Since starring as William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jonathan Frakes has worked his way into more iterations of the franchise as an actor and as a director than anyone else. He is optimistic about continuing this trend into the future; however, there is one Trek appearance from two decades ago he regrets.
Enterprise finale was no “valentine”
When Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled in its fourth season in 2005, it brought to an end the continuous stream of Star Trek television production that had begun in 1987 with TNG. To celebrate the end of an era that included 25 seasons of Trek spread over 4 series, executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga transformed the Enterprise finale “These Are The Voyages” into what they called a “valentine” for the fans. Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis reprised their roles of Riker and Troi using a framing device that took place in the Enterprise-D holodeck. Turning the finale into a TNG crossover was not popular with fans of Enterprise, who felt the show’s characters were not getting the proper focus. It turns out that Jonathan Frakes agrees, as he told Variety:
We didn’t quite fit. It was sold as, ‘Oh, come on and do the episode, it will be a Valentine to the fans’ — it wasn’t a Valentine to the fans. The fans didn’t want to see us. Scott Bakula was such a mensch about it, but all these other ‘Trek’ shows went seven seasons. Nobody wanted to be on a ‘Star Trek’ show that didn’t get to go to seven. And the inherent insult in having characters from another series that had done well come in to essentially close the books on his episode — it just felt so wrong to me. I mean, it was a good episode. We had a blast doing it in many ways. The more I think about it, the more I hear from fans about it in particular, it may not have been the best choice we’ve made on ‘Star Trek.’ Again, they’re not all home runs. It’s just unfortunate that that was the last episode of that show.
Frakes talks Discovery series finale and hopes for “Legacy”
Frakes’ latest connection to the franchise was directing the very well-received Strange New Worlds/Lower Decks crossover episode “Those Old Scientists.” In an extended profile interview in Variety (conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike), the Trek vet talks about that episode and a number of his other directorial highlights throughout the franchise.
His next connection to the franchise will be for another series finale, this time for Star Trek: Discovery. Paramount+ decided to make the upcoming fifth season the final one after filming was complete on the season as well as a two-part season finale. Frakes talked to Variety about filming the first part:
I directed the first half of the finale of Season 5, which turned out to be the real finale. So that was a very emotional end as well. When we did it, we didn’t know it was the end. And then [‘Discovery’ executive producer and director] Olatunde Osunsanmi had to go back up and do two or three days of new stuff to actually make the finale the finale.
Of course, Jonathan Frakes played a huge role in the recent third and final season of Star Trek: Picard, appearing in every episode and directing two of them. He has made no secret of his ambition to be involved in the “Star Trek: Legacy” potential spin-off envisioned by executive producer Terry Matalas. Frakes tells Variety:
I think they can’t deny not only the fan reaction, but the fact that the numbers put the show at the Top 10 on the streaming charts. And that season of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ was arguably the among the best seasons of any ‘Star Trek’ — I think we all agree on that. I mean, ‘Star Trek’ fans are loyal. It’s not millions and millions of people, and it’s not the youngest fandom in the world. But I am an eternal optimist, and I believe in a perfect world, they will find the assets and the energy and hire Terry to put together this ‘Legacy’ show and that will, in fact, come to fruition.
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