“Thanks for giving me the chance to add something to your site and for the fandom.”
One of my earliest memories was of Kirk’s Enterprise in orbit around a green planet. I cannot remember anything past that (the episode name, what was going on…) because I was there in 1980. TOS was in reruns and fans were between movies but my imagination was captivated and has been ever since.
In the late 80’s ST: TNG premiered and my interest in all things Trek spiked once again. Throughout Jr.high and high school, I was known as “that Star Trek geek. Outside of a few close friends, Star Trek wasn’t seen as such a cultural icon as it is now by teens and growing up in Texas conversations tended to gravitate toward football while I just wanted to know more about the specs of the Defiant, more about Worf’s family and so on.
I dreamed of graduating high school, moving to California, and hanging out on the Paramount lot until I got a part on DS9. Needless to say, that dream never panned out, but in 1991 I found out about the fan club Starfleet which brought about a version of my dream. I joined Starfleet and found a chapter not too far from me. The U.S.S. Joshua based in Irving Texas.
I went to a meeting and immediately felt like part of a bigger family. Shortly after joining I found out the group was performing a play at an upcoming summer convention. Because of my height, I was cast as Worf. I was a bit concerned because I did not have a Next Gen uniform and because I am much lighter skinned than the character but I was quickly introduced to makeup.
Galaxy Fair 91 would have us perform “The Silence of the Romulans” live both days of the weekend event. The Joshua had a table set up at the convention to promote the play and get new members which were all cool…then I found out our table was right next to Majel Barret Roddenberry’s table, and that she’d be in the audience for our play. Talk about stage fright spiking but the show went on and she (along with everyone else) enjoyed it. We had some fans film the live play but this was way before YouTube so distribution was on VHS tapes, as far as I know, based on my searches sadly it’s not online anywhere.
That play fed my desire to be a Trek actor for a long time. It was sometime around 2007-08 that I found there were fan films online. I was immediately hooked. Some had great effects but so-so acting, for some the reverse was true. Some hit it out of the park on all fronts and some were not so great but the one thing they all had was heart. Everyone on my phone screen, while the videos played, was there because they love Star Trek. The passion came through even in the least of the productions. It was amazing to see Kirk and crew once again traveling the galaxy, getting to finish some of the tales that had been on hiatus for 40+ years.
I followed some of these productions online through their different media channels. I found the group Promenade and became friends with Vance Major. I found out he was involved in some fan productions and that there were recreations of some of the TOS sets in Oklahoma City (about a 3-hour drive from where I live) I was amazed.
Here was a chance to one day possibly tour the sets because it was much closer to home than the other sets in the USA. I followed online the events of the productions being filmed there. In 2015 (before all the guidelines), they were doing a fundraiser for the studio to help build new sets and defray the cost of filming. One of the perks was to be a background non-speaking character in an upcoming production.
My eyes lit up and I practically begged my wife to let me donate. She knew this was a lifelong dream of mine and she said yes. I was hoping for a part on Valiant because I had seen their episode and thought that Michael King and Vance Major nailed it, creating an awesome story. Vance messaged me and said my background role would be in Melbourne, a new fan production of his and his friend Jeremy Minard’s creation. I was excited beyond words. Just being able to stand on the bridge in uniform in a film…my inner Trek geek went into overdrive.
“I was so excited every public piece of information every picture that Vance or Jeremy shared to promote Melbourne I shared. I was an unofficial extra source of promotion for their production.”
In July of 2016, I got a message from Vance asking me for a picture. I thought it was weird but I sent him one, he immediately messaged me back asking for my phone number. Again, I thought it was odd but I figured it had something to do with my background role in Melbourne.
He called me and let me know he appreciated how much I was helping promote Melbourne. I was honoured that he would reach out like that… then came the shock of my life. He told me he had been talking to Ray Tesi, who was creating his own fan film Republic. Because of the guidelines, the person who was originally planned to play the doctor on Republic had to back out and if I was interested, the part could be mine. I was so shocked and amazed; if I had not already been sitting, I am sure I would have fallen right over from excitement.
My nerves went into overdrive and I was shaking from the excitement. I told him I’d have to check with my wife to make sure we could afford to make the commitment to film but I was 95% sure she’d be OK with it. The few hours of me, waiting for her to go on lunch break at her job so I could ask her was agony. Lol, I was still shaking and talking a mile a minute when she was on break and called me to tell me she would help me make my dream come true. I messaged Vance back after her break ended and let him know that he found the Republic’s CMO. I am not sure how much sleep I got that night from all the excitement. A few days later, I got to talk to Ray more about the role and character and the waves of excitement and nervousness came back but he’s so calming, I could hear the excitement in his voice that his vision of Gene Roddenberry’s future was coming together.
My character has a small crossover with Melbourne due to his daughter being assigned to that ship so I had to come up during their filming in September to get my part in. I arrived at the studio, excited but nervous because my dream is coming true but I had never met any of these folks in person. I walked in the door, signed in, and was asked whom I was playing. I said I am Dr.Todd and almost immediately, Reshelle Warren comes running up to me, jumping into my arms and excitedly squealing “Daddy” completely in character. I was surprised because I wasn’t thinking in character yet because everyone else has already been on set, I was the newest member but I was greeted like I’d been there the whole time. It was already feeling like a family and I was the out of town cousin that had been missed.
In October (3 days ago as I am writing this), I made the trip back to OKC, this time for promotional pictures and to film the teaser for Republic. The nerves came back home because I was meeting this cast for the first time but I also felt calm. I had been there before, on set, I had seen the long hours that go into making a film; I had seen the amazing work behind the scenes by people like Scott Johnson. This time the excitement came back but it was also with a big sense of calm. I got to meet more folks who worked in other fan films like Jim van Dolteren (from The Federation Files) as the captain of the Republic.
My journey from a fan, to fan film extra, to fan film actor, has been a long one. I am proud to work with such talented folks both in front of and behind the camera. My only hope is that my love for Trek can show through and that I honour all the past, present, and future fans and dedicated people who bring this amazing universe to life. Always follow your dreams; they could lead you to places you never imagined you would go.
» Video media: YouTube (Videos link directly to sources) Images: CBS/Paramount, Martin Bennet