Trek that Berman Built.

 

It also seems that the massive shift in direction and tone, starting with TNG, has made fans forget that Starfleet was originally, first, and foremost a military entity. The Federation is the governing body, and Starfleet is its primary military arm. Just because Picard thought every aggressor could be dealt with rationally and diplomatically doesn’t mean Starfleet had ceased to serve a military function. If it had, then Wolf 359 could never have happened.

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18 hours ago, Greywind said:

 

Star Fleet wasn't military. They were scientists and explorers foremost.

 

Keep telling yourself that. Ignore the existence of General Order 24, by which Kirk threatened to "sterilize the planet" in one episode, or the fact that the Enterprise had the firepower to do it. Never mind the canonical fact--which I mentioned--that Enterprise D was the linchpin of the Federation's defense plans, and all the rest of it. Star Fleet *is* military. A slidshod, half-assed military most of the time. But still the military.

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Well, they went from basically 0% civilians in TOS to maybe 20% civilians in TNG.  I think 200 civvies out of 1000 passengers and crew is not outrageous.  Probably a mix of scientists, technicians, civil engineers, teachers, etc.  Remember, they're supposed to be seeking out new life and new civilizations--that's going to require people with specializations that are likely to be found outside Starfleet MOS.  Not every Federation vessel is necessarily going to have that military/civilian mix.  A scientific research vessel would likely have more civvies, and a border patrol vessel would likely have very few civilians. AIUI, some of the accommodation for civilians is for married crew or those with families to bring them along--a 5 year mission is a long time away from family.  

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The French resistance during WWII was a partisan force. Starfleet is nothing at all like a small, loosely organized, woefully under-funded guerilla force. They were the Federation’s “space navy”, military from top to bottom, with civilian vessels integrated into non-combat roles where it made sense.

 

The Enterprise, along with its mission, did not represent the primary function of Starfleet. In fact, its mission was highly specialized. Starfleet’s primary function was the defense of the Federation. I don’t know why “defense” is perceived as unmilitary by some folks here, but any organization created and mustered for combat operations is a military regardless of its interest—or lack thereof—in conquest.

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20 hours ago, megaplayboy said:

--a 5 year mission is a long time away from family.  

 

Perhaps, perhaps not. 

 

I knew plenty in the Nav during the 80-90's that spent full tours plus as geo-bachelers long before there was reliable cell coverage more than 5 miles outside a city like LA or Seattle.  I can remember spending 2 hours in line to spend 5 minutes (for $50) to call home and talk to my folks on Christmas.  That was in 90.  And there were more years with no contact because we weren't near a phone.

 

Putting dependents and children on an unsupported ship on the outer edge of no where is something only someone who's idea of hardship danger is spilling a latte would think is a good idea.    Being at sea for long periods of time is tedious at best even with a purpose.  Being at sea with no real purpose is mind crushing.   At least with a ship you can see the sky and breath fresh air, watch broadcasts etc.  On a starship? 

 

Edited by Spence

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If you want a rough historical equivalent, how about Captain Cook's voyages? Endeavour was purchased and refitted by the Royal Navy for the purpose of exploration. Naval captain and crew, civilian scientists as supercargo. Now, that's not a close match to Enterprise-D, since HMS Endeavour was just an collier with some guns added and the Enterprise was a main fighting ship... but specialist passengers that aren't expected to fight do have precedent.

 

Also in line with NASA adding non-astronaut mission specialists to a shuttle mission.

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Put succinctly, Starfleet is a Defense Force and as such, a Civilian organization and The Federation has no Military. But it would consider, non-Starfleet as Civilians vs them not being Civilians, but they wouldn't consider themselves Military.

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