Jonathan Frakes Sees Opportunities With Streaming Star Trek Movies, Weighs In On “Filler Episodes”

Earlier this week, TrekMovie’s All Access Star Trek podcast team spoke to director and Star Trek: The Next Generation (and Picard) star Jonathan Frakes along with Deep Space Nine star Armin Shimerman, DS9 guest star Kitty Swink, and television writer/producer Juan Carlos Coto, brother of late Enterprise writer/producer Manny Coto. They had all gathered together to talk about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and their team Trek Against Pancreatic Cancer for the Purple Stride walk this Saturday, April 27th. During the wide-ranging chat, Frakes weighed in some some of the latest Star Trek news.

Frakes talks Lower Decks and 2-hour streaming movie format

Jonathan Frakes had some thoughts regarding the future of Lower Decks, reacting to the recent news that the upcoming fifth season of the animated series will be its last. He directed the Lower Decks/Strange New Worlds “Those Old Scientists” crossover, and when asked if he thought there could be another crossover episode, he saw it as a possibility:

“I think the show did so well. You know, [co-showrunner] Akiva [Goldsman] would would certainly take the swing like that. I think [co-showrunner] Henry Alonso Myers would too. I’m not sure how Paramount Plus or Alex [Kurtzman] would feel about it, but it worked.”

After some talk about whether or not Lower Decks could be revived like Prodigy was on Netflix, Frakes brought up that a new format could offer possibilities:

“I do know that there’s a lot of positive energy around the Michelle Yeoh Section 31 movie. So that 2-hour format is now on the table for Star Trek going forward.”

Frakes agreed that in addition to Lower Decks, this format could also be a home for Terry Matalas’ Star Trek: Legacy pitch for a spin-off of the third season of Picard. When asked, Frakes said “of course” Matalas has spoken to him about Legacy. If Legacy did transform into a streaming movie, Frakes doesn’t expect he would direct, predicting Terry would “hire himself” to helm it as he did for the season 3 finale.

Jonathan Frakes in season 2 of Lower Decks

Frakes weighs in on “filler episodes”

One of the recent hot topics around Star Trek centers around comments from executive producer Alex Kurtzman about how the modern streaming era of 10-episode seasons forces them to “really make sure that every story counts,” noting he has talked to writers who worked on earlier incarnations of Trek with 26-episode seasons who lamented having to do “filler episodes.” When the subject of filler episodes was brought up, Frakes said of TNG:

“The only filler I thought was real was when they clearly did a clip show [“Shades of Gray”]. That was a piece of shit.”

Frakes agreed with Juan Carlos Coto (a writer and showrunner on the ABC series 9-1-1) who said filler episodes were “never intentional.” They pointed out that budgets get spent at the beginning and end of seasons, so “in the middle, there’s a lot of talking.” As Frakes admitted, some of the best material had to be saved for the right time:

“We made 26 episodes a year, they had a set budget for the year and you split it up 26 ways or however they saw fit… and you got to save stuff for the cliffhanger… Like ‘Best of Both Worlds,’ Picard is Locutus and we’re about to fucking blow up the ship and kill him.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Best of Both Worlds Part 1

Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in the final moments of “Best of Both Worlds” season 3 cliffhanger finale

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Imagine Deep Space Nine, with 10 episodes per season and how forced and unrealistic many of the storylines and character developments would look.

Cheers to the “filler” episodes !

“Duet”, probably the best episode of Season 1, was a filler episode.

I don’t really count that as “filler”, since it advanced the evolution of Kira’s character. Now, “Looking for Par’Mach…” is filler. Sure, we get to see more Klingon culture, but I could do without the BDSM implications of said culture.

But it the moment dax and word became a couple so not a ‘filler’ ep

Bottle shows are money savers. Filler shows go back to the writer’s room.

You have to cram 26 episodes into a season. Episodes are being broken while others are being written while others episodes are in pre-production while others are being filmed while others are in various stages of post production. It’s the I Love Lucy chocolate assembly line. You need ideas. At times, any ideas. Some will work well, some will fail, some will have done better if more time, but we can’t worry about that now because we need to keep moving.

If season 1 of DS9 were ten episodes, instead of eighteen, we probably would have lost Q-Less, Move Along Home, and Dramatis Personae off the bat. Duet would have been kept. There would have been more time for the writers to write and write well. We may have gotten other gems that there was never time to develop.

DS9 did an amazing job later in its run running a tight ship with 26 episodes, far more than the other shows, and shorter seasons would have been sad for us – I’d have preferred 52 episodes a season, but the producers would have died. It’s about balance.


Duet was one of my favourite episodes of DS9, filler or bottle or whateverI don’t care it was a high point of the show.

Absolutely. DS9 for me still the number 1 Star Trek show. And it is because of these long story arcs and filler episodes.

Every episode is so thoughtful. This is why my expectations are higher watching the new shows, specially Discovery and Picard.

Great script. Brilliant character development. Connections. Issues. Actors. Producers. The whole thing is truly a masterpiece.

Yes to both points. TBH I don’t mind a more serialized approach like Discovery and Picard, but the so-called “filler” episodes do add a lot to the characters and world-building they can do. Yes, some of them aren’t great, but I’d gladly take that along with the great episodes that can stem from the “filler.”

And I really do think Lower Decks could thrive with a movie format, or even just hour-long specials similar to South Park.

I like the idea of multi-episode streaming movies, viewed online. What are the current series long shows like Discovery, if not that? Multi-part shows, streamed online over 8-10 weeks, loosely or tightly inter-connected. SNW’s breaks that mold a little bit with more seeming stand-alone episodes, albeit connected by the underlying plot threads – Pikes knowledge of his demise, for example.

It’s frequently commented that many seasons of the current shows feel stretched. Movie format suits the kind of storytelling modern Trek wants to do (which is emulate modern action movies).

I love this man so much and hope to see him back as Riker again someday. I would love a Legacy TV movie.

And I agree with him, I don’t look as most shows making filler episodes. As long as they give us good stories and character development I will watch them all. It doesn’t mean every episode is great of course but every viewer will judge it on their own. What people consider filler to them will be an impactful episode to others.

All I know is while none of these shows are perfect I watch TNG, TOS and Enterprise religiously and those shows have way more solid episodes than bad ones in my book.

Everything he touches, turns out amazing.

Thunderbirds has entered the chat, LOL!

I was going to leave it as a snarky comment, but come on. Everyone loves Frakes.

Best episodes. First Contact. Hope Frakes and Ira Steven Behr could direct Berman era movies.

I would love for Behr to be involved again on some level with Star Trek. Still one of the best writers to ‘this day! He and Frakes teaming up to do a movie would be amazing!

If he comes back, will be for the Return of the Sisko! :D I am an optimist. Really hope Avery is just having fun just waiting for the right time and the right script.

Yes totally agree!!! That would be fantastic.

Yep fully agree. The way people view an episode is always different. And yeah there have been tons of ‘filler’ episodes that have become pretty iconic in their own right.

The classic shows have all generally aged well because there are so many episodes and you get such a wide range of stories and character driven episodes fans have gotten to appreciate that sadly the new shows rarely have time for and never get to focus on secondary characters.

People have been complaining about the extreme lack of character development of the Discovery bridge crew for five seasons now. With more episodes and not about the galaxy being in jeopardy every season maybe we could’ve gotten at least a few Detmer or Owo focused stories.

And it’s just fun to turn on a random TOS or VOY episode that is really harder to do with the new stuff.

And yes Frakes is amazing! He embodies the Star Trek spirit like no other!

Yes this is it exactly! The ‘filler’ episodes gave us a wide range of character development this new stuff just does a passing glance at because it’s too serialized and plot driven. In the golden era of Trek you got both. DS9 hello?

Those shows can really slow down and give us some great stuff. One of my favorite Enterprise episodes is Shuttlepod One. I adore it because you get real insight into Reed and Trip. It’s no way an episode like that could ever be made today because they don’t have the room and there isn’t enough shooting or explosions.

BTW, a little off topic but have you been watching this season of Discovery at all? Any thoughts? I don’t think I’ve seen a single post from you about any of the season or episodes so far.

I just watched the first episode of the season a week ago. It was OK but just not for me. I really only watched it because it connected to The Chase, one of my favorites.

I said I would try and watch the next episode but no motivation. Discovery just isn’t for me I guess. I still haven’t finished watching seasons 3 and 4 either lol.

But I hear others are really enjoying it though. Good for them. 😊

How about yourself dear? Maybe I might try it again later when it’s over and if I hear good things about the ending.If not, no bother. I haven’t looked in any of the threads on this board discussing the season.

I am enjoying it for the most part: certainly more than I thought I would lol.

But it’s still Discovery and there are still scenes of people discussing their feelings or just a lot of back and forth discussions that feel pretty aimless or just there to pad the episode. I really didn’t like the last episode at all but the one before that one was great and felt like the type of story you would get out of a Berman era show.

So it’s up and down but I do think a lot people are liking it overall including this board which says a lot lol.

I’m still a little nervous it may not stick to landing by the end but we only have 5 more episodes and then the show is done for good. Wow.

Good to know. I do know the show is trying to connect more to classic Star Trek like TNG and DS9. That’s a big positive at least and maybe why more people are excited about it right now. But are a lot of people watching it this season? No one I know online is really talking about it as much like before but maybe just where I lurk on social media.

Hopefully it will end well for its fans.

Yeah that seems to be a topic in a number of places and if a lot of people are watching the season since discussion over it seems to be generally down this season. The only answer real answer I have is I have no clue.

But it was cancelled for a reason, maybe a lot of people were already watching it less in season 4 like yourself. If that’s true not a shock less are watching it now. It’s going to take more than latching your season to a 30 year old TNG episode to get those people back if they already left

Well regardless who is watching I do hope they are enjoying it. I may try and give it another chance at some point.

Oh however I have started watching Prodigy for the first time and you were so right! That show is phenomenal!! I just thought I was too old for it but it’s so much fun and loving Janeway with the new characters!

I’m on episode 9 now but can’t wait to finish it. I’m really excited when the real Janeway shows up but Hologram Janeway is so much fun too. The new characters really feel fleshed out as well and loving the storyline. This feels like Star Trek of old again. I’m so happy you and others convinced me to watch it.

I really can’t wait for season 2 seeing how great season 1 is so far. 😊

Wow that’s amazing news! 😀

I’m so happy to hear that. Yeah Prodigy is great. It doesn’t mean everyone loves it and it obviously didn’t get that many viewers (but I think due to calling it a kids show and why people like you stayed away) but the show just has so much heart and why I love it.

This is the show I’m most excited to see again and can’t wait to see the kids on the Voyager A with Admiral Janeway and the Doctor.

And see there is something you like in NuTrek after all!

Haha indeed!

Prodigy does an amazing job with its characters and manage to tell fun and interesting stories. I thought I wasn’t going to like Dal or Gwynn much and they became very lovable once I realize everything they been through and becoming more of a team. Jangom Pog cracks me up and Rok is adorable.

I also love it has a strong connection to Voyager. I’m very excited to have the real Janeway back too. It’s proof I shouldn’t judge something until I see it but I never thought it was bad just not for me.

That’s great to hear, Legacy. I was similarly surprised upon first viewing of PRO, at the quality of the show’s writing, visuals and overall Trek ‘feel.’ It’s a rare example of modern Trek done Right.

So true Danpaine. There is so much of NuTrek I feel they either get wrong or too focused on action and big stakes instead of just telling a solid story which Prodigy really seems to do.

I don’t need another story about trying to destroy the galaxy. This show is more my speed and makes this old bird really appreciate the Star Trek I fell in love with again.

Get ready for the next 11 episodes. You will be surprised how great is Prodigy. Can’t wait to watch Season 2 on Netflix.

I’m going to watch the next few episodes this weekend. It’s only gotten stronger. And I peeped ahead with some of the surprises and happy Captain Jelico and the Xindi makes an appearance. I know just small cameos but still happy to see them back. I don’t know what happens next in the story so can’t wait!

Will season 2 come out this year? I really hope so now. We need more quality Trek like this show.

It’s been confirmed by Netflix it will debut this year at least but zero word on when.

So great to hear! Without a doubt this show has a new fan and I’ll be watching season 2 the day it drops!

I truly can’t wait now and nearly done with season 1. 🙂

Yes you are so right! I just finished episode 14 this weekend and it’s just so much fun. I was excited to see Admiral Janeway back and shrieked when the Xindi appeared lol. One of my favorite species in Star Trek.

The story just feels so well thought out and loving how they are handling all the characters in it. I’m going to try and finish the rest of it by this weekend.

I can’t believe I didn’t bother to watch this until now.

Great to see more Prodigy love. It’s my favorite of the new shows. I love how it walks the line of being a very unique take on the franchise, while capturing the heart and soul of the older shows. The serialized story works well as a connective tissue and giving their adventure long-term stakes, but having done a rewatch in a random order made me realize just how well a lot of the episodes work on their own (once you get past the initial part connecting to the main story).

Now I just need Netflix to hurry up and release it, lol.

Yes I really appreciate how the episodes still feel very episodic but the main story connects very well. That was the problem I had with Discovery and Picard. I felt the serialized story fell apart halfway through but there are not enough episodic stories to keep me invested.

Right now Prodigy is doing both. I’m very surprised how solid the story telling is here.

I watched the silver age of Star Trek as a kid. Now that I’m older, I appreciate the hard work that the great Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, Michael Piller, and others did. They worked tirelessly around the clock to bring the audiences the best stories and best productions they could with what they had. I don’t use or believe in “filler episodes. ”

If I was going to use that concept, I would use it to describe Disco, Picard, and SNW. These three shows have a beginning and end but nothing substantial in the middle….it’s like they are filling in stuff to get to the end.

I so agree with you dear. I really appreciate all the amazing shows we got in the 90s. It was such a great time to be a fan and I been watching Trek since the 60s. So many great stories and characters.

I think people like Berman, Piller, Moore, Braga etc gets more praise today to see how many quality stories they produced with half the time and money these new shows gets now (and still nowhere as compelling or thoughtful as we got back then).

I did really enjoy Picard season 3 but it’s still not nearly as good as TNG was but it at least tried to be.

Season 3 was more like an extended TNG movie to me and it was a lot better than 3 of the 4 TNG movies with a much better send off for every character than Nemesis.

Yeah I loved the send off they got in season 3. It’s just a much more and satisfying ending than what we got in Nemesis.

I just loved the last episode so much and will always feel special to me. It was a great Trek season overall even if it still wasn’t perfect.

Yes fully agree season 3 felt like a movie and gave us some great drama and twists. I actually like most of the TNG movies minus Generations (hated how it killed Kirk) but they are below the TOS movies but still far above the JJ reboot movies for me. I barely even count those as canon, but my opinion only of course.

Even though I liked it more than others, Nemesis was a real let down as well so it was nice to give them a better ending on this show.

Did Frakes threw some shade towards Kurtzman about crossover episodes? or am I misunderstanding his comments there. In any case I am also of the camp that apart from clip shows, which should never exist, fillers can be the best episodes of any series. I mean I rewatch the “filler” episodes much more, episodes like “Duet” from DS9, “Timeless” from Voyager, “The Inner Light” from TNG. Even in other series for example like Stargate or Farscape I usually prefer the excellent filler episodes rather than the ongoing serial ones. Or in the X-Files. I think that show had some phenomenal “filler” episodes.

I agree with pretty much everything except calling Timeless a filler episode. It was anything but because that was Voyager’s 100th episode and was supposedly one of the most expensive to shoot that year.

And you can’t bring Geordie on and call it that. 😉

Thanks for clearing that up actually, I knew Takei’s episode “Flashback” was an anniversary episode but didn’t realize till now that “Timeless” was actually the 100th episode.

If you go to a Star Trek Jeopardy special event, you will beat everyone. Totally forgot Timeless was the 100th episode, which by the way, it was one of my favorite VOY episodes.

“ If you go to a Star Trek Jeopardy special event, you will beat everyone.”

Unless it involves correctly spelling the given name of the D’s chief engineer.

Lol thanks but there are plenty of things I don’t remember and Timeless was a big deal at the time. And I listen to The Delta Flyers which did an amazing job going through the entire show and Timeless was one they really discussed in-depth.

I think Frakes did indeed throw Kurtzman under a bus there. “Those Old Scientists” is receiving a lot of accolades, so that tracks.

If Duet and (in particular) TIL are “filler” episodes, the term is meaningless.

“Filler” and “bottle episode” are getting used interchangeably lately. The Inner Light I’d say is neither. Duet is definitely a bottle episode.

YASSSS!!! Filler and bottle are getting bandied about nilly-willy.I said this when Battlestar started on SciFi and people griped about the short seasons. Even in the best of 22-26 episode seasons, I’ve always said there’s room to cut 12 hours of filler, whether it’s an entire episode or just meandering subplots.

Standalone EPs on ‘x files’ became more effective than the on the going alien invasion arc

DS9’s “Far Beyond the Stars” was a filler, and it’s still one of the best episodes of television ever. So don’t tell me that filler episodes can’t be great.

I disagree about “Far Beyond the Stars” was a filler. That was not cheap with the new sets and everything. I think a DS9 filler episode is more like “Rivals.” That one was very bad.

Sorry, friend, but “Far Beyond the Stars” was NOT a filler episode. That goddamn thing MEANT something. Filler episodes are just fluff… like the one where Quark gets the sex change.

“Far Beyond the Stars” was absolutely not filler but an AMAZING episode, unexpected, thought provoking, and considered by many to be one of the best episode of DS9.

I always welcome reading about an interview with Frakes, he’s a gem of the franchise. And I say let the films come. More opportunities to bring in variety (and hopefully quality) as to content, writers, directors. If one sucks they can move on to another in a different direction. Good interview.

It really depends on the episode in question. If the “filler” serves to advance the story or the evolution of the characters, then what could be seen as a “filler” isn’t really a “filler”, if that makes any sense. Ultimately, it all depends on the budget.

I’m glad that Frakes is basically the unofficial spokesman for all things ‘Trek, as far as the live aspects of the franchise. BTW, does LeVar Burton and any other ‘Trek alumni do work for the franchise, either in front of the camera or behind the scenes?

Not that I’m aware of. Robert Duncan McNeill was in talks to direct for “Discovery,” but the push for more diverse directors (women and POC) meant he wasn’t what they were looking for. He didn’t seem to have hard feelings about it from the interview I read over at Trekcore. A shame — I always thought he was a great director and it would’ve been interesting to see what he brought to the table. (Then again, I’m biased as I share a birthday with Robbie and saw great potential in the Tom Paris character before TPTB milk-toasted him.)

Roxann Dawson is another Trek actor/director whose name I see pop up on the odd TV drama from time to time, too. No idea why she hasn’t done any modern Trek or if she was even interested in doing so.

As for LeVar Burton I VAGUELY recall he was a bit vocal about where Star Trek was going during his “Enterprise” directing days and has been critical of the franchise’s direction since. Maybe he just wasn’t interested.

If Legacy gets green-lit, it will probably be a series of movies.
I LOVED PICS3, but nostalgia can only get you so far.
I don’t know if Par+ wants to pay the TNG cast the big bucks.
I’d encourage everyone to watch the HECK out of the S31 movie.
If Par+ sees good viewership, they’ll make more of them.

YES – back in 1990 I saw George Takei at a convention in Boston; we all agreed Star Trek V (released months earlier) was not very good but George asked us to keep going to see it and buy the VHS when it came out — it was a way to send a message to Paramount we wanted MORE Star Trek.

Respectfully of course, I don’t feel it’s the consumer’s job to ‘watch the heck’ out of something, hoping more product will be made as a result. If the Sec. 31 film is good enough to deserve another watch, then I will. If it’s bad or mediocre I’m not going to revisit it. Simple. It’s their job to properly entertain us, we’re the ones paying the bill every month.

No one does ‘filler’ EPs if they can help it.
Mr frakes was right about “shades of grey’, knocked together to get TNG s2 over and done with.

LOVE Jonathan Frakes. Would love to meet him!

Fun discussion topic — not looking for arguments but suppose it’s inevitable here, LOL. There are many definitions of ‘filler episode.’

As a discussion point, regardless if an episode is considered good/great/bad, what are some examples (in any Trek series) that you consider to be a ‘filler’ episode and why?

Discussion topic :)


‘filler’ and ‘bottle episodes’ are two different things. Yes, a bottle episode CAN be filler but often is NOT. Filler is just filler — can be beloved, but still filler.