Trip Around the Universe

ENTERPRISE Star Connor Trinneer - who plays Engineer Charles 'Trip' Tucker talks about life and Outer Space.

These are not the headiest days to be involved in the Star Trek universe. The future of the latest serious to carry Gene Roddenberry's mantle, Enterprise, is less than steady due to both lagging ratings and the uncertainty that its parent network, UPN will even be around in the next few years. And the disappointing box office results of the most recent Trek film, Nemesis, have cast a shadow over the whole franchise.

But the worries about what's coming next over the horizon have not clouded the outlook of Enterprise's chief engineer. Instead in many ways Connor Trinneer reflects the position of his on-screen alter ego, chief engineer Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker - a soul who takes his work seriously, to be sure, but doesn't let it dominate his existence. Because, to use an expression the Southern-born-and-bred Trip might utter, he's got bigger fish to fry.

"You know, it's none of my business," Trinneer says of the Trek hubbub during the waning moments of a Hollywood party. "I've got enough of my own business to worry about - to get through the day and do my job productively and effectively. I've already won. 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 selfish way to look at it, but as long as this goes, I'm winning, because I get to go to my lab every day and figure out how to get better. The rest of it, I don't care. It's none of my business. It's the producers' job to worry about that stuff, it's not my job."

Having said that, of course, Trinneer hopes and expects that Enterprise will be flying for quite a while. One reason is that, deep into his second season, the 33-year-old actor feels, he's getting the hang of his surroundings. He went into the part with the confidence, buffered by his training and stage history, that he could handle it. "I was pretty grounded in who Trip was when I got him. So I never got freaked out because I always had the grounding of who he was."

Nevertheless, there were the butterflies that go along with such a high - profile gig, that even years of experience can't entirely buffer. "Like any actor, you want to do well," says Trinneer. "You don't want to screw up, you don't want to waste anyone's time. You want to be a good soldier. And 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. And therefore, I think that I'm doing a better job than I was last year, just because any time that you have nervous energy in your way, it's frankly in your way."

At what point did Trinneer know he had his Enterprise sea legs? When pressed, he pauses for a minute, then points to last year's episode Shuttlepod One , a two-person affair in which Trip and Lieutenant Reed (Dominic Keating) were trapped in a stranded shuttlecraft, running out of oxygen and with little hope of rescue. "That episode, because of the environment that we worked in, being so cold and being under the gun with Dominic, just the two of us, working together - I really sort of thought for the first time 'Bring it on, because I can handle it'."

This season has seen Trip getting more involved in all sorts of action, from the typical (the Enemy Mine - inspired Dawn ) to the romantic (Precious Cargo , with its allusions to Swept Away - the first one, not the Madonna version). According to Trinneer, it hasn't been part of any specific plan by either himself or producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, but he's nevertheless thrilled about the development of Enterprise .

"This year has been a lot more character - driven, and I think that'll continue to be," Trinneer says, adding that the rest of the season should include a revisiting of the Suliban and the Temporal Cold War, as well as intriguing revelations about the 'friends and neighbors' in the galaxy. As for his own guy, "There have been opportunities as the character to experience things that cover the rainbow," he says. "I've always had the opportunity to work with people that I really relish, and I couldn't be happier. And I'm also a proactive part of that too. I ask questions of the writers, and I ask questions of the producers. If I don't understand something, I'll call. That's my responsibility, I think, as an actor, to try to tell a good story."

Another responsibility of working on a Trek project is dealing with the fans, an aspect of the job that Trinneer has found quite pleasurable. He had experience in this area as well. "My brother and his friends were fans of the original show. They're intelligent people , and the show attracts that," says Trinneer. "The best questions that are ever asked of me are at the conventions." Of course, they also usually know more about the final frontier than he does. "I mean, they know how all the stuff works," he says with a smile. "And I'm like, ' I'm an actor. Actor, actor, actor.' "

As for acting, Trinneer hopes to do some during Enterprise 's hiatus, as well as honing his skills behind the camera for a potential stab at directing. But he may also be indulging in the one hobby prompted by success and fame and stability - another kind of trek, actually. "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," says Trinneer, who last summer spent a month in Europe with his girlfriend. "The by-product of what I've had thrown my way is that we get to do awesome stuff together...God bless Star Trek !"


When he's not traveling the galaxy and wrestling with Suliban as Commander Tucker, Connor Trinneer is dealing with a more primitive frontier - that of owning a new home. And not just any home, but a 1910 Craftsman house, the kind that simple folk would order out of a catalogue and put together themselves nearly a century ago.
Having a permanent base of operations was not part of Trinneer's career plan. "Going to graduate school and drama school and being trained for the regional theatre, I never thought that I would have one, and I was cool with it," he says. "There was that grey area of time where I was always 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 always moving, and this house means that I'm not."

Now that he's found a place to sleep full-time, Trinneer does get to play Enterprise engineer for real, albeit without space-age gadgets, by sprucing up his abode. "I got through college doing roofing and construction, so I know how to do all of that stuff," he says, while getting rather philosophical about his new, handy role: "There's something fundamental about it. Building a house is how we build our lives."


The Enterprise universe may still be cooling from the fires of its creation last season, but Connor Trinneer reports that one thing that is solidifying is the cast. As has been the case with other modern Trek incarnations, the actors on this ship have become more than co-workers. And that mood has been created, in part, by the on-screen captain of the whole enchilada.

"Scott Bakula sets the tone for everything," says Trinneer. "And he has created a family. He set a tone for the show, working on the show. Him being around has made the show better, and I think that him being around has made every actor on the show better."

Trinneer doesn't go so far as to call Bakula the dad of Enterprise :"He's the man," he says simply. And apparently, the crazy uncle as well - much has been made about Bakula's prankster tendencies, including the captain's chair trick he pulled on Patrick Stewart during the making of Nemesis. His co-star, though, says that a lot of the jokes are much subtler.

"He just makes fun of everyone, and he does it in such a wonderful, positive, light way," says Trinneer. "And we all make fun of each other. And that wouldn't have worked if we'd not had him around to show us. That's how you work together, that's how you work as an ensemble."