Enterprise's Trip Tucker tells why he likes it when Scott Bakula makes fun of him...and how he's built his own bungalow.

These are bad times for the Star Trek franchise. The ratings for Enterprise have slipped significantly from last year, and the series is under fire from critics for being too safe and predictable. But Connor Trinneer ain't fretting. Ask him if he's concerned about the speculation that the show may be about to boldly go down the pan, and he answers with all the no-nonsense assurance you'd expect from his alter-ego, Enterprise engineer Trip Tucker. Life's too short to worry, right?

"Yeah, you read certain things...some articles that came out in the trade press were talking about the ratings from the pilot going down to where it's landed at now. I don't read the trades, but I was told about them, and then I looked at it. And, y'know...it's none of my business. I've got enough of my own business to worry about, getting through the day and doing my job productively and effectively."

It must play on his mind, though. I mean, this is his job on the line. He could lose out big time. "I've already won!" he counters. "I already got a great part to play for the amount of time that I'm going to be playing it. However long this goes, I still won. I still get to ply my craft and get better as an actor. It's a very selfish way to look at it, I suppose, but as long as this goes, I'm winning, because I get to go to my job every day and figure out how to get better, looking at things microscopically, as an actor. And the rest of it...I don't care. It's the producers' job to worry about that stuff, and it's not my job."

The Star Trek film series is also looking distinctly poorly - Nemesis got mauled by the critics and stiffed at the box office, putting the whole future of the franchise in doubt. Does that worry him at all?

"It can't, it's none of my business. Like I said before, it's already worked out for me. I liked Nemesis ! I think the guy who played Shinzon rocked! Are we going to get a film? I don't know. Are we not going to get one because Nemesis didn't do well as it was supposed to? I don't know. I don't care. I have a lot to do, and I have to think of it that way. I think we could give a little new push to the story, and I think if we as a group were made into a film, it would be a really interesting thing, because we're all good actors. I've done this long enough to know who's right for the parts they play in their shows. I hope that we get a shot. I hope for more and if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

Okay, that's enough of us walloping the big gong of doom. Poor old Connor. We barely gave him time to settle into his chair before going straight for the jugular. Let's give him a break. Is he enjoying working on Enterprise ? Is it everything he expected?

"It is! It's work. I expected it to be work, and I like hard work! That's what I expected it to be. So I knew what it was going to be." Now that he's into the second season, how's it going? "It's going great?" he grins. "The first year - like any actor - you're worried about doing well. You don't want to screw up, you want to be a good soldier. This year's been kind of freeing, in the sense that I'm comfortable at work, I'm comfortable about who I'm working with. Therefore, I'm doing a better job, just because at any time that you have nervous energy, it gets in your way. I go to work now and really feel as though I have the luxury to ply my craft without having the nonsense getting in my way - without me getting in my own way, I guess. So I've felt a little more in control of my craft this year."

Connor's had a lot of screen time this year, but there have also been time's when it seems Trip's largely being used as comic relief. How does he feel about the way his character has developed in the second season? "I've got no criticism about how they've done my character at all. They've given me a great latitude, and there have been opportunities as the character to experience things that cover the rainbow. I've had a number of character-driven shows that have been great to do, and I couldn't be happier. And I'm also a pro-active part of that, too. I ask questions of the writers and producers. If I don't understand something, or I have a question about some scene, I'll put it out there. If I'm good at anything new, it's at that, at going 'Hang on a minute, walk me through this.' Whereas maybe last year, I didn't do that so much. I'm doing that a lot more now. I question everything, which is a good policy."

Was there a particular moment when he felt that he'd worked out who Trip was, when he suddenly nailed the character?

"I think that was more an evolution over the first half of last year. I wouldn't say there was an episode in which I discovered my character. But there was an episode where I really felt for the first time, 'Anything that you give me, I can handle!', and that was 'Shuttlepod One' last year. That episode, because of the environment that we worked in, being so cold and under the gun with Dominic (Keating), just the two of us, working together...because of that, I really thought for the first time, 'Bring it on! Because I can handle it.' I had a pretty good idea about this guy when I got the part. So I was pretty grounded in who Trip was when I got him, and when I was given those rainbows of opportunity, I never got freaked out because I still had the grounding of who my character was. So I know where he comes from, but I don't know where he's going. With (the writers) developing faith in the fact that I could carry a character-driven show, and giving me opportunities to do that, hopefully, it'll evolve, and - until we're done - it will continue to be on an upward scale."

This season Trip seems to have been the action man quite a lot of the time - doing a Kirk, if you will. Is that a trend for the future?

"I don't know that they are conscious of that. I'm certainly not. I don't know what's going on next episode! It's like doing a one act play every week - you get your lines, you make your decisions and you go from there. So, no, I don't know that I can say that that's the arc of something. I don't understand the bigger side of it. I don't know what's coming down the pipe!"

We can't help noticing Trip's been getting a lot of action in the other sense of the word as well. And more could be on the cards. What about that moment at the end of "The Catwalk" where he comes as close as any human's ever come to asking T'Pol out. Where's that going?

"Well, we have an interesting relationship...You know, there's a little fire going on between the two of us!"

What's it like watching himself - does he cheer Trip on as he snogs alien princesses and zaps people with his phase pistol? Or does he wince?

Connor chuckles. "I don't mind watching my stuff! I don't watch the show particularly just to watch it. I watch it sort of like homework. I get to see the work that I've done and then grade it. I can enjoy stuff, but I tend to look at what I've done and say, 'Did I get that arc right, did I create what I was trying to create?' So on one hand, I do enjoy it. On the other hand, I also give myself the space to go back, so hopefully, the next time, I can craft something better, maybe give more attention to something that I wasn't paying attention to."

Recently producer Rick Berman said that Enterprise was going to be heading off in a new direction - both literally, and figuratively. Can he give us any hints about where the show is headed?

"Well, this year has been a lot more character-driven, and I think that'll continue to be the case. Again, I have to say I don't know this for sure. I think that we're going to begin to see the arc of the show a bit more. I think that the temporal cold war is going to start to come more into play, and we're going to find, y'know, our friends and neighbours. And our nemesis." He laughs. "No pun intended!"

Star Trek shows have a reputation for having a family atmosphere (albeit a family with the odd black sheep). With that in mind, what is the atmosphere like on the Enterprise set; how close are the actors?

"With people coming together from different places, it takes some time. But Scott Bakula sets the tone for everything, as he did in the first read-through. He has created a family. He set a tone for working on the show, and so you go there every day, and we're professional and light. We enjoy ourselves. I think that he's taught all of us, who haven't done this as much as he has, how to proceed in this business and stay sane, and to encourage relationships. Him being around has made the show better, and I think that him being around has made every actor on the show better."

So, if Enterprise is a family, he's the dad?
"Hmm, I wouldn't call him that. He's...The Man!"

And who's the crazy uncle?
"Him, too!"

So he's the biggest prankster?

What are we talking about here - exploding cigars?
"Oh... I can't even remember. It's just the little things. He makes fun of everyone, and he does it in such a wonderful, positive, light way. And we all make fun of each other. And - y'know what - that would not have been okay for a while if we'd never had him around to show us that that's how you work together, that's how you gel as an ensemble. I think that them bringing him on the show was a stroke of genius for the rest of us."

Sounds like Scott Bakula is not only the captain of the Enterprise, but the team-leader off camera. So when there are lulls in the schedule, whose dressing room do they gather in for a gossip?

"We don't do that. Y'know, you spend enough time together that when you're not doing something, you just want to back off and watch [sports channel] ESPN. A lot of our time spent socializing is spent on the set because, y'know, what's funny on this set, we've had guys on the crew doing this for 15, 16 years, doing different varieties of these shows. And that's where you do that thing. You go out there, and you have your little idiocies and laugh with each other and at each other, and then you go back to your dressing room. I'm not photographic-memory guy, so I spend a lot of my time looking at my stuff, trying to re-craft what I'm trying to do. And you don't have a lot of time. You really don't."

Is there much room in his schedule to go off and do other things - like making a film, for example?

"I'd love to. Y'know, doing an hour long drama series, we have the luxury of ten weeks off a year, and a lot of shows don't even have that. Last year, my girlfriend and I wanted to travel, and we went to Europe for a month. And this year, I'd love to work; and if I don't, I'll still work, I'll do small projects. I'm also doing a director-intensive thing with a guy in town, that I can put in my toolbox, so that at some point, I can look at directing. I'm not an ' actor who wants to direct' - pur-lease! I'm not that! But I'd like to have the opportunity to have the knowledge, to know how to do something if I have an idea."

Just back up a second. We noticed something that will be of major significance to any female Enterprise viewers who've enjoyed, say, the sight of Trip running around the starship in just his underpants (which he seems to do quite a lot, frankly, not that anybody's complaining). A girlfriend ? Don't panic, girls. Maybe it won't last. We'll just check, unobtrusively...

So, how long have you been together?
"Three and a half years."

Sorry ladies - it sounds serious. Is she in the business ?
"She's a writer and actor. We met in a theatre company. Her name is Ariana."

Ariana? Sounds like a princess from somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. Get ready to weep into your Captain Kirk pillow cases, girls, it's even worse. They just bought a house together. Was that a big deal?

"It was funny because, going to drama school and being trained for the regional theatre, and really thinking that was going to be my career, I never thought that I would have a house! And I was cool with it. That was a weird time - not when we were moving in, but before moving in... I still haven't figured out what was going on with me. There's this ladder of maturity that you climb in your life, and I didn't know that I was going to hang on that rung. I was, like, 'This is interesting! I now have responsibility that I never thought I would have, and now I have to have it !' Before, there was that grey area of time where my home was temporary. I mean, I never had my own bed, I never had my own dresser drawer. I always had a futon and a knapsack. I was moving about. And this means that I'm not: I'm here ! It was a little nerve-wracking. You know, you want to do that thing, but then you start realizing that you've got it and go, 'Well, this means that.'

For those of you who are interested in these things, Connor's home is a "1910 Craftsman". No, we've never heard of one either, but apparently it's a sort of bungalow that you can send away for from a catalogue and build yourself. It may have taken some time for Connor to get used to the idea of putting roots down, but now he's positively bursting with enthusiasm. Bless.

"I've loved them my whole life, and to be able to buy the thing that you like, not just the thing that you can get, is such a neat feeling. And then, to make it look the way you want it to look... and you can go to a good place and not have to go to a fill-in-the-blank store that's cheap. You can get something that's very specific to the way that you want your home to look, and that's been really, really cool."

So is he the kind of guy (unlike us) who can knock up some book shelves without finishing off with a broken thumb and water spurting from a pipe in the wall?

"The handyman thing, yeah! I got through college doing roofing and construction, so I know how to do all of that stuff."

We were about to insert a joke about Connor being a man who knows how to use his tool here. But obviously, that would be cheap and crass. Can't he just pay someone else to do that stuff, though?

"Part of me is kind of, like, 'Aw, you do it' but another part of me is, like 'Yeah, I want to build stuff and make things that are in the house my own!' And also, it makes it more personal for you if you can learn how to craft your own house. So I look forward to that...building a house, how we build our lives."

It sounds like working on Star Trek has given him the chance not only to settle down for the first time, but the chance to build himself the dream life.

"I now get to go places around the world and explore the places that I wanted to go my whole life, that I was never really able to!"

At this moment, Connor sounds just as wide-eyed about the Earth-bound adventures ahead of him as Trip Tucker might about having the opportunity to explore the stars.

"I get to explore the world - and we get to do that together. The by-product of what I've had thrown my way is that my girlfriend and I get to do awesome stuff !" Connor laughs. "God bless Star Trek !"