Jonathan Frakes was our guest for the latest All Access Star Trek podcast, In addition to talking about directing the upcoming Strange New Worlds/Lower Decks crossover, the TrekMovie team got his thoughts on the final episodes of Star Trek: Picard and the potential Star Trek: Legacy spinoff.
Convincing Stewart and why season 3 is working
Frakes has previously revealed that he agreed to return for season 3 when showrunner Terry Matalas pitched him on the idea while he was directing in season 2. However, it did take some convincing to get the whole gang together, particularly star Patrick Stewart, who initially vetoed any “reunion.” Frakes shared the story of a key lunch meeting when it all came together:
Patrick–because he had made it so clear that he didn’t want Picard to be a Next Generation show–Terry took Patrick and me to lunch and explained this story about Beverly having been in Doctors Without Borders and needing to be rescued. And then Picard calls his old buddy Riker who’s not having a great time in his marriage. And I think in that lunch, Patrick realized there was a good story to tell. And the word “reunion” is what I think was sticking in his craw. What Terry’s done is each character has earned its place… So it’s a reunion just by definition, but it is not certainly, “Let’s get the gang together and sing the old songs.” It’s a new story.
Season 3 has been performing well with fans and critics, with many pointing to his performance as a key factor. Frakes gave his assessment of why he thinks the new season is working:
I think that a lot of is informed by the 20 years it’s been since Nemesis when we all got to play these characters. That’s a lot of age to put on an actor and on a character. And whether it was conscious or not, in the first season that they created the storyline in which Riker and Troi had moved to Nepenthe with the hope that their son would be cured, and then he died. I don’t know if they had the long game in mind, but that couldn’t have been a better setup for including Riker in Picard’s quest to save Beverly and then ultimately find out that they have a son. So the weight of those scenes in which Riker tells Picard, “Dude, my son is dead. Yours is not. You just found him. Don’t f–k this up.” The scenes are so powerful and so relatable… That’s why this I think is resonating is because we’re telling stories that we that are emotionally assessable. I think that the age of the actors, the age of the characters, and the conflict that Terry has not been afraid to put into the show that Roddenberry had resisted for so many years. Riker and Picard are in conflict. Troi and Riker are in conflict… So I think there’s a relatability and the other element that is I think working so well for us is the levity. The Riker/Worf and taking the piss out of Worf, and Worf is now a pacifist. That stuff is great.
Wanted more Ro… holding a grudge with Shelby
This season has featured the return of a number of other recurring guest stars from The Next Generation, including Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren in “Imposters.” The focus in that episode was the relationship between Picard and Ro, however, the character also had a lot of history with Riker in TNG. Frakes admitted that he wished he could have played with some of that on Picard:
I did, I wish [there was a moment with Riker and Ro]. We did–there was a look that I think was not quite clear, but it became very much [about] Ro and Picard. I wish she’d been there for a couple of episodes, to be frank.
“Vox” featured the return of Elizabeth Dennehy playing Admiral Shelby, a character who was in conflict with Riker in TNG’s “Best of Both Worlds.” In this case, Shelby appears only via viewscreen, but Riker did get in a sarcastic line about her. Frakes appreciated that bit of picking up on their history, saying I thought it was great. He really knows how to hold a grudge.
Enterprise-D made them feel young again
The latest episode also featured the rebuilt Enterprise-D, with the TNG crew coming onto the bridge and settling into their old stations. The actor talked about the impact it had on the cast, with some fun details:
You can imagine how emotional it was. We walked on the set and we had our moment… But one of the most Next Gen aspects of that experience of being back on the Enterprise-D was when we were all jammed in the elevator and knocking each other off their marks and taking the piss out of each other, accusing other people have farting. It was as if we had just gone back to that rambunctious, stupid, childish behavior that we all had in 1987. It was great!
Finale clues leading to Star Trek: Legacy
Frakes was wary of giving out spoilers for the season (and series) finale, but offered this:
That’s good news for characters returning, including Riker. Even before season 3 arrived, Frakes told TrekMovie he was hoping to return to the character of Riker. During the podcast chat, he gave an update on how he feels about the buzz around the Star Trek: Legacy spinoff idea:
I’m an eternal optimist, but I think given what’s going on on social and trending, it seems to me that somebody’s got to address it. Somebody’s got to admit that this ground is fertile. Is it not?
He also offered some clues about how the season finale sets up the spinoff:
You’ll see that by the end of the show, it’s set up. The legacy characters–the two LaForges, Worf’s got a kid, Riker and Troi have a daughter who’s brilliant, and Jack Crusher is a brilliant character. And he’s on the bridge now. Jeri Ryan is there as a captain. Everybody loves Shaw. There’s a lot of the pieces of the puzzle for the Legacy show, in my humble opinion.
Frakes did mention Captain Liam Shaw, even though the character appeared to have been killed off in “Vox,” but maybe there is still a role for him to play. The ship has a holodeck, right?
PurpleStride with Jonathan
The full interview with Jonathan Frakes can be heard in the latest episode of the All Access Star Trek podcast.
In addition to Star Trek: Picard, Jonathan talks about his involvement with “Trek Against Pancreatic Cancer,” part of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s upcoming PurpleStride event taking place in cities all across the country on April 29. He is joined by fellow Trek vets Armin Shimerman, Kitty Swink, and John Billingsley. They are looking for fans to join in the walk and contribute, with a goal of raising $90,000 for their Trek team.
Keep up with news about the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.