- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

LOS ANGELES — "Enterprise," the fifth TV series in the "Star Trek" franchise, reaches back about 100 years before Capt. James T. Kirk and his crew first traveled the galaxies to bring us humans who are, well, more human.

But its producers say UPN's new Wednesday night series (8 p.m.) will remain true to "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry's optimistic view of a better mankind to come.

"Enterprise" puts Capt. Jonathan Archer and his crew on a starship in the 22nd century.

Archer is played by Scott Bakula, best known for his role as a time traveler on "Quantum Leap," which ran from 1989 to 1993.

Each of the three "Star Trek" series that followed the 1966 original "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" kept moving further into the future. But the producers grew tired of that concept. So did some fans. Hence the idea for a prequel.

"Three shows in a row have taken place with the same cast of villains, the same geopolitical landscape and the same state of mind of human beings," says "Enterprise" executive producer Brannon Braga, who worked on both "The Next Generation" and "Voyager."

"At their very best, great examples of evolved humans; at their worst, boring. This was a chance to create people who seemed more like people we know," Mr. Braga says.

"Enterprise" co-executive producer Rick Berman, who worked with Mr. Roddenberry on "The Next Generation," came up with the giant-step-backward idea.

Mr. Roddenberry, who died in 1991, held an optimistic view of the future that remains at the core of the "Star Trek" mythology. But in this prequel, the United Federation of Planets hasn't yet been created. So, Mr. Berman explains, it's possible to bend Roddenberry's rule of no conflict among humans without disturbing his concept of "an uplifting view of the future."

Fans obsessed with every detail will surely scrutinize each episode, and the producers admit that it won't always be possible to link the prequel to the original "Star Trek" a futuristic fantasy created with a '60s sensibility.

"We pay attention to fans, but that doesn't mean we do what they tell us to do," Mr. Berman says.

Mr. Bakula's stint on "Quantum Leap" attracted a legion of fans, and he believes his transition into his new character will be smooth.

He aptly fits Mr. Berman's concept of a captain who has "a little bit Chuck Yeager wild-blue-yonder cowboy feeling and a little bit of a Han Solo self-effacing boyish charm."

The 46-year-old actor says he's thrilled to be playing "the first captain on the first starship to go out." He's also attracted to the challenge of balancing the show's peaceful message and action-adventure fun.

"That's where the effort to make it as truthful and honest as we can is so important. We are going to make mistakes, and there are going to be lots of things that don't run together perfectly. . But you want to give the audience as much as they are giving you," Mr. Bakula says.

Mr. Berman says "Enterprise" will provide a feeling of excitement about space travel that had slipped away in "Deep Space Nine" and in "Voyager," which concluded its six-year run in May.

The new series allows for "less cookie-cutter-perfect" humans and gives fans "the chance to see the birthing pains of those things they've come to know about," he says.

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