Sunday, November 9, 2014

Character Insight No. 120: Alyssa Ogawa

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile another character from TNG, Nurse Alyssa Ogawa.

Alyssa Ogawa.jpg
 ("Such a bright-faced young'un at the beginning") 
Ogawa serves a similar role as Christine Chapel in TOS, that being a regular recurring nurse in sickbay. Ogawa was not featured until early in season 4, although she becomes a more regular fixture for the final four seasons as well as two of the TNG films. Ogawa comes aboard as an ensign, but her good effort leads to a promotion to lieutenant, junior grade, and she is a trusted fallback for Dr. Crusher that communicates to the other senior staff when Crusher is unavailable. Thus, we get to see her develop into a vital member of the sickbay crew.
Unlike many recurring characters, Nurse Ogawa does not see a lot of away mission roles. Instead, she is mostly seen assisting with important research and surgeries in sickbay and around the ship. One of these notable surgeries was the work on a trill ambassador, which was the first time Federation officers had actual observations of a trill symbiont. Although she also appears in each of the first two TNG movies, in both cases she is shown merely leading an evacuation of sickbay when the Enterprise is crashing on a planet or overrun with a Borg invasion.
Alyssa is very close to Dr. Crusher and considers her boss a close friend. We also see her hang out and play poker with other junior officers in the notable episode Lower Decks. She dated a small handful of people on the ship and even became a subject of gossip by the Captain and Dr. Crusher, but this leads to her engagement and marriage to Andrew Powell. They conceive a child who was born shortly before the movie Star Trek Generations, and this child saves the crew thanks to using amniotic fluid from Ogawa's pregnancy to overcome a contagion called Barclay's Protomorophsis Syndrome. The magical healing powers of pregnancy and babies even works in Star Trek. 

Quote: from Suspicions
Doctor Beverly Crusher: I don't want you to get involved in this.
Nurse Alyssa Ogawa: Is that an order, Doctor?
Doctor Beverly Crusher: Yes.
Nurse Alyssa Ogawa: Too bad you're not my boss anymore.

This is a high-quality and well-written recurring character who becomes a familiar face the audience cares about thanks to the stories told about her. It was great to see her star in a couple late episodes such as Lower Decks, and this is the type of character who adds significant depth to a series, even with a well-established ensemble crew already in place.  
This character was named by the TNG budget estimator Suzi Shimizu, who picked alyssa based on her daughter's name and ogawa based on her maiden name. Although her daughter's name is officially spelled with a "y" in Alyssa, the character's first name is indicated to be spelled with an "i" in about half of her script appearances. If you enjoy this character, she lives on as a major character in the novel series Star Trek Titan, which is the ship led by Riker and Troi after their departure from the Enterprise following Star Trek Nemesis. 

Nurse Ogawa is played by Patti Yasutake. Her biggest non-Star Trek role was in the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous, but she has recently done voice work for games such as Bioshock Infinite.

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