Star Trek: Enterprise is very much the black sheep of the Trek family. It was plagued with problems from day one and just managed to hold on in there for four seasons before being canned. The prequel series focused on Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), a man billed as Captain Kirk’s childhood hero. While the character and the series in general received a lot of (mostly deserved) flak since it aired, many have been giving the series a second chance, especially with it being on streaming services like Netflix.
As new Trek series Discovery is mere months away, and with hype building for the first new Star Trek series in 12 long years, we figured that there’s no time like the present to dig a little deeper into the life and times of one of humanity’s great space-faring founding fathers. Here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Captain Jonathan Archer.
15. He’s referenced in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek (2009)
While JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie went its own way and set up its own alternate timeline, it had a ton of references to classic Trek lore. One of these is a rather throwaway line spoken by Simon Pegg’s Montgomery Scott. Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk finds Scotty on a remote ice planet named Delta Vega.
When Spock Prime (the much missed Leonard Nimoy) questions the new Scotty as to whether he is the Montgomery Scott behind the idea of transwarp beaming, Scotty replies : “How do you think I wound up here? Had a little debate with my instructor on relativistic physics and how it pertains to subspace travel. He seemed to think that the range of transporting something like a… like a grapefruit was limited to about 100 miles. I told him that I could not only beam a grapefruit from one planet to the adjacent planet in the same system – which is easy, by the way – I could do it with a life form. So, I tested it out on Admiral Archer’s prized beagle.” Kirk responds that he knows the dog and asks whatever happened to it. Scotty’s answer? “I’ll tell you when it reappears. Ahem. I don’t know, I do feel guilty about that.”
Whether or not this dog is the adorable and faithful Porthos from Enterprise is up for debate, but animal lovers out there should be relieved to hear that in both the movie’s novelization and the tie-in comic “The Truth About Tribbles!”, the beagle is beamed back onto the Enterprise without a scratch on him.
14. His middle name is an easter egg
Scott Bakula became a household name when he starred in the body hopping fun time series, Quantum Leap, where he played Dr. Samuel Beckett. When Bakula signed on to Enterprise, many fans wanted some kind of reference to his best known role, and they got it with the episode “Detained”, which reunited Bakula with co-star Dean Stockwell, this time playing a prison warden named Colonel Grat.
However, there is another reference hiding in the series’ various spin-off novels. In Beneath the Raptor’s Wing by Michael A. Martin, Archer’s middle name is revealed to be Beckett, almost certainly a nod to Quantum Leap. As Star Trek canon is rather rigid, mostly focusing on the various series and movies, it’s tough to say whether this is actually Archer’s confirmed middle moniker or not in the official continuity, but most fans seem on board with the idea. It’s no worse than “Tiberius”.
13. His love of space started at an early age
The son of famed warp drive scientist Henry Archer, young Jonny Archer was exposed to humanity’s quest for the stars from the off. His father encouraged his son’s interest in the final frontier and bought him a book called “The Cosmos A to Z” for his eighth birthday. According to Archer himself, he would spend hours staring at the cover image of the Arachnid Nebula, dreaming of adventure. Little did he know then that he would visit it in person in the episode “Fusion”.
When he shows T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) his well-worn copy of the book, she inquires about the inscription inside, reading “From the library of Admiral Jonny Archer”, to which Archer cheerfully responds, “I had high hopes as a kid”. Thanks to 2009’s Star Trek, we know that Archer did eventually achieve the rank of Admiral (at least in that timeline), making the whole thing rather prophetic. When the Enterprise surveys the nebula itself, they find it to be much larger than the book states. The new information is sent back to Earth to be used in updated textbooks, and Archer goes from being inspired by the books to serving as their inspiration.
12. The network wanted to kill his character off
When Enterprise aired, it wasn’t exactly a runaway success. It started strongly, but audience numbers declined as the series wore on. The network behind the show, UPN, apparently blamed the show’s dwindling popularity on the character of Jonathan Archer, and Scott Bakula’s performance in particular. Enterprise‘s producers met with the studio bigwigs to discuss the possibility of a fourth series. The studio note? Get rid of Bakula and bring in a younger, sexier captain.
This obviously didn’t end up happening. The producers talked the network around and Bakula remained in the hot seat for the series’ fourth and final season. It’s a good thing too, as many fans regard the fourth season as the series’ best and praised the uptick in quality, despite a disappointing and widely reviled series finale. Regardless of your opinion of the character, straight-up replacing a captain for the final series of a show would have been a crappy thing to do, especially considering the fans who had stuck with the series through thick and thin up to that point.
11. He proposed to his girlfriend and was rejected
Jonathan Archer had a few romantic interests in his time aboard the Enterprise, but on a scale from 1 to Riker, he ranks pretty low. One of the reasons for this could be that he’s been burned before, with his unsuccessful proposal to his then girlfriend, Margaret Mullin.
In the fan-favorite episode “Twilight”, Archer has been infected by parasites that leave him with anterograde amnesia, meaning he can’t form new memories. (Think Memento in space.) When Archer wakes up, twelve years have passed and humanity has basically been wiped out by the Xindi. This is a lot to take in, and T’Pol, now captain of the Enterprise, reveals that she’s been caring for him and relays the story of when he was 24 and just about to graduate Flight School. The young Archer had proposed marriage and Margaret declined, stating that she didn’t want to be a “Starfleet widow”. Archer is stunned as he recounts that he’s never told anyone that story, to which the Vulcan comments that their relationship has “evolved” since the days of Archer’s mistrust of her species. By the end of the episode, the brain worms have been dealt with and the status quo has been restored, but it’s an interesting peek into Archer’s past.
10. He’s an accomplished water polo player
Every Star Trek captain has their unique quirks and hobbies, and Captain Archer was all about water polo. It’s well established that he’s a fan, even watching games with his buddy Trip Tucker to chill out after a rough day’s captaining. If you were to find yourself in Archer’s quarters for any length of time, chances are that he’d throw his polo ball at you as a test of your reflexes, as he did with many of his crewmen.
Archer also has a personal history with the sport, competing in the 2134 North American Water Polo Regionals, where his team pulled off a stunning last-minute victory against Princeton. His team’s triumph ends up inspiring Jonathan to always believe that victory is possible, no matter how bad things look, and this ideal can be seen to have had a big impact on his style of command. Perhaps to remind him of this, Archer’s overnight bag is his grotty old bag from the finals, complete with faded tournament logo on the side.
9. Archer sustained a ton of injuries during his command
Starfleet captains have a tendency to get into fights, but even considering that, Jonathan Archer has probably been smacked around more than most. He was captured and tortured pretty frequently over the course of the series. Not only that, but he’s been infected by a nefarious alien form several times as well as being pummelled, stabbed, burned, slashed, choked, and generally beaten up in his various hostile encounters.
Most of this seems to be intentional, however. To be fair to Archer, these are humanity’s first shaky steps in exploring new worlds and seeking out new life. As protocol hasn’t been established yet, it makes sense that talks would break down or that the crew of the NX-01 would accidentally do something to offend unfamiliar cultures. Enterprise wastes little time in putting Archer on the pain train, as he gets shot in the leg in the very first episode “Broken Bow”, leading to T’Pol temporarily assuming command. There’s even a handy YouTube compilation of all of the times Archer got hurt, just in case you wanted to see 7+ minutes of Scott Bakula suffering.
8. He has a comet, two planets, and several starships named after him
Jonathan Archer is a trailblazer, no doubt about it. His name is written in future history books, and so it makes sense that, like all great people, he’d have a few things named in his honor. One of the first such things is a massive comet, imaginatively named Archer’s Comet, that the Enterprise crew stumble across in the episode “Breaking the Ice”.
It doesn’t stop there. The Enterprise discovers Archer’s Planet (noticing a pattern?) in the Gamma Trianguli sector, as well as Archer IV, the first M-Class (i.e. suitable for humanoid life) planet he ever charted. In the Star Trek: Vanguard series, there’s a range of scout ships known as the Archer class. To cap it off, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance of a U.S.S. Archer on a screen in the Star Trek: Nemesis movie. As the movie and television show were around at the same time, it seems likely that it’s an intentional reference to the character.
7. Scott Bakula wasn’t happy about the series’ final episode
If you were left pissed off with Enterprise‘s final episode “These Are The Voyages…”, don’t worry, you’re not alone – the cast weren’t fans either. In case you weren’t aware, Enterprise‘s final episode was framed by Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Riker and Deanna Troi going through the historical files on the holodeck. It was more of subpar episode of TNG than it was of Enterprise, and the whole thing felt rushed and disrespectful to what the series had tried to build.
When Bakula read the script, he reportedly angrily called up producer Brannon Braga to vent his spleen over the treatment of his character and the crew. Jolene Blalock has also been a vocal critic of the way things ended, calling the finale “appalling” in a 2005 interview with The Toronto Star. Braga himself has expressed his regrets over the episode and recalls that it was the only time Scott Bakula was “pissed” at him. There could be a case made that the central idea isn’t terrible for a standard episode, but as a series finale, it sucked.
6. The final episode was nearly about a mentally ill patient who believed he was Jonathan Archer
There are many directions the final episode of Enterprise could have taken. Many fans would argue that any direction, barring the one they ended up taking, seems preferable, but we digress. According to writer Mike Sussman, the episode was originally planned to crossover with Star Trek: Voyager, with the Voyager’s Doctor (Robert Picardo) reprising his role as the ship’s holographic medicine man.
He would have been treating a seemingly crazy patient (played by Scott Bakula) who may or may not have turned out to be THE Jonathan Archer. In an interview with TrekToday, Sussman detailed his idea: “The story would touch on that classic theme about a doctor falling for one of his patient’s delusions. For every piece of evidence “Archer” would have that he’s telling the truth, you’d have a contradictory piece of evidence suggesting this guy was really just nuts. It would’ve been great to leave the audience wondering in the end – was that really Jonathan Archer trapped in the future, or just some crazy guy who read too many history books?” Sussman admitted his idea wouldn’t have been a good send-off to the series either, but it’s a shame we never got to see this one play out on the small screen in some form.
5. The fifth season would have revealed Archer to be the mysterious villain dubbed “Future Guy”
One of Enterprise‘s longest-running mysteries was the identity of a shadowy benefactor who was playing puppet master behind the scenes and manipulating events to his own will. He’s only referred to as the “Humanoid Figure” by official Star Trek sources, but fans started referring to him as “Future Guy” and posting their own theories as to who he was. As the series was cancelled before providing an answer, many fans were left without a sense of closure for one of the show’s biggest loose threads.
However, in 2012, Brannon Braga revealed on Twitter that Future Guy was always intended to be a future version of Jonathan Archer, manipulating his past self to avoid a terrible future. Braga later suggested that future Archer may have become desperate enough to try and kill his past self, using big bad Silik to carry it out. It certainly sounds pretty compelling, and it makes the series’ unrealized potential sting that little bit more.
4. The network kept changing his hairstyle
As television shows are big, complicated productions, it’s not surprising that a lot of planning can go into the smallest of details. You can tell a lot about a character by how they look and how they dress, but perhaps the execs at UPN took things a little too far with their regular notes on Jonathan Archer’s hair.
On the audio commentary for season four episode “Demons”, actors Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating (aka Trip Tucker and Malcolm Reed) laugh about how often the studio would insist that Archer’s hair be changed to suit whatever mood they wanted that week, be it to make him look younger/older or even more roguish. Archer’s hairstyle does change over the course of the series, going from more of a classic combover to a trendier, shorter cut. This wasn’t the studio’s dumbest note either – that prize has to go to their early pitch to have a different boy band perform each week on the ship’s deck. We’re not kidding.
3. The character was originally named Jackson Archer
When developing Enterprise, the creators knew that they wanted their captain to be named Archer, but his first name went through a few revisions. Originally, he was to be named Jackson Archer, but a search for “Jackson Archer” revealed one man living in the United States by that name. To avoid any potential lawsuits, the name was changed. However, what they came up with next wasn’t much better.
Apparently, the name “Jeffrey Archer” was seriously considered until British fans let Paramount know that there was a disgraced politician by that name in the UK. As the real Jeffrey Archer had recently been convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice – hardly the sort of association you want for your new moral and heroic Starfleet captain – the producers wisely decided to steer clear of that particular nest of vipers and went with the inoffensive “Jonathan” instead. We’re going to go ahead and say that was a good call on their part.
2. He died at the age of 133
Humans live much longer lives in Star Trek‘s future, and Jonathan Archer definitely had a good run before he kicked the space bucket. According to unused production materials uploaded to writer/producer Mike Sussman’s now-defunct personal site, a computer read-out reveals that Jonathan Archer died peacefully at his home in upstate New York in 2245, making him the ripe old age of 133.
There’s one detail of special note. According to the biography, Archer died one day after attending the christening ceremony of the Federation’s brand new NCC-1701, later famous for her five year mission under the command of some guy named James Tiberius Kirk. You might have heard of him. For a man that came to embody an era’s pioneering spirit and desire to seek out knowledge beyond the stars, it’s a nice poetic touch that Archer passes away just after witnessing the new era being ushered in with his own eyes.
1. His dog travelled back in time to save his life
You read that right. However, don’t worry if you don’t remember the episode, because this little gem of a story came from the Star Trek comic books, specifically the story “The Fragile Beauty of Loyalty”, appearing in Star Trek:Waypoint #4. We flash back to an eight year old Jonny Archer exploring the snowy wilderness of Nacacijin Gorge. His parents insist he take the family beagle Maska with him, much to his annoyance.
All is normal until a member of the Suliban Cabal travels back in time and boots him onto a frozen lake. The ice shatters and Jonny starts to drown. Luckily, the dog cracks the ice with a stick and drags the boy to safety. He thanks Maska, but soon realizes that it’s an unfamiliar dog before it vanishes into thin air. From that day on, Archer swears to always have a dog by his side.
We join the older Captain Archer in his quarters recounting the story to a sleeping Porthos. He talks about a mystery crewmember volunteering for a time-travel mission to save the young boy, and he wonders aloud who could have been loyal enough to undertake a life-threatening mission. The comic ends with a close up of Archer’s eyes going wide as the penny drops. If that wasn’t enough of a hint, the story is also dedicated to Laika, the Soviet astro-dog who became one of the first animals in space and the first animal ever to orbit the Earth. It may not be canon, but it had to be on this list for obvious reasons.
What else should Star Trek fans know about Captain Archer? Sound off in the comments.
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