- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
[This story contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard, season three, episode four.]
For fans of Star Trek: Picard’s landmark third season, actor-director Jonathan Frakes has emerged as one of the series’ MVPs.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation veteran arguably delivers career-best work — both in front and behind the camera — in this week’s fourth episode, “No Win Scenario.” This complex hour, directed by Frakes and written by Picard showrunner Terry Matalas and Sean Tretta, finds the damaged U.S.S Titan-A adrift in a mysterious space anomaly. Captain Riker (Frakes) and key crew members of the Titan are afforded plenty of time to re-open old wounds as they confront the events of their traumatic pasts that have helped put their futures in jeopardy.
One of those events centers on fan-favorite Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick), who pays Sir Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard a very tense visit inside a holodeck bar. Here, Shaw reveals why he has such disdain for the former Enterprise captain: It’s because of Picard’s former tenure as Locutus of Borg during the infamous Battle of Wolf 359 from TNG season three’s “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I.” At Wolf 359, Shaw — then a young officer — saw one Borg cube, led by Locutus, destroy dozens of starships and help kill thousands of Starfleet officers, with one of them almost being Shaw. The slow-burn way Shaw unpacks his emotionally-scarring first encounter with Picard visually and narratively harkens back to a famous scene from a Steven Spielberg classic, Jaws — where shark hunter Quint (the late Robert Shaw) tells the tale of how he survived the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. Frakes, in a recent chat with The Hollywood Reporter explains that homage was very intentional.
“You steal from the greats,” Frakes tells THR, “and we definitely referenced and talked about that scene early on. I try to watch Jaws every year, and that [scene] was referenced by a lot of us [on set]. I believe Terry wanted that to be, tonally, what we were aiming for from the very beginning.”
Given the length of Shaw’s speech, and its emphasis on the traumatizing selection process that put him on an escape pod that day instead of some of his friends, Frakes was worried that parts of this critical scene — and Stashwick’s moving performance — might get excised in post.
“But every bit of it stayed in,” Frakes says. “I kept thinking, as we were shooting: ‘This is too good. They’re [probably] gonna cut some of it. But that whole speech stayed in the cut when Terry got it. And when the other producers beyond him saw it? They also got it and thought the whole scene should stay uncut. And Patrick’s reaction to Todd, the one that we used, was devastating.”
Also devastating are not one, but two, difficult moments where Riker confronts his own issues with mortality in the wake of the recent loss of his son, which has left the former Enterprise first officer just as adrift in life as the starship he is currently on. The scenes — one where Riker tells Picard about the emotional toll of burying his son, and the other about finding catharsis by chatting with his estranged wife, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) — are the most dramatic moments Frakes has ever done across seven seasons of Next Gen and directing two of the four TNG feature films.
“It’s been a very emotional season,” Frakes confesses. “I’ve been emotional a few times filming it, and, to be fair, Terry prepared me that it would be.”
The actor had time to prepare for his emotional work. When Frakes was directing on Star Trek: Picard season two, showrunner Matalas approached him early on to discuss what was in store for Riker.
“[Terry] said: ‘Are you ready for Riker?’ I said, ‘Sure’. He said, ‘No. I mean, a lot of Riker,'” recalls Frakes. “I didn’t know at the time that it was going to be this wonderful, frankly.”
Frakes took comfort if working with familiar faces while balancing directing duties with acting in some of the most dramatic scenes of his career.
Says Frakes: “It should feel overwhelming, but … because I’m working mostly with Patrick and Marina as an actor, and Terry, who largely helped write this fabulous season, who was on the set, I had a couple sets of eyes that could watch what was going on. Who could help, if I needed it, to steer performance a certain way.”
Another joy Frakes experienced was re-creating a shot for “No Win Scenario” that is virtually identical to one he did 27 years ago directing 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact.
In what is a deep-ish cut for First Contact fans, the final moments of the episode end with Jack Crusher (Ed Speelers) washing his face at a sink in a similar foreboding way that his father, Captain Picard, did in First Contact. (But, thankfully for Jack, a Borg implant doesn’t pop out of his cheek like it did for his dad.) It’s a very small visual detail and not a very complicated shot — just a close-up of a sink faucet that pans up to reveal Jack’s wet face in the mirror. But Frakes was keenly aware that, if he was going to reference himself — especially with eagle-eyed Trek fans out there hunting for Easter Eggs —he had to get it exactly right.
“That was another fun one to do, I liked the shot so much I used it twice!” Frakes recalls with a laugh. “I talked about it in prep [for the episode] with Terry, I said: ‘This is obviously an opportunity to reference First Contact.’ It’s the exact same framing, same lighting, same lens. So that was the most obvious homage ever — that was a self-homage!”
New episode of Star Trek Picard stream Thursdays on Paramount+.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day