PASADENA, Calif. — You could hardly blame "Star Trek" guru Rick Berman if he were feeling a little smug right now.

A year ago, a lot of people — from Paramount studio executives to fans — were wondering if the "Trek" franchise was about played out. If, after 627 episodes of five series plus nine theatrical movies — it wasn't time to at least give it a rest.

Berman, who has been in charge of all things "Star Trek" since the third season of "Next Gen," wasn't buying. He was determined to go ahead with "Enterprise," and his efforts — along with those of co-creator and fellow executive producer Brannon Braga — have been amply rewarded.

Not only is "Enterprise" a success in the ratings, but it has been embraced by the fans in a way not seen since "Next Generation" debuted in 1987.

"I always knew that the show needed a major revamping and that changing the century was the right answer. And going backward was the right answer," Berman said. "I definitely ran into some resistance on that."

Word is that Paramount officials wanted another series set in the 24th century (as were the last three series) if they wanted anything at all. But Berman and Braga persisted in their plans for a "Star Trek" sequel — "Enterprise" is set in the 22nd century, a hundred years or so before the original series.

"We sort of stuck to our guns, and we put together what I think is really a terrific cast, including Scott Bakula (who stars as Capt. Archer)," Berman said. "And (we've got) some very good scripts.

"I don't want to sound cocky at all, but I was pretty confident that it was going to be embraced because we sort of returned to all the things that 'Star Trek' had sort of been missing for a while."

And what he thinks makes "Enterprise" work is all the things he and Braga promised before the show premiered: "The accessibility of the characters. The fact that they're closer to the present. The fact that they're not cookie-cutter, perfect space guys. They're people like you and me — (people) who have the same excitement and trepidation and fear and caution about venturing out into strange worlds.

"And I think that's what 'Star Trek' needed — the ability to see all of the high-tech in the earlier stages of development where it's rough around the edges and things don't work quite as well. I think all these things were very important in turning out something that was going to be fresh."

About the only thing that the fans — well, some of the fans — haven't embraced is the show's non-traditional theme song, a tune penned by Jennifer Warren and sung by Russell Watson. Despite those protests, Berman said he's "absolutely" going to leave the theme song exactly as it is.

"Everybody needs something to complain about, so they complained about the theme song," he said. "I love the theme song."

LONG-RUNNING STORY: "Enterprise" fans shouldn't hold their breath till they learn what's going on with those weird aliens, the Suliban, and the whole plotline about a war long in the future that somehow involves the present. ("Enterprise's" present that is.)

Current plans call for at least two more Suliban episodes this season, and more episodes in years to come.

"We're going to learn more and more about them slowly over the years," Berman said. "I think the whole concept of what's going on in the distant future and how it's influencing the present will continue to build. But I think it's a mystery that's going to last a long time."

SOLD ON THE SONG: According to Jolene Blalock, who stars as Vulcan T'Pol on "Enterprise," the cast hasn't really worried much about fans not liking their show's theme song.

"I have heard that they don't like the theme song," she said. "But we had a young child come on the set one day — he was from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. . . . And he sang that song word-for-word," she said. "After that, I was sold."


E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com