Trip The Flight Fantastic

He's already been the subject of much Internet tongue wagging courtesy of his part in the season opener's decontamination scene, but there's plenty more to come from Enterprise's colourful engineer, Commander 'Trip' Tucker. Alter ego Connor Trinneer shares his views on Enterprise, alcohol and underwear with Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin.

Connor Trinneer is a worried man. As the chief engineer on the Enterprise NX-01, you'd think that the man who plays Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker III would be used to being under pressure, but nothing has quite prepared Trinneer for what awaits him over the next few days. He's about to appear at his first-ever Star Trek convention, and not only are some old friends going to be in the audience, but so are his grandparents and his mother!

"It's sort of a surreal experience," Trinneer jokes, his hand ruffling his already wind-mussed hair. He's dressed in leather, flannel and jeans, and a few days' growth of blond stubble makes him look like a much rowdier version of Enterprise's Trip. "If somebody asks me a risqu' question I'll just say, 'I'm sorry, I can't answer, my mom's here.'"

Trinneer was born on 19 March 1969 in Walla Walla, Washington, growing up in nearby Kelso. He excelled in sports, leading him to play football for several years at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. It was there that he, "tripped over acting, just because I was bored with football. Somebody said, 'Would you audition for a play'' And I said 'Sure.'"

The acting bug caught hold and Trinneer graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in acting and directing from the University of Missouri. Theatre work in New York followed, as well as his first on-screen acting role: a part in the daytime soap opera One Life to Live. A move to the west coast found Trinneer gaining more television credits, including such genre shows as Sliders and Freakylinks, as well as ER, Touched by an Angel, Gideon's Crossing and a few telefilm roles.

But his first major part didn't arrive until he was cast in Enterprise, the fifth Star Trek television series. It was something of a major coup for the actor, although he took the role in his stride, despite being made to sweat for several days before hearing the good news.

"I auditioned for it five times," Trinneer says, shaking his head. "And after that they still hadn't made a decision about it. I took off for Mexico to not think about it for a weekend. And then I came back and they still hadn't made a decision. The Screen Actor's Guild allows you five business days to make a decision, or they've gotta release you back into the pool so you can get a job. Finally, on the last day, they asked for an extension. My manager called a friend of his, who was the head casting director there. And she said, 'You know, Ross, I can't tell you the information. But you're going to sleep well tonight.' And so he called me back, and of course I didn't sleep at all. [Laughs] And then, you know, I signed some papers and went to work."

Still nervous about the waiting crowds at the convention, Trinneer notes that he "had really honestly no idea what to expect. When I got the job my agents said, 'You do realize that you won the lottery for this year's pilot season, right'' I said 'What do you mean by that' Yeah, I think it's pretty cool' But the fact is that it is Star Trek, and that it will have a longevity that is sort of 'guaranteed'. I put that in quotations because nothing's guaranteed, but I mean it's got a fan base and there's an opportunity to have a life on the show.

"I got a great part," Trinneer continues, grinning sheepishly. "You know, I'm the good old southern-boy smart-ass. I mean, that's not going to be very hard to do!"

Trinneer remembers a particularly tense moment when he was afraid he had lost the role. Co-star Dominic Keating (Lieutenant Malcolm Reed) told STAR TREK Monthly to ask Trinneer about the last time he stole a bottle of Jack Daniels, and with a little prodding, he launches into the story. "It wasn't just Jack, it was a bottle of Jim Beam and his Scottish friend Johnny Walker along with it, too. [Laughs] What happened was that the foreign market investors had a little shindig. It was the one that Paramount had thrown for Enterprise'"

Stopping for a moment, Trinneer realizes that he's about to let out a secret. "I could get in trouble for this," he whispers confidentially to the microphone. "I don't care, I'll give you your three bottles of booze back!"

He resumes his story: "Me, my girlfriend and John Billingsley [Phlox] and his wife were sitting there and we got drunk. At the end of the evening, the caterers were cleaning out the bar. I just got the idea that I was going to take a bottle back. I started hauling these bottles out, and handed one over to John, and threw a couple in my pocket. I got back to my room and went straight to bed because I had to wake up in the morning and go to work. I got a call that next afternoon that Rick Berman wants me to call him. And I'm thinking, 'I'm fired. I'm' fired. I can't believe this. I had this great opportunity!'"

Trinneer called executive producer Berman expecting to lose his job for stealing the booze. "I'm like, one knee on the ground. I'm actually sweating at this point. And I say, 'Rick, what's going on'' He's like, 'Hey buddy, what's up'' I'm thinking, 'Okay, that's better.' Rick says, 'We're changing your name.'"

Originally in the early stages of Enterprise's development, Trinneer's character was going to be called Spike Tucker. Realizing it already had a Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, UPN wanted a name change. But that thought never crossed Trinneer's mind as he called Berman, and the relief on Trinneer's face is visible even now. Following that close call, Trinneer vowed, "never again to even approach the back end of a bar. And especially if it's catered!"

Spike Tucker soon became Charles Tucker III, and his nickname 'Trip'. According to Trinneer, Berman, "knows somebody, a friend of his named 'Trip', short for 'the third'. If you're Junior [you're the second], and if you're the third, you're 'Trip'."

One thing that has proved tough on the actor is the infamous 'Treknobabble' tech-speak, particularly since his character is the ship's main engineer. "I'm terrible at it," he admits. "I'm a visual learner, and if I don't have it in front of me'. It's like geometry. I mean if I can't just see it I have a heard time learning it quickly. And you have to learn all this stuff quickly. So the technobabble, it's just a matter of time, and you learn it by rote. You just sit down and memorize it."

Trinneer says that only once (so far) has he restored to writing his lines down on the console to help remember them. "There's just some times when you reach a block, where you're just not going to get that line. We're fortunate because Voyager probably had the most technobabble, and Next Generation had quite a bit as well. Enterprise is not nearly as technical as they are, so we're not required to have all this knowledge. And thank God!" he laughs.

Trinneer likes his co-stars a great deal. "Scott Bakula is just a great guy. He knows how it all works. He's somebody that I've already learned a great deal from and I will continue to do that. And everybody in the cast, we all get along really well. People have asked, 'Well, how's it going' ' I said, 'Well, when you're watching, does it look like I'm having fun'' Because I really am. I have a great time. Luckily I don't have any prosthetics or anything that makes me come in really early. And I work really close to home."

Ah, but there were the prosthetic nipples on his wrist in Unexpected, the episode in which Trip gets pregnant. "Ah, the nipples. The nipples didn't take long, though," he says, laughing. "Nipples aren't like ears." Has he gotten back to normal after the pregnancy' "Yeah. My appetite is normal again, and I no longer have quite the emotional roller coaster that was my life. No more bitching about the structural integrity of the ship."

Although he admits it sounds cheesy, Trinneer says that his favourite thing to do on the show, "is just going every day. I mean you get to go somewhere and do something cool. That is really a luxury that I don't think a lot of people get, especially in Hollywood. I do like the mess hall scenes, the captain's quarters' scenes. I also like being on the bridge, because when we're on the bridge we're all there. I mean an episode will go by, and there'll be like [scenes with] me and somebody else in the cast, and then, you know, I won't see somebody for a while. But it's nice when, usually on Mondays, we do a lot of stuff on the bridge when everybody's there, and we're all joking and having a good time and, you know, catching up on what we've done over the weekend."

There is one element of the series that Trinneer actively hates, however. "The EV [extravehicular] suits are a bitch," he grimaces. He's also not wild about, "any time we're in a cave. Just because it's dirty. Dirty, dirty, dirty. I mean, it's filthy. After that episode [Strange New World] where I got all hopped up on the alien spore and went crazy, we all got sick, to a person. We all got something. You know, you get all dirty, they don't ventilate the sound stage, and the next thing you know you're blowing something out of your nose that you didn't think that colour existed [laughs]. That's my least favourite thing, probably, besides the EV suits."

As we talk, Trinneer has recently finished filming what he says is his favourite episode, Shuttlepod One. In this installment, Trip and Reed are trapped on the eponymous shuttlepod with little chance of survival. "In Shuttlepod One, we end up getting separated from the ship, and our information [tells us] we're the last ones left. And it was nice to just get out there and act with one person who's not covered in prosthetics. I got to know Dominic as an actor. He's an actor with great chops, and he knows what he's doing, and it was nice just to be out there and just really go for it."

Still, the episode was not without it's own challenges. "It was 30 degrees [Fahrenheit] in there. The industrial air conditioners were going and the nitrogen was sprayed in there, and the dry ice packs were right below the metal. I actually am shaking during the frozen shuttlepod scenes."

Reportedly, Rick Berman was incredibly enthusiastic about the episode, though Trinneer refuses to brag too much. "Going from the buzz, I'm really excited to see how it turned out. They're saying some really nice things to us about the episode."

Although all of the members of the Enterprise cast have their fans, Trinneer finds himself in the position of male sex symbol, thanks to the steamy and dressed-down decontamination sequence that happened in the pilot episode, Broken Bow. In the show, Trip rubs decontamination gel onto the barely-clad T-Pol's body, then she does the same for him. After it aired, computer bulletin boards were clogged with messages from fans, all of them discussing the details of that infamous decontamination scene.

Fans hoping for some more southern exposure from Trip need only look to the future episode, Acquisition. I'm going to be back in my underpants all week long for the show," he says, grinning. "I swear to God, I'm in my underwear for half an episode." Does this mean that Enterprise has a semi-nudity clause to bring in sexier ratings' Trinneer smiles. "I don't think it's gratuitous, when you read the script. I don't care. I'm in shape. if they want me to take my shirt off, I'll do it. I have no problem with it at all. And, you know, hey, my butt is gonna stay in shape!"

Although he wouldn't call himself an aficionado, Trinneer did watch reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series when he was younger, and has caught the other series over the years. Now that he's on Enterprise, he's got the chance to make his own mark on Star Trek history. Does he have a favourite to date'

"My favourite episode so far' Shuttlepod One. That was the most satisfying one as an actor. I like portions of Unexpected. I'd have to say Strange New World was my favourite in terms of' it seemed to go quickly. That was probably the first point where I could look at myself and just enjoy it. I'd give Unexpected at 85 and I'd give Strange New World an 88, with room to go."

So out of 100 points, which ones got a 40' Trinneer grins. "All of them that don't have my storyline or where I have very few lines."

Wrapping up, Trinneer expresses his appreciation for the role. "I was so lucky to get this part. It's an awesome part to play." Hinting at the future, he notes that Trip, "hasn't' kissed a girl and he's getting his butt kicked a lot. So here's the deal: I get to kick ass in the next episode, and kiss a girl in the one after that."