Picard Proves Jonathan Frakes Was Born To Play Will Riker

While never really in question, Star Trek: Picard Season 3 is further proof that Jonathan Frakes was born to play Starfleet hero Captain Will Riker.

The following contains spoilers from Star Trek: Picard Season 3, Episode 3, “Seventeen Seconds,” now streaming on Paramount+..

Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard It is not the first time that Jonathan Frakes reprized his role as Will Riker, a role he was born to play. Number One returned in the first season, with Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi, but it was not a happy reunion. Always delivering a stellar performance, Picard Season 3 seems to be Frakes having the most fun, proving this is a character he can play forever.

On Star Trek: Lower Decks Fans see a very different Riker, as the Captain of the USS Titan (and in a much more farcical light). So, when he assumes command of the Titan-A after Todd Stashwick’s Captain Shaw is injured, it’s the first time Star Trek Fans have truly seen Captain Riker lead the crew of a starship. Frakes takes on the role so effortlessly that fans wonder why it took so long to depict it. It makes sense, with Frakes an accomplished director who is a kind of guest captain on a series. Still, over 35 years after he originated the role, Frakes imbues Riker with the authority, intensity and whimsical charm the character always possessed.

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Picard’s ‘Seventeen Seconds’ Might Be Will Riker’s Best Episode

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Star Trek Picard Will Riker Jonathan Frakes smiling against a red background on the bridge of ship

In the first two episodes of the season, Riker serves as the voice of the audience. First, he’s just pumped to be back in space with his pal Jean-Luc running heroic scams on Starfleet. He was game to join him on the Season 1 quest, also against Starfleet’s orders, but Picard turned him down. The enthusiasm Riker feels matches the energy of the audience at this The next generation reunion. He also backs up his swagger. Pursued by a mysterious enemy, Riker can do what Shaw couldn’t: buy them time. His photon torpedo trick shows that Riker’s unconventional command style is what makes him such an asset both to Starfleet and the show.

When Jack Crusher is revealed as Picard’s son, it’s not a surprise. If the audience wasn’t already drawing that conclusion, Riker again serves as the voice of the audience. He tells Picard a few times that Jack being his son is almost a certainty. When Jean-Luc and Beverly are having their heart-to-heart, Frakes somehow makes Riker’s eyes sparkle with joy and schadenfreude at this development. He also serves as the voice of reason, telling Picard to spend what time he can learning about the son he didn’t know he had.

The episode ends with an incapacitated Capt. Shaw and an emotionally compromised Admiral Picard. Despite Riker’s trust and affection for his old friend, he sides with Shaw about saving the crew. When the captain made clear he didn’t think Riker and Picard were heroes of Starfleet, the former seems to have taken some of that criticism to heart. The only moment that strains credulity is how harsh Riker is to Picard after his plan to fight backfires. Because for as much as Riker loves Picard, he’s a captain who cares for his crew. And his flight of fancy just “killed us all.”

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Frakes’ Performance Has Fans Wondering Why Riker Never Got a Star Trek Spinoff Show

In between the finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation and PicardRiker had a whole career of his own leading the Titan. There are myriad novels and comics of dubious canonicity that imagine what that must have been like. Yet, no matter how talented the writer is, what Frakes brings to the role cannot be duplicated. His swagger transcends the page, and the camera can barely catch that smirk and head tilt. “Seventeen Seconds” is a true taste of what a Riker-led spinoff would’ve been like. Thankfully, Jonathan Frakes hinted there may be more Riker projects in Star Trek‘s future.

What makes Frakes perfect in the role is that the character is identifiably the character he played. More so than the others, even. Yet, he still delivers a Riker with obvious depth and growth. It’s as if Frakes continued to play the role in a multi-season series that just never aired. Jonathan Frakes was born to be Will Riker, and Picard just proves that undeniable fact once again.

Star Trek: Picard debuts new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo


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