Saturday, February 2, 2008

James Cawley on the Set of Star Trek

By Gillian Weisgram

James Cawley has been an opponent of Star Trek XI for a very long time now, so when he recently began to speak out in favor, it raised a lot of eyebrows in the Trek community. In a recent interview with, Cawley reported on his feelings now that he has had a chance to see Abrams in action - and it completely changed his mind.

Cawley has come to Trekkie fame as the Exectuive Producer of Star Trek: The New Voyages. A self-proclaimed purist, Cawley's objections have revolved around the fact that it won't be the same. The sets and costumes and actors won't be the same. This is an oft-repeated theme among doomsayers like Cawley, who feel that the spirit of Star Trek will not be respected.

Cawley was walking through the Paramount lot with a friend when a chance encounter with J.J. Abrams led to him being invited into the ultra high security set of Star Trek. Sitting next to J.J. at the monitor, he found himself asked his opinion of the sets, the costumes, and the filming, as well as being given a small role on the movie.

The main concerns Cawley had had to do with his being a "purist", or "someone who's...extremely devoted to the original show". As such, he was concerned about the idea of the designs of the Enterprise changing at all, as evidenced by the amazing accuracy of New Voyages, right down to the braid on Kirk's sleeve. So redesigning the Enterprise, even a little, was just too much for him to contemplate.

All that changed when Cawley was walking across the Paramount lot with a friend and decided to stroll by Studios 8 and 9 where the movie is being filmed. J.J. Abrams was driving somewhere in a golf cart when he recognized Cawley (Cool Thing #1: JJ knows James Cawley on sight!) and invited him to return to the stage to watch the filming later in the day. (Cool Thing #2: JJ scores big PR points yesss!)

Returning to the set, Cawley found himself seated next to JJ himself at the monitor, watching as the movie was being filmed and asked for his opinion about the shooting. (Cool Thing #3: Ask the expert!)

Cawley describes JJ as down-to-Earth, normal, and "genuinely nice", a quality that seems to have eluded several previous Star Trek directors (If I named them, that would be slander). "To experience his generosity and his humor," said Cawley, "was the best of all." Cawley left the set with an invitation to return any time and a role as a Starfleet officer in the movie - details as yet unknown.

One of the first things Cawley noticed was how much attention had been paid to the sets and costumes. While the sets were not exactly what he would have done, he said, they were nonetheless impressive and the costumes were "perfect". Also, Cawley believes JJ "gets" Star Trek, :"Dude, let me tell you, I had a long conversation with JJ - we were on the set again today for another four and a half hours and one of the conversations I had with JJ was his feelings about Star Trek. And that's what absolutely sold me on J.J. Abrams and Star Trek was that he said how much he believes in the philosophy of Gene Roddenberry, the humanity, and the message that the original series delivered. That's his focus."

This statement changed Cawley's perception of that ever-elusive continuity. "It doesn't matter if the set is perfect if the heart is there. And he's got it."

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You can also watch the entire interview at