“Enterprise” a “Trek” prequel

Trekkies were faced with breaking off cold turkey from their Star Trek jones with Voyager‘s season finale (syndication of the four series notwithstanding) until UPN announced that it would carry this fall Enterprise, the fifth serial based on the 1960s original.

And everyone exhaled.

UPN announced May 17 that Enterprise would launch earlier than most other serials, sometime in mid-September, limiting fans’ downtime to a mere 12 weeks or so.

Enterprise’s debut episode will be a two-hour premiere, which UPN entertainment chief Tom Nunan said would be preceded with “one of the [network’s] largest marketing campaigns ever.”

To be clear, it’s just called Enterprise, not Star Trek: Enterprise, though what the difference would be, no one is quite sure.

“Paramount felt it was no longer necessary. Enterprise is synonymous with Star Trek,” UPN president Dean Valentine told reporters.

Eschewing comparisons to the three prior spin-offs, it has been confirmed that this is a prequel to the original series. The tagline for Enterprise is: “The Final Frontier Has A New Beginning.”

Enterprise is set in the 22nd century, 150 years before the legendary Capt. James T. Kirk appears on the scene. Featuring Quantum Leap‘s Scott Bakula as Capt. Jonathan Archer, who commands one of Earth’s first starships, it is a time when humanity isn’t quite used to the new technology they’ve created or the new life forms they’ve encountered.

Rick Berman, who has become the keeper of the Star Trek flame since the 1991 death of series founder Gene Roddenberry, promised that Enterprise will return to Star Trek‘s fundamentals and Roddenberry‘s vision of a hopeful future.

With a multiethnic, international ensemble cast (to tap into the international enthusiasm), the Enterprise’s crew is rounded out as follows: John Billingsley (Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles) as Dr. Phlox, the ship’s medical officer; Jolene Blalock (TV’s Jason and the Argonauts) as the vixen Vulcan first officer T’Pol; Dominic Keating (Jungle2Jungle) as weapons man Malcolm Reed; Anthony Montgomery as the navigator Travis Mayweather; Linda Park as communications officer Hoshi Sato; and Connor Trinneer (HBO’s 61*) as the engineer Charlie Tucker.

“Appropriately, the crew of Enterprise exhibits a sense of wonder as well as a little trepidation about the strange things and beings they will encounter. Being among the first to explore deep space, they will have to prove they are ready for life among the stars,” Nunan said.

The Vulcans are still a fresh new face to humans, and despite their help in advancing interstellar travel, are still not completely trusted by the Earthlings. The Vulcans, for their part, don’t think the humans are quite ready to meet new races.

“What’s important about Enterprise is … interplanetary space travel is a fairly new thing in this era,” said Marvin V. Rush, director of photography on the new show. “Warp drive has been around for a while, but not very long. Transporter technology is also fairly new, and while it’s proven, not everybody in the world trusts it.”

It’s also a time of great upheaval in the galaxy, which leads to the formation of the Federation.

Cinescape reports on its Web site that the Enterprise pilot will be titled Broken Bow. A Klingon’s ship crashes on Earth–the first contact between humans and Klingons–but something goes awry as Earth tries to get him home, resulting in the start of Klingon-human tensions.

The Web site also states that the Klingons will have bumpy foreheads, as they have since Star Trek: The Next Generation, the first spin-off, but contrary to the original series. Gene Roddenberry was quoted prior to his passing that Klingons “were always intended to look that way, we just didn’t have the budget for it back in the ’60s.”

StarTrek.com, the official Enterprise Web site, posted what the new series will bring to fans.

“The combination of science fiction, action/adventure and compelling stories of collective bravery and individual heroism remains true to the spirit of one of television’s formidable brands,” according to the Web site.

“[The] saga continues to explore human and alien behavior as well as brand new worlds. As with each incarnation of the franchise, Enterprise pushes the edge of the visual envelope with the kind of state of the art special effects that have made Star Trek a global phenomenon.”

William Shatner, who played Capt. Kirk in the original series, is quoted on Star Trek über-site Trek Today as saying: “There is something in the formula of the franchise that seems to work and it will work again [for] Scott Bakula and Enterprise.”

Enterprise will inherit Voyager‘s 8 p.m. Wednesday slot on UPN’s schedule.

“You all are witness to a show that guarantees instant attention, recognition, anticipation and most importantly, success,” Nunan told a gathering of advertisers and affiliate representatives.

Star Trek is the most popular science fiction franchise in the world.”