Article: Star Trek Magazine Issue N°117

An Unforgetable Trip

Connor Trinneer has been one of the leading lights of Star Trek: Enterprise in its soon - to - be four-year history and the actor continues to impress in episodes like Similitude and The Forgotten . STM's Paul Simpson caught up with the Enterprise NX-01's passionate chief engineer, Charles ' Trip' Tucker, at a recent convention in Germany to hear his thoughts on the show's forthcoming fourth season, to discuss the extraordinary voyage just witnessed in Season Three and find out what it means to him to be part of the Star Trek crew...

Anyone looking more different to the character he recently played on screen than Star Trek: Enterprise's Connor Trinneer would be almost impossible to find. Sitting in the backstage area at FedCon XII, the huge German Star Trek and science fiction convention held in Bonn at the end of May, Charles 'Trip' Tucker's alter-ego looks totally relaxed, even though he is facing the prospect of half a dozen interviews with various different organizations. Casually attired in denims and open-toed sandals, Trinneer seems to have nothing more on his mind than wondering if the meal he's going to have that evening will match the food he had on the night before.

The attitude is slightly deceptive. Like many of his Star Trek: Enterprise cast mates, Trinneer has been thrown into the spotlight for the first time as a result of his work on the show, and he is very careful and measured with his responses, often pausing for thought before replying. He lightly parries questions about what he'd like to see while he's in Germany, turning it into an enquiry about what there might be available to see, and quips that all he's seen so far of the country is "the train station. Nice train station." Asked to do a station promotion for local station Trek TV, there's a misunderstanding as the sound recordist thinks that Trinneer has been talking about "Trip TV", letting the actor go on a riff about "Trip TV - All Trip! All the Time!"

Sitting down with STM, he seems to make a conscious decision not to pull his punches. "What I like most about Trip," he says initially, "is that they give him enough rope to hang himself. He's allowed to be who he is - he's a bit emotional. He swings first and asks questions later, which I like. I also like the fact that his sense of humour has come through during the third season. I don't think they originally saw that in the character, but as we've progressed in the series, the writers have put me in so many funny situations, and I like the way they have developed it."

Trinneer is not backwards in coming forwards when he's happy about something - or the reverse. "I call the writers and the executives, and I tell them what I'm happy with, and what I'm not happy with," he adds. "I'm very involved with my character. They are fantastic for the line of communication between me and them."

That doesn't mean that Trinneer learns anything about the story ahead of his fellow cast members. Like them, he wasn't aware that the series was going to undergo such a massive alteration during its third year. "We knew something at the end of Season Two" he notes, "but we didn't know how the arc was going to figure itself out. We did know that that was going to be our mission, out there in the Expanse, but we didn't know how things were going to play out. I also knew that I was going to be dealing with the death of my sister, but I didn't know how long that was going to last."

Trinneer leans forward on his chair. "The thing I didn't know, the thing that was a mystery to me, was what wound up happening between Trip and T'Pol," he says "I had no idea about that whatsoever. I can't say that I had no idea that they were going to be developing our relationship a bit more, but I didn't know how they were going to be doing it."

The actor agrees that the chief engineer and the Vulcan had been playing a bit of a dance during the first two seasons, but he's not so certain that what followed was what could necessarily have developed. "I'll be honest with you," he says "I think it was fine that we did do the neural pressure scenes, but then the relationship flattened out a little bit. After a certain point in the season, the relationship did seem to be arbitrarily tossed in there. Nothing was truly built off it, with the exception maybe of T'Pol's discovery or rather, our discovery of her trellium addiction. But for me, we didn't keep exploring the fact of why Trip wasn't sleeping very well, which was the thing that got us into this scene in the first place and, in theory, was what was keeping us there."

Alfred Hitchcock coined there term a 'MacGuffin' for something that is important to the characters within a story, but of no relevance outside it, and Trinneer believes that the term is applicable to Trip's sleeping problems. "It was a 'MacGuffin', absolutely, and I don't know what can be done about that."

Trinneer doesn't necessarily think that an entire episode's A-plot needs to be devoted to the couple. "It can remain a B-plot," he states, "but let's keep the B-plot progressing. Let's not just sit on the fact that we're going to take our clothes off, sit around and massage each other and have conversations that felt like they didn't really come from anywhere."

Trinneer believes that the writers were experimenting with the couple to see what elements of their relationship worked. "Yeah, I think the writers were trying to find out what was going on," he repeats. "I think sometimes they throw stuff out there that we're not entirely sure how it's going to all work. T'Pol and Trip do have a certain charm together, but I think you want to see how it's affecting them outside of where they are. There's only been one episode where the rumour mill was starting to fly around, and that was the only time we ever really dealt with their situation outside of their being in the room."

The people on board the Enterprise NX-01 do form a small community, and in that sort of environment, rumours fly around rapidly. "Exactly!" Trinneer says. "There's no way it's going to be kept under wraps so much! My suggestion would be to make it public, and see how the pair handle it between them and react to it in public. Maybe the writers have a grand scene that they're holding off for the fourth season," he hints.

STM spoke with Trinneer just after the announcement had been made that ST:ENT had been renewed for its fourth year. However, the actor had already had time to think about what, if any, changes might be required. "I personally think that the changes we already made for Season Three were sufficient," he maintains. "I think that we are going to be fighting to stay alive to go for all seven years, and I think there'll be a willingness by the makers if our show to do some big things. Those big things may include some changes. But as actors, we're the last ones to hear. All we get is the script the day before we shoot it. As I said, I didn't know what was going to happen in Season Three, so I can hardly say what I want to occur in Season Four. I was so surprised and pleased with what we did last year with the arc of the Xindi weapon. They're pretty creative upstairs - they'll figure it out!"

Trinneer doesn't believe that any of the nervous energy that was certainly present on the set during the third year translated itself onto the screen. "Don't forget, the ratings problems existed well before Enterprise," he points out. "I think that there was an exception for our show, but a sci-fi show is going to get a core of people. It's not necessarily going to generate a load more. It's going to get its numbers, but they're not necessarily going to be giant numbers."

He shakes his head wryly. "The rumour mill was crazy last year," he recalls. "We heard all sorts of things. I think there was somebody in a little dark room going, 'Tell them this!They're going to love it!' We had known, even as the third year started, that that year had not been the easiest one to get started. So when we left at the end of the third season, I said that if we got Season Four, I didn't want to talk about all of this again. If we got Season Four, that was all I cared about. I said ' Do not walk up to me and ask, if we are going to make it', because it just ends up being poisonous. I've only been on Star Trek for three years, but some of our crew had done Star Trek:The Next Generation . People's entire careers had been built around Star Trek, so a good number of them are in their mid-40's, and moving to think about how they're going to deal with their retirement, and all of a sudden the rug could get pulled from under them."

" But I can't see any of that energy on screen," he maintains. "If you could see us when the camera gets turned off, we're the silliest bunch of people in town. We're all professionals, too, and we understand the nature of the beast, but once the director's called 'cut' - or even when we're shooting sometimes - we just have a good time. We don't let outside pressures like that affect us."

Trinneer gives full credit to the onscreen captain for keeping the off-screen crew's morale high. "I think Scott [Bakula] has a lot to do with that, just because of who he is," he says. "He's been around the block a few times, and he knows the score. He knows things can get pulled out from under you at any moment in time. That's the given of being an actor. It is unfortunate if you get told when you're starting off, as we were on Enterprise , that we had seven years, and we should enjoy it. It's not given any more - and in reality, there aren't any givens."

Like many Star Trek cast members, Trinneer has a hankering to go behind the camera and mastermind an episode. "In our first season, Dominic [Keating], Anthony [Montgomery] and I started doing a tutorial with the guy who had helped out Roxann Dawson," he explains. "But last year, they had said they weren't going to have any first-time directors because they were a little under the gun about the Xindi story, and about our show in general. But now we've got the fourth year, hopefully we'll be able to push them a little, because I really want to do one."

Trinneer is very aware that the director is only one part of the creative process during the making of a Star Trek episode, and has been pondering how he can "bring anything to it that is different or original, but which is still within the envelope. [Executive producers Branon Braga and Rick Berman] have their fingerprints on our show - when you watch Enterprise , you're watching their show. So I don't know what I could bring, except I've got a good eye for the truth. I think I communicate well with what I think is needed."

He admits that his biggest fear is "having to go back and re-shoot. The producers get the cut and the edit, and if they don't like the dailies, then God forbid you'd have to go back and re-shoot, because that's mortifying to a director. You're the person watching the monitor and deciding to print a scene, and then they tell you they want it redone!"

Although directors are allotted their episodes, Trinneer would much prefer to have one that was emotionally based, rather than an action script. "Those action episodes, they take a lot of shooting," he explains. "The action shows definitely need the people with the technique in their pocket. I think that I would do much better with an episode that was tugging at your heartstrings, or at least mano a mano ."

Having never been involved in a show that has such a huge following as Star Trek before, it took Trinneer some time to adjust to the adulation shown at Star Trek conventions worldwide. "The reaction of the audiences when I go out on stage always surprises me," he says. "I don't often have the opportunity to put myself in front of 3,000 people."

While he agrees that there are certain similarities with appearing on stage in a play, he points out that, "when you're in the theatre, you're aware of the crowd, but they're not really affecting what you're doing on stage. They're affecting the energy of how you're doing what you do there, but they're not really affecting what you say. It reminds me more of when I was playing college football, and performing in front of all those people in a big stadium." He laughs and adds, "The curtain call reminds me of a convention - but only if the play went well!"

For Trinneer, its the people who he's come in contact with that are the most important part of being in Star Trek . "It's the family that I've met," he says. "They've been wonderful. People that I've worked with, the crew that I've worked with. I've spent three years, and many, many hours on set, and I've made some wonderful friendships. I've also made friends from the circle of conventions. Being on Star Trek has been nothing but a positive thing. Being an actor is a transient lifestyle - that's a given, and you can't change that. The day that I bought a house really made me feel something different. Star Trek has afforded me a permanent lifestyle, a place that's mine. It's nothing to do with anything more than me feeling that I'm progressing as a man. I've got a house, I'm getting married, time to have a family, I can go to work on my cars in the garage..."

Trinneer is grateful that the show is filmed in Los Angeles. where seeing actors is an everyday occurrence. "I can hang out with my friends and my fiancee, and go hiking," he says. "It hasn't really changed my life in that sense very much, except when I come to conventions and I see the effect of Star Trek in the face."

The actor counts himself as lucky. "Not many actors in Los Angeles get to say that they've been on a show even for four years," he points out, "so I feel blessed all the way around. I got lucky - I won the lottery."

And as to the future? "We do have a brief window of opportunity to do something during the hiatus," he says, "but I'm very busy on the show. I'm in every episode a lot, so I don't get a lot of opportunity to do other things while we're filming. My fiancee and I like to travel so much that I'm going to have to figure out how to travel less and audition more. It's time to get out there, and see what other things people might want to see me do..."