TICONDEROGA — Fans of "Star Trek" — the space-faring television and movie franchise — should mark their calendars for stardate 71804.5.
For more terrestrial observers, that's Friday, May 4, 2018 — and it's the first day William Shatner will attend Star Trek: The Original Series Set Tour, in Ticonderoga. Shatner's visit will take place over two consecutive days, according to a prepared statement announcing the appearance.
Shatner played bold Capt. James T. Kirk from the 1960s into the early 1990s. During the two-day appearance, Shatner will sign autographs, pose for photos and participate in a question-and-answer session.
At 86, Shatner keeps busy on the conference circuit. He'll be at the London Comic Con in London, Ontario, on Friday and has been booked at the Rhode Island and Manchester, U.K., conferences in November and December, respectively.
"We've been trying to book him for about a year to get him up here," said James Cawley, who runs the Original Series Set Tour and announced the visit on Tuesday. "He is extremely busy and he's booked months and months and months in advance either with a TV project or a touring thing, so it's been very difficult to find a window into his schedule."
On May 4, Shatner will participate in meet-and-greet with fans on the replicated sets. For Saturday, May 5, the actor will participate in a Q-and-A in the 600-seat auditorium of Ticonderoga High School.
The top ticket will be $860 for the Friday night session with the captain, 50 people only. A photo with Shatner will cost $160; an autograph will be $80.
In recent years, the Ticonderoga area has been a paradise for hardcore "Star Trek" fans. Each summer, beginning around 2003, they gathered in Port Henry to act, build sets and produce computer effects in the fan-created "Star Trek New Voyages" web series. The series was first known as "Star Trek: Phase II."
The "New Voyages'" mission was a simple one — create the missing two years from the original five-year mission initiated by Jim Kirk's starship Enterprise. The length of the mission was mentioned during every "Star Trek" intro, from its debut on September 1966 until the show's cancellation after three seasons in 1969.
"Star Trek" superfan Cawley was the prime mover for "New Voyages." He built near-exact duplicate sets of the Enterprise bridge, transporter room and sick bay and moved the production to a former car dealership in Port Henry. Costumes were based on the original series' designs.
Cawley, also a regional Elvis impersonator, portrayed Kirk in eight web episodes. Professional actor Bryan Gross eventually took over the role.
The "Star Trek" crew moved out of Port Henry in 2013 and took sets and design plans to a former supermarket building in Ticonderoga. With 13,000 square feet, the Adirondacks "Star Trek" team had plenty of space for just about all the ship's sets.
"We have the briefing room, transporter room, corridors, sick bay, lab, examination room, quarters, engineering, bridge," Cawley said. "And we have a full gift shop, the whole nine yards."
"Star Trek" fans from all over the country, with help from international aficionados, worked on the fan shows. TV show regulars Walter Koenig and George Takei — who played navigators Pavel Checkov and Hikaru Sulu, respectively — have previously traveled to Ticonderoga to reprise their original roles.
Tobias Richter, whose German company specializes in computer-generated imagery, also joined the "New Voyages" team.
A total of 11 episodes have been presented online at www.stnv.de or via YouTube. Two episodes have not been shown. One of them, "Bread and Savagery," was in production when The Daily Gazette interviewed Cawley and members of his crew during the summer of 2012.
The series came to an end, according to the "New Voyages" website, when CBS, which owns the "Star Trek" franchise and recently launched the latest incarnation of the series, "Star Trek: Discovery," released new fan film guidelines that effectively shut down the upstate production.
One rule was always in place for any fan-created show from any network: Nobody could make a profit.
"It was decided to close 'Star Trek New Voyages' and concentrate on presenting our sets to the public as 'The Star Trek Original Series Set Tour' under license from CBS," reads a statement on the "New Voyages" website.
Cawley said 4,000 people visited the set tour this past summer, the first full summer in operation. He does not miss putting on Kirk's gold, star-emblazoned tunic, and does not miss the production work.
"I'm enjoying this so much more because now it's not a private boys' club," Cawley said. "The fans are coming from all over and we get to meet so many more people."
Tickets for the Shatner appearance can be purchased online at startrek.com.