Jonathan Frakes is easily one of the most prolific directors in the Star Trek franchise, as he has not only directed dozens of episodes but has also directed more iterations of the franchise than any other director. This feather in his cap was further strengthened when he recently directed the ambitious crossover episode of the animated Lower Decks and the live-action Strange New Worlds. Ahead of that episode’s release, Frakes took a look back at his Trek directing history in an interview with Variety.
Of course, Jonathan Frakes kicked off his retrospective with his directorial debut in The Next Generation, which was also the show where he first played the role of Commander William T. Riker. Frakes directed the fantastic episode “The Offspring,” where the android Data attempts to create an android child. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest challenge for Frakes directing this episode was getting the cast to behave.
Speaking about the episode, Jonathan Frakes said, “Our cast, as you probably know, is notoriously rambunctious,” and, “I was, for better or for worse, one of the leaders of that kind of behavior on the set.” Frakes hilariously added, “I realized what these other directors had gone through and what a**holes we were.” Still, Frakes obviously was able to figure it out because “The Offspring” is often considered one of the best episodes of The Next Generation.
“I tried to stretch the envelope. I wasn’t told not to do it, so I did it.”-Jonathan Frakes on directing “The Drumhead”
Jonathan Frakes talked about another The Next Generation episode he directed, “The Drumhead,” which was essentially a courtroom drama with guest star Jean Simmons appearing as a Starfleet admiral investigating a possible conspiracy.
The episode was especially notable because the camerawork and cinematography were a bit more dynamic than the show’s typical style. Frakes obviously played a part in this, saying, “I tried to stretch the envelope,” adding, “I wasn’t told not to do it, so I did it.”
In the interview, Jonathan Frakes also talked about his experience directing episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and the more recent Discovery and Picard series. It’s quite an impressive resume of directing credits, especially when you consider that all of these shows have their own styles that Frakes had to seamlessly slip into.
It certainly speaks to his quality as a director, and it just goes to show that the Star Trek franchise has a lot of faith in Frakes that they bring him on for so many different projects.
“Those Old Scientists”
Jonathan Frakes’ extensive experience jumping from Trek show to Trek show made him the obvious choice to direct the Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds crossover. “Those Old Scientists,” saw the Lower Decks characters Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) traveling back in time and meeting the crew of the USS Enterprise.
Quaid and Newsome got to play their characters in live-action for the first time, and the results were great.
The crossover episode was fun and has been getting amazing reviews, and Jonathan Frakes’ steady and reliable direction no doubt played a part in that. While Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds are quite different in tone, the episode managed to balance them perfectly and make one of the best episodes of Strange New Worlds.