Star Trek: The Next Generation star Jonathan Frakes is returning to the sci-fi franchise that made him famous to direct an episode of CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery, and we're getting our first look at the one-time Commander Riker on the set of the new series.
Discovery, which is a prequel series that takes place a decade before the original Star Trek TV show, hasn't been shy about invoking the Star Trek franchise's past onscreen, between making its lead character, Michael Burnham, Spock's adopted sister, and incorporating original series characters like Harry Mudd and Sarek. However, the crew behind the scenes has consisted mostly of new blood, following the departure of Deep Space Nine and Voyager veteran Bryan Fuller as the series showrunner early on in production. Only "Lethe" writer Joe Menosky has prior experience with the franchise on TV.
We've known for awhile that Jonathan Frakes would be directing an episode of Discovery, and a new behind the scenes video shows the former first officer of the Enterprise working on his upcoming episode - the midseason premiere "Despite Yourself". You can watch the video in the space above.
Frakes is something akin to Star Trek royalty. Beyond starring in seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the four TNG movies that followed as Commander William Riker, Captain Picard's right hand man, he also directed some of the best episodes of the series, like "The Drumhead" and "Cause and Effect", and directed two of the TNG movies - most notably Star Trek: First Contact, routinely hailed as one of the best Star Trek movies ever. Frakes largely abandoned his acting career after Star Trek and became one of the most prolific and in demand television directors up to today, including working on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. It's also worth noting he's already directed an episode of The Orville, Seth MacFarlane's Star Trek pastiche that in some ways feels truer to the franchise's spirit than Discovery.
We don't have much information about Frakes' episode, but the director did previously hint at Discovery's exploration of the Mirror Universe, and the cliffhanger from the midseason finale would nicely set up an excursion into that alternate reality of very evil facial hair made famous in the original series. No matter what direction his episode takes, it's hard to imagine there are any Star Trek fans who aren't excited to see Frakes command people on a Federation starship bridge again.
Star Trek: Discovery returns this Sunday at 8:30 PM EST with the midseason premiere, "Despite Yourself".