James Cawley is a 50 year old Elvis impersonator from Ticonderoga, NY; his friend William Ware Theiss was costume-designer for the original Star Trek series, and left Cawley the blueprints for the original Star Trek Enterprise sets in his will — so Cawley rented out a 13,000 sqft shuttered supermarket and built an exquisite replica of the original there to use in elaborate fan-films, and now he gives one-hour tours.
When I was a kid, I used to shop at Toronto's Mr Gameways Ark, a huge, multi-storey games store with a replica bridge in its attic (they had gaming tournaments there!) and I have had literal dreams of recreating it some day. Cawley is living that dream.
In 2003, Cawley and his friends launched their own version of the Original Series, releasing full-length episodes online. Cawley starred as Kirk early on; later, professional actors got involved, including George Takei and Walter Koenig. They made 11 episodes before CBS, the rights holder, instituted new guidelines prohibiting that kind of fan-film. But the company granted Cawley permission to open his set to the public.
Cawley leased the 13,000-square-foot former grocery and dollar store three years ago, and has been boldly welcoming visitors since August. "I thought, why does it have to be an exclusive boys' club? Why can't we share it with every Star Trek fan?" Cawley says. His hour-long Star Trek Original Series Set Tour feels less like actually being on the Enterprise and more like getting a backstage pass to Desilu Studios, where the original was shot. (Do you love Lucy? You should; Lucille Ball—the "lu" in Desilu—was an early Trek champion.) Visitors can sit in Captain Kirk's chair and punch buttons just like William Shatner did 60 years ago, or perhaps gaze into Spock's scanner and search for signs of life. Everyone has to make that decision at some point.
Boldly Go to Upstate New York to Board the USS Enterprise [Charley Locke/Wired]
(Images: Maggie Shannon/Wired)