Tim Russ’ Most Infamous Science Fiction Role

Tim Russ

Paramount / MGM Tim Russ in ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Spaceballs’

Fans of “Star Trek” recognize actor Tim Russ first for his iconic role of the Vulcan “Tuvok” on “Star Trek: Voyager.” Russ appeared on seven seasons of “Voyager” as the ship’s loyal and tough security officer. But apparently, according to Russ, the role of Tuvok is not what most members of the public associate him with. 

Fans may know that Russ also appeared on three other versions of “Star Trek.” First, as a mercenary named Devor in a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode “Starship Mine.” Interestingly, this was not the first time Russ tried out for a role on TNG. He was one of the finalists to play Geordi La Forge. That character was instead played by LeVar Burton. 

Some fans might remember this role for Russ, as fans got to see firsthand Picard using the Vulcan neck pinch against Devor. 

Picard and ‘The Pinch’

Next, Russ played the Klingon T’Kar for an episode of “Deep Space Nine.” Again Russ played a mercenary in the episode “Invasive Procedures.” Russ’s character was hired to help steal the Dax symbiont during a plasma storm. 

And finally, Russ appeared as an unnamed Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-B in “Star Trek: Generations.” It was after this when Russ landed the role of Tuvok on “Voyager.” Russ was in the scenes where Kirk (William Shatner) took command of the Enterprise-B when Captain John Harriman (Alan Ruck) seemed overwhelmed.  

Thanks to these roles, Russ did share the record of appearing alongside “Star Trek” captains with Jonathan Frakes (Riker). Russ had been filmed with Kirk, Picard (Patrick Stewart), Sisko (Avery Brooks), and Janeway (Kate Mulgrew). Frakes beat that record when he appeared in “Star Trek: Enterprise” with Scott Bakula (Archer). 

Tim Russ: Musician

Russ’s character on “Generations” was not initially supposed to be a Vulcan. Still, the character was retconned to allow for a more interesting backstory. This link also allowed for “Voyager” to host an episode featuring Tuvok serving aboard the Excelsior with Captain Sulu (George Takei). This was a “backdoor pilot” idea, which would have given the green light to a Sulu series if enough interest was there.  

Since “Voyager,” Russ has been quite busy as an actor and an award-winning director. He’s also a talented musician. Generation Z fans might recognize Russ from his recurring role of Principal Franklin on the show “iCarly.” He’s also appeared on Trek fan productions like “Phase II” and “Requiem.”

Russ is also a noted astronomer who assisted in a NASA mission investigating asteroids. 

Russ’ Most Famous Role

The one part that seems to surprise most everyone when they learn about it is Russ’s one line in “Spaceballs.” For younger fans, “Spaceballs” was a 1987 parody film made by Mel Brooks, which took on “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “2001,” “Jaws,” and several other iconic film franchises. 

Russ appears in a desert scene, where he is quite literally combing the desert. Like this Twitter user, fans who did not make the connection between Russ’s part on “Spaceballs” and “Star Trek” are shocked. Some have “never recovered” after learning that Russ was in “Spaceballs.”

In His Own Words

Russ certainly has had and continues to have a successful career but seems a bit bothered by the notoriety from his “Spaceballs” part. In a video released in 2021, Russ even said so.

“I’ve been acting for 35 years [with] 135 credits on IMDb,” Russ said on the video. “I was in a long-running series — you might remember it. ‘Star Trek.’ But all I’m known for is combing the desert… and saying ‘we ain’t found shit.’”

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