The Next Gen­er­a­tion re­built Rod­den­berry's dream for the '80s and be­yond. JONATHAN FRAKES tells Tara Ben­nett about his en­ter­pris­ing past and fu­ture

SFX - - Contents -

he’s not just Riker of course.

Jonathan Frakes has served the Star Trek fran­chise for 28 of its 50 years, play­ing Com­man­der Wil­liam T Riker on four dif­fer­ent se­ries and di­rect­ing no less than 24 episodes as well as big-screen en­tries Star Trek: First Con­tact and Star

Trek: In­sur­rec­tion. De­spite his busy sched­ule as a TV di­rec­tor, Frakes tells SFX that the 24th cen­tury is never far from his life and heart.

You’ve been part of the Star Trek fran­chise for half its ex­is­tence. Is that strange to process?

The longevity blows my mind. I was naive to how much of a cul­tural icon Star Trek was in the world. I wasn’t a Trekkie when I started on this project. I was blessed to join this fam­ily now cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary.

What did your cast get right and maybe not quite land?

Riker and Pi­card had a re­la­tion­ship which was its own friend­ship that was fa­ther/son, big brother/lit­tle brother, cere­bral and phys­i­cal that took its time for the writ­ers to find and for Pa­trick [Ste­wart] and I to em­brace. What we missed – that Pa­trick and Brent [Spiner] and I fought and searched and tried to find a way to rein­vent – was that in­cred­i­ble tri­an­gle that Bones, Kirk and Spock had. It was one of the great­est el­e­ments on clas­sic Trek. We tried and never really reached it be­cause our char­ac­ters didn’t lend them­selves to that as much. But in try­ing for it, we found mo­ments that we prob­a­bly would not have found if we weren’t as in­spired by that other fab­u­lous tri­an­gle.

Look­ing back now what’s your as­sess­ment of the Next Gen films?

I think each film was its own an­i­mal.

Gen­er­a­tions we started a week af­ter we fin­ished the last episode of the se­ries so it was just thrilling to be part of the movie fran­chise. First

Con­tact is ar­guably one of the best of the Star Trek movies ever made and that’s be­cause the script from Bran­non [Braga] and Ron [Moore] was bril­liant. In­sur­rec­tion was an en­tirely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal. Then we got buried in

Neme­sis. My the­ory is that was be­cause it wasn’t about the he­roes but about in­tro­duc­ing the won­der­ful Tom Hardy char­ac­ter.

How do you feel about the Abrams era of films?

I’m a huge fan of JJ. I wish I had the bud­get he had, frankly. I think the cast is spec­tac­u­lar. Pine is per­fect as Kirk but my per­sonal favourite is Karl Ur­ban in the role of Bones. I lob­bied very hard when the di­rec­tor fell out [of Star Trek Be­yond] but I think Justin Lin is go­ing to do a great job. I’m look­ing for­ward to that. But it was painful to not have par­tic­i­pa­tion at all in Star Trek. I was on the set of both films so I vis­ited their bridge but it was ver­boten for any­one from our Trek to work on them. I know some of my cast mates aren’t as thrilled about the way JJ has done things, but I’m a big fan.

Can you re­mem­ber step­ping on set for the first time?

I do and I re­mem­ber think­ing, “This looks big­ger on TV.” [laughs]

Klin­gons or Vul­cans? And why?

First of all, I served with the Klin­gons. I slept with their women. Now if you were to ask Klin­gons or Ro­mu­lans, I might give you a dif­fer­ent an­swer but I am very pro-Klin­gon. Worf is a friend.

Is there a prop or cos­tume you would have loved to have taken home?

I took a couple of cos­tumes and a couple of phasers, I won’t lie to you.

What is Star Trek’s great­est con­tri­bu­tion to the world?

When I’m at the con­ven­tions I hear sto­ries of peo­ple who say they were raised in an abu­sive fam­ily. They tell me “The only time my fa­ther and I were able to sit in a room to­gether was watch­ing TNG”. It’s heart­break­ing. But vets have come back with legs miss­ing say­ing they got through it be­cause they watched sea­son what­ever over and over again and it took some of their pain away. It’s a great thing to re­ceive. The con­ven­tions are a blast but when you hear peo­ple com­fort­able enough to tell re­veal­ing, hon­est, painful, raw sto­ries about how the show has af­fected them, that is the take­away.

All good things…

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