Star Trek: Enterprise’s John Billingsley on Dr. Phlox and Fundraising

John Billingsley as Phlox

Paramount / Getty John Billingsley and his ”Star Trek: Enterprise” character, Dr. Phlox.

There’s an old cliche that states that some things get better with age. Items that fall into that category are fine wines, some hard cheese, and “Star Trek.” It’s true! After a Trek series has finished its initial run on television, they are repackaged for DVD, Blu-ray, streaming, and syndication, letting entirely new audiences enjoy the story. 

One show enjoying a renaissance is “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Many fans consider DS9 the “best” out of all the series. Armin Shimmerman, the actor who brought Quark to life for seven years on the show, knew that while his show was airing that one day viewers would appreciate what they did.  

“I remember telling Nana [Visitor] about five weeks into our run of ‘Deep Space Nine’… wait 20 years, and they’ll discover us,” Shimerman told Trek Report in 2020

While that has undoubtedly happened, DS9 is not the only show fans are taking a second look at. Last year, the cast and crew from “Star Trek: Enterprise” celebrated the 20th year since its debut in 2001. 

“Enterprise” is certainly worthy of such praise, as the stories and characters have significantly impacted the franchise. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and now, Paramount+, viewers who were not born when the show aired are enjoying it as well. In fact, some of these younger fans feel that the show ended too early and are pushing ViacomCBS to give the show a fifth season

Actor John Billingsley was a cast member, portraying an alien member of the Enterprise crew. His fast-talking and quirky Dr. Phlox was and is beloved by Trek fans everywhere. Heavy was able to talk with Billingsley as he was working to promote an upcoming charitable event. 

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This Saturday, January 15 at Noon (3 p.m. on the East Coast), Billingsley will be joined by 60 or so other members of the “Star Trek” family, who are coming together to raise funds and awareness for the Hollywood Food Coalition. Billingsley put together this show with the help of the Trek Geeks Podcast Network and Roddenberry Podcasts. The show will be divided into segments, and fans will be able to contribute throughout the event.

“I’m thrilled,” says Billingsley when asked about the interest in “Enterprise” over 20 years later. “Given the nature of the streaming world we live in, for a show that I think otherwise would not have seen the light of day again.”

Billingsley says that since “Enterprise” did not hit the magical 100 episode mark, which is usually a requirement for a show to be syndicated, it would have been unlikely that new audiences would have been able to watch his program.

“So, it’s lovely that folks, who I think ‘pish-poshed’ it when it came on, might be receptive to it now,” says Billingsley. Looking back, Billingsley says that his show came at the heels of three other successful spin-offs from “The Original Series” without any breaks. 

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“I think a combination of ‘Star Trek’ fatigue and some confusion on the part of the creators and the network as to whether they should or shouldn’t try and expand the appeal of the franchise to a non ‘Star Trek’ audience lead to a bit of a muddle in the storytelling,” says Billingsley.

Billingsley says that there is “much” about the show and its stories that he likes but says that just as the show found its legs, it was was canceled by UPN. 

“By the time Manny Coto came on and took over in the third season, effectively as the showrunner, I think that we were a day late and a dollar short in terms of finding our audience,” says Billingsley.

After “Enterprise” was canceled in 2005, Billingsley went back to work in non-Trek productions. He was quite busy, appearing on stage, screen, and television in projects like “2012” and “The Man from Earth.” Even now, Billingsley is engaged with several new projects which are in production. 

One project he threw himself into was working with the Hollywood Food Coalition. He says that at first, he was a volunteer who helped make “fruit salad.” But now, Billingsley serves as the organization’s board president. Tapping into his fellow Trek alumni and the greater “Star Trek” family is a fantastic resource for Billingsley. This year’s fundraiser, known as “Trek Talks,” is all about supporting his non-profit, but he’d like to see more events like this for other causes.

“It also interests me to turn around to the entire ‘Star Trek’ community and say ‘Hey — what are your causes?’” Billingsley asks. “I’d like to think of ways if we were to annualize this event to make it more inclusive in that way.”

Billingsley and the team from Trek Geeks were able to assemble an incredible lineup for “Trek Talks,” full of the writers, producers, and artists who helped craft “Star Trek” from TNG to the present. 

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Among the familiar names who will appear are Cirroc Lofton, Chase Masterson, Robert Picardo, Alexander Siddig, Connor Trinneer, Jeri Ryan, and Jonathan Frakes. 

In a way, it is Frakes who ties the current Trek shows back to the era in which Billingsley appeared. Frakes starred on “The Next Generation” as Commander Riker and appeared on the final episode of “Enterprise.” He’s directed numerous episodes of “Discovery” and appeared as Riker as an animated character on “Lower Decks.” Though Trek was dormant for a bit, Frakes has been able to get back into the middle of things, thanks to directing, acting, and animation. 

This last medium is an interesting one, as virtually any Trek actor could return to the franchise, as the now-famous episode of “Star Trek: Prodigy” demonstrated. In “Kobayashi,” the voices of Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, and René Auberjonois were used to bring back their famous characters — Spock, Scotty, and Odo.

Billingsley says that reprising Dr. Phlox has interested him, and coming back as an animated character is also appealing. He did have a recent conversation with one of his agents on this very subject.

“They asked me if I wanted to audition for a small, supporting role on ‘Prodigy,’” says Billingsley. “And I said… could you tell them that I played Dr. Phlox? Maybe they’d like to have Dr. Phlox back?”

Joking aside, Billingsley says that returning as Phlox for live-action or animated would be something he’d love to do. He did note that if Phlox popped up as a CG character, he would not need to sit in the make-up chair. 

“Animated would be fun,” says Billingsley. “I’d be happy to come back as Dr. Phlox animated!”

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