Our interview with Next Gen’s Jonathan Frakes bends the space-time continuum
He has beaten a mind-raping Reman to death. Been cloned in a transporter accident but no bummer he just set his other self up in a new job and heck yeah he was his own Spacebook friend… probably. A maverick who adhered to space regulations; a total player though he dated the same woman for 15 years and then married her. He smiled when Data died — a lot of people did. And he was the best damn pilot in the Federation.
Riker didn’t know what “cool” meant because he was above that but Jonathan Frakes knows. Who cares about Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction ? (Those stories were all fake Frakes.) Not his fans they forgive him. They even forgive him for directing Star Trek: Insurrection . He says they love him. That’s why he keeps them around 25 years after Riker.
Twenty-five years. The TV show about the second generation of space navy staff (Kirk is Picard’s dad. Spock is Data’s dad. Figuratively.) will not mark its Silver Jubilee on the scarred face of Kronos not on Vulcan or even in Vulcan not at Federation headquarters in San Fran but obviously: the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.
This is the first time since 2002’s final Next Generation movie that the entire cast will be together. That’s right they’ll all be there! Worf Geordi Data Picard Dr. Crusher Troi Wesley the blonde security guard who was killed early in the series by a tar monster but retains some kind of cult adoration like blonde-girl-Boba Fett. All one panel then thematic combination panels. Like The Love Triangle: ooh Worf and Riker and Troi all together? Awkward! The Dorks: Data-Geordi-Wesley Crusher. The Girls: Dr. Crusher and Tasha Yar. Okay I’m making those titles up but it’s going to be awesome.
Frakes has been to hell and back with this Enterprising cast so of course he’s psyched to see them this weekend. And though he says they’ve all remained friends this is the first time in 10 years they’ll all be reunited in one place. He refuses to take the Calgary-is-no-Kronos bait.
“I was there last year. We had a ball up there. I was there with Shatner last year. He is the pride of Canada. I also got white-hatted or whatever it’s called. It’s a fabulous town. I just did a comicon in Adelaide last year which was not dissimilar from Calgary in that it felt like a big old Western town instead of a city. And that’s what Calgary feels like it feels like a town out in the wilderness that they turned into a city. With country people who are kind and nice” he says over the phone.
He also won’t take the comicons-are-no-space-navy bait. “It only seems like 25 years when we look at the pictures. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
“If you’re going to be typecast and associated with anything being associated with Star Trek is the pick of the litter” he says. “When we first started the audience was really skeptical out of the loyalty to Kirk and Spock and Bones. Star Trek . I mean we were met with some real skepticism and disdain. And it took quite a bit of — a few years for the hardcore fans to come around and accept us. And when they did it was great because it is this incredible part of the popular culture which I think we’re all very thankful to be part of now. It’s fantastic! Your jokes still work. You can tell the same anecdotes and they get the same laughs. It’s wonderful!”
“Honestly? I would have thought it would get to you after a while. You know some of the more hardcore fans.”
“Yeah well that’s part of the deal but that’s a small percentage of the experience.”
Frakes’ enthusiastic moxy is making me scrappy. I know he’s eating an apple on the phone.
“Is it? Is it?”
“At the conventions 99 per cent of the fans are fantastic. They’ve paid their good hard-earned dollars to come and see you because you were on a show that they loved as a child or their parents made them watch with them. They have fond memories. So the audience is so positive that you get a false — you get lured into this false sense of security.”
“Do you ever miss punching aliens?”
“There are no aliens.”
We get into an argument about the 2010 J.J. Abrams Star Trek .
“It’s already been 10 years since the last” (I meant to say his final) “ Star Trek movie.”
“No no no! The last Star Trek movie was two years ago.”
“That doesn’t count!”
“Oh I think that it was great! I loved the whole thing they did.”
“It was great but it changes everything! Now none of it happened Mr. Frakes!”
“Yeah it does change everything there’s no getting around that.”
“You liked it eh?”
“Alright alright alright! So tell me what’s Jonathan Frakes all about?”
With his still velvet tenor he soothes me with a story about the acting classes he used to teach.
“I lived in Maine briefly and there was no real show business. So I taught at the local film school. Kind of an interesting experience. Up in rural Maine teaching film is an oxymoron. It was interesting. It was the end of the line for some of these kids. They had clearly been sent to a number of schools and this was the end of their trust fund was this funky little art school in Rockport…. My father was a professor. I had a real passion for it. And it’s hard to teach acting it’s hard to teach filmmaking. You gotta teach more of the craft side of it; how you direct how to edit. If you have something tangible to teach it’s a much… it seems to be much more uuuummm—”
“What if you have a student who’s a no-hoper?”
“There’s a lot of no-hopers.”
“You tell them. I think you can do them a favour. Find something else. Maybe you should consider another part of the business. ‘But I really want to be an actor!’ I can tell. You’re acting.”
“Let’s wrap it up here I want to go make supper.”