Captain James T. Kirk and William Shatner were back where they belonged on Friday and Saturday... on the bridge of the U. S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701. It was all part of the William Shatner Weekend at Star Trek: Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, New York, where Trek super-fan, professional Elvis impersonator and Ticonderoga native James Cawley has recreated Stage 9 at Desilu. It was at Desilu that TOS rolled camera more than 50 years ago.
The event kicked off on Friday with Shatner entering the Set Tour facility to a rousing ovation from fans. The fun officially commenced when Shatner engaged VIPs in a private chat, followed by a press conference with the media in attendance, captain's chair photos and autographs at the console.
The iconic actor did much of the same on Saturday, with an additional highlight featuring him giving a Live on Stage talk in the auditorium at nearby Ticonderoga High School.
StarTrek.com ventured out to Ticonderoga and is pleased to share photos, comments and observations from the event:
Captain on the Bridge
Shatner settled into the Captain’s chair on Friday to speak with a lucky group of VIPs. The actor looked right at home in his old digs.
“When I left the set (for the last time), I think I had the flu,” the Trek legend recalled. “I think I was a little ill. I went on my way. And now I’m back! Maybe we can do it again.”
Shatner sometimes playfully deflects questions about "being" Kirk, and about how the character might age along with him. But on this day, he answered such a question head-on. “I brought myself to it,” he said. "What would I do now? Quite different, I think, because 50 years have gone by. If I weren’t going to do something different 50 years later, I’d be stuck in a time warp, and that’s too science fiction-y for me. So, the evolution of the human being... if you’re a good actor you bring all that you have lived. I was quite callow in those years and, 50 years later, I have more depth, having lived, and I’d hopefully bring something more.”
One of everyone's favorite moments was when Shatner gave fans the chance to experience life on the bridge by having everyone "lean right" and then "lean left."
Around the World
In all, more than 1,000 fans from as far as Switzerland, Rio de Janeiro and Seattle made the trek to Ticonderoga for the occasion. They came in all ages, from children to seniors, and many sported TOS-era costumes... a few of which even impressed the guest of honor.
In addition to Shatner’s appearance, Trek luminaries Denise and Michael Okuda, and Doug Drexler, led guided tours throughout the weekend. And we saw Daren Dochterman, too.
Stepping into a Dream
Why did Michael Okuda feel the need to come to Ticonderoga? Cawley invited him and Denise Okuda, and they couldn’t resist. “The original Star Trek is the one I grew up with,” he told StarTrek.com. “Don’t get me wrong; I’m very proud to have worked on TNG and all those other shows, but as a child, this is the ship that I traveled in in my imagination. So, to get to come here to see all the sets in physical proximity to each other, exactly as they were? It’s like stepping into a dream.“
Denise Okuda smiled broadly when asked by StarTrek.com what stood out most to her about the fans’ reactions to the sets during the tours she and Michael guided. “The sense of wonder,” she replied. “We usually start out by asking, ‘How many people have not been on the sets before?’ I’ve kind of watched these people, and it’s like this is a life-altering experience. You can see it, the physicality with these people. Some of them are really shook and taken aback and just so excited. You never thought you’d walk down the corridors of the Enterprise, and they are doing it. It’s almost a pinch-me moment. Actually, it is a pinch-me a moment.”
In His Heart and Soul
Doug Drexler described Trek, its sets and Shatner as being part of his DNA. He also credited that combination with inspiring him to enter the film business. As a result, when asked by StarTrek.com if a single particular Set Tour element ranked as a favorite, he found himself literally at a loss for words.
“All of them have some special meaning, for different reasons,” Drexler told us. “Of course, the bridge is the centerpiece, but every set has moments that touched my heart in some way, even the corridors."
"I love talking about all of this stuff," he said, "and I could talk about it for days and days and days, but one of my favorite things when I do the tours and I have everyone there, is sharing what the sets mean to me, all the things I’ve learned from them and all the things they’ve revealed to me about living."
“And the best part is it’s such a shared experience,” Drexler continued. “I say to all the people I meet, ‘I know I could stop and talk to any one of you and it’s going to feel like I’ve known you for years.’ That’s the most amazing thing, on top of how the sets are just in my heart and in my soul.”
Bigger and Smaller
Shatner, during his conversation with the media, called the Set Tour sets “brilliant” and deemed them “absolutely incredible” and “an authentic replica.” He joked that the captain’s chair was “so comfortable that I’m not going to get up.”
He then elaborated on those words of praise, noting, “This set is exactly the way it was 50-odd years ago. And it’s like coming back to a house that you might have been born in and go look around and you see it: ‘Wow, it’s bigger and smaller than I remember, and yet it’s the same.’ So, if you’re interested in Star Trek, this is extraordinary.”
A Little More Conversation
Everyone attending Shatner’s appearance at the Set Tour seemed to be having the time of their lives, but there was no mistaking the pure joy and pride on the face of the man who made it all happen, James Cawley. StarTrek.com caught up with Cawley as the event neared its final frontier, and he was still on Cloud Nine as he addressed what it meant to him to have Shatner and so many fans immerse themselves in his painstakingly recreated TOS sets.
“It’s a dream fulfilled,” he said. “That would be the first, most important thing. The second thing would be the amazement I feel at being able to share the sets with so many people who have the same fantasy as I did. To grow up watching William Shatner on the Enterprise, on the show, and now to see him here, on these sets, in the same environment... It’s amazing to see it and share the moment with so many people, just even from a fan perspective.”
Live on Stage
The weekend concluded with a Live on Stage talk with Shatner in the auditorium at nearby Ticonderoga High School.
Shatner is familiar to the Ticonderoga area, having grown up in Montreal. He recounted a trip as a young man when he joined a eight fellow camp counselors to paddle their war canoe from Montreal to the St. Lawrence River to the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain to Lake George and finally down the Hudson River to NYC. Shatner declared, "I know every inch of this country!"
Ticonderoga is one of his many activities this year. Shatner finished recording a country album this week with one of the founding members of Alabama, Jeff Cook; his book about aging called "Senior Moments" will drop this fall; and Shatner has a Christmas album titled "Shatner Claus" set for release this holiday season.
Shatner heard many stories throughout the weekend about the impact of Star Trek on fans' lives. "It's been an extraordinary experience for me to mingle with you and to hear those awesome stories of the people's lives that have been affected to the degree that they chose professions and ways of living because of some television show. I'm moved beyond words to hear something like that."
Star Trek: The Original Series Set Tour is located at 112 Montcalm Street in Ticonderoga, New York. Go to www.StarTrekTour.com for details and to purchase tickets.