Actress Kipleigh Brown has been very busy in the Star Trek franchise, starting out in an episode of Enterprise, then playing Lt. Barbara Smith on the fan series Star Trek Continues, and she currently voices Captain Kuumaarke in the MMORPG Star Trek Online. Players first meet Kuumaarke of the Lukari in Season 11 (“New Dawn”) and can follow her story through to Season 13 “Escalation” which is available on PC and was just launched on Xbox One and PS4.
Let’s talk about Captain Kuumaarke and the Lukari in Star Trek Online. She’s been all over the game now, on the Defiant as well as helming her own ship. What is it like being in the Star Trek world virtually and how do you approach imbuing her with attitude and spirit?
First of all, what I love about her is that the Lukari are new to space exploration. They are warp-capable but they are just homebodies, they’ve stayed on their world and they’ve never felt the need to branch out and explore the galaxy until they needed to get help because their sun was threatening to go supernova. They reached out to the Federation and so everything since that moment has been a first for the Lukari race, to venture into space. Administrator Kuumaarke, which was her original title before she became captain, is the pioneer of her species. She’s the first captain, she’s at the forefront of their exploration and she’s kind of leading her people into this new universe.
I know you’re really into science. Did you bring some of that curiosity to her as well?
Oh yes. My sisters make fun of me because I nerd out. I’ll start talking about microtubules and quantum mechanics, and I start pushing up invisible glasses on my nose that I don’t actually wear and think about mind-bending, alternate reality, crazy science stuff. Then I take that and I translate it into how it might be similar for her to go to space and see giant jellyfish and the equivalent of space whales, and all these amazing scientific discoveries.
What is interesting about the Lukari is that, even though they haven’t ventured into space, they are scientifically advanced. The TOS cast can understand the science, but to them, proto-matter is still unknown, whereas the Kuumaarke have mastered this technology. When Captain Kuumaarke starts to find these traces of bombs that were used using proto-matter and see that this technology is being used for destruction and war, at first she can’t comprehend it. Who would do that? It would never have occurred to a Lukari to have used it in that way.
And then of course there’s my ship, Kuumaarke’s ship, the Lukari ship. There was a poll, three ships were designed and the fans chose the winner. It is this amazing triangular ship. They call it the flying Dorito! Some fans call it that.
The Lukari split from their mother species, the Kentari, because they didn’t want to be power-driven and consumer-driven, yes?
Yes, and that’s the other thing she discovers, because she isn’t quite certain if the Kentari still exist. The Lukari aren’t sure what happened to them, and it looks like they may have blown themselves up. There is this idea of a crossroads for a species and one took the peaceful route and the other one took the one we all know so well, since it has happened on Earth, unfortunately.
I’m with the Lukari! Can I leave with them?
I know, right? And even though Kuumaarke finds purity in the idea of science and its uses, she also finds that science, discovery and exploration aren’t as clean cut as one would hope. She sees that people have used these scientific things to annihilate other species, and she loses some naivete about the world. And it’s not it’s not ignorance, it’s just a newness. She’s incredibly intelligent, but she doesn’t become cynical or bitter, and that’s what I really like.
You give her a little accent, I like that.
That’s a funny story, actually, about her accent. The folks at Cryptic said that because it’s a new race being introduced into the world of Star Trek, they wanted to give them an exotic accent, something that gives them a different sound. They wrote out phonetically an idea for an accent for me and I was going over it and going over it and it was a lot of elongated vowel sounds and rolling R’s. Try as I might, the way it came out of me, it sounded like I was Dracula. During the recording session at Cryptic, I’m like “guys, I’m gonna give it a try, but I don’t think this is what you were looking for.” They were very gracious but said yeah, there’s a little bit of vampire going on there. Do you have anything else? Since my mom is English, I went with the British accent. It is not necessarily exotic but it at least not the standard Midwestern American accent which is what I have normally.
Speaking of design, what do you like about Kuumaarke’s look?
She’s not a Lara Croft type, with a big chest and a teeny tiny waist. She’s an athletic woman, and she makes bald look good for ladies the way that Patrick Stewart did for the gentlemen. He made bald sexy.
I really like her purple eyes! They are unique.
Yes, and they have lightning on the clothing. Her outfit – I want one! The electric clothing has evolved over the seasons but it’s really cool. I really am going to impress upon the awesome folks at Cryptic to actually create it in real life to buy and wear and never take off.
Writing for Star Trek Continues
What did you think of the Star Trek: Discovery trailer and the women we saw?
Well, Rekha Sharma was our latest guest star on Star Trek Continues, so I just worked with her, and it was amazing to hear that she was cast. She got the call for an audition while on set with us, and she couldn’t say what it was. But I was with her when she got the call and she was sort of glowing and I was all “What is it?” since I know they were auditioning Discovery, and she said she couldn’t tell me. And then she got the part! I am rooting for it. I want it to be good. I know there were some problems getting off the ground, but I hope that they keep in step with the original character of Star Trek.
Speaking of which – what’s new with Star Trek Continues?
This is a brand new announcement, I was only just given permission to talk about it! Star Trek Continues, Episode 9, which will be the next one released, is called “What Ships Are For” and it was written by me.
It is so wonderful to have a lady writing Trek! Yay!
I wrote the teleplay and the story. The teleplay was also by Vic Mignogna and James Kerwin, but I wrote the actual script. That was something that I really wanted to do and, without giving any plot spoilers away, I wanted to see a little bit more of Spock and Bones and their kind of begrudging, grumpy friendship.
I am so excited! I’m really glad to hear that you are having some input behind the scenes because we so need that in science fiction.
Yes. Also, it was a challenge in TOS for me, because what we see now that may be sexist wasn’t necessarily sexist back in the day. One thing I remember thinking is, why did they have to put these professional women in these micro miniskirts? And I found out that originally, the female characters were in pantsuits but to ladies at that time, the miniskirt was a sign of female empowerment. This idea of “we can wear what we want and we don’t have to cover ourselves because you can’t handle the appearance of a female knee” sort of attitude. Nichelle Nichols lobbied for the fashion of the day, which was a micromini! So that changed my opinion of the skirts. I’m like okay, that was a lady power thing! Cool!
STC also has an episode discussing why there aren’t female captains.
Yes, and I thought it was handled really well. I know a lot of people were like “oh, it’s a Hillary Clinton analogy!” and while it happened at the same time, not everything has to be tied to politics. It is a very interesting question that many people have raised over the years.
Yes, I always wondered why they didn’t have women captains because there are female crew members on the ship and it’s not like they’re not allowed in Starfleet.
Plus there were some really powerful, cool women, like the Romulan captain and a bunch of other guest stars that were great, and of course you always had a love interest. There might be a hint of a love interest in my script. I’m not saying there is, but there is a really awesome guest star.
What are you all going to do with all the great sets from STC when it finishes filming?
That’s the next question! It’s like walking onto the Enterprise. It’s this unified set that you can take a whole walk through, it’s not all parsed out in different pieces, except for Engineering. You can walk down the corridor into the bridge, into Kirk’s quarters into auxiliary control into the transporter room and it’s just great. Vic Mignogna is such a stickler that he made sure that the set was an exact replica of the one from Desilu Studios, in every proportion down to the millimeter and the layout. It was how it actually looked back then, and even the buttons that I use, because I’m the helmsmen/navigator, and even the gumdrop buttons were poured into the exact same mold they used for The Original Series. They are too beautiful to take apart. Our executive board is in the process of trying to figure out what to do with them and keep them intact and maybe share them with the public in not-for-profit fashion.
More from Kipleigh
You can hear more from Kipleigh Brown in Star Trek: Online with Season 13 “Escalation” just released on consoles. Learn more at the official Star Trek Online site.
And on July 27th Star Trek: Continues will debut “What Ships Are For,” written by Brown, in Fort Lauderdale, at Forida Super Con. More information about that event and the other final epsisodes for the show can be found at the official site or Facebook page.