June 24, 2008

Spock role fulfills director's dream


PORT HENRY -- When someone asked him to play Mr. Spock in a "Star Trek" fan picture here, Ben Tolpin thought it was a joke.

Now, with Vulcan ears firmly attached, the Los Angeles-based actor and director is not only spouting Spock's lines but directing the production of "Enemy Starfleet."

The episode, which takes place aboard the original Enterprise, also stars original "Star Trek" guest star Barbara Luna playing a space pirate who steals a federation starship and romances Capt. James Kirk.

Tolpin now feels honored he was chosen, but he didn't feel that way when Ticonderoga resident James Cawley, who produces the fan videos and plays Kirk, called him.

"I thought I was on Candid Camera," Tolpin said. " He said will you play Spock?' I said are you kidding me?' And here I am."

Cawley's volunteer troupe of fans is now called "Star Trek Phase II," and the productions are shot on detailed sets built inside a cavernous former garage in Port Henry.

"I saw it as a chance to play an iconic character," Tolpin said. "It fulfilled a lot of small fantasies for me. Plus, when would I ever get to play Spock again?"

As a professional director, he saw guiding the mix of fans and professional actors who do the fan pictures as a challenge.

"I felt we could notch up the performances of the actors. And they've pulled together."

"Enemy Starfleet" was written by David Galanter of Michigan, who also wrote seven "Star Trek" novels for Pocket Books, and Patty Wright.

Galanter was at a science-fiction convention in Baltimore when he saw one of Cawley's previous productions.

"It blew me away. I said this is magic in a bottle. It did what Star Trek' hasn't done in 40 years. I called up Jim. I started working on ideas."

He loves just hanging out on the set and watching them shoot.

"They make it look like the original show. I'm in awe of their talent."

Playing an Andorian captain in "Enemy Starfleet" is an actor well known to science-fiction fans for just his voice.

Vic Mignogna plays Broly in "Dragon Ball Z", along with the English versions of several other Japanese anime shows.

"I've been in voice acting for 10 years," he said. "I've always been a big Star Trek' fan, and I asked James if I could come up and do something."

Jay Storey of Watertown said he learned about the fan pictures from the Internet and contacted Cawley.

"He offered me the part of Kyle, the security chief, in the new episode. I was a fan as a kid. Now I'm back in it again."

Cawley said shooting should be substantially finished by next Friday, and the video is slated for a March 2009 release.

"The special-effects school at Universal Studios Orlando is doing all the effects. It's their class project."

He said he wants his productions to remain true to the vision of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry.

"Gene Roddenberry created a universe where we're all equal. Star Trek' was about firsts. They tackled issues."

The original "Star Trek" featured the first racially integrated cast and the first interracial kiss.

"We're having fun and we're making films people want to see," Cawley said. "I'm happy.

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