It’s back to basics for The Franchise, as we prepare for the launch of Star Trek’s fifth incarnation, Enterprise

Boldly Beginning Enterprise: Scott Bakula pic  ABC (look, it's from Netforce - we've never said it was an Enterprise picture)

See also Kate Mulgrew on Voyager's Endgame here

Text by James Brooks

Selected from Starburst #275

It was a foregone conclusion that there would be a fifth series, but what would it be? Once a pitch was accepted by Paramount, rumors flew that the new series would not be a sequel – as the others had – but a prequel. It was to be set before the ‘past events’ depicted in the TNG movie First Contact and – reflecting the modern Trek predilection for Time travel stories – would have a villain who had some kind of Time travel ability.

For a long time, that was the extent of the information available outside the gates at 5555 Melrose Avenue, but things began to heat up in May when it was confirmed that Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula was in talks to star in the new series, still unnamed. In quick order after that, we began to find that the premise really was a prequel, set 150 years before the time of James T. Kirk and the NCC-1701 Enterprise. Oh… and the show now had a name – Enterprise.

Although details are still sketchy, there is actually a great deal out there about the new series, enough to give an idea of the flavour Berman and Braga are aiming for as well as the challenges they will face trying to achieve it. Rick Berman has said in many interviews that Enterprise will owe little to The Original Series besides a ‘historical’ link, but the series concept seems to contradict that. By placing it so early in the Star Trek continuity, the new show is deliberately a throwback to a more dramatic approach and characters. Indeed, the character sketches released in casting calls very heavily bring to mind the original Star Trek.

Bakula’s character, Jonathan (‘Jackson’ in earlier versions) Archer, is described as an explorer with a sense of wonder who isn’t afraid to go against his orders if necessary to do the right thing. Reflecting the realization that flawed characters translate into more drama than perfect ones, Archer carries a healthy mistrust for humanity’s new partners, the Vulcans, believing them to be a barrier to Earth’s quick expansion into the unknown. A continuing tension comes from the fact that his first officer is Vulcan, forcing him to try to reconcile and even reconsider those suspicions. Like Jim Kirk, Archer cuts a large figure while still maintaining the kind of leadership that is strong without being aloof or autocratic, inspiring tremendous loyalty in his crew.

A strong presence in hour-long drama, and certainly no stranger to the Science Fiction genre, Bakula is rumoured to have had discussions before signing that deal him in as a creative partner. Combined with his strong ideas on what makes good drama – and, thus, good Star Trek as well – this latest series stands a better chance of fulfilling Star Trek’s promise than any of the other shows that came after The Original Series.

Broken Bow

As the Enterprise waits in Earth orbit to begin its first mission, a Klingon ship crash lands below. Recovered from the vessel is a single pilot, so badly injured that he hovers near death.

When the question of what to do with the Klingon is raised, there is immediate conflict between the humans and their new partners, the Vulcans. Earth wants to return the Klingon to his homeworld while the Vulcans are more cautions, fearing the possibility of a major incident.

The humans prevail and Captain Jonathan Archer takes command of the Enterprise, with a crew that includes a Vulcan science officer named T’Pol, whose other function is to try to prevent dangerously impulsive behaviour of the human crew – especially its captain.

Archer sets out with the noble purpose of returning the Klingon to his home, setting in motion a wave of repercussion felt until the end of the Enterprise-A’s mission decades later.

Starburst #275More details on the background, cast and crew of Enterprise in this issue. Read on by getting Starburst #275. See also our TV Zone Special #41: Farewell to Voyager, already published

Images ©Paramount
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction