Jolene Blalock (right) guest-stars on 10 Items or Less with regulars (from left) Kirsten Gronfield, John Lehr and Christopher Liam Moore
Betcha didn't know that Jolene Blalock acted in Star Trok.
No, that's not a typo.
Blalock, who played the comely Vulcan T'Pol on Star Trek Enterprise, guest-stars as herself in "Star Trok," an upcoming episode of the TBS improv comedy series 10 Items or Less. John Lehr stars on the show as Leslie Pool, a dopey guy who runs an Ohio grocery store left to him by his late father, and in the episode—which will air at 11 p.m. ET on Jan. 20—Pool runs into trouble when he tries to hold a Star Trek convention at his Greens & Grains market.
SCI FI Wire spoke to Lehr, who was the original Geico caveman and is the writer/star/executive producer of 10 Items or Less, about the "Star Trok" episode and working with Blalock. Following are edited excerpts of that exclusive interview.
We know the basic setup of the episode, but give us some additional details.
Lehr: We've had lots of references to Star Trek over the past couple of seasons. We actually did a Star Wars homage show last year called "Amy Strikes Back," where the evil manager from across the street kind of turns Leslie into a Sith grocery store manager. This year we really wanted to do something with Star Trek. So we have Leslie try to host a Star Trek convention in the store. Yes, he's a Star Trek fan, but he could have some other motives, like getting all these Trekkies to come to his store and buy groceries. He gets a cease-and-desist letter from Paramount Pictures basically saying you can't use the Star Trek name. And he realizes that he can change everything just enough to make it legally possibly to still have a Star Trek convention. So he has a "Star Trok" convention, and he changes everything just enough. Instead of Klingons, there are Blingons. Instead of phasers, there are pasers. He sends out press releases to all the Star Trek actors, and Jolene Blalock comes to the store thinking that this is a Star Trek convention. And she finds out that she's been bamboozled.
You guys are known for improvising on the set. How into that was Blalock?
Lehr: We were a little worried, because people who come onto our set without knowing what it's all about are really surprised. It can be a little scary, but she was awesome. She totally came through. She kicked butt and had a great time. She was really good, and she's really funny in the episode.
Star Trek has been spoofed before, as have the fans and the conventions. Would you say "Star Trok" is a spoof, or no?
Lehr: Saturday Night Live, when they spoofed Star Trek, they were really making fun of Star Trek, of the Trekkies. Our show is populated by a lot of nerds already, so I think we're not really spoofing them. We're wanting to be a part of them, in a way. Jolene shows up, and we're really excited that she's there, and I think that's the reason Jolene was willing to do it. These other characters are running around like, "Oh, my God, it's Jolene Blalock!", and they truly are thrilled. So I think it's done with a lot of love. I don't think Trekkies will be upset. The people who are creating the comedy are Trekkies themselves.
You're a fan, then?
Lehr: Heck, yeah, man. That's where it all comes. It's such a part of my growing up. I'm old school. I like Kirk and the [original series] movies. But Nancy Hower, who's my partner, the other exec producer and directs all the shows, she was actually on Star Trek: Voyager. She was a recurring character [as Ensign Samantha Wildman] on Voyager for a couple of seasons. And two of our other actors also appeared on Star Trek: Bob Clendenin [who was a Vidiian surgeon on Voyager] and Christopher Liam Moore [who was a Varro alien on Voyager]. So there's a lot of cross-connection going on.
So did Paramount ever send you a cease-and-desist order about this episode?
Lehr: We have not heard from them, and we air on Tuesday, so let's see what happens. But, boy, I'll tell you it was cleared by a million lawyers at TBS and Sony. It was really a nightmare in terms of making sure that we were falling in the lines. But, I think, even if we did cross some lines, that Paramount would be fine with it because we're fans. It's not at the expense of Star Trek. It's more, in a weird, nerdy way, celebrating Star Trek.