Tuvok talks

Tim Russ talks to Elise Harris about life, the universe and everything. Or something

Star: Trek Voyager never really made the same sort of impact as its more high-profile big brothers. Criticised by some for being too intellectual, and others for being too high concept, it never seemed to catch the public imagination.

The introduction of 7of9 helped, but it was perhaps too little too late. And now it looks like the journey’s nearly over.

Paramount announced that the seventh season will be the last. A two-hour finale episode is set for November 2001.

So where does the Voyager crew go from here?

Tim Russ, the uptight Vulcan Tuvok – usurped by Seven for the title of ‘most logical’ – talked to What Satellite TV about what the future holds. So what is going to happen next?

‘No idea – they don’t tell us anything. They don’t even tell us what we’re doing next week, because sometimes they don’t know what they’re doing next week.’

But there is one thing of which he is fairly certain. ‘I can assure you that Paramount’s not going to give up this particular cash cow, there’s just too much money in the franchise and the merchandising for them not to continue on. If not for the sake of the money, then for the sake of the young kids who are growing up with Voyager.’

If there is a film in the works, Tim says he be excited about it, but as far as he knows there are no plans yet.

‘If they do a movie who am I to turn down a good solid gig?’

But he thinks it’ll be hard to get the nine main cast members together for a project of that scale. He also isn’t convinced that Voyager has a large enough audience to justify a feature.

‘I think you’d have to do something bigger than just Voyager. Next Generation you could do something about because Next Generation was the first of its kind and it’s still based on the original show.

‘There is a kid brother, sibling sort of thing happening, because you are third or fourth in line and the show that follows us is going to be further down the line. So whoever’s last to grab the food is going to have the least amount to eat.’

New Gene Roddenberry ‘lost classics’ are being discovered almost every day. The late creator of the Star Trek universe tapped a vein in the audience’s imagination, and sci-fi is big business. Tim is a lifelong sci-fi fan, so he thinks he knows where its appeal lies.

‘There’re more storytelling capabilities to sci-fi; you cover so many issues and so much ground and elements about human behaviour, not to mention just pure imagination and wonder.

‘We had a couple of shows that were about religion, about the soul – which is fairly touchy.

‘But we’re not even using people all the time – we’re using aliens. So it’s always been a good form for wrestling topical social issues.’

Voyager wasn’t the first foray into the Star Trek universe for Tim. He has played a Klingon in the Next Generation, a human member of the Enterprise Bridge crew in Generations, and he also played Tuvok in an episode of Deep Space Nine before Voyager began.

Although he would consider playing a different character in whatever guise Star Trek takes next, Tim thinks it’s far more likely that if he returns he’ll be playing anther version of Tuvok.

‘If I was offered another part that involved a lot of prosthetics – that I probably would not do. It’s just too much. It’s so much more time in doing the show – you have to spend another two-and-a-half hours in make-up. An hour on, an hour off and your skin is trashed.’

He empathises with cast members who have to go through that process every day.

‘It’s dreadfully uncomfortable, sometimes you can’t sleep while you’re wearing this thing because you can’t lie on it, you can’t get comfortable. You don’t want to do that unless you’re really committed.’

The make-up in Voyager is minimal and hasn’t caused him any major trauma. ‘The ears are not a problem. There’s very little glue used on them actually. It’s not like a headpiece or something like that where there’s a lot of glue.’ He also says he feels slightly stifled by Tuvok’s lack of emotions, and would welcome a chance for more character development.

That’s one of the reasons he looks forward to Tuvok-based episodes. ‘Every time that we’ve had a heavy Tuvok story we’ve discovered something about this character that we didn’t know before.

‘The whole deal about Tuvok’s character is he’s trying to fit in. I mean he doesn’t really – he co-exists with the other characters, he doesn’t fit in. He’s not really going to fit in with anyone other than someone who’s very similar to himself – perhaps Jeri Ryan’s character.

‘He is a foil for most of the other humans’ antics. Because he’s not an emotional creature. But he’s not going to fit in because he’s so different from them.’

Tim insists he is very different in real life. ‘Maybe there are a few traits I share with the character, but nothing that’s going to make me not be able to get along with other people. You can’t work in this business without being able to get along with other people.’

A large part of his time when he’s not filming is taken up by appearances at conventions throughout the world. And he’s a big fan of fans.

Although after the stink William Shatner caused a few years back, telling Star Trek fans to ‘get a life’ in a sketch on Saturday Night Live, it’s perhaps not surprising that the newer cast members are more guarded about what they say.

‘The people that generally stop or just recognise me on the street are just regular people. They’re not usually hard-core fans,’ he says.

‘Or the other category is they’re not sure who you are – they ask me if I went to high school with them. I get that a lot.

‘Fans are the same everywhere, they just speak a different language, that’s all.’

Possibly because he looks almost exactly like his character in real life (apart from the ears) Tim gets recognised every time he walks down the street. ‘It happens a lot. Probably five,10 times a day at least, depending on where I’m popping off to. And it doesn’t matter if it’s this country or the US or somewhere else.

‘I think if I was in the middle of Mongolia or somewhere like that I’d probably be safer for a while – but if the show is airing anywhere in any country on a regular basis well it’s going to happen.’

And given the history of the Star Trek series, interest in the show is likely to grow long after its cancellation.

It’s a good job Tim Russ likes fans.

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