Tim Russ Tuvok

Tuvok Rocks, Tim Russ Too

Not a Trekkie, nor a Trekker be. This was advice someone once gave me at the outset of my love life. They needn’t have bothered. I was part of that cultural shift that occurred when “Star Wars” came along and absorbed the collective attention of an entire generation for anything with “Star” in the title.  Besides, “Star Trek” with its humanist themes and nifty moralizing was distinctly grown-up fare and something I wouldn’t come to appreciate until I was older. Like wine and women. 

At the time, my only familiarity with wine, women and Trek was in the form of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, jugs of Almaden wine at family dinner parties and the teenage girls who lived next door who were smitten with some alien life form called Shaun Cassidy. Clearly, this was not an auspicious introduction but I eventually figured it all out. Except the Shaun Cassidy part. That said, “Star Trek” remained something of a cypher. But if you sit long enough in one place, the whole world will pass, including the Starship Enterprise.

Thus, It was inevitable that “Star Trek” would come to Sonoma. And when I looked for it, I realized it’s been here for years, in quiet ways. 

Consider this: Five years ago, actor Chris Pine who plays young, brash Capt. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Trek film franchise portrayed winemaker Bo Barrett, who, according to the film locally-produced film “Bottle Shock” had a hand in the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Just as Vancouver doubles for any location in the States (and its moribund production biz), Sonoma doubles for Napa, Paris, and elsewhere – meaning Capt. Kirk was here and I had a chat with him. 

After some Internet sleuthing, I learned that our own legendary action-adventure scribe Jack London was depicted as a bellboy in an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Apparently, Data the android time traveled to Gold Rush era San Francisco, was mistaken for a Frenchman and helped encourage the young London to pursue his dreams of being a writer. Following that narrative to its logical conclusion, you can draw a line from “Star Trek” to our Valley of the Moon where London eventually set up shop. So thanks, Data! And sorry that later in the episode you were decapitated and your head was buried for 500 years. The sacrifices we make for literature, right?

But wait there’s more… Earlier this year, Sonoma’s own Viansa Winery released a series of limited edition Star Trek-themed wines that featured retro-styled labels by artist Juan Ortiz. Certain episodes are commemorated including “The Trouble with Tribbles,” “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “Mirror Mirror,” which features a goateed alterna-Spock.

And last week, “Star Trek” reached out to me personally in my capacity as a columnist for the I-T. The Official Star Trek Convention was en route to the Bay Area with “headliners William Shatner and Jeri Ryan” in tow to “celebrate a weekend of everything ‘Trek.’” This is how I ended up chatting with Tim Russ who portrayed everyone’s other favorite Vulcan, Lt. Commander Tuvok on “Star Trek: Voyager.” Russ seemed as mystified as me about the Trek experience.

“I was excited to have a full-time gig for possibly seven years. That’s what I was excited about,” Russ said about scoring the gig as the emotionally distant, full-blooded Vulcan. “Everything else was, you know, what came along with the package. It certainly was unusual.  It was different.  It was a big, fat plus-column of extras as a result of being on that show.  The thing is, I’m still benefitting in any number of ways.”

So, basically, when you’re in Trek, you’re in Trek all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dyin’ day.

“I’ve been able to benefit from other acting roles, gigs that have come as a result of being on the show.  I’ve been able to benefit in any number of ways in terms of still earning income, not just residuals but also from conventions that are still going on as we speak, every single year, for 17 years.  It’s insane man, it’s insane!  I still don’t understand it.  I still don’t get it,” said Russ. “I can only talk about that show.  How many times can I say the same thing?”

Dude, I ask myself that all the time, then the check comes and the whole “live long and prosper” notion becomes more clear – clearer than an empty bottle of Almaden.

The Official Star Trek Convention to San Francisco runs Nov. 8, 9, & 10 at the Hyatt Regency, 1333 Bayshore Hwy, Burlingame.  For further information visit. www.creationent.com. Daedalus Howell boldly goes where no man has gone before at DHowell.com.

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