First of all a few words about me: I had been a Star Trek-fan since the early 70ies, when I watched TOS in reruns (as I found out later, something I have in common with Tim Russ!). I grudgingly accepted the TNG-crew - but never was really enthusiastic about that series - and grew really fond of DS9. I was looking forward to the end of TNG since I hoped that then DS9 would be the only Trek-series on the air and get the audience's full attention. Then I heard about the new show that would replace TNG and run opposite DS9, Voyager. I did not like that idea at all. TNG had been the only Trek show for years and DS9 wouldn't get more than half a season to itself? It would have to compete for the audience's attention again? And why? Because Paramount wanted to milk the cash cow Star Trek even more? I was furious and decided to ignore Voyager. Enter Tim Russ...
or: Tim Russ converts a Voyager-hater and wins himself a loyal fan
Seatrek 1995: June 10-17
Does everybody know what Seatrek is? It is a cruise combined with a convention. I've been to several of them and really enjoy them. The '95 cruise had lots of celebrities aboard, among others two of my DS9-favorites: Armin Shimerman and René Auberjonois. And two last-minute additions to the guest list: Voyager actors Bob Picardo and Tim Russ. Do I need to say that I had no intention of attending their talk? I had forced myself to watch one Voyager-episode the week before I went on the cruise - so that nobody could accuse me of hating something without having seen it. Well, the episode, "Ex Post Facto," had confirmed my worst fears. The story was hardly original, a similar one had been done at least once on each of the previous three incarnations of Trek. Ever since the original series' "Court Martial" had we had that same story - crewmember suspected of murder but revealed to be innocent - with great regularity. Reason enough to blame Voyager for its unoriginal, unimaginative writing and to feel that ignoring it was justified. [Strangely enough I like that episode now - seems that somebody made me change my perspective on the plot! :-)]
But then several things happened.
a) Autographs on a cruise?
Seatrek has the policy of distributing pre-signed pictures of the guests to all attendees. There are no normal autograph sessions. (At least back then there weren't. Things have changed a bit over the years.) But since several actors had heard that Majel Barrett would be selling her pictures and signing them at her table in the Dealers' Room, they brought their pictures as well. So the very first day there was a big, unscheduled autograph-session. Lines were so long that not everybody could get their autographs that day. So the MC announced in the evening that there would be another autograph session later in the week and that a few actors that had not originally planned to sign and had not brought any pictures to sell, would join their colleagues and gladly sign program books or whatever else we'd put in front of them. He specifically mentioned Tim. That was the very first time ever that Tim registered with me, and in a positive way: This was one of his first public appearances, he was unprepared, with no pictures to sell, but willing to sign autographs since he'd seen how much the audience appreciated these unexpected autograph sessions. My thoughts must have been something like: "He's on that series I try to ignore, but he seems to be okay as a person. Nice gesture towards the fans." And I was beginning to consider going to his talk and getting his autograph...
b) It's a Horta's fault
The next day brought the big Costume Contest. Several of the celebrities acted as judges, among them Tim. As I said, he was new to it back then, the others had done it countless times. They goofed around and interacted with the costumes and we all had a lot of fun. Tim caught on quickly, joined the others in their antics and when a singing Klingon female appeared, he and Eric Menyuk (TNG's Traveller) dropped on their bellies and worshipped her. I was getting more and more impressed with Tim, thinking along the lines of: "He's on that series I wish did not exist, but... he has a great sense of humor and a heart for us fans, since he'll sign for us."
One of the later entries was a pretty good Horta costume that slowly crawled up to the judges. Tim immediately went over to the Horta, knelt down beside it and performed a Vulcan mind meld on it - just like Spock did with the mother Horta in "The Devil in the Dark"! WOW! That guy who now played a Vulcan actually knew what had been established about Vulcans before! And he obviously identified very much with his Vulcan alter ego. He either was a fan himself or had prepared extremely well for that role by studying the original episodes. Either way I was impressed and I was beginning to think that maybe someone like Tim, with so much interest in his character's background and so much respect for Star Trek's history, was a good thing to have on a show. That maybe, just maybe, I should give him a chance and watch his show...
c) "Fascinating" guest-talk
Small wonder I changed my mind and attended the Voyager Q & A session with Tim and Bob two days later. Obviously after the Costume Contest I was already very predisposed to liking Tim, but he really made it very easy for me to like him even better. As I had said, this was one of the very first appearances for both, they had not developed their routine yet, but they did both very well. Tim confirmed my suspicion that he had seen TOS and the way he talked about it made it very clear he liked it. He mentioned his guest shots on TNG, DS9 and "Generations". I realized I knew nothing about him and his previous career. I was surprised he had already worked so much on Star Trek. And he had been the runner-up for Geordi LaForge seven years earlier? How old was that man? He looked like 30 at best...
And he had very concrete plans for his future career: He talked about getting into production, said that he and his buddy (Nate Thomas) would definitely produce an independent movie the next summer (which eventually became "East of Hope Street") and that they were about to decide on the story (they had three or four very different ideas they were considering). He talked about going through the director's internship course at Paramount and about getting more into directing later. All in all he came off as extremely intelligent, very well educated and very creative. He definitely knew what he wanted and how he would get there. He also was obviously very protective about his character and well versed in Vulcan lore. And he was friendly, modest and fun. Bob took him completely by surprise when he revealed that Tuvok was his favorite character. Tim had not been aware of that and it was obvious it meant a lot to him - since he thought Bob was doing the greatest job playing the Doctor! What else shall I say? My resolution to ignore Voyager had been shattered for good...
The next chance to meet Tim was the autograph session he had graciously agreed to do. I had of course no picture of him and the dealers hadn't brought nearly enough pictures to meet the sudden great demand for Tuvok. So I was lucky to get a magazine with a fold-out Voyager cast poster in the middle - I wanted Tim to sign something for me that I could display. Of course the lines were long and since we were on a busy schedule this autograph session was rather rushed. The promoters asked us not to talk to Tim, not to ask for personalizations etc. Well, while he was signing my poster I just said: "Thanks for doing this autograph session. It's very much appreciated!" And despite being extremely busy and in a hurry, he looked up and smiled at me, thus acknowledging what I had said. I thought that was very sweet of him. Then I quickly left (before the promoters could get angry) and Tim continued signing.
e) Cabaret, Cabaret
The last evening of a Seatrek cruise there is traditionally a cabaret where the various actors perform. When it was Tim's turn he first addressed the audience, saying that he had tried to talk individually to as many people as possible but that he was aware there were too many of us and he couldn't make time for everybody. He apologized to those he would have had to neglect... Impressed with this little speech several people started applauding - and Tim got all embarrassed and uttered a surprised: "Thank you!" Then he performed two songs: "Rosalinda's Eyes" and "Don't quit your day job" - a tribute to all people in the entertainment business "working so hard to bring joy and happiness to all of you..." and BOY, can he sing! The more I learned about him, the more impressed I was. And the way he apologized to those for who he hadn't had time to talk to showed once again that he cared for his audience. He was not just intelligent and creative plus a talented singer, he also seemed to be a very decent guy, in a word: somebody worth supporting.
f) Shall we - shall we not?
Later that night my friends Tina and Kristen and I were sitting in the Disco. We had already packed our bags and were a bit sad that the adventure was about to end. Suddenly we noticed a commotion at the entrance and noticed Tim standing there, talking to people. We envied them. We wanted to talk to him as well. We particularly wanted to have our pictures taken with him. He seemed approachable enough and since he had apologized earlier to those for who he hadn't had time to talk to... well, if we could make him talk to us there would be three people less he would have to feel guilty about...
But how on earth should we do that? Or more precisely: who would go over and talk to Tim? Tina and Kristen both said they were too shy and wouldn't dare start a conversation with him. I had talked to other celebrities before and felt like I could do it - except I hadn't really seen Voyager yet. I had no clue about the series, its characters, stories, relationships etc. I had therefore no questions or comments, nothing to talk about and somehow I didn't want to show my ignorance and make a complete fool out of myself. So what should we do?
Apparently Tim realized our problem, for a couple of minutes later he left the people he had been talking to - and joined us at our table! "Hi, how are you guys..." and suddenly we forgot all our shyness, ignorance etc. and managed to exchange a few more or less intelligent sentences with Tim before we summoned all our courage and asked him if we could have our pictures taken with him? He graciously posed with each of us, then excused himself and went on to the next table. We later saw that a girl asked him something, he nodded - and took her to the dance floor! All three of us agreed we wouldn't go that far, but were impressed that Tim was dancing with a girl from the audience!
That was my first encounter with Tim and he won me over completely. I went home, called a friend and borrowed his Voyager tapes. I watched the entire first season over one weekend. I joined Tim's fanclub that same summer and later started to contribute to the newsletter regularly. I still contribute to Tim's webpage. And I hope that this little webpage that I have put together will provide Tim with even more publicity and give him an even greater presence on the Internet.