Helm Control

With just weeks to go until the release of the ninth Star Trek movie Insurrection, we meet director and actor Jonathan Frakes. By James E Brooks

Jonathan Frakes as Riker in ST9To millions of fans and casual viewers, Jonathan Frakes is known as Commander William Riker, aka ‘Number One’. During production of Star Trek: The Next Generation, though, the actor began directing, quickly becoming one of the best to work on the show. Like Leonard Nimoy before him, Frakes has been able to lever himself into a behind the camera position and do so with flair.

Frakes got definite word that Rick Berman and Paramount wanted him to participate in Star Trek: Insurrection nearly a year ago. “I think it was around Thanksgiving or the beginning of December [1997], somewhere in there, that they approached me about directing the movie. At that time, the first draft of the script was being noodled with. When I got the script, we started the sequence of meetings that resulted in our current Insurrection screenplay. We had quite a few changes.”

In its original form, the script had started out as a light-hearted take on The Prisoner of Zenda, but quickly grew darker and more serious as writer Michael Piller began to pursue something closer to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Leaving the idea of a Picard imposter behind, Piller crafted a story in which the stalwart captain begins a dark journey to stop Data from attacking Federation starships. When Patrick Stewart read this new story, he had severe reservations. “It was too dark,” Frakes says, echoing his co-star’s reaction. “I definitely shared Patrick’s feelings about it.”

A consensus was finally reached, sending the story and script in the direction that resulted in the movie fans will see this December. “I think that the decision not to do another Horror movie was wise,” Frakes says. “In many respects, First Contact was a Star Trek film that was really a Horror movie. And it was a good one, but it didn’t make sense for the next film to be more of the same. Insurrection is much more of a philosophical romance with space battles interspersed.”

All Star Trekimages © Paramount
Read the full interview in Starburst 244 - plus writer Michel Piller on the "serpentine route" of developing the Insurrection story: "We are obsessed with youth and feeling young. When was the last time anyone did a fountain of youth story?"
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