Starbase Indy guest stunt star discusses thrills, falls

When one sees a current picture of Sandy Gimpel, it’s hard to believe she was once one of the scariest creatures in science fiction history.

A fourth degree black belt holder who has been a karate instructor,

Sandy Gimpel is fourth degree black belt holder.
Sandy Gimpel is fourth degree black belt holder.

Gimpel is an actress, stunt person and stand-in. She will be one of the guests Thanksgiving weekend at Starbase Indy at Wyndham Indianapolis West.

Gimpel appeared in the first Star Trek pilot and then, more famously, was the salt creature in the first episode of Star Trek that NBC broadcast 50 years ago.

This year’s Starbase Indy will have a representative of each Star Trek television series, including Gimpel. It will be her first trip to Starbase Indy, she said.

In “The Man Trap,” the first aired episode of the of the original series, Gimpel is the M-113 creature, more commonly referred to as the “salt vampire.” The creature could change its shape to appear as anybody, but in its natural form was the “salt vampire, which Gimpel suited up to play.

In an interview, Gimpel said her involvement with Star Trek began because she “was a dancer and got a call from central casting to go on an audition for the show to work in costume because I could move well and got the job.”

Gimpel’s first Star Trek part was as a Talosian in “The Cage,” creator Gene Roddenberry’s first Star Trek pilot. NBC rejected it, but “The Cage” was later incorporated into the first-season, two-episode “Menagerie.”
It has been 50 years since the first episodes aired and after three seasons it was canceled despite efforts by its fans. But Star Trek wasn’t due to just fade away.

“I had no idea that Star Trek would become so great,” she said. “We just work, go in and do our job and go home, never thinking ‘OMG I just worked on an amazing show.’”

Despite going where no one had gone before, she didn’t appear at her first Star Trek-related convention until this year.

“Actually, the 50th anniversary convention in Las Vegas last August was the first one I have ever been at as a guest or visitor,” Gimpel said.

According to, Gimpel has 115 stunt performer/coordinator credits and 34 credits as an actress in what is still a very active career. It is one role, however, that fans want to know about.

The M113 creature also known as the "salt vampire"
The M113 creature also known as the “salt vampire”

“Most of the questions are about the salt vampire costume and was it hot or heavy to wear,” she said. “The fans are incredible, so nice and amazing to talk with. They are so interested in what I do for a living and very gracious.”

At Starbase Indy, she will be signing pictures for fans and taking pictures with fans. She’s also scheduled to participate on several panels where she’ll talk about the salt vampire and the Talosian characters.

Recently, Gimpel has appeared in an “Agent Carter” episode and has a stunt involvement in the soon-to-be-released “Why Him” film, which stars Zoey Duetch, Bryan Cranston and James Franco. She’s also working on a Disney television show and other TV shows.

In some fans’ minds, “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space” were competing science fiction shows, but she appeared in “Lost in Space” first. And that’s where her stunt acting career began.

“I went on an audition to stand in for Bill Mumy on ‘Lost in Space’ and because of my dance background, they asked if I would like to do the stunts for him, if I would go to the gym and train with stunt coordinator Paul Stater three days week.

“Of course, I said yes and did the show for 2-1/2 years and have never stopped doing stunts since.”

Stunt working can be quite hazardous, but she hasn’t suffered major injuries, she said.

“I have been very blessed not to have major injuries, only a couple of broken ribs and ACL replaced on my knee,” she said. “Cuts and bruises don’t count.”

Asked if she prefers acting or stunt work, she said she loves doing stunts, but has been “very blessed lately to be able to do the stunt acting role along with the stunt.”

Sandy Gimpel
Sandy Gimpel

In addition to “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space,” Gimpel has been involved as an actress or stunt performer in a long list of shows including “Airplane,” the original “Battlestar Galactica,” “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” “The Truman Show,” “My Name is Earl,” “The Bionic Woman,” “Criminal Minds,” “Reno 911,” “CSI” and “Six Feet Under.” This year’s Starbase Indy will have a representative of each Star Trek television series, including Gimpel.

“I think the Girl Scout fights in Airplane may top them all as an acting and stunt role,” she said. “I can’t forget the live event for the BAFTA (British Academy Film and Television Arts) Awards with Sasha Baron Cohen and him pushing me off the stage in a wheel chair in front of every big actor in the business and no one knew it was no one knew it was not real.”

For more information about Starbase Indy, go to



Halloween film fest ideas

Stars treking to Starbase Indy

It is less than a month before the annual Thanksgiving weekend Starbase Indy and this year’s lineup of guests is quite impressive.

The guests scheduled to appear include actors Dominic Keating dominic-keatingof Star Trek Enterprise, Garrett Wang of Star Trek Voyager, Chase Masterson of Star Trek Deep Space, Klingon language inventor Marc Okrand, author Larry Nemecek, intergalactic host Moxie Anne Magnus and the bands Five Year Mission and the Yavin 4.

The con is Nov. 25-27 at Wyndham Indianapolis West, 2544 Executive Drive, Indianapolis.

For more information, go to

Westworld offers graphic android adventure

The new Westworld series on HBO is an artfully done, but graphic look at a resort where the fun is about robotic shoot ‘em ups and intimate pleasures and then what happens when things start to go wrong.

This 10-part first season follows Michael Crichton’s 1973 “Westworld” and 1976 “Futureworld” movies and the short-lived 1980 “Beyond Futureworld” series.

This new incarnation is just for adults, much more graphically violent and erotic than the previous movies and TV show.

The 10-part, first season series has two big name starts in Ed Harris, who is the mysterious “Man in Black,” and Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford, who created the fantasy resort decades ago.westworld-photo-2

The other lead roles, however, are Evan Rachel Wood as android Dolores Abernathy, Thandie Newton as an android Old West “dance hall girl,” Jeffrey Wright as a programmer, and Sidse Babett Knudsen as an executive who has a secret relationship with the programmer.

As usual, HBO’s producers and directors have done a masterful job in putting this series together. There is what we have come to expect in westerns, too, with a rowdy saloon, a dusty main drag, wanted posters and gorgeous scenery outside the town.

The show quickly introduces us to wealthy fun seekers who are either seeking the “thrill” of killing androids and intimate pleasures without facing any consequences, just a big bill. The androids include a farmer, the pure farmer’s daughter, sheriffs, gun slingers, gamblers, and bartenders. The human counterparts are the resort’s executives, programmers and android builder/repair people, and the tourists who have a variety of aspirations while on vacation including being a hero, a murderous villain, having intimate encounters and just enjoying the beautiful wild west vistas.

The twist is, however, that not everything is the way it is supposed to be. Westworld’s co-founder died years earlier, according to Ford. And the androids are behaving oddly in some cases, not the way they were programmed.westworld-photo-3

Of course, the essential truth is no imperfect creature, i.e. any human, can create a perfect being.

The series is a brilliantly done science fiction tale, but if you are turned off by lots of flood and erotic scenes this show isn’t for you. It will be interesting, however, to say what the next six episodes bring.

The fifth episode on HBO will premiere at 9 p.m. Sunday with lots of opportunities to watch it over the next few months on the various HBO channels and elsewhere.westworld-photo-1


Poetry for the Doctor

If you think there’s a shortage of poetry about Doctor Who, author James Wylder may have created just what you want.

If you think there’s a shortage of poetry about Doctor Who, author James Wylder may have created just what you want.

Wylder is the author of “An Eloquence of Space and Time.” The book provides a poem for each episode of Doctor Who from 1963 through 2013, the 50th anniversary of the series, about the man who travels in time and space with companions in a blue box.

Wylder recently had a poetry reading and autograph session at the Who North America store in Camby, just north of the Morgan County line.

A Hanover College graduate who teaches high school English part-time in Elkhart when he isn’t writing, the 26-year-old author decided he wanted to do something special for the 50th anniversary of the BBC series, which first aired the weekend after President Kennedy was assassinated.

The poems cover the episodes of all the Doctors, from William Hartnell in 1963 to Matt Smith in 2013. Peter Capaldi became the Doctor after Smith. Although some of the episodes of the early Doctor have been lost after the BBC erased them, Wylder even has poems for the missing episodes.

“All are available on audio,” Wylder said.

It took a full-year for Wylder to complete the book. It also includes poems related to the Sarah Jane Chronicles, K-9 and Torchwood spinoffs, a short story by Wylder and essays by several authors.


Wylder began watching Doctor Who episodes when he was 3-years-old. Paul McGann, who was only featured in a single movie, became a particular favorite. He has met McGann, Matt Smith, Colin Baker and several of the Doctor’s companions.

Wylder hasn’t traveled to Great Britain to promote his book, but has traveled to Canada.

“Mostly, people are joyful that the book exists,” the author said. “When I go to more metropolitan areas, they are less surprised.”

What has drawn the most joy has been the poem about the “Vincent (van Gogh) and the Doctor.’ In that episode, the Doctor convinces the artist of the value of his work, even though he wouldn’t profit it from it in his lifetime.

“It (the episode) means a lot to me and other people,” Wylder said. “I know it kept a lot of people from killing themselves.”

In addition to the Doctor Who poetry book, Wylder has written other poetry books, a play, a novella and a science fiction novel.

Wylder’s appearance at the store was one of several activities the Who North America shop, 8901 S. Ind. 67, has scheduled for this month. A “Doctober Fest” fall festival is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 29. It will include a Doctor Who look-a-like contest, a jack-o-lantern contest, face painting, carnival games and other activities.


Barrowman, Lee coming to Comic Expo in Cincy

If you are interested in possibly meeting John Barrowman, the former star of Torchwood, you may have that opportunity Sept. 23-25 at Cincinnati Comic Expo in the Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Cincinnati.

Barrowman is one of several significant guests with SF and fantasy backgrounds scheduled to be at the three-day event. Adam Baldwin of Chuck and Firefly, Billy Dee Williams as well as Peter Mayhew,

Chewbacca and Peter Mayhew
Chewbacca and Peter Mayhew

Ray Park and David Prowse of Star Wars are on the guest list.

Stan Lee at 2012 Dragon Con parade.

The headliner among the guests, however, is scheduled to be 93-year-old Stan Lee, the writer and genius behind many of Marvel’s comic creations. The event is being billed as the “Final Midwest Signing by Stan Lee.”

If you can’t make it to Cincy, I will be bringing reports back.

For more information about the expo, go to