The Star Trek Universe Is in Very Good Hands Jonathan Frakes Bids Farewell to Star Trek: Discovery

Much more than just starring as William T. Riker on Star Trek: Next Generation and its epilogue Star Trek: Picard, franchise mainstay Jonathan Frakes has been directing Star Trek shows and movies ever since The Next Generation era. Among the shows that he directed for was Star Trek: Discovery. He's been a constant directorial presence ever since the show's first season and all the way to its penultimate episode.

This particular episode, "Larange Point (Season 5, Episode 9)," sees Captain Michael Burnham lead an infiltration on a Breen warship. Meanwhile, Starfleet faces the possibility of an all-out war for control of the Progenitors' technology, which can possibly reshape the entire galaxy -- for better and worse.

In an exclusive interview with CBR, "Lagrange Point" director Frakes reflects on his time directing the show, getting to know the cast, and bringing the high-stakes episode to life. Most importantly, he shared his thoughts on the future of the Star Trek franchise as a whole.

the star trek universe is in very good hands jonathan frakes bids farewell to star trek: discovery

A Breen soldier, Captain Burnham and Commander Rayner in Star Trek Discovery

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CBR: This episode feels like a heist movie or an infiltration story like The Guns of Navarone.

Jonathan Frakes: Exactly! I love it! They're in costumes and Burnham's made the decision, like "You, you, you and you, you're with me." The writing on this episode was so strong. The whole season seems more action-adventure Star Trek than Season 4 was, and it's also got some levity in it, which I adore.

[Cleveland] Book flirting with the Breen officer to kill time for Burnham. Theres great stuff on the bridge with [Sylvia] Tilly and Callum Keith Rennie [who portrays Commander Rayner]. That, I think, heightens the experience for the audience. Whenever there are even tiny little moments when you find yourself smiling with the characters [writers] Sean Cochran and Ari Friedman found the right notes, and it makes a massive difference.

This episode also sets up everything in the series finale the following week. How was it working with the team to set that all up with this episode's ending?

Well, when I shot my half of it and Olatunde Osunsanmi shot the finale, we didn't know it was the "finale finale." They had to write more to tie up loose ends and shoot a few extra scenes so that the show could have a satisfying ending. When I finished mine, I thought "This is going to be great and the finale is going to be great, because I had read that. I'll see you guys next season!" We all thought that we were coming back for more.

the star trek universe is in very good hands jonathan frakes bids farewell to star trek: discovery

Jonathan Frakes directing Discovery Star Trek

the star trek universe is in very good hands jonathan frakes bids farewell to star trek: discovery

Star Trek The Next Generation Cast

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You've directed Star Trek: Discovery since the first season, in addition to directing Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Strange New Worlds. What do you find unique about the Discovery set?

Discovery is the first of this next-next generation of Star Trek and, when I was asked to join them, they became my new Star Trek family because I hadn't been on Star Trek for years, I had been directing other television stuff. They all, to a person, came to me and asked "Tell me what's this going to be!" and I told them what DeForest Kelley told me, which was "This is going to change your life, and it's going to be for the best."

Some of them were skeptical, some of them were thankful and some of them were confused. It certainly has changed their lives and, as you've seen them get more comfortable as their characters, and the writing especially for [Captain] Burnham, the evolution of that character and the music of what has changed over the five seasons, and confidence, self-doubt, all the elements that make her so exciting to watch in the hands of a master like Sonequa Martin-Green.

I always look forward to going back there with them because it's her set; generally, it's the number one's set. On that set, first of all, she's an incredible actor, but she's such a wonderful spiritual leader and so supportive of everyone. The environment in which you shoot and it's also Olatunde's set, he's a producing director and I have a great relationship, kind of a competitive shooting relationship, with him, in addition to a friendship. Everything about it was my home Star Trek.

Now that that's gone, I feel that way about the cast of Strange New Worlds because I was with Anson Mount and Ethan Peck on Discovery, and I've done three shows with Rebecca Romijn. I'm very lucky to have these new Trek relationships to add to. I was with Levar Burton this weekend at a convention in Ticonderoga, and I'm reminded of what a wonderful family it is that we're all a part of.

the star trek universe is in very good hands jonathan frakes bids farewell to star trek: discovery

Jonathan Frakes directing on the set of Star Trek Discovery

the star trek universe is in very good hands jonathan frakes bids farewell to star trek: discovery

Star Trek Discovery Season 5

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Elias Toufexis Calls Star Trek: Discovery's L'ak 'A Dream Come True'

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You've directed Alice Krige, F. Murray Abraham and Amanda Plummer as major Star Trek villains. Where does Eve Harlow fit in that pantheon?

I'm a massive Eve Harlow fan and, boy, did she bite it off and chew it up in this episode more than any of the others. She took on the entire Federation essentially and spit in their eye. I tried to keep the idea alive that her love, who is now allegedly dead and shrunken into a thumb drive that she takes with her.

It was hard to find a way to visually remind the audience that she's fighting for someone who she loves, who is no longer with us, and what are the dimensions of the other world. There are a lot of very Trekian elements to this episode that are juggled.

Also, she has the privilege of not having one of those damn helmets on, so you can see that fabulous hair and makeup on those eyes and the passion with which she works. When she was able to de-helmet Book and Captain Burnham, the stakes flew up, and we were able to do it.

I was concerned because I had a new cinematographer, Maya Bankovic, who did this show with me, and we had to find a way to get the helmet cam so we could see the actors because you want to know who's who. It drove me nuts! I love the concept of incognito but incognito where everybody looks the same? Challenging, at least! [laughs]

Was it difficult coordinating all those actors and extras on set in Breen costumes?

Fortunately for me, my first [unit director] takes care of all of that. But even with our regular actors that we were playing with, it became an issue. Also, the time that it took to put those frigging helmets on, it was a marriage of props and costumes. It's never easy, but it's nothing to complain about.

Jonathan, you've been a part of Star Trek since 1987, leading a new generation. How has it been being a part of Star Trek: Discovery as it leads its own generation and sending off the USS Discovery to its finale?

I was actually thrilled to be a part of it. It would've been much sadder had I known when I was shooting it that it was going to be the end because it had the end of the episode feeling where everyone gives you a hug and says "I'll see you next season." Now, I don't know when I'll see some of these actors and filmmakers again.

In the big picture of Star Trek, I think the franchise is in great hands. I think there's a lot of excitement about Starfleet Academy and I can't wait to see what happens with Olatunde and Michelle Yeoh's movie, Section 31, that's coming. The Star Trek Universe is in very good hands and I think Alex Kurtzman has a lot of irons in the fire that are really cooking.

Created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek: Discovery releases new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.

the star trek universe is in very good hands jonathan frakes bids farewell to star trek: discovery

Star Trek Discovery TV Show Poster

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek: Discovery is an entry in the legendary Sci-Fi franchise, set ten years before the original Star Trek series events. The show centers around Commander Michael Burnham, assigned to the USS Discovery, where the crew attempts to prevent a Klingon war while traveling through the vast reaches of space.

Release DateSeptember 24, 2017CastOyin Oladejo, Emily Coutts, Anthony Rapp, Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Mary WisemanMain Genre Sci-FiGenresDrama, Sci-Fi, Action, AdventureRatingTV-14Seasons5

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