Probably everyone in the U.S. remembers where they were on September 11, 2001 – watching the twin towers fall on television, seeing the wreckage from a plane that had crashed into the Pentagon, and seeing a plane in a field. Some Americans had the misfortune of experiencing it first-hand. Others were stranded in cities all over the world.
People called friends and family in New York and the Washington D.C. area to see how they were. Some called in sick for work. For Americans, it was terrifying.
The Series Was Affected by 9/11
“Star Trek: Enterprise” had many episodes that handled terrorism, including “Shadows of P’Jem,” “Detained,” “Desert Crossing,” and the entire Xindi conflict in season three, especially “Chosen Realm.”
In 2020, on the anniversary of “Star Trek,” cast members from shows were gathered to answer questions and share their experiences. Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) hosted for “Star Trek: Enterprise,” asking the “Star Trek: Enterprise” cast about how 9/11 impacted the show.
Bakula indicated in that discussion it took a while for the writers to come to grips with the events. Like most Americans, Bakula said the writers were processing it. But after they were finished dealing with what happened, the writers were ready to tackle the impact of 9/11 in season three. From a storyline perspective, Bakula says it worked.
“It gave [the Enterprise characters] a sense of purpose I didn’t feel like, to be honest, we had getting out of the gate.”
The stakes for the characters were high with a mission to save Earth from destruction after an attack that carved out some of Florida. The Xindi’s weapon even obliterated Trip Tucker’s hometown: Panama City, Florida. During the attack, Tucker’s sister is killed.
Connor Trinneer (Commander Trip Tucker) in an interview with Trek News says:
“Right or wrong, I think [season three] was a thinly veiled response to 9/11. I felt like I was given an opportunity to — because we were all incredible affected by that — and for a long time.”
The ‘Enterprise’ Actors Were Impacted
The crew on “Star Trek: Enterprise” had many of the same reactions everyone did; some of them had lived in New York City, Pennsylvania, and the DC area, including Scott Bakula (Captain Jonathan Archer) and Connor Trinneer (Commander Trip Tucker). Both Bakula and Trinneer acted in New York City. Billingsley was born in Pennsylvania and raised near New York City, in Connecticut.
Also like most Americans, the crew had family and friends who were affected.
Trinneer talked with Trek News saying events affected him personally.
“While I didn’t have anyone pass away [due to the tragedy], I had friends who did. My sister was directly affected by it. I was affected by it as an American, as a person and I got to work through all of that in a story — the Xindi arc and Trips’ sister. In some way — lucky is the wrong way to put that — I was fortunate to work through my own issues and demons and whatever was coming out of me from that experience.”
Production Shut Down, Earth Was Destroyed
The production schedule was set in September 2001. The crew was supposed to film “Civilization” a classic “Prime Directive” episode where Archer, T’Pol, Trip, and Hoshi disguise themselves as the people on the planet, the Akaali, to help protect this pre-industrial race from evil aliens exploiting them.
On the production schedule for September 11, they were supposed to film scenes on the Bridge and Sickbay. Instead, the crew shut down filming for the day.
Mike Sussman (writer) says in the Blu-Ray special feature that he has trouble watching “Civilization” because of the events of 9/11. He also notes the actors, like the rest of the crew and Americans, lost their enthusiasm – perhaps even their purpose – during the episode.
He goes on to note in this Trek Today interview that two years later was a grim reminder of the events of 9/11. They were filming “Twilight,” an episode where Archer loses his memory and everything seems to fall apart: Earth is destroyed, their mission to save the planet failed. On September 11, 2003, they were scheduled to film the bridge scene where Earth was destroyed.
Sussman says it was a grim reminder.
Seth MacFarlane Nearly Died
People may know Seth MacFarlane from myriad shows, including “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and “The Orville.” But MacFarlane is a Star Trek fan … so much so he was on “Star Trek: Enterprise” as Ensign Rivers in “The Forgotten” and “Affliction” (an engineer).
But he tells CNN, he was supposed to be on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.
MacFarlane got drunk the night before. Because he was hungover and thought the flight was at a different time, he showed up late. He explains in the CNN interview he was often behind and had to reschedule. By the time he reached the counter, the attendant informed him the gate was closed.
He booked a later flight and wandered over to the lounge to sleep.
MacFarlane woke up to a ruckus at the airport, hearing that the plane he was supposed to be on (Flight 11) crashed into a World Trade Center tower.
If he had been aboard, he never would’ve been Ensign Rivers on “Star Trek.” And he never would’ve made “The Orville.” Although MacFarlane shrugs off the coincidence, fans are relieved.
Jeffrey Combs Was Reported Dead
On the morning of September 11, amid the chaos, Jeffrey Combs (Shran, Weyoun, Krem, etc.) was reported dead. In fact, it was Jeffrey Coombs who perished, not Combs. Memory Alpha indicates Jeffrey Combs had to clarify he wasn’t dead. Heavy asked Combs for verification but was unable to respond before publication. Nevertheless, the possibility the media made a false report on Combs seems possible, especially amid the pandemonium of the day.
‘Star Trek’ Responds to Current Events
Every version of “Star Trek” has dealt with troubling events. “The Original Series” responded to the Vietnam war, the Cold War, racism, and more. “Star Trek “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” dealt with the Iraq war. “Star Trek: Enterprise” reacted to September 11, one of the only times the U.S. was attacked at home.
Taking on current problems in the future has been something many science fiction shows, movies, and books do well. “Star Trek” in particular, with its 50+ years in television history, has especially excelled at it.
READ NEXT: Could This Character Return to ‘Star Trek’?