Article TV-Zone Issue N°181: TUCKER GOES FORTH

Grieving for a loved one while trying to help save Earth were heavy burdens for Star Trek: Enterprise's Commander Tucker to bear in the show's third season. For Connor Trinneer, it translated into a welcome acting challenge, as he tells Steven Eramo.

Unlike a number of actors, Connor Trinneer didn't grow up longing to perform . In fact, it wasn't until he was in college that such a thought entered his mind. "I was playing football and by the second year I was getting bored and looking to do something else," he recalls. A fellow student suggested to Trinneer that he try out for a school play. So he did, and it was after auditioning that he suddenly realized his true calling.

"It came to me like lightning," says Trinneer. "I thought, 'I want to be an actor.' I don't know what I'd have done otherwise for a career. I probably would have become a teacher and coach, which would've been fine. However, I'm so glad that I decided, instead, to pursue acting."

For three years, Trinneer has been busy exploring the universe as Enterprise's Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker III .The show's third season took a new turn though, as the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 was sent to track down the Xindi, the race who'd launched an unprovoked attack on Earth at the end of Season Two, and prevent a far more devastating second strike.

"I was pleased with how the Xindi story arc played out," says the actor. "Before that, I'd never done an entire season of a TV show or even a block of episodes that focused on a single story idea. It was fascinating how our writers were able to sustain and gather momentum for such an undertaking. Also, I think it was a little necessary for us to do what we did. Enterprise found its sea legs in the third season.

"In the first year or two of any TV series you're trying to fine-tune things and, frankly, find an identity for your programme. Most if not all the shows in the Trek franchise have been in that same situation where it took a couple of years for them to get their balance and then off they went. That's what happened with our series. We figured out what it is. Not that we didn't know before, but we clarified things."

Though everyone aboard the Enterprise was affected in some way by the Xindi's initial attack on Earth, Trip, was hit particularly hard, as his sister Elizabeth was among the millions killed. Trying to balance his grief and anger at the Xindi with his day-to-day responsibilities as chief engineer sometimes pushed Trip to the limit, and allowed Trinneer to further stretch himself as an actor.

"Last year, Trip went to a number of emotional places that he had never before been to on the show," he explains. "Of course, he was set up to do just that. It was no surprise to me that as the season unfolded we'd be exploring that aspect of his personality, and I was asking for it, too. The producers, writers and myself have put together a character that, I believe, has a variety of dimensions to him. What we saw last year with Trip was the proper dose of internal struggle that he had to go through in order to work things out.

"I knew going into season three that the things that make Trip who he is might get him into a little more trouble. He was asked to go in a number of rather edgy directions, which included shooting his captain," laughs Trinneer. "However, his responses, whatever the situation, come from the same central core of who Trip is as a human being. I think he sort of has his own book of right and wrong that only he can dictate from.

"I didn't quite understand the whole Trip/T'Pol romance , to be honest with you. They just seemed to wind up giving neuro-massage to each other and that's that. At one point it seemed like it began to go in a specific direction and then ended up treading water. That was actually a difficult relationship to figure out and I've yet to figure it out. If the writers plan to continue with that relationship in the fourth season I hope we come to understand it a bit more."

Another season highlight for the character was Similitude, where an accident left him critically injured. Using one of his alien pets, Dr. Phlox creates a simbiot of the commander with a lifespan of 15 days, that will provide the organs for a vital transplant. However, as the simbiot (or Sim), grows to adulthood, ethical questions arise as to whether or not he should be forced to sacrifice his life to save the original Trip.

"Similitude is my favourite third season episode," notes Trinneer. "Getting to play Trip's clone was the highlight of last year for me. I really got excited when I first read the script, and then I heard that LeVar Burton [Lt. Commander LaForge from Star Trek: The Next Generation] was directing. That was the icing on the cake. The two of us have a great relationship. For some reason he happens to direct the episodes that I have solid moments in, like Similitude and season two's Cogenitor.

"In Similitude, Sim was on a constant search for what it meant to be Trip and to try to understand the feelings he was experiencing. That's not usually the type of thing you get to see my character do. Sim opened himself up to the reality of what was going on around him. As an actor, I was put in interesting situations that weren't typical for Trip and I thoroughly enjoyed playing those out."

With the Xindi weapon destroyed - and the true motivations of their apparent benefactors, the Sphere-builders,exposed, the third season cliffhanger Zero Hour left Enterprise free to return to Earth. But the crew found it had changed a bit since they were last there, something that'll be resolved in fourth season opener Storm Front. By mid-July, Trinneer and the rest of the Enterprise cast and crew were back at work and filming that tale, and though he couldn't discuss details of the story, the actor promises that, like viewers, Trip is in for more than a few surprises.

"The last time we saw Trip, he and Mayweather had taken a shuttlepod down to Earth, which was intercepted by a couple of World War II P51 fighter planes. Trust me, in Storm Front things get weirder," he chuckles. "The writers have thrown stuff in there that will make all of us go, 'What the heck'''"

By any standards, the show endured a rocky ratings ride last year, but despite this, Connor Trinneer is thinking only good thoughts about its fourth season and the future of Enterprise. "I'm hoping for a kick - ass year and that the series continues with the momentum it left off with at the end of season three," enthuses the actor. "If Enterprise doesn't run for the full seven years then it will have died prematurely, and all of us here are working our butts off for that not to happen."

Intergalactic Odd Couple

While Trip and T'Pol grew closer during Enterprise's third year, Trinneer noticed a bit of a gap between his character and some of the others on the show. "I felt there was a slight separation between Trip and Archer," he muses. "There were less scenarios with the captain and the commander and more where they each made decisions that were, perhaps, counter to their relationship. That said, it didn't hurt to shake things up between them.

"The Trip/Reed friendship sort of fell by the wayside for the sake of the Xindi plot, which it had to and I understood that. We spent the prior two seasons doing quite a bit of relationship-building scenes and stories with those two guys. So I was a little disappointed last year that we couldn't do as much Trip/Reed material, simply because it's so much fun. They're such opposite characters but for some reason they connect. I love those silly moments where we get to see Trip and Reed be an 'odd couple' because I think it's really there."

In Capable Hands

Along with Similitude, Trinneer is also especially fond of the third season story The Forgotten. In this episode, Trip has to write a letter to the family of a dead crewman, and in doing so the commander must face some inner demons. "That episode was very well-written with Trip 'seeing' the deceased ensign and how it echoed his own inability to let go of his sister and come to terms with her death," says the actor. "It was good to see my character finally start to purge all the pent-up emotions he had been carrying around. I thought the writers Chris Black and David A. Goodman did a great job with those scenes.

"Of course, once again I was fortunate enough to have LeVar Burton as the director. He plays a big part in what comes out in these episodes that I get to work with him on. We don't really even talk about the dialogue that much. LeVar will tweak the material a bit and then say to me, 'OK, now take it in this direction.' He knows what he's looking for - it's both a pleasure and a relief to know you're in such capable hands."