Originally created 07/23/01

'Enterprise': Space travel the old-fashioned way

PASADENA, Calif. - UPN not-so-boldly goes back to the "Star Trek" well for the latest incarnation in the franchise this fall. "Enterprise" lacks the "Star Trek" title because executive producer Rick Berman said it was time for a change.

"Since 'Star Trek: The Next Generation,' we've had so many 'Star Trek' entities that were called 'Star Trek'-colon-something," Berman said at a UPN press conference during the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "Our feeling was, in trying to make this show dramatically different, it might be fun not to have a divided main title like that. And if there's any one word that says 'Star Trek' without actually saying 'Star Trek,' it's the word 'Enterprise."'

The show has its two-hour premiere Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. on UPN stations.

The new series is set in the 22nd century, 100 years before the U.S.S. Enterprise of Capt. Kirk. Along the "Star Trek" time line, "Enterprise" takes place 100 years after the events in the time-travel movie "Star Trek: First Contact," which depicted the first meeting between humans and Vulcans and Zephram Cochran's (James Cromwell) first warp-speed flight. (Cromwell will have a cameo in the "Enterprise" pilot.)

"There were 200 years where the Earth went from this kind of muddy little village in Montana where our film took place to the world of Kirk and Spock," Berman said. "We have chosen a place halfway in between to create the world of 'How did it all begin?' and 'What was it like for the people who truly were the first people to go where no man has gone before?' "

Even though "Enterprise" was created by the same people responsible for the lackluster storytelling and character development on "Voyager," "Enterprise" benefits from the personable charm of its lead, Capt. Jonathan Archer, played by Scott Bakula. The character is a wide-eyed adventurer who "wears his heart on his sleeve," Bakula said. He's also more apt to get his heart broken as the first "Star Trek" captain since Kirk who regularly romances the alien ladies.

Bakula, who has his own experience with zealous sci-fi fans from his years on the cult time-travel series "Quantum Leap," said he's not too worried about rival fan groups coming into conflict.

"Hopefully we'll all blend together nicely, and everybody will get along," he said.

A tour of the "Enterprise" set revealed a starship that's more compact and less futuristic than any in the series' history.

The Enterprise, which bears the designation NX-01, has the feel of a contemporary naval vessel, complete with hatch-like doorways and decals that feature fonts that don't have a space-age feel to them. The Enterprise bridge has a helm control that's part submarine steering wheel, part joystick. Flat screen computer displays look more like what you find on office desks today than the flat touch pads seen on other "Trek" series set further in the future. Consoles feature dials, buttons and oscilloscopes.

"Enterprise" actually owes a debt to the short-lived "Babylon 5" spinoff "Crusade." A "situation room" off the Enterprise bridge is located just behind the captain's chair, the same as it was on "Crusade." Rather than wearing pajama-like uniforms as in previous "Trek" series, the "Enterprise" cast is clad in flight suits with zippers and pockets, similar to some "Crusade" costumes.

But where the "Crusade" sets looked cardboard-cheap, the "Enterprise" sets are built to last. Metal and chrome surfaces cover the interior walls, giving the ship a utilitarian, ready-for-battle look that's in stark contrast to the U.S.S. Enterprise of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," which sometimes felt like a futuristic Hilton Hotel in outer space.

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