This week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery was directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation vet Jonathan Frakes, making it his second for the series with a third time helming coming up later in the season. In a number of new interviews, the TNG vet talks about “New Eden,” being part of Star Trek again, and where it is headed, including the new Picard series.
[WARNING: ARTICLE CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS]
How Discovery’s exploration of faith fits with Roddenberry’s vision
“New Eden” highlighted Discovery’s second season theme of science versus faith. The Hollywood Reporter asked Jonathan Frakes how this storyline would mesh with Gene Roddenberry’s secular humanistic vision of the future. Frakes noted that the show was not necessarily embracing faith as much as discussing it:
I’m not sure they’re embracing the idea of faith as much as they’re embracing the conversation about science versus faith. It’s like the Scopes trial. The idea we’re all naive to believe there’s not a higher power out there applies to the 24th century as much as it does to the 21st century. We’ve evolved as a culture a lot since Gene Roddenberry was with us. We have to stay current on so many levels, in the filmmaking and storytelling. The moral compass of the country seems to have a bit more of a liberal bend than it did back in the day. Gene comes from the 1960s; he was an old hippie! [Laughs.]
Frakes expanded on this with Deadline, describing how he and showrunner Alex Kurtzman discussed how the theme would fit in with Roddenberry’s vision:
When [Alex Kurtzman] took over the show, essentially, we had a really productive sit-down where he explained the arc of the season, essentially, and we talked about Trek in general and my guys and about Roddenberry. He was interested in all of it, and it was a pleasure really talking to him and listening to him. He’s got a great curiosity but he also has great vision. Gene Roddenberry was an atheist so he didn’t believe in heaven, of course, but you know if he was looking down on all of this I think he would be very, very pleased with the hands that Star Trek is in these days.
How Discovery is mixing canon with big screen thrills
Frakes also talked to Deadline about what it is like working on Discovery and how they are blurring the line between TV and film:
You’re given the time you need, the money you need, the equipment you need; and the quality of the department heads and the way Alex Kurtzman and the people running the show, all of it encourages you to “shoot to thrill.” And to not be afraid to try things and to do anything you can to make it special. You’re limited only by your imagination. And I think that’s an extension of the way that J.J. Abrams’ movies were. The freedom of camera movement and the exciting and dramatic use of light and color is something that audiences have come to get used to. Now, with Discovery also embracing the Roddenberry canon in a more valid way, it’s got the best of both worlds. I’m proud to be part of it.
Tying Tilly’s friend May to moment from season one
One of the intriguing mysteries seen in “New Eden” was the appearance of the character May, who could only be seen by Tilly and revealed to be her old friend who had died. Speaking to THR, Frakes seems to confirm the theory that this ghost friend is related to a moment during the first season where a single spore from the USS Discovery’s last stash of mycelium (before it was replenished) was highlighted as it landed on Tilly’s shoulder.
At the end of season one, an entity actually entered Tilly. It looked like a green spark, like Tinkerbell, that landed on her. I thought there was some aspect of that “magic” that allowed Tilly to have what we perceive as hallucinations about her childhood and this character who she can only see. She has the difficulty of realizing that nobody else sees it, but she doesn’t want to admit it. And she’s already very socially complicated as a person.
Patrick Stewart’s Star Trek series is not a TNG reunion, Picard is done with Starfleet
The subject of the upcoming Jean-Luc Picard series also came up in a couple of the interviews. Speaking to Deadline, Frakes noted how this show wasn’t going to be like Star Trek: The Next Generation:
The feeling is we would love to be part of it. But the feeling is also that it’s Patrick’s show. [Laughs.] Having said that, I can’t imagine a world where there’s no reference to what happened to the rest of the Next Generation cast. Patrick isn’t playing Capt. Jean-Luc Picard this time, he’s done with [that phase of his career in] Starfleet in this show. That’s about the only thing I do know about the show. Patrick and I had a steak dinner a couple of weeks ago and this man, who I’ve known for 31 years now, is so excited about this show he’s like a little kid. It’s fabulous! He’s thrilled and excited to be invited into the writer’s room and he’s a producer on the show and he’s part of the development of the story arc. It’s terrific. I mean he is a guy who is fully engaged.
Speaking to THR, Frakes revealed he was not able to talk about what role he has in the new Picard series, if any, but he did talk in general about the upcoming show:
I’m thrilled. Patrick is absolutely jazzed about this. He’s been in the room with the writers breaking the stories, and he has not had that privilege before in his career. It has motivated him and excited him to no end. I’m really looking forward to it. Picard 20 years later is a fascinating guy. He was a fascinating guy since we’ve met him.
Regrets not directing Nemesis
Vulture has a nice long interview with Frakes, giving a retrospective on his career as a director starting with Star Trek: The Next Generation on TV and into the TNG films. The man known as “Two takes Frakes” discussed how in the ’90s and into the 2000s he strived to move beyond just working on Star Trek, however that did leave him with a regret after directing two TNG films and but returning for the final one, saying:
I would have loved to have done Nemesis, but it seemed like, “Really? That’s all you’re going to do, is Star Trek movies?” It’s glib to say now. I wish I had done Nemesis.
Frakes has dozens of directing credits outside of Star Trek, but was asked by Vulture what it is like to return to directing both Star Trek: Discovery (and the Trek-inspired The Orville) again. He replied:
It’s come full circle. I started on Star Trek, and now I’m primarily employed making Star Trek shows. It’s been very, very good to me.
Behind the scenes with Frakes
CBS has released another video featuring Jonathan Frakes behind the scenes directing the Star Trek: Discovery second season episode “New Eden.” It features members of the cast talking about Frakes, including Ethan Peck who didn’t appear in “New Eden,” but likely appears in the second episode Frakes directed later in the season.
And in case you missed it, here is the other video featuring Frakes that CBS released earlier this week to promote “New Eden.”
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else. The second season debuted on All Access and Space on Thursday, January 17th, 2019, and on Netflix January 18, 2019.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.