This Labor Day weekend, the small city of Ticonderoga, New York, will host its first ‘Star Trek’ convention. Conventions dedicated to the 1960s TV series that spawned a pop culture movement have been held around the world for decades, but what makes this event unique is that it’s being held within a complete reproduction of the original series’ set.
‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ only ran 79 episodes in the late 1960s before it was cancelled. Numerous popular spinoffs and movies are still being made today. But, for many, the original did it best with Captain Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.
Dedicated Trekkies have produced their own episodes for years, but one webseries is filmed on a full-scale replica of the original set in Ticonderoga.
“This is one of the control panels that goes into the engineering display in the back.”
Just inside the doorway of his studio, James Cawley is walking through the set of his webseries, ‘Star Trek New Voyages.’ Come Labor Day weekend, this will be the location of Trekonderoga, the city’s first Star Trek convention. And there’s a lot of work to be done in the next week.
But it will get done. Cawley has more than 200 volunteers that help out.
“When you say Star Trek, people come out of the woodwork,” he says.
Today, it’s just the two of us. Cawley agreed to take me on a tour.
“You’re entering the corridors. This is the Transporter Room of the Enterprise. This wall is pulled out because the camera crews come in this way and shoot in this direction. Obviously these things have to be put back in before we open for the convention. We just wrapped up a film shoot so it’s a little chaotic.”
Although it looks like the control panel is in for repairs, sure enough, there’s the Transporter where Scotty beams up Kirk and his crew.
Cawley started building Star Trek sets in 1997. The webseries began filming in 2003 and last year, operations were moved into this studio.
Walking through the corridor, we visit Kirk’s quarters, complete with a replica of his orange bed and knick-knacks on his shelf.
In an incomplete version of McCoy’s sickbay, Cawley shows me the blueprints for the Enterprise set.
“This is what we work from, as far as dimensions, you know, we know the actual scale with a scale ruler. You know, we do all this kind of stuff.”
These are the same plans used in the original series. Cawley got them from the original Star Trek costume designer, whom he befriended while working on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
“I don’t bring the originals down here, I just took it to Kinko’s and had it copied.”
The plans are great for dimensions, but for all the other little details, Cawley and his team rely on photos and high-definition screen shots taken from the series on Blu-ray. Everything has to be perfect, from the paneling on the walls, to the twinkling buttons on the bridge.
“There was these ice cube trays that made these little tiny square ice cubes for RV trailers and things like that. They called them midget cubes and they filled them full of colored resin and turned them upside down and they became all the square buttons on the bridge.”
Sitting at the controls Cawley tells me a little about himself.
“My full-time job is to play Elvis in a live touring show which I’ve done now more years than I care to talk about,” says Cawley.
“And that explains…” I ask.
“That explains the hair.”
Cawley says he’s a nostalgic person. He’s got a black Elvis do and sideburns. He’s wearing a t-shirt with Batman and Robin on it – from the old comic books, of course.
“I really don’t like modern television, hate it. There’s just nothing there for me. I like character driven stories and I like to feel good when the show is over.”
The new ‘Star Trek’ films by J.J. Abrams? Cawley calls them ‘Star Trek’ for the “Playstation Generation.”
“What it is about the original series that all the other lacks is, first of all, it was the group of characters and the actors that brought them to life. And the stories were so good. You could forgive the bad special effects of the period and the lack of dollars and production design because the stories and the characters were so good. The show is going to be here a hundred years from now.”
“Sir, how are you?”
That’s Cawley’s landlord, Jim Major. I asked him about what he thought about there being a spaceship in his building.
“When I rented to them I crossed my fingers and did some praying because I wasn’t sure that it was gonna fly, but they’ve been super successful.”
Major says he’s not much of a ‘Star Trek’ fan, but he believes in the upcoming convention.
“I’m absolutely behind him and my wife is volunteering for him, so family’s in there.”
After my tour, Cawley loads up an episode of his webseries on his phone, which, by the way, is completely fan-funded. While he doesn’t act in it much anymore, he’s still overseeing its production and hopes to continue making it as long as there’s people willing to support it.
“It just kind of shows you what a dedicated people can do without a Hollywood budget.”
For more information visit: http://www.trekonderoga.com/