Which actor played the first and last captain in a "Star Trek" TV series?
Scott Bakula became the answer to that trivia question when "Enterprise" was canceled after four seasons in 2005, ending a nearly two-decade run of spinoffs launched in 1987 with "Star Trek: The Next Generation." But unlike that show, "Deep Space Nine" or "Voyager," Bakula's series was set a century before the original series adventures of James T. Kirk.
Bakula, who's had a variety of recurring TV gigs, is best known for his two longest-run starring roles. He made 97 episodes as Sam Beckett, the "Quantum Leap" scientist trapped in the past, and 98 as Jonathan Archer, the 22nd century Starfleet captain. At present, he's playing the son of Shirley MacLaine's character in the film "Elsa and Frank," due out later this year. (You knew with all this time-traveling that she'd turn up sooner or later.)
With the Blu-ray release on Tuesday of the first season of "Enterprise" in high-definition, Bakula looked back and ahead in an interview with Newsday.
A dozen years ago, when you took on the role of Capt. Jonathan Archer, you had a tough act to follow -- four of them, actually. William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew. Did you have any trepidation about becoming the next "Star Trek" captain?
It made it much easier to say, well, I'm a hundred years before Kirk, so it's their problem. They have to follow me, I don't have to follow them. I did that psychological mind meld with myself and talked myself into it, and I'm really glad that I did.
Did any of them offer any advice?
Patrick Stewart told me to keep an eye on my chair... When you look at these five captains -- and we've been together a couple of times -- we're all very different, in kind of a good way. We all had a lot of laughs about what we've done and where we've been and how it's worked out.
What did you love about "Enterprise"?
I certainly loved the pilot. And I loved the idea of this character, because that's all you have to go on most of the time when you take on a job. ... I loved the cast, and I loved working with the creative people that were involved with our show, to our good fortune, and had been involved in that whole world, in that franchise, some of them for decades.
What was the hardest thing you ever had to do on the show?
I'm not sure how much of it ever made it to the screen, but in the very beginning, when we were working with our space suits, our copper helmets. ... I was hung by wires upside down, and we had to do this kind of spinning, weightless thing with this 30-pound thing on my head.
The new high-def release of your first season will give fans and maybe some people who never watched "Enterprise" a fresh look at the show. Is there any one episode you would show someone who wanted to know what "Enterprise" was at its best?
Certainly in the first year, the pilot is the thing to look at. From all accounts, from the technical people that I have talked to, the pilot just came out unbelievably, ridiculously gorgeous, and the effects -- they can't stop talking about it. A bunch of the folks from the show worked on this Blu-ray version, and they've had a lot of input. There were so many things in that pilot, so many different locations. ... I think that's going to blow people away.
Looking back, how do you see the show and the work you did?
I believed when we went off the air that in the future, the show would gain relevance and, in perspective, that it would gain fans. People that maybe took issue with it -- they didn't like the theme song or that I had a dog, the little things that people were picky about -- that they'll kind of let go of that. ... It really became a parallel universe to 9/11. That really started in about the middle of the second season and catapulted us through the Xindi world and into the end of the fourth season. It became kind of a spectacular show, I thought, and I hope people will find that as they look at it again. I think as these seasons get released on Blu-ray in success -- I think the second season is coming out in the fall, and hopefully the others will follow -- I think they'll get a fresh look at that.
In a way, that's how a lot of people discovered the original "Star Trek" series, years after it was canceled.
That's when I discovered it -- in reruns in college, you know, five nights a week -- and just went crazy for it.
What did you think of the J.J. Abrams reboot of the franchise? In his first "Star Trek" film, Scotty mentioned a transporter accident involving an Admiral Archer's dog. Any chance you or the dog will turn up in the next movie?
I'm not in the next movie. I'd love to turn up in a movie. I loved the reboot. I thought that Abrams did a ridiculously great job reinventing, and I thought that cast was spectacular.
If fans recognize you on the street, are they more likely to be "Quantum Leap" or "Star Trek" fans?
It's quite often the same people. Predominantly it's still "Sam Beckett" that comes out of people's mouths. Every once in a while, there'll be somebody walking by and they'll say, "Hey, there's Chuck's dad." You just never know. Somebody will roll down a window and yell, "Necessary Roughness!" . I'm fortunate to have fans that have followed me through different journeys.
Your love for musical theater never came out in "Enterprise." We got to hear you sing on "Quantum Leap," but I don't believe we ever heard Capt. Archer break into song.
Not in that show, unfortunately. I think at some point we would've gotten there, but we didn't.