On Saturday, Jonathan Frakes joined some of his Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) costars for a virtual panel hosted by GalaxyCon. The convention-style virtual panels have become a mainstay of pandemic fandom, allowing fans to connect with their favorite stars from the comfort and safety of their homes.
Frakes is one of the pillars of the Star Trek universe, both past and present. He started his Star Trek career portraying Commander William T. Riker on TNG. He is one of the few cast members that appeared in all 176 episodes of the show. Frakes reprised the role in four Star Trek movies, and in four other shows in the franchise. Frakes had cameos as Riker in Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks. Additionally, he played Thomas Riker in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9).
His participation in the Star Trek universe isn’t limited to acting though. Frakes has also directed two Star Trek movies and several episodes over multiple series. Most recently, he directed three episodes of Star Trek: Discovery’s third season.
During the GalaxyCon panel, Frakes revealed some interesting information about what’s happening with Discovery’s newest season, which began filming in November.
Frakes is Currently on Set
When Frakes first signed on to the panel, he spent a few minutes chatting with the moderator about working on Discovery. Frakes said, as he has many times before, that he’s loved working with the new generation of Star Trek actors. He also talked briefly about how fun it was to look at the future of the Federation in the third season.
The conversation shifted to production on season four. Frakes revealed that he was already in Toronto, Ontario, where the show has been filming for almost three months. He added that he’d already been on set, working with the actors on one of the episodes for the upcoming season.
Given that Frakes has directed episodes in all three seasons of the show, it makes sense that he’s back on set for season four. However, this was the first time it was publicly confirmed that he’d been directing some episodes in the upcoming seasons.
What Else is Happening With Production on Season Four?
The actors and crew started work on season four in early November. Of course, everyone on set is dealing with a much different production experience than they had on season three. In a recent appearance on the BlerdGurl podcast, frequent Discovery director Olatunde Osunsanmi and showrunner Alex Kurtzman talked about the challenges the pandemic has brought to production.
Osunsanmi revealed that everything is taking much longer than it used to because they have to limit the number of people on set at one time.
“We have to social distance, so that means when we do something called ‘last looks’ when all the makeup, hair and costume people come in, now that’s separate. The costumes comes in and go away, then hair comes in, goes away, then makeup comes in, goes away. And obviously it takes three times as much time as it would normally take. And so you can take that process of individual departments, and multiply it across the entire company and things really slow down.”
He added that the protocols are forcing the creative folks behind the show to focus on what’s truly important to the final product of the episode. Since they don’t have time to do more and subtract later, they have to be very precise about what they’re doing each time they’re on set.
Osunsanmi stressed that CBS is doing an incredible job of keeping everyone safe while they’re working on the show. He said that every request they’ve made has been met enthusiastically and that he feels very safe.
So, production on the next season of Discovery seems to be plugging along at a slower, but more intentional pace. No official release date has been given yet, but the season is expected to premiere before the end of the year.