I’ve been a geek-nerd-whatever all my life I suppose. As such, I’ve liked sci-fi things like Star Wars, Star Trek (especially Deep Space 9), Doctor Who (old and new), Battlestar Galactica (both the old and new), Firefly, Babylon 5, Crusade, and more. I’ve also liked fantasy things like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Legend, Willow, and others. In the last few years, I’ve gotten into anime and manga as well, where I’m pretty hard core in that I only watch anime in Japanese w/ subtitles and I demand my subtitles make full use of Japanese honorifics and my manga English adaptations do the same.
This said, aside from buying DVD’s or books, I don’t buy other items to show my appreciation of said works. The items I do have were all given to me by various people as gifts over the years (to include autographed pictures) or were purchased as a result of being given a gift card. The only exception was the picture I had taken of me with Tricia Helfer (Six on the new Battlestar Galactica). You’d never catch me doing “cosplay” (costume play) for any anime, manga, sci-fi, or fantasy title. While I may discuss said titles on message boards or blog about them, that’s as far as I’ll go.
Now, there are fans that do go to the extreme. Some do the cosplay thing. Some buy every piece of merchandise for a title they can get their hands on. A few with money will attend conventions all over the world, or will even decorate their homes in such a way as to live out their fantasy, as one fan in London (Tony Alleyne) did, when he turned the inside of his apartment into a Star Trek: Voyager and which you can learn more about here). I thought that guy was hardcore and indeed he is (and while nuts, that is a cool apartment). However, even he pales to what some fans of the original Star Trek series have done.
A professional Elvis impersonator named James Cawley decided to purchase an abandoned car dealership a few years ago in Port Henry, New York . I’m told he spent $100K on the deal (Update 8/29: I’m further told that the $100K isn’t the cost of the dealership, which apparently is rented. The $100K was the cost of building the sets then I’m guessing.). What did he want the dealership for? Why to turn it into the various sets of the original starship Enterprise from Star Trek.
That’s not a joke.
Not only did he do this, but these sets are absolutely astonishing, and so good that should Paramount decide they want to do some nostalgic thing and shoot footage from the inside of an old Constitution class starship, they have a ready-made set they could rent for cheap and even those who live to find flaws would be hard-pressed to find a flaw in this re-creation. I’m serious, it is that good.
Now that alone isn’t enough to make you the king of the hardcore fans. Deciding to film the “4th season” of Star Trek entitled Star Trek: New Voyages where you (in this case, James Cawley) star as Captain James T. Kirk and enlist the help of fellow hardcore Star Trek fans to play Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, and more is what puts you higher on the list. Actually succeeding AND getting original Star Trek actors to guest star in their original roles while getting Paramount’s parent company Viacom to sign off on allowing you to film said episodes providing you don’t make any money is what makes you king.
In 2004, these guys made a pilot episode called “Come What May.” The special effects were astonishingly good, but the story was pretty weak, the sound was amateurish, and the lighting wasn’t so good. However, it proved that it could be done. As such, they first true episode called “In Harm’s Way” was produced. This was an interesting, but a bit convoluted story which was a sequel to the original episode “Guardian of Forever” as well as “The Doomsday Machine.” They even got William Windom to come back to reprise his role as Commodore Decker (I won’t spoil anything, but if you’ve seen “Guardian of Forever,” you know how Mr. Windom could be brought back despite his advanced years).
In 2006, these guys filmed their 2nd true episode, this one entitled “To Serve All My Days” (which was written by veteran Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana) which is a sequel to the original episode, “The Deadly Years.” If you’ll remember the original episode, Kirk and company got a condition that caused them to rapidly age after a landing party mission. Only Ensign Pavel Chekov did not succumb to the rapid aging then. In “To Serve All My Days,” it finally catches up to him. Of course, that allows Walter Koenig to return to play the role of Chekov (the young version is played by Andy Bray, who does a great job). While the A-story of a Klingon foray into Federation space is interesting, it is the human drama of Chekov suddenly having to face the fact that he’s rapidly become an old man (and that he won’t be able to see many of his dreams come to pass) that was the most interesting.
The other day, the group released its third episode entited “World Enough and Time.” This time George Takei returns to play Sulu in the episode, which I’ve not seen as the official site was only streaming the video rather than go ahead and release it as a regular video file for torrent or download. As a result, their servers were overloaded and well only there are a lot of people still waiting to watch.
More episodes are in store. Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) is going to guest start in the upcoming two-part episode (as Dr. Jenna Yar). J. G. Hertzler (who’s had several Star Trek roles, his biggest being General Martok in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) has signed up to play the Harcourt Fenton Mudd character (“Mudd’s Women,” “I, Mudd”) for the episode “The Sky Above, The Mudd Below.” As far as I know, none of these stars are getting paid and the production costs per episode are $15,000 (Update 8/29: someone in the comments responded to say that the pre-production costs for the 2-part episode “Blood and Fire” were $70K. I’ll have to check the source of the $15K figure to see if I misread something.). These costs are paid for by James Cawley and the fans who now play the roles of Spock, McCoy, Sulu, and the others. Not only that, but they’ve picked up other lesser Star Trek alumni and some additional script writers from Hollywood and they have their excellent special effects done by a school that specializes in training people in this field. Amazing!
Anyway, I encourage you Star Trek fans who might have been unaware of this to go by their website at http://www.startreknewvoyages.com.