During her time at Starfleet Academy, Celes had great difficulty with her enlistee training courses and had to work three times as hard as her classmates in order to keep up. She frequently had to spend all night "cramming" to pass. She believed the only reason she graduated from training was due to sympathy over the Occupation of Bajor, and the desire of Starfleet to have Bajorans in the service. (VOY: "Good Shepherd")
Life on Voyager
Celes served aboard the Federation starship USS Voyager when it became stranded in the Delta Quadrant in 2371. By 2376, Celes was a grade three sensor analyst assigned to Voyager's astrometrics department under Seven of Nine, the department's head.
Celes especially had difficulty with sensor data analysis. As a sensor analyst, her work had to be constantly double-checked much to Seven of Nine's immense irritation. Often, Celes had to call upon her closest friend on Voyager, crewman William "Billy" Telfer, to help her with the analyses. (VOY: "Good Shepherd")
The Electromagnetic Lifeform
In 2376, Voyager was boarded by an electromagnetic lifeform which caused ship-wide power outages and system malfunctions. The lifeform's home, a Class J nebula, had destabilized and dissipated due to Voyager mining it for deuterium. Shortly after the lifeforms arrival, Celes was about to run a diagnostic on a circuit panel when Seven of Nine stopped her. Seven was looking for a fault which she thought Celes had caused, which had cut power to Astometrics, and began to run her own diagnostic. She was surprised when Celes told her she had not even started yet, thus the fault could not have been hers.
Later, with the ship's lights out, Celes wandered the corridors of the ship alone for a number of hours, looking for other crewmembers. Terribly frightened, she believed the ship had been taken over by hostile aliens, such as Hirogen or Borg. She eventually ran into Ensign Harry Kim, who was also looking for other crewmembers, and attacked him on seeing his shadow, believing him to be an alien intruder. She struck Kim in the stomach with the equipment case she was carrying. Kim managed to calm her down and took her with him to a temporary command post that had been set up in main engineering. (VOY: "The Haunting of Deck Twelve")
First Away Mission
Later that year, Seven of Nine conducted an efficiency analysis of the ship's operations. Her results, presented to the senior staff in a briefing, indicated that Celes, Telfer and a third crewman, Mortimer Harren, were not performing at acceptable levels, and were reducing the efficiency of the ship's operation. Captain Janeway decided to take the three on a simple survey mission on the Delta Flyer, hoping to inspire them to better performance and since the only time they got off the ship was during general shore leave. The mission was to conduct a simple field analysis of a Class T cluster. Janeway assigned Celes the task of analyzing the sensor data.
During the mission, Celes was quite nervous and obsequious, especially toward Captain Janeway. She noted with depression Janeway's constant checking of her work, which to her was further proof of her inadequacy. When the Delta Flyer became severely damaged via an unknown force impacting it, shearing off part of the outer hull, Celes suggested that the piece be beamed aboard to try to determine the cause of the impact by scanning it for a quantum signature. Janeway approved of the idea and, though it did not offer any conclusive evidence, she applauded Celes for her unconventional thinking, trying to boost her confidence. But this failed, as Celes insecurity was fueled by a very real competence issue, which she was well aware of. She responded by telling Janeway that she did not belong on Voyager; she "just lived there". Harren at one point, who treated others with thinly-veiled contempt, referred to her as "intellectually deficient."
However, despite all her difficulties Celes proved herself not lacking in bravery later on in the mission when Janeway ordered her, Telfer and Harren to abandon the Flyer when a swarm of aliens thought to be dark matter lifeforms advanced on the Flyer. She firmly refused to do so, stating that, misfits though she and the others were, they were the crew and "a crew does not abandon its captain." (VOY: "Good Shepherd")
Kidnapped by the Quarren
In 2377, Celes and the rest of the crew were brainwashed by a species known as the Quarren. The Quarren altered the memory engrams of the entire crew, replacing their memories with false ones of voluntarily coming to work for the Quarren. They then put the crew to work as industrial workers on their homeworld, Quarra. Celes and the crew spent approximately three weeks in Quarra's largest city, where she worked at the primary fusion reactor with Ensign Mulchaey and he didn't recognize Neelix. The entire crew was eventually rescued and their memories restored. (VOY: "Workforce")
"You see? Then maybe I was right. Maybe the reason we can't find anyone is because they've all been assimilated."
"Slow down. There was an environmental failure on the bridge. That's why it's been evacuated. I don't know what happened in Sickbay, or on decks three and four, but I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation. Ah ha. No one's been assimilated."
"You are correct, unfortunately. Tal Celes, sensor analyst grade three. Her work must be constantly double checked. She should be removed from Astrometrics and reassigned elsewhere. Perhaps to Engineering."
"Forget it. I've got my own problems to fix, remember?"
"The analytical aspects of the subspace infrared algorithm are fourfold."
"Unfortunately, I have a threefold brain."
"You don't have to doubt yourself all the time."
"Yes I do, and you should too. You're right to always be looking over my shoulder."
"We all make mistakes, even me."
"Every day? Every time you report for duty? On Voyager it doesn't matter because nothing I do is that critical. Seven doesn't trust me with anything important. The crew is protected from my mistakes by the people around me, but out here I could get us killed."
"I don't deserve to be on your ship, Captain. And I'm not really a part of Voyager. I just live there."
"We might not have contributed much on Voyager, but what we do here matters. We're the crew here, and the crew does not abandon its Captain."
Tal Celes was portrayed by actress Zoe McLellan.
Celes was referred to as Crewman Celes, implying "Celes" was her family name, and only Billy Telfer called her Tal, implying "Tal" is her personal name, therefore her name would be Celes Tal according to traditional Bajoran naming. In "Ensign Ro", it was noted that some Bajorans changed the order of their names for the benefit of relations with Humans.
Tal was not written into the script of "The Haunting of Deck Twelve" until late in revision process of the final draft. Specifically, she was still not included in the script as of the fourth revision, dated 10 March 2000.
Michael Taylor had advocated for Celes to be the recurring character to killed off in "Friendship One", though as co-writer Bryan Fuller noted, "I just loved that character so much I couldn't bring myself to kill her," and the two decided on Joe Carey instead. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 2, p. 87)
Part of McLellan's makeup consisted of a molded foam rubber crinkled nose ridge with defined, flesh-like ridges. Two such appliances were later sold off in the It's A Wrap! sale and auction for US$41.01 and US$60.99, respectively.  
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