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Old August 11 2013, 08:27 AM   #1
Bry_Sinclair
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Location: Tactical withdrawl along the Klingon border
Commissioner

In "Metamorphosis" we were introduced to Nancy Hedford, who was a Federation Assistant Commissioner. But what exactly does a Commissioner (and their Assistant) do? Does each region have their own one? What power do they hold?

Any thoughts?
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Old August 11 2013, 12:48 PM   #2
MacLeod
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Re: Commissioner

Well we did have a High Commisioner in TOS "The Galileo Seven". As for what they do. Give starships Captain's headaches.

It might be somewhat like a sector governor.
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Old August 11 2013, 01:34 PM   #3
Melakon
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Re: Commissioner

I always assumed it was a fancy title for a high level ambassador. Commissioners and ambassadors seemed to have authority to override a ship's captain, were short tempered, and liked to make threats.
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Old August 11 2013, 01:58 PM   #4
MacLeod
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Re: Commissioner

From memory it appears that Commissioners had greater authority than an Ambassador. Didn't Ambassador's need council authority to overide a starship Captain, whilst Commissioners had it as a matter of course.
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Old August 11 2013, 03:21 PM   #5
Christopher
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Re: Commissioner

I dealt with this in my recent novel Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures. I needed to figure out some of the specifics of how the UFP government was organized, at least in its early years, and I used the European Union as an influence. The European Commission is essentially the cabinet for the EU, the executive body of the government, with each member nation appointing a commissioner who's assigned to a particular portfolio and who's expected to represent the interests of the whole Union rather than their own country. So I established a Federation Commission that fills much the same role. The Federation Council is the legislature that makes the laws, and the Commission is the executive cabinet overseeing their day-to-day implementation. In this model, Hedford would've been Assistant Commissioner for Foreign Affairs or something like that.

The "High Commissioner" title for Ferris is trickier to fit into this model. In the British Commonwealth, a High Commissioner is the senior diplomat from one member nation to another. I don't think that would've worked for Ferris, since he was called Galactic High Commissioner rather than Earth or something. Ferris's role wasn't diplomatic; he was overseeing a shipment of medical supplies, a relief mission to a member world. Also a High Commissioner was going to attend the wedding of the Dohlman of Elas, and neither Elas nor Troyius was a UFP member. An older use of the term in the British Empire was for an imperial envoy assigned to manage a protectorate, or an agent of indirect rule, while other nations have used the title for a colonial governor of sorts. I don't think that works here either.

If we went by the UN's precedent, then the High Commissioner would be the chief executive of the Federation Commission -- which would be the equivalent of the President. The problem there is that we see in the movie era and later that the UFP's chief executive is called President (and the novels have established presidents serving in the 5-year mission era and earlier). Not to mention, why would the chief executive be personally supervising a medical relief mission? That makes no sense.

Here's a thought: At the time my RotF books take place, the Federation has only a smattering of members, so each world must have several commissioners in order to fill out the total number of portfolios (cabinet posts) required. But by the 23rd century, there are dozens of members, probably more than the number of available portfolios. So maybe each department of the Commission has several commissioners, one each from various member worlds, and the High Commissioner is the senior member of that department, with the junior members being Assistant Commissioners like Hedford. Perhaps Ferris was High Commissioner for the Interior, and thus was in charge of disaster relief.
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Old August 11 2013, 03:33 PM   #6
T'Girl
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Re: Commissioner

Bry_Sinclair wrote: View Post
But what exactly does a Commissioner (and their Assistant) do? Does each region have their own one? What power do they hold?
Hedford might have simply been a mid-level member of a temporary commission formed to prevent a anticipated war on Epsilon Canaris Three. If she had been an ambassador, it's likely she would have been referred to as such.

Epsilon Canaris Three in the (non-canon) Star Trek Maps is listed as a Federation Member, the commission that Hedford was a part of might have had the power of binding arbitration with the agreement of the (potential) warring factions. If not, the commission could have been on the planet searching for a equitable solution to the planet problem.

Or the problem might have been between two ajacent Federation Members, as seen in Journey to Babel, being part of the Federation doesn't automatically mean the Members like each other.

If the factions had gotten to the point that they couldn't find a resolution on their own (or talk to each other), an neutral outside party might have been able to.

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Old August 11 2013, 06:59 PM   #7
C.E. Evans
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Re: Commissioner

I always just thought a commissioner was the senior Federation official in a fairly recently established or barely colonized sector or region, with authority over both civilian and Starfleet endeavors there.
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Old August 11 2013, 07:32 PM   #8
Timo
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Re: Commissioner

For a former subject of the Russian Empire (well, in terms of family history anyway), the title readily evokes the concept of Commissar - a plenipotent executive in just about any field of life, his actual role defined by specifiers. Police commissars still lead law enforcement units here in Finland (the various grades being comparable to police Captains and Commanders), but back in the bad old Czarist days, there were many more roles. The title is basically interchangeable with Commissioner in most contexts, and in translations from Russian and German alike.

"Galactic" would probably be a specifier for the reach of Ferris' powers, rather than for the particular role he plays. The role specifier could be omitted from both Ferris' and Hetford's titles for brevity, as our heroes would already very well know what these specialists were doing for a living.

All of our examples of Commissioners would nicely fit the concept of a person given considerable powers to Get Things Done, within a very specific sandbox, but otherwise sidelined from governing or decisionmaking. Ferris would just have a very big sandbox while Hetford's would be smaller (and perhaps weatherproofed with glass?).

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Old August 11 2013, 08:19 PM   #9
Bry_Sinclair
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Re: Commissioner

As always I just have to love this forum. Throw out a random question and you get back lots to think about! Thanks for some very interesting answers.
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Old August 11 2013, 08:28 PM   #10
Roboturner913
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Re: Commissioner

A commissioner...commissions things. Duh.
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Old August 11 2013, 09:01 PM   #11
T'Girl
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Re: Commissioner

^ Like paintings of dogs playing poker?

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Old August 11 2013, 09:26 PM   #12
Mr. Laser Beam
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Re: Commissioner

Timo wrote: View Post
the title readily evokes the concept of Commissar
Don't turn around, uh oh!
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Old August 11 2013, 11:20 PM   #13
Christopher
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Re: Commissioner

The commissioner is the official responsible for summoning Batman.
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Old August 11 2013, 11:45 PM   #14
Bry_Sinclair
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Re: Commissioner

Christopher wrote: View Post
The commissioner is the official responsible for summoning Batman.
That is actually quite fitting.

The reason I asked about the Commissioner is that I have a fanfic plot in mind, something of a murder mystery, which would bring together a new team to help solve it. I was thinking to have an admiral responsible for assembling them and sending them on their way, but a meddling Commissioner would probably work in better.

Unfortunately, my crime fighters wouldn't be in capes and masks
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Old August 12 2013, 12:13 AM   #15
Christopher
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Re: Commissioner

^Well, if it's a Starfleet team, then it would make sense to use an admiral. In my model, at least, a commissioner is a member of the civilian government, and thus not someone who'd have direct authority over the military. Maybe they could if they were the Defense Commissioner, but I assume they'd still have to go through the admiralty and assign them to issue the orders.

Of course, if it's a civilian team, then it would make more sense for a government official to appoint them -- analogously to how the IMF in Mission: Impossible reported to "the Secretary" (of Defense, implicitly).

One thing I like to do in my Trek novels is to remind people that there is a civilian side to the Federation, that it's not the military state some people perceive it to be. Starfleet isn't the government, it just works for the government.
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