Jonathan Frakes Regrets The Next Generation Didn’t Carry Over One Excellent Part Of The Original Series
Actor and director Jonathan Frakes, best known for his portrayal of Commander William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as subsequent films and series, recently opened up about certain parts of the original Star Trek series he wished TNG had carried over. Frakes envied the camaraderie shared between the characters of the original show.
Star Trek: The Original Series had three main stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley. Their respective characters, Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, always acted like a unit in the original series. Despite the grumblings between Mr. Spock and Bones, the trio were all good friends, and all the quips and barbs between them were all in good fun, which added to the aforementioned sense of camaraderie Jonathan Frakes referred to when commenting about the one thing missing from Star Trek: TNG.
Frakes shared his viewpoint in the Star Trek oral history The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, calling the friendship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones the triumvirate of the original series. He openly stated that he envied the relationship between the three and that he regretted that the TNG hadn’t carried that over to its Picard, Data, and Jonathan Frakes’ Riker. However, things weren’t simple with The Next Generation, and the series couldn’t implement such elements as easily.
Star Trek: The Original Series is unique due to many things—including broadcasting the first interracial kiss on American television—but the low ratings warranted a cancelation following the series’ third season. However, its popularity surged in the late ’70s through syndicated reruns and the success of similar sci-fi movies, such as Star Wars, allowing Star Trek to significantly expand its fan base. This re-emerging and sustained popularity of the franchise led to the series revival, which also featured Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker.
But therein lies the problem. While The Original Series had three main stars, The Next Generation expanded its cast significantly, which made the snappy dialogue and one-liners between the notable crew members more difficult to implement. It would also be difficult to choose the triumvirate from The Next Generation, as all stars for equal billing, and it was considered an ensemble cast. And the whole series had a different feel to it, as Picard was nothing like Kirk—in fact, Jonathan Frakes’ Riker was more like Kirk in terms of confidence.
Regardless, Picard held a “healthy” distance from his crew when it came to personal matters, and his shipmates were nearly the polar opposites of characters from the previous shows. Where Spock was oriented towards logic and counterweighed some of Kirk’s decisions, Data strived to understand humanity. McCoy was Kirk’s conscience and ethical compass, whereas Jonathan Frakes’ Riker often took a more action-oriented approach and provided a more adventurous perspective to Picard’s more diplomatic and calculated approach.
Fortunately enough, Star Trek still features an ensemble cast, and each of the prominent characters has their own storylines that tie into the overarching narrative, thus allowing the series to explore different dynamics between different characters simultaneously while also enabling Jonathan Frakes to play with the characters a bit, from his directorial chair.