Image of Jonathan Frakes as Will Riker on 'Star Trek: Picard.' He is a white man with dark hair and a grey beard wearing a black Starfleet uniform. He's seated in a captain's chair and glancing to the side, smirking.

Jonathan Frakes Says Post-‘Discovery’ Star Trek Is ‘Really Healthy at the Moment’

Few people have the perspective on Star Trek that Jonathan Frakes has, from acting as William Riker to directing Trek episodes and films for over 30 years. As Discovery ends, Frakes reminisces about the show and speaks enthusiastically about what’s next for the Trek franchise.

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The Mary Sue had the chance to sit down with the actor-director to talk about his experience directing on Star Trek: Discovery, including the penultimate episode of its final season, “Lagrange Point,” as well as half of the finale, which Frakes didn’t realize was the series finale until after they’d shot it:

When I shot the first half of the finale, we didn’t know that the show had been canceled. So we all shot it and had this feeling of, well, that was a blast, and I’ll see you next season. I’ll miss all of them, but I didn’t know I was going to miss them until, you know, I assumed that I would see them the following year, and we all assumed that we would see each other the following year. And then when [director Olatunde Osunsanmi] had finished the second half of the finale, it was announced that it was done. So that changed things. Then they, they wrote some, some scenes to tie up the loose strings in the story so that the finale would be satisfying for the audience, which I believe it is.

Jonathan Frakes
Screenshot of Jonathan Frakes on the set of 'Star Trek: Discovery.' He is a white man with salt and pepper hair and beard wearing black rimmed glasses and a blue buttondown shirt over a black t-shirt. He's in the middle of talking and standing in front of a greenscreen.

Frakes has directed eight episodes of Discovery over its five-season run, and has built a strong relationship with that cast and crew, whom he likens to the cast and crew from TNG. “I’ve been [with Discovery] for five years. So they’re like my new home. They were my new home base. They reminded me a lot of our family on Next Gen.”

As he watched them find themselves and their characters in this new area of the Star Trek universe, Frakes found himself passing along some advice to the new kids on the block:

Because I had been on and off Star Trek stuff for the past 35 years, all of them were very curious about what they were getting into. And I gave them the same advice that the late, great DeForest Kelley gave me, which was that your life is about to change. And it’ll be for the better, but it will change.

And it does change, because it’s the gift that keeps on giving. I mean, their show went five seasons. They’ll be on the convention circuit forever. They’ll never stop being identified with the characters that they’ve played. Some of them will come back and be on other Treks. They’ll always have each other and they’ll always have these long memories the way the my cast does. It’s a real privilege to be part of this Star Trek family.

Jonathan Frakes

He has especially glowing praise for the show’s lead, Sonequa Martin-Green, who’s deftly navigated the complicated role of Michael Burnham for five seasons.

image: CBS All Access Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham on "Star Trek: Discovery"

“I have this incredible respect and love for Sonequa who is a fabulous number one,” Frakes says, referring to Martin-Green being “number one” on the production’s call sheet. “I mean, not only obviously a great actor, but a really great leader, and a spiritual leader, and a thoughtful woman, and a delicious sense of humor.”

Frakes also loves how the character of Michael Burnham has been written over the show’s run, saying that “the character has changed so radically as she’s found herself and found her voice and found her power and been given the power and how gracefully and confidently she’s taken it on.”

Frakes is optimistic about the future of Star Trek, saying, “I think Star Trek’s really healthy at the moment.” He praises not only what shows like Discovery and Lower Decks (entering its final season this year) have brought to Trek, but what shows like Strange New World and the upcoming Star Trek: Starfleet Academy will continue to bring to the franchise for years to come.

He especially praises the fact that Discovery has been so inclusive not only of many races, cultures, religions, body types, and physical abilities, but different sexualities and gender identities as well.

Ian Alexander as Grey, Blu Del Barrio as Adira, and Wilson Cruz as Culber in a scene from 'Star Trek: Discovery." Alexander is a Vietnamese trans masc person with short blue hair and wearing a long black jacket. Del Barrio is a white Latine non-binary person with short dark hair wearing a blue Starfleet uniform. Cruz is an older Latino man with short, dark hair and a light salt-and-pepper beard wearing a white Starfleet uniform. They are standing in a row and all looking at the same thing, smiling.

“I think Discovery has perhaps the most diverse cast of any of the shows,” Frakes says. “Certainly the amplifying of the LGBTQ world with these leaders and these characters in that story playing characters like themselves.”

Frakes sees Discovery as being very true to the original vision of Star Trek. “I think it’s been … it’s classic Star Trek,” he says. “It’s classic Roddenberry, about a world where there’s no racism and there’s no sexism and there’s equality. And I think that Michelle Paradise and Alex Kurtzman and all the writers and Tunde, everyone has leaned into that in a way that has really been good for the world to see.”

Discovery really has been good for the world to see, and it was made all the better through Frakes’ involvement. We’re looking forward to his next Trek outing!

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.