John Billingsley, Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Dr. Phlox, is a guest on the upcoming episode of the All Access Star Trek podcast. He came by to talk about Trek Talks 3, an all-day marathon of Star Trek panels happening on YouTube on January 13 to support the Hollywood Food Coalition. In addition to talking to him about the event, the TrekMovie podcasters also discussed his time on Star Trek: Enterprise and asked for his thoughts on how Dr. Phlox could return to the Star Trek franchise.
Phlox on Strange New Worlds?
Since so many legacy Star Trek characters have popped back up in the franchise recently, Billingsley was asked if he had any thoughts about the return of his Denobulan doctor. Not only did the actor have some thoughts on it, but he also revealed he spoke to members of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds team on the picket line during the recent SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. Billingsley explained:
“I was on the strike line and some of the Strange New Worlds guys were coming up and saying ‘How long do you think Denobulans live?’ I said ‘Long. Long, long, long. Definitely long enough to be on your show if that’s what you’re getting at.’ So who knows? I mean, I would happily come back. And I figure, hell, even if I’m dead, my son Phlox Jr. is still around, and he is the spitting image of his old pop.”
Star Trek: Enterprise was set in the 22nd century and introduced Denobulans through Billingsley’s character of the affable Dr. Phlox. While many aspects of Denobulan culture (including plural marriages) were established during the series, their potential lifespans weren’t, so it could be possible for Phlox to be alive in the 23rd century.
While the picket line chat was a casual discussion, when asked by the podcasters, the actor had some specific thoughts about how the character might have evolved over a century later and what Phlox might be doing in his retirement years:
“I think he’s writing a series of very successful sex manuals. I think he’s become like the Dr. Ruth of intergalactic space, maybe got his own show. Maybe a lot of cookbooks too… Phlox, he was hedonistic. He was brilliant, but he was hedonistic. So, the Star Trek way, he would be doing research and curing diseases, guest lecturing at various medical yada yada yada . . . … I’d like to think that he got to a point where he said, ‘You know what? I’ve done a lot. It’s time for me to have fun, and I’m going to do some cool shit.’ I’d like to think he got to enjoy some of his declining years, with his various wives and husbands, traveling around the galaxy, going to Risa, having a blast.”
As the ship’s doctor, Phlox often dealt with serious and moral issues, but Billingsley’s pitch fits with the way the character was often used for humor on Enterprise. This would fit nicely with Strange New Worlds, which included many comedic (even sitcom-y) elements in its first two seasons. However, the actor explained he can go in either direction:
“If they brought me back in a dramatic way, I probably would be a little surprised, but I’d be fine. I really enjoyed those episodes where I was given the opportunity to lean into the more serious s#*t. I am happy to do any of it. It’s my own nature that’s coming out now. My capacity as an actor is to bend in either direction because it’s the most interesting of all when it gets to be both at the same time.”
What about Lower Decks?
Phlox could be is a good fit for Strange New Worlds as he could still be alive during that time frame, plus his cookbook idea fits in nicely with the show’s cooking scenes. Another good option: Lower Decks. At New York Comic Con in October, show creator Mike McMahan talked about how he loves Enterprise and had been working on a way to include it:
“I think in season 5 I figured out—if the deals work out, there is some Enterprise love in season 5. We are early enough so I could be wrong about that so tune in next year.”
When told about McMahan’s comment and asked if he had any inside info, Billingsley said:
“I don’t know… News to me. Maybe there’s some great deal in the works in some back room somewhere where I am going to appear on all the various iterations of Star Trek now and and it’ll be a great victory lap in the latter part of my career, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”
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