Greetings, USS Henry Hudson crew, and fellow Trekkers everywhere! Science Officer Steve Robinson here. It’s been about a month, but I finally have a moment to sit down and talk about my recent experience at ‘Trekonderoga 2017,” which was held from August 25-27. This third annual event was hosted by the Star Trek: Original Series Set Tour, located in upstate Ticonderoga, NY. Created by James Cawley (Elvis impersonator, Trekker, and former fanfilm maker), the Set Tour is an officially licensed, full-scale working replica of “Star Trek”‘s original Desilu Studios soundstage, exactly as it was laid out and looked some fifty years ago. All of the ‘Starship Enterprise’ sets — Bridge, Engineering, Sickbay, Transporter — have been meticulously recreated, down to the last detail! And visitors get to walk through it all! Fellow officer Willie Ye and I were up there for the last weekend in August – four long days of convention volunteering while existing largely on Pepsi, pizza, and McD’s – but we’d gladly do it all over again in a heartbeat!
There were eight “Star Trek” guests this time around —
Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov)
Nichelle Nichols (Nyota Uhura)
Lee Meriwether (Losira, “That Which Survives”)
Eddie Paskey (Mr. Leslie, 57 TOS episodes)
Mary Linda Rapelye (Irina Galliulin, “The Way to Eden”)
BarBara Luna (Marlena Moreau, “Mirror Mirror”)
Charlie Brill (Arne Darvin, “The Trouble with Tribbles”)
Michael Dante (Maab, “Friday’s Child”)
PLUS some 700 fans in attendance, and lots of fun for everyone! There were some emotional highs, and even a little backstage drama, but I’ll get into that later. You all want to see the pictures, so here they are! (Be sure to finish reading after the pics!)
A Trek fan presented the Tour with this handmade model of our entire soundstage in miniature (all but the Bridge, he’s still working on that). The Bridge will eventually fit into the space under the Engineering and Stateroom sets.
Eddie Paskey on the Bridge, relaxing in the Command Chair.
James Cawley (left) shows off a genuine, 50-year-old original tribble to Charlie Brill (right).
Walter Koenig (left) and our resident ‘Scotty,’ Carl Sheldon (right) pose together on the Bridge. Carl looks so much like the elder James Doohan that it’s positively mind boggling!
On the Bridge, with Walter (Chekov) Koenig back at his old, familiar post.
Michael Dante on the Bridge. Besides being known for “Star Trek,” Jim Cawley will tell you that Dante also co-starred in a film called “Kid Galahad” – with Elvis Presley!
Three long, full convention days are behind us, and I can now share some downtime and a relaxed pose with James Cawley (left) and Lee Meriwether (middle). Besides “Star Trek,” Lee is also well known for “Time Tunnel,” “Barnaby Jones,” a TV “Munsters” revival, and for playing ‘Catwoman’ in the mid-60’s film, “Batman.”
James Cawley, decked out in full Elvis regalia just after his Saturday-night concert. We were all in the audience as Jim and his band rocked the Con for 90 minutes. But — what many of the fans might not have known about was the ‘backstage drama’ that played out earlier that day.
Jim was on the Sickbay set, helping to demonstrate the Exam Room’s ’tilt bed’ for our major guest, Walter Koenig, when somehow, the back end of the bed accidentally came down upon Jim’s left hand! Fearing that he’d broken a couple of fingers, Jim rushed himself home, and returned shortly thereafter with his hand wrapped in an ice pack. For a few tense hours, we all wondered whether the concert might have to be canceled! However, the ice pack did its job, and Jim, in the true show-business tradition, went on with the show! Here is a portrait of a real trouper!
Amazing things can happen at any “Star Trek” convention. And to finish, I thought I’d share one last picture while on the Bridge.
Lt. Steve Robinson mans the Science Station on the main Bridge.
Note the blue uniform shirt I’m wearing. There’s a story behind that – Jim Cawley loaned me that shirt at the start of Trekonderoga. It became my official ‘weekend uniform’ while I helped to greet visitors, gave the occasional ‘Desilu history’ lecture, and played something of ‘Carlton the Doorman,’ manning the pulley which opened the sliding doors allowing our tour guests onto the set. I also got to follow and photograph most of the VIPs during their own tours.
Now, fast-forward to Sunday night. We’re at House of Pizza, across the street from the studio lot, and we’re holding the traditional ‘dead dog’ party (It’s what the staff and volunteers all feel like after a three-day con). I’d been doing some reflecting, and a few of those close to me began noticing that I was starting to look, in their words, “emotional.” A couple, including Jim, even asked me if I needed a hug. I said no, but I did sit Jim down for a few minutes, and this is pretty much what I told him —
Jim had just turned 50. I was just shy of hitting 62. We’ve been Trekkers most all of our lives, and all through those years, we’ve come to repeatedly hear one invariable question. I’ve heard it from family, friends, fellow students, teachers, co-workers, and even news reporters.
“Why Do You Do This?” Why do we spend all this time, energy, effort, and expense to celebrate a long-dead TV series? I have long since learned that there is no one ‘pat’ answer. Indeed, if you were to ask the 25 people gathered for the Con party, you would likely receive 25 very different statements. I used to borrow an old line of Nimoy’s — “Logic cannot explain why, I only know that I must do this!” And so, I began reflecting…
That weekend, I opened the Bridge doors for Eddie Paskey. I then watched as he stood there in the alcove for a full minute, too overwhelmed to move as 50 years vanished before his eyes. I watched Charlie Brill wander through the sets, exclaiming over and over again, “How did you do all this?!?” I watched Walter and Nichelle walk through the sets with wide-eyed wonder, both talking like they ‘back home’ again. I’ve seen visitors gasp in amazement when I’ve opened those sliding doors. I’ve seen them gasp and even shiver upon their first sight of Carl as Scotty. Ladies and gentlemen — THEY are why all WHY we do this! We take them all back in time for an hour or so, and we prove that, contrary to the old saying, “You ‘can’ go home again.” And I feel at home, every time I walk those starship halls. Just as the Con party was breaking up, Jim Cawley returned from a brief trip to the studio, and he presented me with the blue shirt – to keep!
Next time…I’m bringing the ears! I am happy to report that “Star Trek” is alive! It is quite well, thank you…and living in Ticonderoga, NY.
‘Star Trek: Original Series Set Tour’ is open through the fall season, every day except Mondays. Contact www.startrektour.com for tickets and details.