Star Trek Monthly #80, Summer 2001
David Bassom manages to grab a few moments with Star Trek: Voyager’s stony-faced Vulcan security chief during the filming of Endgame, and finds out how actor Tim –Russ is handling his last few days as Tuvok.
Tim Russ is being logical to the end. As the conclusion of Star Trek: Voyager’s seven-year run draws near, Russ is doing his best not to let any emotion or sentiment cloud his judgment. In fact, he’s facing the end with a well-reasoned acceptance that befits his cool, calm and calculated Vulcan alter ego, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok.
“I feel it’s time to wrap the show,” says Russ during a break from shooting Star Trek: Voyager’s closing adventure, Endgame. “Better to go out while you’re still strong.”
Ever the master of logic, Russ offers an equally objective description of his final days of working on Star Trek: Voyager. “It feels like the end of a long journey, not unlike the show’s concept,” he notes. “The daily routine is a little busier because of [additional] press [reporting], and there is more secrecy surrounding the shooting days.”
Endgame’s top secret plotline sees Captain Janeway and the crew of the U.S.S. Voyager concluding their long journey back to Earth, albeit with several surprising twists. Russ is excited about the way Star Trek: Voyager’s time-traveling feature-length finale is shaping up, and is also looking forward to showing his Vulcan alter ego facing a very surprising fate.
“I think it’s going to be a great final two-part show. My character has something totally unexpected happen to him.” – On Endgame, Star Trek: Voyager’s finale
“I think it’s going to be a great final two-part show,” he reveals. “My character has something totally unexpected happen to him, which is always the Trek way.”
There’s no doubt that Russ knows his Star Trek. Prior to working on Star Trek: Voyager, he had been an avid viewer of Star Trek: The Original Series, and had appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (as the terrorist Devor in Starship Mine), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (as the Klingon T’Kar in Invasive Procedures) and Star Trek Generations (as an anonymous Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-B). In another piece of Star Trek lore, Russ had also been one of the early frontrunners for the role of Geordi La Forge in ST:TNG. Yet despite his extensive familiarity with the franchise, Russ admits that his seven-year tour of duty as Voyager’s tactical/security officer has far surpassed his initial expectations.
“The only thing I hoped for was full-time work on a series that stayed on the air for more than a few weeks. Yes, it has been that and more,” he explains with a wry grin. Russ goes on to note that he has not only been surprised by Star Trek: Voyager’s longevity, but also by the way his involvement with the series allowed him to pursue his own solo projects, like the independent film East of Hope Street and his eponymous album of pop, blues and rock music. “I was able to work in other areas of film/TV production as a result of being on the show.”
Evaluating Tuvok’s tour of duty, Russ feels that Star Trek: Voyager’s writers and producers “have done a great job of exploring the many facets and vulnerabilities of the characters with various storylines and situations.” He points to the “enlightening” second season drama Meld and the “unusual” sixth season character study Riddles as two obvious examples of Tuvok at his best.
Russ’ other highlights of his time in the Delta Quadrant included his first stint behind the camera, which came with the actor’s outstanding directorial debut, season four’s Living Witness. He also savored the opportunity to forge strong friendships with the show’s regular cast, and enjoyed working with guest actors like Seinfeld star Jason Alexander (who played Kurros in Think Tank) and Brad Dourif (Lon Suder in Meld and the Basics two-parter). His single most enjoyable moment on Star Trek: Voyager, though. Came during the shooting of the fifth season episode, In the Flesh, which featured the late Ray Walston (of My Favorite Martian fame) as an alien posing as Boothby.
“We were shooting a scene which was very heavy with dialogue, and Ray was having a tough time with the lines, as well as some others of us,” recalls Russ. “It took all day to shoot this one scene and, during a short lighting break, Ray spoke a line from Hamlet. Then Robert Beltran [Chakotay] answered him with the next line from the play and the two of them continued on reciting the lines for about two or three minutes – perfectly. You could hear a pin drop on the set, and we all applauded afterwards.”
Once the final curtain falls on Star Trek: Voyager, Russ plans to keep himself busy with a variety of projects. Like several of his co-stars, he plans to balance further acting assignments with off-camera gigs as a writer, producer, director and musician.
“I hope to do more directing on other projects as well as produce my own audio books and feature films,” he explains. “I’ve got at least four projects currently in development – including my next music CD entitled ‘Kushangaza’, which means ‘amazing’.”
As much as he is looking forward to exploring new creative frontiers away from the Star Trek universe, Russ looks set to continue his association with Star Trek: Voyager by attending the occasional convention and supporting the show’s various spin-offs. He also doesn’t rule out the possibility of reprising the role of Tuvok or even playing a new character in a future Star Trek series, movie or telemovie. “If they call me and I’m able to do it, I would certainly love to work on any future shows and/or a film,” he states.
Once Star Trek: Voyager is consigned to the annals of television history, Tim Russ ultimately hopes that he will be remembered for playing “a good Vulcan.” When asked if he has any advice for the cast of the upcoming new fifth series of Star Trek, he offers a deadpan response worthy of a Vulcan: “Get ready for a ‘long and prosperous’ journey.”
Tuvok himself couldn’t have said it any better.