Our extensive exclusive interview with Jonathan Frakes continues with this third and final part, a discussion of his time on Star Trek: The Next Generation and his views on the state of the film franchise.
Wanting more of TNG
Earlier you talked about trying to recapture The Original Series dynamic. Did you ever feel on The Next Generation they never allowed that kind of dramatic conflict, notably with Riker and Picard or with other characters?
That was a huge ongoing issue. That was Gene [Roddenberry]’s direction. One of the things that makes drama is conflict and he was adamant about not having conflict inside the family. And I’m wondering if we didn’t miss opportunities as a result. That was an ongoing struggle with all of us as actors, and I think for the writers as well. It is hard to have everyone get along all the time and make it interesting.
You obviously ask that question feeling a certain way about it, is that right?
Yeah. For once I just wanted Riker to turn to Picard or at least got to his ready room and have it out with him and disagree. Isn’t that one of the things a first officer is supposed to do? Bring different perspectives? I feel it would have added more depth to the characters and have been an opportunity for you and Patrick and other actors. I have always felt it was something missing from the show.
It was missing from the show, but I just had an example pop into my brain of how successful it was when there was conflict on Star Trek: First Contact when Alfre Woodard are in the observation lounge and she was busting his balls about his little ships. Remember that?
Yeah, that was great, but as soon as he made his decision Beverly says “ok, we are all going to die, that’s what the captain says.”
Yeah [laughs]. I wasn’t talking about THAT scene, I was talking about the scene before. It makes for better drama. But, yeah, it turns on a dime, as soon as he walks back on the f—king bridge everything changed.
As if Gene Roddenberry’s ghost showed up and said, “Everyone get along!”
Yeah. “Enough already! What are you people doing!”
Do you feel after the seven seasons of Next Generation and four movies, that for either you as a character or the show left anything on the table?
Oh, huh oh! Marina [Siritis] and I have said – with no irony at all – we would still be doing the show if we had been asked. I believe the show ended as a television series so that Paramount could continue the movie franchise. I am not convinced [the series finale] “All Good Things…” is the end of stories we could have told with that family on the Enterprise. I am not sure it had the 21 seasons of [Law and Order:] SVU in it, but certainly it had more to come.
Is the future of cinematic Trek actually TV?
With things stalled on the movie side of Star Trek, if we assume that Star Trek 4 is not going to go forward, what would you do with the film franchise if you were in charge at Paramount?
Any light in the wonderfully absurd Tarantino rumor?
Didn’t you talk to J.J. about the Tarantino project?
Well I texted with him about it and he said that it was – what was the word? – ‘exciting’ or ‘dangerous.’ There is something about it that he was encouraged by. I think the fact that people are scared that it may be R-rated, makes it even more exciting.
Did he indicate that you would be involved?
No, not at all…
For purposes of this discussion, let’s say that it’s over for Tarantino project as well.
It is hard to say. I am a huge fan of not only Chris Pine, but Karl Urban as Bones, I thought he was magical in that franchise. I was among the members of the Next Generation cast that liked J.J.’s Star Trek, and have embraced his shooting style on Discovery. I am a big J.J. fan. I think he is a great storyteller… Selfishly I guess we are all a little old for a Next Gen movie. I was very, very excited about the possibility of working with Quentin Tarantino.
I’m also not sure that Star Trek isn’t better off – in this high-end television world we are in now – that great 50-year tradition of this show which are these cautionary morality plays. The episodic style has been so good for the franchise. I can’t believe we are at the end of the second season of Discovery as a fan. And I am sure some of this has to do with the fact that I have been movie jail – I did three successful movies and one massively unsuccessful movie and have been in movie jail ever since. I am very grateful to be working on television. I also think that television is the medium now for new ideas.
More from Number One
In case you missed it, check out the first part of our Frakes interview discussing The Orville, and the second part covering his work on Star Trek: Discovery and the upcoming Picard series.