Scott Bakula was already familiar to television audiences as Dr. Sam Beckett, the time-traveling do-gooder he played for five seasons on the NBC series “Quantum Leap,” when he won the role of Capt. Jonathan Archer, commander of the first Warp 5 starship, in 2001 for the new show “Star Trek: Enterprise.” It was a role he played for four seasons until the series was canceled in 2005, and it placed him in the fairly elite ranks of actors to wear a captain’s uniform on a “Star Trek” television series, though he hasn’t become as indelibly identified with Archer as, say, William Shatner has with James. T. Kirk (apologies to Chris Pine).
As the first season of “Enterprise” comes to Blu-ray, Bakula spoke to Hero Complex about the character, his memories of the series and what, if anything, might prompt an “Enterprise” reunion. “Veronica Mars”-style Kickstarter campaign, anyone?
HC: You’re unique among the “Star Trek” captains in that you were well-known to U.S. audiences before you took the role. Did that have any effect when you were deciding to take the part?
SB: It did, to a certain extent. I was sold on the part when they told me it was 100 years before Kirk. But the fact that I’d done “Quantum Leap” and I have a certain level of notoriety from other things that I’ve done — I felt like I wasn’t going to fall into a “this is the defining moment of my career” kind of situation. Not that the other folks didn’t have careers, but people knew me from a lot of other things. So I was comfortable taking it on. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be known as the captain of a starship for the rest of your life, so it became a non-issue pretty quickly for me.
HC: When you step into a franchise that has such a devoted fanbase, did you second-guess any of your choices in creating the character?
SB: What I’ve found, and I’ve done a few sci-fi things, the awareness of that is important only in that it pushes me to make better choices, more interesting choices, to make sure pieces line up. You get in the most trouble in sci-fi and fantasy when you start contradicting yourself in story and plot and themes. People are like, “You can’t change it like that. That’s BS, I’m out.” The fans encourage the creators to be better. I think there’s nothing wrong with that.
HC: How strange was it to be making and promoting a science-fiction show in the aftermath of 9/11? What are your memories of that time?
SB: Most of my memories of that time are about what happened in reality after the event that summer, the real reality of what happened compared to launching a TV show. I’ll never forget showing up the morning after the pilot premiered [on Sep. 26, 2001] and there was a guy in front of the studio with a sign that said, “Love the show, hate the song.” And I pulled into the lot and thought, “Really? Is that what we’ve become?” We have this horrible thing that’s happened on our own planet, in our country and we make a TV show, it’s fiction. Yes, it’s storied and has a long history and we have big shoes to fill. I get all of that. But it’s still a TV show and the pilot I thought was extraordinary. Those kind of moments give you perspective into what’s important in work and life and what we’re on the planet to be doing. It was an extraordinary time and a terrible, devastating time. We had guest stars come in who had lost friends in the tower. Everyone was affected on so many levels. Our show shifted in the middle of the second season to a parallel pursuit of the Xindi and trouble on planet Earth. We had to go there. The writers were being affected by it in their own lives and it permeates your work and creativity. Instead of shying away from it, we embraced it and that’s when the show took off.
HC: Did the thing about the song come up a lot?
SB: Yes. There were two things that were somewhat irritating that came up in the period of time that we made that show. People either loved or hated the theme song and people loved or hated that I had a dog on board. It was a little obsessive and a little shortsighted, missing the big picture. It’s not that people don’t want to love your show. I always know that the guy who wore that sign, he wanted to love our show. He said so on the sign. But we’ve created a world where people have forums to speak their minds anonymously or not. You want to encourage that, but you also have to take it with a grain of salt. There’s going to be critics of everything I do, every day. We put our heads down and worked as hard as we could for as long as they let us, with great results.
HC: How did you handle the technobabble? Many “Star Trek” actors have complained about it.
SB: That’s the kind of thing you can either make your enemy or your friend. I chose to make it a challenge. The joke always was, it’s like Shakespeare. When you get Shakespeare, you don’t go in and say, “I don’t know why he put that comma there or why he made those words like that and I don’t want to do those anymore.” I just said I’d try to be as letter perfect as I possibly can. If I don’t like what’s on the page, then I will talk to them. But once I go with it, the goal is to deliver it. We had a fair amount of technobabble, but I’d say in some instances we have less than the other shows because we were a more primitive ship with more primitive things to work with, so often times we didn’t have to explain what we were talking about. If you say you’ve got a “phase cannon,” you kind of get what that is. A phase pistol, the word pistol is there. It’s not a phaser. We had a lot of words that were not alien words, so to speak. But there were times when I had a big, fat monologue and there was lots of crazy stuff coming out of my mouth. It was a challenge and I liked it.
HC: The success of the “Veronica Mars” Kickstarter campaign has fueled a lot of speculation about other fan-favorite shows that could be brought back after cancellation. There was a big fan push to save “Enterprise” when it was canceled. Would you be open to a Kickstarter reunion?
SB: I talked about that in the beginning, before Kickstarter was around. If the fans want us to do a movie or the fans want more episodes, why don’t we let the fans be investors in the show? This is eight years ago and it didn’t go anywhere. I’d love to do [a new season], but the big problem with our show is that it requires effects and sets. A lot of our sets have been sold. Our bridge is in Germany, assembled in a guy’s garage.
SB: Yep. He’s a fan, he’s got a whole museum of stuff. He gave me a card at a convention in London. He said if you’re ever in Germany, I’ve got the bridge, I’ve got the uniforms, I’ve got everything. I guess we could all shoot in Germany in his garage.
– Patrick Kevin Day
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