Jonathan Frakes seems to have found tenure in the Star Trek universe. After starring as William T. Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation and getting his start as a director on the show, the actor has gone on to helm instalments of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Discovery and Picard, along with calling the shots on big screen Star Trek offerings First Contact and Insurrection.
Frakes has also been behind the camera on two episodes of Seth MacFarlane’s love letter to Star Trek, The Orville, but he’s not quite satisfied with the work he’s done over there yet, and recently admitted he’s keen to appear front and center in the future.
“I keep waiting for a phone call. I am available. I’ve got a beard,” Frakes told Comicbook, adding that he’d be up for playing just about any role The Orville had going. “I would just like to be, just like I hoped and dreamed of being on [The Big Bang Theory], there’s certain things, the absurdity factor, like the Pez dispensers and the garden gnomes, certain benchmarks we all want to reach.”
Star Trek: Discovery and Picard have mostly left the wholesome and thoughtful Trek of yore behind under the eye of executive producer Alex Kurtzman at CBS All-Access, with standalone space adventures replaced by season-long arcs for the most part, but for fans who miss that, MacFarlane has been the unlikely vessel through which the now-somewhat-elusive Star Trek vibe flows.
Season 3 of The Orville is now Hulu-bound after last March’s Disney-Fox merger. Frakes notes that MacFarlane’s determination, and his recruiting of some of the old Star Trek guard like Brannon Braga and Marvin Rush, has been key to The Orville‘s success.
“He really went for it in terms of people from Next Gen,” Frakes said. “And I think, if I’m not mistaken, the audience was surprised that Orville was as serious as it was. I mean, it’s wonderfully funny, but it’s no Family Guy, certainly. I think Seth’s a wonderful storyteller and he loves him some Star Trek and he really wanted to be the captain of a spaceship and God knows he made Fox enough money that he can be. And now that he’s on Hulu, he has more freedom to play and not be limited by time, not be limited by censors, so I think he’s in the best of all possible worlds at the moment.”
The Orville season 3 hasn’t yet set a release date at Hulu, but it’s rumored to get underway in the later stages of 2020. MacFarlane was given a long leash at Fox, and likely gets to take his own sweet time over at Hulu, too.
“The Orville has been a labor of love for me, and there are two companies which have supported that vision in a big way: 20th Century Fox Television, where I’ve had a deal since the start of my career, and FOX Broadcasting Company, now FOX Entertainment, which has been my broadcast home for over 20 years,” he said in a statement last year.
“My friends at the network understood what I was trying to do with this series, and they’ve done a spectacular job of marketing, launching and programming it for these past two seasons. But as the show has evolved and become more ambitious production-wise, I determined that I would not be able to deliver episodes until 2020, which would be challenging for the network. So we began to discuss how best to support the third season in a way that worked for the show. It’s exactly this kind of willingness to accommodate a show’s creative needs that’s made me want to stick around for so long. I am hugely indebted to Charlie Collier and FOX Entertainment for their generosity and look forward to developing future projects there. And to my new friends at Hulu, I look forward to our new partnership exploring the galaxy together.”