Jonathan Frakes — best known to Trek fans as TNG’s Commander Will Riker — has been directing television dating back to the middle of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and this weekend makes his debut helming an episode of the newest incarnation of the franchise, Star Trek: Discovery.

In an interview with StarTrek.com today, Frakes detailed a bit about how he came to the Discovery project and what we can look forward to in “Despite Yourself,” the tenth episode of the season.

How did it work out that you’re directing an episode of Discovery?

I’ve been lobbying to get on the show since the very, very beginning, back when Bryan Fuller had been attached. Fuller was attached to the “Star Trek” family, from “Voyager,” I think.

Fast forward to Olatunde (Osunsanmi), who had shadowed me quite a bit on “Falling Skies,” becoming a producing director for Discovery. Olatunde is awesome, and he learned to direct episodic TV on “Falling Skies” and was a wonderful mentee of sorts…

Olatunde was on “Discovery” and said, “Well, do you want to do the show?” I said, “I would love to do the show, I’ve been trying to do it for a year.” So, the next thing you know, I got a slot and I got an incredible script.

How did you prep [for the episode]?

I watched everything that had been cut together. I read all the scripts, coming in. It’s a big show, so it’s a 10-day prep and a 10-day shoot. The sets are built up at Pinewood Toronto, so I spent a lot of time getting a feel for these new bridges and corridors.

It’s obviously a very familiar feel, but at the same time, it’s a much grander, grandiose, more spectacular production design. Stylistically, the camera movement and the action, the level of stunts, the beautiful costumes, all the aspects of the show are no expenses spared and the money is on the screen.

On how the Discovery cast reminded him of his Next Generation colleagues:

[The cast had] unified for a number of reasons. One was the madness that’s part of the beginning of any show.

The other is that most of them were from elsewhere and were now gathered on the bridge of Discovery — or the Shenzhou at first — in Toronto. Jason (Isaacs) was cooking dinner every Sunday for the entire cast, and they’d gather and debrief. They’d come in and watch each other work. It was so similar to the “Next Gen” family that it made me proud.

And, from morning to night when I was there, they picked my brain about my Trek experiences…. there was a lot of discussion about what it was like on the set, specific things about the costumes and about ship shapes and about how the props work and makeup and hair. They asked about protocol and beaming and all the things that we did on our shows.

They were fascinated by it all. Sort of like the people at a convention, they wanted to hear anecdotes about what happened with so-and-so, what happened off-camera, what happened when we did this.

Finally, on the subject of “Despite Yourself” as an episode:

You know I can’t tell you much, right? Lorca’s depth of character continues and there’s this wonderful business with L’Rell, Mary Chieffo’s character.

It’s beautifully shot, it’s a great story, and there’s lots of loose ends tied up. Lots of questions are answered, and it’s a… cliffhanger. I think I can tell you that.

You can read more of Frakes’ thoughts on Discovery, the cast and crew, and “Despite Yourself” at StarTrek.com.

S1 Soundtrack:
Chapter 1 (MP3)


S1 Soundtrack:
Chapter 1 (CD)


  • scooternva

    I love that the cast is bonding like this. That kind of camaraderie behind the scenes usually translates well to the screen, but besides that, this just seems like a lovely group of talented professionals. It tickles me to hear that they are enjoying the work and each other’s company.

    Is it Sunday yet? Jonathan did an excellent job with his Orville episode “Pria”, and I’m sure this weekend’s episode of Discovery will be a roller-coaster blast-off for the second half of the season. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

    • Daniel Ireland

      Yes! I love the camaraderie too! I enjoy TNG more because I know the cast had a great time on set and are still good friends today. You can see it in their chemistry onscreen.

      • Roger Birks

        The camarderie of the TNG cast is what I think hugely helped the show live on past three seasons. If they had been somewhat just working for the paycheck alone, the show would have not made the impact it later did.

  • Thomas Elkins

    Veteran directors who have actual experience directing episodes of Star Trek, including firms, could certainly help.

    • TG1701

      Can someone explain to me why they haven’t asked Nic Meyer to direct an episode? I know thats not why he was hired but you would sort of think the one guy who directed two of the most famous Trek films (and probably the reason why he’s there) would make news he was directing an episode. Its like he was asked to come in as a ‘name’ but then given nothing to do once he was brought on board. I haven’t seen his name credited on any scripts yet anywhere and no one ever talks about him.

      • iMike

        Maybe he was and turned it down?

        • TG1701

          I have a hard time believing that but anything is possible. Seems like the guy has just been thrown to the side though.

          • Davey1983

            Latest news was that Meyer is working on another Trek project. Between that project and writing for Discovery, he probably doesn’t have much time to direct.

            Rumor is that the other Trek project is a Khan mini series.

          • TG1701

            I heard about that rumor months ago but thats all its been a rumor. And I really hope not, that would just have Trek moving backwards again. We don’t need a Khan mini-series, we already know what happened to that guy.

          • Tone

            I think he was never in. It was just publicity to attract fans in the beginning, when they still cared what the fans thought.

          • TG1701

            This is probably true. He was used as a way to get the fanboys on board early on but never had any real creative influence. OR maybe he had more clout when Bryan Fuller was there who was the one who hired him and when he left other people got more control leaving Meyer outside of just a ‘consultant’ title.

      • Tone

        He is working on a re-boot Trek show/movie.

        But he is also a movie director, who commands a movie salary.

        • TG1701

          I don’t buy that either. For one thing PLENTY of movie directors direct TV shows all the time and they don’t make what they would get in a film.

          Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese , Steven Soderbergh and others have directed TV shows and they were at the height of their game.

          And Nic Meyer has directed a single film in over 20 years. Most people who even knows who he is at this point are either Trek fans or people over 50 who remembered some of this films in the 70s and 80s. He wouldn’t be getting any major salary for films at this point because he’s been out of the game way too long.

  • Fiery Little One

    Interesting.

  • Donny Pearson

    Sounds like fun! Can’t wait till Sunday!

  • A_Warrior_of_Marley

    I’d be curious to know if Frakes got his choice of scripts to shoot or was given the first thing that could be made available to him.

  • TG1701

    They are going all out publicizing that Frakes is directing this episode as well they should since it will get a lot of Trek fans interested. Hopefully he will direct more next season.

    • iMike

      If the cast enjoyed him as much as he seemed to enjoy this cast, then I don’t see why not. I can’t recall which director it was, or which TNG Blu Ray set, but there was a clip where one of the directors (who did multiple eps over multiple seasons) quipped about how you can keep coming back as long as the cast likes you. Obviously some of that was probably anecdotal, but if Frakes developed a good working chemistry with the actors then I would be very surprised if he doesn’t get an episode or two Season 2 of DSC. I also wouldn’t mind seeing LeVar Burton and Roxann Dawson behind the camera.

      • TG1701

        Yeah I would love for Burton and Dawson to come back too. And yes there have been so many Trek episodes a lot of directors have done a dozen plus easily over the years.

        Frakes seems to be one of those guys that is loved everywhere he goes. I have never heard anyone on any of the Trek productions say one bad thing about him.

    • Dumi

      The Disaster Artist (Limited) online streaming >> DIRECTMOVIE4K.BLOGSPOT.COM

  • Captain Lorca, Section 31

    STD won’t have a season 3. All the buzz about the show is gone and it has lost a good portion of the Star Trek fan base.

    • Kirksdeadjim

      Are you one of those people who was predicting that Discovery wouldnt get a season 2? Will you feel like an idiot when/if Discovery season 3 is filming?

      • DC Forever

        He’s been saying that nonsense for over a year, and at every milestone, he’s been proven wrong.

      • Davey1983

        No, he will pretend like he never said it. By then he will be talking about how season 4 will never happen.