Toronto Sun, August 3, 1995

Don't mock Tuvok!

By Jim Slotek

Whaddya know, the Vulcan laughs. I'm talking to Tim Russ - a. k. a. Mr. Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager - and sharing my pet criticism of the series.

To whit: Too many episodes where Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and the crew of the voyager almost get home from the Delta Quadrant. It seemed like Gilligan's Island in space.

At the other end of the phone, Tim Russ chuckles (though I'm sure he must have heard the comparison before). "Well," he says, "it is the theme of the day. Getting home. It's what Odysseus was trying to do, too."

Somewhere in the pantheon between those two legendary mariners, Odysseus and Gilligan, stand the stoic Mr. Tuvok, tactical officer of the Intrepid class starship Voyager, stranded 70,000 light years from home - a 70-year trip at Warp Nine.

Meanwhile, back in the Alpha Quadrant, Sector 001, Tim Russ is on a odyssey of his own, getting to know Trekkers and Trekkies from the Carolinas to the Kawarthas.

"This is my fifth one," he says of Toronto Trek 9, the annual fan blowout that takes place for three days at the Regal Constellation starting tomorrow. "I've done cities in North and South Carolina and Florida. I did one of those large cruise things for a week, that was a pretty neat experience. And coming up, there's Chicago, Las Vegas, Sacramento, other places."

Um, all those cities, all those obsessives. Doesn't it get to be a little much? "It's no problem, man," he says (and when have you ever heard a Vulcan say 'Man?'). "It's actually pretty tame, quite nice. They're more like baseball games, kids want to get autographs of the players, that kind of thing."

Joining Russ in the autograph klatch will be Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (widow of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry), Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Rand from "Classic Trek") and Mira Furlan, a.k.a. the bald-but-fetching Ambassador Delenn from Trek competitor Babylon 5. Russ warped in as a last minute replacement when Rene Auberjonois (Odo from Deep Space Nine) cancelled because he's directing an episode.

"It's all voluntary," Russ says of "Con" duty. "We can choose to do them or not. But it's quite nice to add to this kind of work. It kind of breaks up the routine."

In Russ's case, the routine has consisted of heavy shooting schedules. As we spoke, four of next season's episodes were already in the can (the new season starts Sept. 2). And yes, he admits, they "almost" get home more than once next season.

His own pet peeve, however, has to do with gadgetry. A "Classic Trek" fan (Kirk, Spock at el), he says, "I could not personally warm up to characters on Deep Space Nine and Next Gen. And even we're saddled with too much technical dialogue.

The actor has worked steadily in TV for the past eight years - including roles in unsuccessful series like The Highwayman and Wes Craven's The People Next Door. "Most of the roles were dramas, so I'm used to playing it very seriously," he says of the emotionless Mr. Tuvok.

Nonetheless, there will be character development in season two of Voyager. "There are nine main characters, and everybody has had one episode devoted to them, or two. They're continuing that. In Tuvok's case, you learn he has a family, a wife and four children. More details about that will come out this season. He's somewhat different in that regard than Spock, also younger by a few years."

Russ knows he's going to be hearing a lot of "Hey, Tuvok!" "The identification with this show is going to be pretty strong. But that's what I wanted, a series that'll stay on the air.

"I mean, I made a living for eight years, but it could always dry up. Star Trek is the closest thing to a steady gig there is."