Discovery Will Be the First Star Trek Show in 50 Years to End Without a Jonathan Frakes Appearance

Image for article titled Discovery Will Be the First Star Trek Show in 50 Years to End Without a Jonathan Frakes Appearance

Image: Paramount

When you think of the most important people in Star Trek history, in terms of actors at least you might look to the legacies of people like William Shatner or Patrick Stewart. But the real answer to that question is probably Jonathan Frakes, who has been a part of pretty much all televised Trek since the ‘70sand when Discovery ends in a few months, it’ll break the trend of his influence, at least in front of the camera.

Since starring as William T. Riker in The Next Generation, Frakes has made a guest appearance in almost every Star Trek series since, either as Riker or a facsimile of him, or his villainous transporter clone brother Thomas (responsible for the greatest fake beard reveal in television history, thanks to Deep Space Nine). Just three series have gone without an on-screen Frakes appearance so far—Discovery, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds—and now we know at least one of them never will.

When asked by Den of Geek at a recent appearance during SXSW whether or not Frakes would make an on-screen appearance in Discovery’s final season, co-creator and producer Alex Kurtzman offered a very resoundingly flat “No.” It’s not surprising considering that, as Discovery is now so far into Star Trek’s future, Riker is extremely dead at this point. At least it will always have a special connection to Frakes through his role as a similarly consistent Trek director—Frakes has been regularly directing episodes of Discovery since its first season, and will direct the penultimate episode of the show in season five. But it does indeed mean the end to a decades-long trend of making Frakes one of the most consistent Trek actors in the franchise history, and there’s something oddly sad about that.

Prodigy and Strange New Worlds both still have time to have their own Frakes appearances—Prodigy is set in 2385, while Riker was still in active service even after the birth of his son Thaddeus, for whom he would step back from active duty to try and help treat when he was diagnosed with mendaxic neurosclerosis in the run-up to the events of Star Trek: Picard. Strange New Worlds (which like Discovery has a Frakes connection through directing; he shot the show’s fantastic crossover with Lower Decks, “Those Old Scientists”) being pre-original Trek would make a Riker appearance very difficult, but Frakes could still play some role, whether it’s an ancestor or an entirely new character.

We’ll have to wait and see—and behold what Frakes cooks up as his parting gift for Discovery—when season five begins streaming on April 4.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.