Dreamwatch #73, October 2000
With Voyager finally nearing home, Tim Russ talks to John Mosby about his plans for the future and what he’d do with Star Trek, given a chance.
Tim Russ is relishing his between seasons holiday in the UK. He’s signing autographs for a queue of British fans that trails way down the pavement outside the Leeds branch of Forbidden Planet; by the end of the week, he will have signed several thousand photos, comics and Star Trek paraphernalia.
But that’s easy work compared to the long hours and tight schedules that Star Trek: Voyager, the only first-run series of Trek still airing, needs to keep it flying.
“All your projects and travel go into the hiatus and that is kind of a hassle. Time goes by quickly. We finished at the end of March, re-shooting some stuff for a couple of days in April and we start back on 20 June. Technically, I wasn’t even ‘released’ until 15 April,” he reveals.
So why does he carry on doing a show, with such punishing schedules? “The main advantage to doing Voyager isn’t doing Tuvok for seven years – it’s more the opportunity it gives you to do other things within the field of entertainment. You can direct, write, play music, start doing and financing things… that has been a major pay-off on being on this show. Music is just another opportunity. If I was offered the chance to continue on for another five or so years, that would be the only reason to consider doing it.”
Russ is not going to let the typecasting that has plagues some Trek alumni keep him from other projects. He’s simply glad that he’s stayed the course for the full seven years of the show and will depart the Trek universe with the rest of the cast and share the good memories.
“You have to move on eventually; you can get tired. But let me tell you something …you have to be really tired to give up getting that kind of money on a regular basis and to want to go out into the cold of uncertainty as far as your career goes,” he explains candidly. “But you can reach that point, believe it or not. And, to be frank, if you have enough money in the bank and you’re not going to use it up in 10 or 20 years, then who cares? That’s what happens a lot. Apart from that, you have producers and if a network want them to do something different and the producers don’t want to do any more, you have no choice.
“Babylon 5 ran for five seasons – it was planned that way. Voyager was always planned to run seven seasons. Sometimes shows become too expensive to run beyond those seven years because once you pick up contracts for another year then all the agents come out of the closet and they’re asking for ten times the salaries. Then you find out who’s expendable. It’s difficult for the fans because they like the show and they’d like to see more of it, but as the cycle of the universe, everything lives and dies.”
As the series begins shooting its final season, Tim admits that he has mixed feelings. Does he think, as the final pages of this Trek chapter are written, he will begin to feel more and more nostalgic?
“I think as it nears the end, the awareness that it’s over will kick in. It started to kick in at the end of last season – though after some 12-hour shoots, you didn’t give a rat’s ass where the end was, you still just wanted to go home,” he laughs. “We will probably get more nostalgic. I think the last couple of months will show that. But I think we’ll have the same energy, with everyone turning up to do the best they can.”
The Future’s Ours to See
Theories abound about the particulars of the next stage in the Trek franchise. The popular idea – and one partially confirmed by The Powers That Be – is a concept that would take the audience back to the early days of the Federation, but with a time-traveling enemy along for the ride (just to unsettle things – after all, we already know what happens…).
However, there is an equally vocal part of the core audience who would like the franchise to pause and gain its breath. They feel that an absence of Trek for a limited time would make the heart grow fonder. It’s a feeling shared by several Trek actors, Russ included.
“Absolutely. The producers feel exactly the same way. They’d like to take a nice, long stretch – maybe two years – off from Trek. That would be the smart thing to do, I think Paramount… well, they love to make money and will not e taking that big a break. They are going to try and do something as soon as they can.”
Russ sighs. “Conceptually I would push the base of the show into an area of space that hasn’t been explored but do it in a different way than Voyager. There would be new experiences with new phenomena. That’s what I would do.
“It’s been on 30 years and there are a lot of people to keep up with. There ware nine main characters in Voyager, as well as the teams from Deep Space Nine and Next Generation – a lot of folks running around to keep up with. I would say you could combine them in the features, or occasionally on a series… There are any number of ways they could do it.” He laughs. “A year from today, we’ll know exactly what they decided…”
“You get tired. But you have to be really tired to give up getting that kind of money on a regular basis.”