Tekesha Nancy Tanner – TNT – Commodore “Dynamite” Tanner.
A character preview / review portrait
Introducing Commodore Tekesha Nancy Tanner, commanding officer of Star Station Hope and the surrounding sector of space. Known as Dynamite Tanner for her explosive outbursts, she’s the representative head of Starfleet on a contentious border of space.
Back in the Boldly Reading Blog Prompt#9 Ad Astrians were tasked to discuss writing original characters. jespah also asked us to do offer up a character review and I similarly asked people in a MeanderFave Homework to discuss their characters and I set out some of my process for character creation too. This is more a character preview than a review since Tanner is largely unannounced on the archive though has made a few appearances in the Weekly Free Writing Prompts and as a guest star in other projects under the Watchtower umbrella.
Why preview Tanner? Well, as I say, I’m previewing her and indeed the Watchtower series and it fits in with my blogging about the writing and creation of Hope Station. I happen to think that she is also an interesting character in her own right. She’s formidable, forthright, and in many ways entirely unsuited to the task she’s assigned but by sheer will and force of dominating personality, Tanner commands authority and begrudging respect.
Tanner expects things to be done in a particular way, which translates as her essentially her way. A message clearly delivered to new CAG officer, Lori Taftner, on her first day by a touring ensign.
“The Commodore wanted you to be sure just how it is it works here.” Swee’s tongue flicked out nervously after answering.
Nodding her head, Lori Taftner bowed her head forward conspiratorially and in a whisper asked, “How a station works or how her station works?”
The Saurian answered with a wry smile. “I think you’ve caught on already, Sir.”
“Please, don’t call me sir. Lt. Commander or call me Taftner but I don’t have a moustache, so drop the sir.”
Swwee seemed to be thinking what a moustache was before she formulated an answer. “Ah well then in that case Lt. Commander might I inform you that the Commodore has no aversion to being called sir but might take an aversion to any implication that she has a moustache.”
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“Look Ambassador … I don’t expect people to agree with me entirely or to do things my way, for all posturing that they should. However, I do know what is for the best for the station and the sector. It is my station and my command. This is my Watchtower and I know it and her people.
I know this region of space. I’ve toured these space lanes for years in buoy tenders, cutters, relay stations and beyond doing my job. I know the runs the pirates think they can try to make. I know the murky black spots where the Tzenkthi try to send spy probes into Federation space. I know the favoured routes of the space cruisers. I know where we are likely to see ion storms develop. I can sense from the data we gather when the Gauntlet is going to brew up a major tempest.
I know this region of space. That’s why Border Patrol Command keep me in charge. It might not seem professional to you but I get the job done and that’s what matters in a region of space like this.”
Tanner is the Commodore in charge of Star Station Hope, aka Watchtower, the hub of my Watchtower universe set stories. Watchtower is her kingdom and the sector it controls and patrols is seen by Tanner as her own fiefdom. As the Commodore she commands the station and the assigned Border Patrol cutter squadron. The ‘Sassy Sixth’ otherwise known as Tanner’s ‘Hell Hounds’ are known for their rough and tumble ways, but they operate by Tanner’s rules and dictates, and chief among those dictates is ‘get the job done’. She’s the first to ball them out when necessary but she’s the first to rush to their defence.
In her position, Tanner has to play a rather unwelcome role as diplomat. As the Federation’s highest ranking sector representative and commanding the vital role of defending and policing the Federation borders, Tanner has to contend with the diplomats and ambassadors of other powers. This means it is on her shoulders to deal with contentious inter-galactic issues and it may be on her to make the call that could tip the Federation into a war situation.
Given that the region she commands borders Tzenkthi, Breen and Cardassian territories as well as unclaimed space of the borderlands, Tanner’s in a tough position but she’s a tough nut. Is she suited to her role though? Not necessarily. After all, she’s a border dog, meaning she less inclined to speak with words when her actions can speak louder.
Tanner’s career has been about policing, patrolling a beat and, therefore, playing at politics and diplomacy is not her skill set. However, with the day to day running she is entrusted to keep the border safe and to make the calls as she sees fit.
Tanner was originally going to be a latter day Molly Cartwright or an AU Cartwright. In creating Hope Station and the wider sector controlled by Watchtower, I wanted a strong and forceful personality who was commanding and had a certain way of dealing with delicate matters. Molly Cartwright, seemed a perfect candidate for the role and in many ways would be still. However, I jettisoned that idea early on as I wanted Tanner to be harder than Molly. I was also still undecided about what future direction I wished to take with the Kestrel post Hunting Grounds and wanted Molly to have her own story there that did not need to be constrained by whatever writing I did in Watchtower. So Molly was out as thee character in charge but she ushered in the template that would become Tanner.
I still wanted Tanner to have some sort of connection to Molly however, so I rather envision that two of them were fast friends coming up through the ranks and having trained together. But the trajectory Tanner had in life meant she stayed focused on her Border Patrol career and on making it to the top, whereas Molly had her foray into the Fleet and had her careering altering incident. The two remained friends however and Tanner would have used her own considerable clout to help rescue Molly’s career.
Stern and taciturn, I wanted to give Tanner some sort of back-story and a history that perhaps suggested why she is so singularly minded. To that end, I have actually tweaked and altered my original character idea further. Tanner was conceived purposely as being human as she was first a re-imagined Molly Cartwright. Now Tanner has been made alien. She’s a Cameroe, an original species just to lend me some leeway. The look of the alien species is based on the Na’vi from Avatar (hence the Cameroe name as a nod to director Cameron). But as you can probably tell, Tanner is no tree-hugger. The Cameroe however were once a people subject to the Klingon Empire until they overthrew their shackles in a bloody uprising.
It helps too that the character of Mo’at in Avatar who then is modelled as the image to me of Tekesha is played by CCH Pounder, who would have the chops to play the formidable Tanner.
This then is the beginning of Tanner’s story. For amid the carnage of that uprising she was born and rescued by Starfleet Border Patrol. Oh no, tragic past Mary-Sue alert! Let’s not worry about that just yet because Nancy had a great childhood. As a babe she had no memory of the carnage or sadly of her parents. Orphaned on a world trying to recover from a bloody conflict, she was adopted by the retiring CMO of the cutter that helped to rescue her. Tekesha took a name native to her world and, as was the custom of the Cameroe world, took the first name of her mother (Nancy) and the surname of her father (Tanner) as her clan name. Only later did the initials TNT come in so handy giving ‘Dynamite Tanner’ her nickname.
Her past, whilst it had a tragic origin, served to inform Tanner in a number of ways. Firstly, Tekesha hero worshipped the Border Patrol, especially the fact that the captain of the cutter who saved her damned the orders and protocols to cross out of Federation jurisdiction to offer assistance to the Cameroe world. That attitude formed Tanner’s approach to ‘getting the job done’ and doing what was right by the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. The history of the Cameroe people as a subjected race also informed Tekesha’s political outlook and drove her to climb the command ladder of the Border Patrol Service in order to gain a position of authority to effect changes to help similarly oppressed peoples. She also holds a particular distaste for the Klingons and has a rather difficult relationship with anyone representing an Imperial power. So as you can imagine, Tanner gets along swimmingly with the Romulans and Cardassians in addition to her oh so sweet and cordial relations with the Klingons.
However, her issues are not confined to other powers alone. Tanner has a beef with many from Starfleet proper and it takes the charm of her executive officer, the man in charge of the smooth operation of Star Station Hope, Captain Paul Graham to soothe any ruffled feathers. Despite her protectiveness towards those under her charge, Tanner is tough and hard on them, especially the captains of her cutter squadron. In particular, she has high hopes and aspirations for Captain Mercy Faraday-Thatcher. For that reason, Tanner is all the harder on Mercy and yet affords Mercy leeway in how she deals with matters because the captain shares similar beliefs about doing the right thing. Of course, in Tanner’s book, she’s the one in charge so she can make such choices, Mercy can’t quite yet, especially since such actions only serve to cause Tanner a headache.
I’m hoping that she’s going to be a liked character obviously, despite some of her abrasive edges. Tanner’s certainly planned to be a character who is going to cause ripples on a large scale within the Watchtower universe. She is placed to play a central role in the developments ahead. I hope you enjoy Tanner when she makes her proper appearance soon. Keep your eyes peeled.