A look back at Jonathan Frakes history as director


Jonathan Frakes was announced as a director for Star Trek: Discovery back in June. We’ll take a look back at some of his best episodes as director.

Jonathan Frakes was announced as a director of an episode of Star Trek: Discovery back in June. While his ties to the franchise as an actor are extensive and well-known, he’s also a prolific director who has directed over a dozen episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He also directed two of the four TNG movies.

The first of the eight TNG episodes Frakes directed was “The Offspring” in 1990. This episode revolved around Lieutenant Commander Data creating an android daughter named Lal. Frakes quickly became one of the best recurring directors the series had to offer and brought creative innovations in angles, lighting and set shooting.

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In an interview with Adam Pranica and Ben Harrison on The Greatest Generation podcast, LeVar Burton (who became a prolific director in his own right with more than two dozen directorial credits across TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise) credited Frakes with being the trail blazer for cast members transitioning into the director’s chair.

Burton described the process that directors went through in the podcast (episode 152: A Fun Face For Science Fiction podcast link):

"There was a process that became a complete and comprehensive education in all aspects of storytelling on film. You had to spend a lot of time in editing with every editor on staff. You had to come in on days off. You had to go to production meetings…spotting sessions…scoring sessions. It really was an amazing opportunity to learn the fundamentals, the rudiments and the fine points of filmmaking from the inside. I’ll forever be grateful. Jonathan — he really led the way."

Without a doubt, prospective directors did not have their hands held even in the early stages of learning their new craft.

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After “The Offspring”, Frakes’ next directorial performance came later that same season in “Reunion”. In this episode, Lieutenant Worf reunited with love interest K’Ehleyr only to learn they had a young son.

Frakes also directed one of the most important and acclaimed episodes in all of Star Trek when he took the helm of “The Drumhead”. This episode came in the form of a courtroom drama as Admiral Nora Satie leads a witch hunt based largely on xenophobia and paranoia.

Perhaps no Star Trek episode ever put on film stands on its own two feet to this date and retains its relevance better than “The Drumhead”.

He directed one of my own personal favorite episodes, entitled “Cause And Effect”. In this episode, the U.S.S. Enterprise is caught in a temporal feedback loop, doomed to relive the same events over and over for eternity until the crew figures out the solution and escapes. Kelsey Grammar plays Captain Morgan Bateson of the U.S.S. Bozeman in this episode.

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In total, Frakes directed eight TNG episodes, three DS9 episodes and another three Voyager episodes, as well as Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection, in addition to dozens of episodes of other television shows.

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