Jonathan Frakes

The newest entrant into the Star Trek televised saga, ‘Star Trek: Picard,’ has been bringing a brisk pace of guest stars from previous Trek iterations – and not just in front of the camera, but behind the scenes as well.  The fifth episode of the series, “Stardust City Rag,” was directed by Jonathan Frakes, whom fans will recognize as the actor who portrayed Will Riker throughout the entire run of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ in addition to four feature films and appearances on three other ‘Trek’ series as well.  Frakes has also directed two of the Star Trek films and episodes across five of the Trek series… so needless to say, the man has earned his franchise cred.

“Stardust City Rag” features the path-crossing of two primary Trek characters from different series: the titular Jean-Luc Picard himself (Patrick Stewart) and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) from ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ fame.  In a recent interview, Frakes explained that he did not “request” to direct this key episode, but was certainly happy to do so:

“It was completely the luck of the draw. But I was grateful to be a part of reintroducing fans to Seven, particularly their mini-scene — where these two former Borgs — they exchange their baggage and their feelings about having been ‘Borg-ified.’ It’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done.”

Frakes went on to demure on the conflict-heavy nature of the ‘Picard’ series so far, and how this type of Star Trek show would never have made it to air while franchise creator Gene Roddenberry were still alive (he passed away in 1991):

“We never could have done [a scene like] this on our show [‘Star Trek: The Next Generation]… the family, the crew of the Enterprise [couldn’t have that kind of conflict]. As we know, conflict is what creates drama. So, on ‘Next Gen,’ it was a very challenging set of rules — primarily for the writers — to find ways to create drama. In this new version of Star Trek, which honors what Roddenberry laid out — in terms of the optimism and respect toward themes like racism — all of those elements are sort of strongly rooted in this show. But the notion of self-doubt, the vulnerability — especially for a [character] like Picard — the damage of past experiences, are so much more compelling to watch … It’s a denser show than ‘Next Gen,’ I think that’s fair to say. Pushing Picard to these places, watching Patrick act that out — and he was in the writer’s room as they developed this story — it’s all so rewarding to see.”

Finally, Frakes spoke about Ryan and her bringing Seven of Nine back to the screen, which was one of the largest surprises to fans when they saw her featured in the preview trailers in the lead-up to the series’ debut:

“Jeri was struggling with finding the quote-unquote voice of Seven in that she felt that the current version of her character, almost 20 years later… it was challenging to get a bead on what has happened to [Seven] in the passage of time. Is there a world in which Seven could or could not find who she was? And [showrunner Michael] Chabon explained what he felt was going on, and Jeri explained what she felt might be missing and might have resonated through these last 20 years, and they came to this [middle ground] on where Seven is. Who, on the ‘Picard’ show, is a character that — you got to give credit to Jeri, playing her older and wiser. She is definitely better than she was on ‘Voyager.’ It’s great to have her back.”

Frakes also directed the fourth episode of the series, “Absolute Candor.”  While he is not directing any of the other episodes in the 10-episode first season of the show, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back in the director’s chair in the second season of ‘Star Trek: Picard.’

‘Star Trek: Picard’ airs new episodes on Thursdays via the CBS All Access streaming service.