On Oct. 3, 2001, the latest series in the ultra-popular STAR TREK franchise, ENTERPRISE, will debut on the UPN with a 13 episode commitment. Chronicling the adventures of his fledgling crew as he ushers mankind out into space for the first time the series is set 100 years before the now-classic escapades of Kirk, Spock and McCoy the S.S. Enterprise is helmed by Captain Jonathan Archer, played by Scott Bakula.
No stranger to genre television, Bakula boldly goes where no other Starfleet captain (take into account the series predates the Federation) has gone before. Basing the show less on the regality and high technology established in THE NEXT GENERATION et al and more on the newness and subsequent comedy of space exploration in its infancy, the ship's skipper utilizes a familiar metaphor to describe the universe at this stage in the game.
"What's kind of exciting about all of this is that it's the Wild West," says Bakula. "My character and the ship are taking Earth into the universe. How we do that, how we present ourselves, and the mistakes that we make he's a very fallible kind of captain makes [the series] really exciting."
Going into a further, non-spoiler filled explanation of the pilot, Bakula sets up the crew, ship and technology they employ.
"We're actually going on a mission, and I refuse to say too much about the pilot," says Bakula. "But what's limited us [from space exploration in the past] is warp capacity. We've been working on this engine, which my father has been working on in conjunction with the Vulcans for a good 50 years, and we're finally able to achieve a warp speed that will allow us to really travel. It's more about finally having a capacity to really go out and get into entirely different solar systems that we did not have before. That's the big jump-off here. We're 100 years before Kirk, so there's no Federation, no rules and there's nobody out there that you can complain to."
One of the staples of the franchise has become the wide array of alien creatures inhabiting the STAR TREK universe. Sharing the experiences of this first starship crew, audiences will recognize a number of species they encounter, while others may seem a bit unfamiliar.
"I think it's pretty common knowledge that the Klingons are around," says Bakula of the warlike creatures. "I've stood toe-to-toe with a Klingon screaming and spitting in my face with a knife to my throat. The doctor is also non-human and I couldn't tell you what he is because I don't know. But he is a wonderful character that John Billingsley has created. He's just kind of a light-hearted, carefree guy. He'll say stuff that's just kind of out of left field. He is not a person known to me at all before we take off. So we're just kind of finding him, but he's wonderfully gifted; he's a little bit of a mad scientist. And then, besides the Vulcans, the other aliens are brand-new so far."
Assigned to watch over the fledgling human space explorers is Sub Commander T'Pol, a Vulcan science officer. Unlike her half-breed successor, Spock, T'Pol is a full Vulcan, bringing with her all the logical and standoffish qualities associated with the species. As such, Bakula's Archer has a rather tentative relationship with his first officer.
"Well, the big dynamic is I have a female Vulcan science officer and my character is not fond of Vulcans," says Bakula. "He never has been, so we cross purposes a lot. Also being a pretty emotional fellow, her rational approach really bugs me. I say some pretty harsh things in the pilot about Vulcans and to a Vulcan's face, but this is what's great about this character he has a place to go. He has some preconceived notions that are not all pretty. Because the pilot's very grounded on Earth, there's a great sense of where he comes from, his history and why he feels the way he feels about them."
While every series has its gimmick TNG had the holodeck; DS9 had the armed-to-the-teeth Defiant; VOYAGER had a Borg crew member ENTERPRISE will incorporate the genesis of many STAR TREK staples audiences have come to love over the years.
"There are elements in the pilot and in the first couple of episodes that will be fun for STAR TREK fans because you will see the genesis of things we've all come to know and expect and we immediately relate to as STAR TREK," says Bakula. "But we don't have them yet, so we're working on them. We don't have phasers; we don't have photon torpedoes; we have the stuff before that. It'll be new stuff and it'll be great for everyone. All the design units and teams are getting to do everything from the beginning. So they're getting to say, 'What do the shots or bullets that come out of our phase pistols look like?' They get to make everything look different again."
One of the firsts introduced will be standard-issue Star Fleet uniforms. While the crew will be spending more time outside of their uniforms than in them expect to see blue jeans and baseball caps as the norm there will be a shared attire that links all of the series together.
"Yeah, we have a uniform, but we're not going to be in spandex," quips Bakula. "These aren't real forgiving suits -- they're more like jump suits. They're made out of cotton and they've been through the wash a few times. They spent a lot of time with the submarine people; they have that feel of what it might be like. [But the big thing is] we have pockets!"
As for the S.S. Enterprise and the technology it employs to travel through space, expect the above-mentioned differences to look all too familiar.
"We have windows and portholes, but [the effects are] done in different ways," says Bakula. "We have star fields and we drop out of warp and move at impulse power, etc. How they do what's outside our windows I'm assuming is going to be different than what we've seen in the past, but I don't know. I haven't seen anything yet. We have around 68 to 70 people [on the crew]. So it's a very small ship. The idea again is that it's much more of a submarine feel to it. I don't know whether we can expand on that, but the ship is smaller than Kirk's and you're bumping your head on stuff. It's a great feel to it. It doesn't feel cramped, but you're definitely in a small ship."
And inevitably, every STAR TREK series incorporates the concept of time travel. While series creator Brannon Braga has already confirmed the presence of an alien antagonist who takes his cue from the future, Bakula is unclear on the extent and nature of time travel to the overall plot.
"Rick [Berman] was asked a question about whether any crews from the future would land [in this series] and he didn't rule that out," says Bakula. "There's a reference in the pilot to the future, but that's a whole other subplot thing that has yet to be explained to me, which is actually kind of neat because I'm learning as the character goes along what's out there. I'm encountering the bad guys for the first time and don't know them and what they are and where they're from and why they're behaving the way they are and then they're gone. But we always assume they'll be back."