Jonathan Frakes Contrasts Directing ‘The Orville’ And ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Jonathan Frakes on the set of The Orville

This weekend Star Trek: Discovery returns with the 10th episode of the season, which happens to be directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation vet Jonathan Frakes. The former Riker actor is in the unique position as the only person to have directed episodes of both Discovery and the Trek-inspired show The Orville. In an interview with IndieWire, Frakes talked about how different the approach is for each:

“Stylistically, your responsibility as an episodic television director [is] when you do a show like ‘The Orville,’ you want that show to look like ‘Next Generation,’” he said. “And when you go to Canada to do ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ they want that show to have the feeling, and look, and vibe of the J.J. [Abrams]-era ‘Star Trek.’ Much more cinematic, a lot of crane work, and a lot of movement, a lot of dutch angles. On ‘Next Generation,’ the traditional framing, and the things we became accustomed to as fans of the show, we see in [‘The Orville’] because that’s the look.”

A shot from Star Trek: Discovery “Despite Yourself” – directed by Jonathan Frakes

Mr. Frakes also added that he felt the two shows can coexist peacefully, noting “There’s room, obviously, in the fans’ hearts for both types of ‘Star Trek.’”

A shot from The Orville “Pria” – directed by Jonathan Frakes

A little advice for Tarantino Trek

Of course Jonathan Frakes has also directed two Star Trek feature films, so he can be considered an expert on the subject.  Inverse previewed an upcoming interview with the director with a quote offering his advice for Quentin Tarantino, who has pitched a story for a possible Star Trek feature film.

“Don’t forget the heart. Before you eat it, don’t forget the heart!”

Jonathan Frakes directing Insurrection

Frakes on set of Insurrection

Episode 10 of Star Trek: Discovery will be available on CBS All Access on Sunday, January 7th by 8:30 pm ET. It will air in Canada on the Space Channel at 8:00 pm ET the same day and be available on Netflix outside the USA and Canada on Monday, January 8th at 8 am BST.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.

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Good advice from Frakes to QT. I know this is bringing buzz to Trek, but I can’t see the Tarantino vibe working with Trek without morphing into something entirely different. If Trek needs to be a slam bam bloodfest with none of the original heart of the show I guess I’m out. The JJ films were a mixed bag in that regard IMHO (tired of the ‘big bad’ out for revenge regurgitrek of the last few–though they had flashes of Trek heart). Still, QT is a purist of sorts too so hopefully he will honor the spirit of Trek even if it goes against his basic ‘Tarantinonesss’.

That was a really great dig at Quentin: “Before you eat it”… as Jonathan is well aware that he is going to turn Trek into a splatterfest. How I wish that Trek movies had gone out on a high with First Contact, as everything that came after that (including Jonathan’s well-meaning but stultifying Insurrection) has ranged from mediocre to unwatchable. Tarantinotrek may very well bring new audiences to the franchise but unless Quentin has a brain transplant between now and then, it will very likely be vomit-inducing.

Soul, poignance and gentle self reflection have no place in JJ/Kurtzman’s cynical, hollow, narcissistic, crap-o-rama.

The people still posting that all QT can do is heavy violence and blood and gore are really making themselves look foolish. Pulp Fiction (which has been mentioned by many here) is actually quite lite on explicit violence with virtually no “bloodfest” save for one scene.

But the anti-QT crowd who very likely never watched any of his films will keep repeating falsehoods and hope people believe it.

QT is a clever guy and with this supposed to be his last project and him previously declaring himself a fan, maybe, just maybe he’ll be out to make some sort of statement here that there’s more to him than blood and guts. We can but hope.

maybe QT could do a Rogue One type trek, within cannon just not the normal characters.

would be an interesting side show and could go really dark, darker than WOK and finally be a Trek for adults.

I just hope QT doesn’t go overboard with the gruesome scenes.

QT will make it faster, edgier, and scarier. But, in the end, it will have the heart and everything else that makes ST what it is. IMO

Paramount has nothing to gain by losing money on a movie and ruining a franchise. Before the discovery haters jump on that…be quiet. DSC is just fine.

No, DISCO is not fine. It has all sorts of things wrong with it.

He will make the sanitary deaths of Trek somehow more brutal without changing much. The biggest liberty I can see him taking is going a little bit Kill Bill with a Klingon-involved fight, or maybe throwing some people into the vacuum of space. If anyone could combine Gravity with the coffin scene from Kill Bill you know it’s gonna be Quentin – he would make that work. The dialog will probably be a little more unusual and my guess is it would go places many of us always wondered about but have never seen. And I’d expect to see some well executed suspense as well. There’s a lot of opportunity in the Trek setting for much of what makes QT’s style so great, but it’s hard to imagine it because he usually does his thing with a vintage 70s flare that would be bewildering if applied to the future.

The still of Jonathan Frakes directing Trek is from the set of Insurrection, not First Contact. Thats the “library” scene with Troi and Riker.

Camerawork is the biggest difference? C`mon …

I chuckled at that too. He’s being diplomatic as he’d like to get more work from both again in the future.. Why burn bridges?

Well, of course, the two shows have a different character setup and are telling different kinds of stories. From a director’s standpoint (not a writer’s), who is brought in to do one episode, it’s mostly a question of how to frame the shots to create a somewhat consistent look from episode to episode. With serialized TV, the creative freedom of a director coming in to do just 1 episode is probably even more limited than on episodic TV and definitely more limited than on a movie.

This is something Colm Meaney spoke about in regards to his time on Star Trek and why he never wanted to direct an episode. The director for a tv show is usually very limited in how much freedom they have. The exec producers are the ones who call the shots.

Can’t wait to see Frakes’ ep. i really liked his take on The Orville, although it’s hard not to like Charlize.

I’m afraid that we’ll be getting another Star Trek 12 or 10.
Very dark (for the sake of being dark) movies with the ship being severely damaged and destroyed, and random crew blown into space just because the director wants it that way.

Hope we get clean, fun and light adventure

The only reason we didn’t see random E Crew blown into space in 2 is that the resource-poor production couldn’t pull it off properly using the available tech (i.e., put a guy on wires) for the direct followup to the can-opener shot when Reliant launches phaser strikes at the torpedo bay during the nebula battle.

I only hope a QT Trek would be as good as 10. Just please not be as bad as 4, 5 or 9.

Very good advice to Tarantino about showing heart, but that boat has sadly already sailed. Everybody in positions of power in Star Trek now either doesn’t care, or doesn’t know, how to deliver such things.

“when you do a show like ‘The Orville,’ you want that show to look like ‘Next Generation”

I’m surprised CBS let the Orville be made, it’s literally a carbon copy of TNG.

They had no power or authority or legal means to stop it.

They stopped Axanar. According to McFarlane, CBS gave them the green light but refused to let him feature a transporter.

Axanar was Star Trek. They had the authority because it was their property. Orville is not Star Trek. CBS had no authority to stop something that was not theirs. I would think it was lawyers who decided where the line was drawn for Orville to cross from homage to copyright infringement. Perhaps FOX went for CBS’s ok but they legally didn’t need to.

I think CBS and Fox worked out a backseat, off the record agreement for Orville. MacFarlane also has a great deal of leverage to do what he wants and probably has good contacts in hollywood.

They stopped Ax because he was blatantly ripping them ff by using the name Star Trek, selling unlicensed products and putting crowdsourced funds into his own pocket. Read the trial transcripts.

James Rye

It’s not “literally a carbon copy.” Though, I think you mean figuratively.

At best, The Orville is a parody of TNG, which is perfectly legal under US Copyright Law. And, at worst, The Orville is simply one of the many shows/movies to lift concepts from past shows and movies. Where do you think that George Lucas got the idea for “proton torpedoes” in STAR WARS (1976)?

It’s a common misconception that anything that looks like something else but is funny qualifies as parody and is thus legal.

But it’s not nearly as simple as that. Parody has a very specific legal definition, one that Orville does not meet.

But with that said, Orville really isn’t guilty of any kind of infringement. The idea of a starship crew exploring space and having adventures is not unique to Star Trek. Really it is simply the overall “feel” that is the ‘ripoff’ here and that is likely something that CBS cannot protect. Visually it may be designed to *remind* viewers of TNG but they did not use anything that is copyrighted or protectable. And there is no intention to convince audiences that this IS Star Trek.

Axanar, on the other hand, was not parody, but outright stole and used copyrighted elements from Trek, like Klingons, Vulcans, the UFP, various logos and insignias characters like Soval and Garth, not to mention props and costumes and starship designs that, even when newly created, were clearly stealing protectable elements.

Not to mention that the title of the film was Star Trek: Axanar.

Btw ive never heard the claim that CBS disallowed the use of transporters on Orville, but if true it makes sense: it’s not just using copyrighted material that would get someone into trouble, but the combination of unprotectable elements in specific ways.

For example, a generic image of a superhero named “Amazing-man” in blue tights would not be infringement, but give him a red cape (not protectable by itself) laser vision (ditto), a Jerry curl (ditto), and a big red A in a diamond shape on his chest (ditto) and there may be a case to file suit claiming that he’s infringing on Superman.


For example, a generic image of a superhero named “Amazing-man” in blue tights would not be infringement, but give him a red cape (not protectable by itself) laser vision (ditto), a Jerry curl (ditto), and a big red A in a diamond shape on his chest (ditto) and there may be a case to file suit claiming that he’s infringing on Superman.

Unless he’s acting like a clown, or like the diametric opposite of Superman and/or otherwise satirical and/or making sociopolitical commentary, or a judge finds that he could be reasonably interpreted as any of the above, right? If The Orville ever found itself under threat of an infringement suit——which I agree is unlikely for the reasons that you stated——couldn’t MacFarlane et al just dedicate a few minutes of each episode to overtly mocking TNG in some lighthearted, good-natured way?

(cont.) The Orville already has enough humor based on TNG-influenced characters, tropes, settings, concepts, sets, props and style that one could reasonably interpret it as being somewhat satirical of TNG, not entirely unlike GALAXY QUEST is. In fact, for entirely practical reasons, I actually describe The Orville to people unfamiliar with the show as “kind of like a GALAXY QUEST TV series” —— just as an example of a reasonableness test, if I may make such an assumption. Some other examples… Bortus (with the general look and demeanor of Worf, but married to another male, with all sorts of domestic problems at home) could be construed as a send-up of Worf. Mercer (a laid-back, undisciplined, happy-go-lucky starship-captain-by-circumstance) could be construed as a satire based on Picard. No?

My unsolicited advice as an unofficial delegate of the Frustrated Trekkie Contingent:

FFS, don’t do a time-travel story. And, if you do do a time-travel story…

FFS, take a few hours to think over the logic of the plot (i.e. like Jonathan Frakes obviously didn’t do with First Contact, no disrespect to Jonathan Frakes).

You do know Frakes didn’t write First Contact right? Directors have one job: to bring what’s written on the page to life. But they really don’t change what’s written. It isn’t his fault the plot makes no sense. Blame Berman, Braga and RDM for that.


I know that Frakes didn’t write FC, but if I’m directing a movie and the script doesn’t make sense, I’m going to push hard for changes. How can you work as hard and long as a feature film requires you to work if you notice that the thing you’re working on is fundamentally flawed?

My understanding is that directors have different degrees of input into the scripts that they work from. On a movie like FC, you’re right that Berman was the HNIC, and hence deserves most of the blame, followed by Braga and Moore, as writers. However, I’m inclined to believe that if Frakes had noticed the logic problems in the plot, and brought them to the attention of Moore and/or Braga and/or Berman, that at least one of them would have seen the wisdom of tailoring the plot to make sense. But, maybe I am being a little too hard on Frakes. Sorry, Frakes.

I mean yeah I really am not sure, I don’t think directors have much say at all in that sorta stuff. I recall JJ talking about how he wanted to do some script rewrites during filming of ST09 but because of the writers strike he literally couldn’t change the script, like legally.

On QT… Having recently watched INGLORIOUS BASTERDS [sic], DJANGO UNCHAINED, and THE HATEFUL EIGHT, I can see him making a good Trek movie (though I’m really over the whole Bad Robot Universe cast and premise, and as such my enthusiasm is dampened from the outset). There’s no shortage of great drama in the aforementioned QT movies. But, there is also no shortage of graphic violence and gore. And those last two ingredients I do have a hard time imagining in a Trek movie. Technically, it’s obviously possible for QT to massively tone down the violence and gore in his Trek movie; but in reality, the only movie he’s ever made that wasn’t extremely violent and gory was JACKIE BROWN (great movie, btw). So, JACKIE BROWN would be my sort of paradigm, in terms of violence and gore, for QT’s Trek movie.

Or, or, or… QT could make my dreams come true and do a full-on violent, gory QT movie in which the BR cast all die tragically (so sad——*tear*) in an entirely unnecessarily violent and gory, but characteristically QT, manner. :-)

Would’ve liked to hear more about what the sets are like, whether one show is more fun or one cast more amicable or not. Also I kinda think Disco’s Dutch angles are a touch overused at times. Aren’t there other ways of creating a “cinematic” feel without having to tilt the camera?

See the other article where he talks about the Discovery cast. He doesn’t compare the mood on set between both shows which I guess is only fair. Even if the people on a show hate each other behind the scenes you usually like to keep such things quiet. Especially if you’d like to work on that show again.