Jonathan Frakes and Leonard Nimoy, both revered in the Star Trek universe as Commander Riker and Spock respectively, shared not only their iconic roles but also a parallel journey post-Star Trek. Despite their characters embodying starkly different personas, they grappled with the challenge of typecasting while carving successful paths behind the camera as directors.
Nimoy imparted a valuable motto to his fellow Star Trek colleague, encapsulating it with the wisdom, “It’s better to be typecast than not to be cast at all.” This sage advice, reminiscent of something Spock might say, resonated deeply with Frakes, as he reflected on it following Nimoy’s passing. Frakes acknowledged that, aside from a select few like Patrick Stewart and William Shatner, many Star Trek actors found themselves confined within the identities of their respective roles. He recognized that Nimoy, in his later years, acknowledged the merit of being associated with the beloved character of Spock.
For Frakes, as for numerous Star Trek actors, the relationship with the franchise is intricate. While they are elevated by their association with Star Trek, they’re also bound by it. Frakes pointed out that only a handful of actors, including Stewart, Shatner, Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, and Colm Meaney, managed to transcend their Star Trek personas, a feat challenging to unravel.
Colm Meaney’s success in distancing himself from his Star Trek character O’Brien by seeking diverse non-sci-fi roles during his stints in the series might contribute to his ability to move beyond Star Trek. Meanwhile, Nimoy continued portraying Spock for decades after his first appearance, whereas Frakes reprised his role as Riker in Picard season 3, airing in 2023.
Both Nimoy and Frakes, exceptional in their portrayals, breathed life and charm into their characters, leaving an indelible mark. Even today, Spock and Riker remain iconic and beloved, testifying to the enduring impact of Nimoy and Frakes.
The legacy of Spock endures through Ethan Peck in Strange New Worlds and Zachary Quinto in the Kelvin timeline reboot. While Peck is confirmed for Strange New Worlds season 3, Quinto’s return for Star Trek 4 remains uncertain.
Similarly uncertain is Frakes’ future as Riker. The conclusion of Picard season 3 hinted at a potential spin-off, Star Trek Legacy, where Frakes could feature both as his character and as a director. However, Legacy remains unconfirmed, leaving fans pondering whether Picard season 3 was Riker’s final voyage.
Should that be the case, fans may find solace in revisiting the best Riker episodes of Star Trek, including ‘A Matter of Honor’, ‘Peak Performance’, ‘The Best of Both Worlds’, ‘Second Chances’, ‘Frame of Mind’, and ‘Future Imperfect’, among others. TNG stands as one of the greatest TV series, largely owing to Frakes’ contributions.