Scott Bakula Talks Star Trek Enterprise
With Star Trek Enterprise season 1 released on blu-ray in the US and April 1st in the UK . IGN’s Scott Collura talked to Scott Bakula about his time as Captain Jonathan Archer.
Scott Bakula: Yeah, it was. I think it was challenging for a number of reasons. One, they chose to place it 100 before Kirk and Spock, so that meant there were a lot of creative issues that had to be figured out in terms of the world now and the world that existed in 1965 and in terms of what they were able to put on the screen back then. There was a lot of that that made it challenging. I also think it was challenging because we followed so closely on the heels of Voyager, but that was partly dictated by the fact that we were for the first time on a broadcast network on UPN, which existed at the time — it doesn’t anymore — as opposed to being in syndication, which is where the other four franchises had really made their mark, and that wasn’t to be our destiny. So I think those were the big challenging issues, and we did everything we could to rise above them.
SC: I think when fans look back at the show now, the perception is that you guys really — as with all of the Star Trek shows perhaps — the first year or so was kind of hit or miss, but then you really start to get into your stride. Commonly, the third and fourth seasons are thought of as being the strongest and some of the best seasons that were done. Was it disappointing to you that the show ended when you were just catching your stride?
SB: It was, it was very disappointing, and I would agree with that assessment of the rhythm of our show. That’s true I think with a lot of shows, if they have time to stay on the air, that people kind of figure it out a little bit and they’re able to get into it. Again, because of the nature of being on network television and the myriad of changes that occurred, not only at our studio but at the network itself, I look back and feel like we were lucky to get the four seasons, to be quite honest. There was so much going on that had nothing to do with our TV show. Obviously, we would have liked to have had more viewers. Had we had more viewers they wouldn’t have had a choice about keeping us on or not keeping us on. But it was kind of a transitional time for Paramount, a transitional time for UPN/The WB/CBS/Viacom. There was a lot going on, and we happened to be trying to make a show in the middle of it.
SB: Oh yeah, oh yeah. When the guy that’s running UPN gets fired and replaced, you’re aware of that. You’re aware of Jonathan Dolgen, who’s been the huge Star Trek guy at Paramount, leaving. You’re aware of the head of UPN, who created UPN, Kerry McCluggage, who’s one of the main reasons, he and Gary Hart, why I did the show in the first place — he’s let go. Then all of the sudden in the middle of it, CBS buys UPN. It just went on and on and on, and I knew everybody and they were friends of mine. I knew Kerry very well, I knew Gary Hart. They were both at Universal when I did Quantum Leap. I’d known Leslie Moonves for many years; he and I had worked together when I was at Warner Bros. So I knew a lot of the players involved. There was a lot going on.
SC: When you look back at Archer’s arc, are you happy with where he started and where he finished? Were there things you wish you could have done with him that you never got to?
SB: Well, there are always things when you look back and say, “Oh, I wish we’d done more with this or that.” But the general idea of who he was when he started and where he was going and the fact that he would eventually create an integral part of the Federation in bringing this intergalactic species together and create some rules in the “Wild West,” so to speak, that’s what got short-circuited the most. Because that was certainly in line had we gone more years, that would have been a big part of the show. Once 9/11 happened and we got more involved in reflecting on what was going on on our planet at the time, the show, I was very happy with where we took that and the whole Xindi experience and marshaling all of that forward. Because we were cut short, we kind of a did a quick, fast ending — fix [Laughs] — and got out. But we made our point. You don’t always get to do exactly everything you want to do.
SC: The Xindi stuff with the 9/11 parallels was some of the most amazing Star Trek stuff that you did, and I think maybe thematically some of the most amazing Star Trek stuff in general. We always hear about how, “Oh, well, the old show paralleled the Vietnam War” or things like this. But for a lot of us fans, we weren’t really around back then to experience that. Whereas 9/11 was something that we felt happened to us and then we were seeing this sort of metaphor for it, which was just amazing. When the writers came to you with that storyline, was there concern about it being too soon or too close to the reality of what had happened?
SB: Well, I think we were all so consumed by that event, and it wasn’t something that happened to somebody else on our planet, it happened here. You know, Vietnam happened on another continent. So it became something in the writers room that they felt they couldn’t ignore, and it kept coming through in how they were feeling, and that’s natural. That’s how writers write. They’re affected by their lives and their world and what they’re feeling. And that’s the great thing about sci-fi, it’s so removed, because all of the sudden you’re fighting talking whales and insects and things that are so completely disassociated with our reality — you get that release — and then it kind of gives you the freedom to tee it up and go for it. I was thrilled with it.
SC: It also got into the serialized storytelling as well, which I think was such a big boost. As an actor, is it harder to do the weekly stories as opposed to the serialized stuff, or is it just a totally different scenario where one isn’t necessarily harder than the other?
SB: I think the challenge in hour television or half-hour television is that the more it’s around, certainly on commercial television, the less time you have to tell stories these days, because the more commercials they’re putting in. So to have arcs and serialized storytelling, it allows you room to lay out and play out characters and create and add more depth and dimension. Ultimately, I think it’s creatively better storytelling, because you feel like you have more time to do it. The standalone episodes are kind of fun, and when you hit the great ones they’re a blast. You see them and think, “Oh my gosh, that was so out there. That was a crazy one.” And we had those, too. But the serialized ones, I enjoy those. As an audience member, I like those. I think that’s what the TV audience is gravitating more to these days, like the 13-episode arcs that we have on a lot of the cable networks, they’re indicative of that.
SC: Yeah, people forget that you guys did The Walking Dead years before when you did that standalone episode where you went to a Vulcan ship, and they were basically — I don’t think the word “zombie” was ever used — but you were basically fighting a bunch of Vulcan zombies running around.
SB: Yeah, oh yeah.
SC: And that’s a kind of “get in, get out” one-shot episode that’s a lot of fun. Now, the funny thing about Enterprise is that your characters all still exist in this timeline for the J.J. Abrams universe. He’s sort of rebooted everything, but technically you guys all existed before that. So have you seen the Abrams movie?
SB: Oh yeah. Loved it.
SC: And I think they mention you. They mention Archer.
SB: They mention me and my dog, yes. There was a transporting accident with my poor dog. But yes, I was sitting there watching it with my kids, and all of the sudden I heard that. I felt like I hadn’t heard it right, you know? I turned to my kids, and I said, “Did you just hear that?” They immediately just said, “Be quiet. We’re trying to watch the movie.” I’m like, “Wait, I’m trying to make this movie about me!” They’re like, “We want to watch this movie. Thanks, dad.”
SC: Have your kids watched Enterprise?
SB: Yeah, they’ve seen a great deal of it, yeah. My two little ones were very young at the time, so they haven’t seen that much of it. But no, they like it a lot.
SB: Yes, I’m going to reintroduce them.
SC: Scott, can I ask what you’re working on now?
SB: I’ve got this HBO movie called Behind the Candelabra coming out. That’s a Liberace story, so I’m gearing up to do press for that. I play a choreographer who introduces Matt Damon’s character to Liberace, to Michael Douglas’ character. So that’s coming out. I just finished a movie with Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer called Elsa & Fred. I play one of Shirley’s sons in that. I’m also gearing up to shoot a new pilot for TNT with Geena Davis, and that’s starting in April. So that’s kind of what I’m up to. I’ve also got this new movie called Snap that just premiered at South By Southwest.
SC: Were you at the festival?
SB: I wasn’t, I couldn’t get there. But it’s Jake Hoffman and Nikki Reed and Thomas Dekker. It’s a wild, crazy movie, but from all reports it was well-received, so I’ll be curious to see what happens with that.
SC: The funny thing about being a Star Trek veteran is that there are so many of you now. You mentioned that you made a film with Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer, and Christopher Plummer was in Star Trek. Do you guys even bother to talk about it at this point?
SB: [Laughs] He and I didn’t, but inevitably I’m always bumping into people who are like, “Well, I was in such-and-such.” Most of the time it’s people who say, “Remember the episode? I did that episode with you.” I’m like, “What did you do?” “I was the Klingon.” I say, “Well, I never saw your face, so I can’t remember who you were. I remember the character you played, but…” I get that all the time. “Remember me? I know my face was blue and I had an antennae, but…” “Kind of.”
SC: I guess my last question for you would be, what are your thoughts on the convention circuit? I know you do some of the conventions. How does that work for you? Is it the kind of thing where you fit them in when you can? I’m assuming you enjoy them because you do attend them.
SB: I do attend them, and I do enjoy them. I don’t do a lot of them, but I tend to space them out. I didn’t do any while we were shooting the show. The younger, unmarried, single guys were dashing off on the weekends to points all over the planet, and I was like, “Really? How are you guys doing that? Oh, I know. You don’t have kids! Never mind, I get it.” So, you know, Connor [Trinneer], Dominic [Keating] and Anthony [Montgomery] were like, “Yeah, we were just in Philly.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.” So I do enjoy them, I don’t overdo them. But I do always get a kick out of them. I really enjoy the Q&As the most probably and getting up in front of a room and just chatting and talking about what we did. We’ve done two times now where all five captains are together, and that’s just a hoot because we’re all so different. What a group of characters. That’s been fun. I went to Australia with Mr. Shatner last year, and we did Sydney and Melbourne. We had a great time too.
Original source IGN