(N. B.: Posted on behalf of John K. Kirk.)
Star Trek fans were overjoyed to learn of the recent announcement that Commander William T. Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes, would be in the director’s chair for an episode of Star Trek: Discovery. While this is indeed good news, the issue I have is: why just one?
Frakes has already proven himself to be a Trek-worthy director with episodes of Star Trek: TNG, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the films First Contact and Insurrection under his belt. If that wasn’t enough, he also has credits with television shows such as Burn Notice, Leverage, and Angie Tribeca to boast about too. The man has the performing and directing chops, and an IMDB credit page that would be the envy of other industry professionals.
But look at the quality of the episodes he’s directed. Beginning with “Offspring”, it’s fairly established that this TNG episode is not only one of the most memorable episodes of this series but also has an emotional resonance that few other episodes have managed to reach. For those not in the know, “Offspring” is the story of Data’s decision to have a child. He creates a female positronic android named Lal, who has a short, but vibrant existence, punctuating with a brief moment of emotional awareness and then her termination. It’s an emotionally-charged episode for fans and definitely pulls at the heartstrings of any viewer. Both Hollywood Reporter and Den of Geek rank this episode in their top 25 best episode list. Given that this was Frakes’s directorial debut, that’s pretty impressive. Hitting a home run on your first step up to the plate is quite the mark of distinction.
I talked to Frakes about this episode and his desire to get behind the camera for Discovery last year at Toronto Comic-Con. He was very animated about both the episode and Discovery, and it was clear that ‘Offspring’ was an episode that meant a great deal to him, personally as well as professionally.
“I have a soft spot for ‘Offspring’ as it was my first episode I ever directed. It’s an episode that speaks to who we are as parents, and that’s a part of the human condition — which is a part of Star Trek as anything.”
Frakes also confessed to loving “Best of Both Worlds,” the two-part episode that saw Commander Riker take command of the Enterprise during the Borg invasion.
Jonathan’s face lit up with a bright, wide smile and had this to say when I asked him about Star Trek: Discovery last year:
“Who do you know? Tell me! [laughter] The new series… I want to be a part of that. Nick Meyers is on that — Rod [Roddenberry] is attached as well so they’ve got the brand right. Meyers is a genius. Talk about literate. He’s the most literate and brilliant writer/director who’s ever been attached to Star Trek. He’s very Shakespearean. I’m really excited to see him a part of the new show. I’m begging to get on as a director. If the writing room is open — I’m very optimistic.”
With this much background, aptitude, and ambition, I just can’t figure out for the life of me why they wouldn’t contract Frakes for more than one episode? Could it be a case of “First Season Jitters”? I don’t know, but I’d love to talk with Jonathan more about this and get more of the inside scoop.
Frakes brings a lot of added value to this show. He brings appropriate star-power in the form of legions of devoted fans from his role as Riker; he also has a great deal of professional experience and the there’s no doubt that the cast and crew of Discovery will be happy to see him in the chair. Writer-producer Gretchen Berg told Entertainment Weekly, “He’s a fantastic guy and great director.” According to show runner Aaron Harberts in the same interview, “Our cast is dying to work with him.”
But who wouldn’t? Frakes is a self-described “reformed actor” but that modesty in describing his own accomplishments fails to take into account the personal part of the equation. Frakes is genuinely a nice guy. Speaking personally though, when you meet him, he takes a genuine interest in you. While it was my job to ask him questions, I found that he was ready and willing to pepper me with his own prepared set as well, and he did. This is a guy who has a genuine sense of charisma: people want to like him and if he’s that easy to get to know, then imagine how easy it’ll be for the cast of Discovery to work with him.
We also saw Frakes tweeting from the set of the new Star Trek parody comedy from Seth McFarlane, The Orville. Does his presence there also mean that he’ll be possibly directing that show in the future as well?
Discovery news bulletins have met with mixed reactions since they’ve been released, and my personal opinion is to reduce the speculation and simply wait to see what actually happens on September 24th. That can’t be said for the general body of Trek fans who have greeted news about the show with either guarded enthusiasm or outright uninformed criticism. There has also been positive reception but I think it’s fair to say that this is the best news that fans are entitled to get excited about. The fact that someone of Frakes’s acclaim and pedigree has achieved directorial status for the new show is probably the best news we’ve received about it so far.
Why not continue with this feel-good news trend? Will there be any other similar occurrences of more Trek actors joining the cast or crew? Fans are dying for more positive announcements and right now, more about what Frakes hopes to be doing. Share more information! I mean, the big question that needs to be asked is: will there only be one episode for this Trekspert or is this just a one-shot deal?
Our hailing frequencies are open, CBS.
John K. Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name “J. Kirk,” it’s hard for him to not inject “Star Trek” into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources. He also blogs at Pop Mythology and TrekCore.
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