If there's a new tradition among the new Star Trek canon nowadays, it's the number of allusions to the franchise's illustrious past with the latest episode of Star Trek: Picard certainly not an exception in "Fly Me to the Moon". Jonathan Frakes, who plays William Riker (and briefly, his transporter twin, Thomas) in the franchise since Next Generation, remained a creative force directing several episodes of Discovery & Picard, opened up about the references especially his 1996 TNG feature in First Contact that saw the debut of the Borg Queen originally played by Alice Krige, now by Annie Wersching in Picard. This is your spoilers warning, obviously.
"I was thrilled," Frakes told The Hollywood Reporter. "I was a huge fan of the Borg Queen with Alice. I always liked the Borg story. Alice, because she was our first queen, established the nastiness and the sexiness of the character. Alice established the groundwork, which Annie expanded on brilliantly. Annie works with a fearlessness that I really admire. It is not easy to work through all that rubber-head stuff. She really embraced it." Frakes credited makeup department head James MacKinnon and lead costume designer Neville Page on her latest look for the Paramount+ series. "This Borg Queen design is so out there," he said. "They embellished it but did not change it to the point where it was unrecognizable. And the visual effects team used a lot of the same references [from 'First Contact'] but then expanded, given the new tools they have to work with." The design on Picard sees the Queen without legs, but even more menacing with her use of tentacles.
The next was Jean-Luc's (Patrick Stewart) family especially his ancestor in Renee Picard (Penelope Mitchell), who's an astronaut for NASA under heavy evaluation in her mission in the 21st century. The name is a reference to Jean-Luc's nephew René, played by David Birkin in the 1994 The Original Series and TNG crossover film Generations. "I think Patrick had always embraced that," Frakes says of Jean-Luc's family story, the good and the depressing. "He is writing his memoir and in doing that, he is going back to revisiting 'TNG' episodes while we were shooting this episode. I remember him saying that he had forgotten how fabulous Jeremy Kemp was. So I think it rekindled Patrick's feelings about all of that. It meant a lot to him." Frakes also touched upon Data's distant ancestor Dr. Adam Soong, both played by Brent Spiner, and his fateful meeting with Q (John de Lancie).
Working with Star Trek: The Next Generation Alum Brent Spiner and John de Lancie
"I think about the day I spent with Brent and de Lancie in the diner," Frakes recalls of a pivotal moment in the latest episode. "The scene is brilliant. The acting is fabulous. And the schmoozing, while we were having lunch together, was a gift. I think Brent and de Lancie have gotten better with age. There is a real confidence in the way they embrace their characters." He also called Alison Pill, who plays Dr. Agnes Jurati, "one of our finest actors. There is nothing she can't do. Her timing is impeccable. Her ability to find levity in anything is completely admirable. And yet, she can scare the shit out of you." The good doctor is getting some invaluable lessons about life from the Borg Queen leading to their anticlimactic moment.
"I was thrilled to play with the heist genre," Frakes told TrekMovie. "It's a little 'Ocean's Eleven' that we're setting up at the nightclub. But I also think it's a callback to our friend the Borg Queen and the way that she was introduced to us in 'First Contact' and has the same kind of control. And when she takes over Jurati, it's a full-on callback, both visually and psychologically to what happened on the Enterprise in 'First Contact'." The director developed an appreciation of everything that's transpired on series so far.
"I think you should. [laughs] If it worked the first time! I hadn't seen the completed visual effect of the fingers entering the neck, which is a complete homage to that assimilation in the corridor on the Enterprise in First Contact. It's been wild to have Brent back as Soong. And de Lancie, who's my favorite nemesis in the history of Star Trek, as Q. So all that and we've got the astoundingly talented Alison Pill. I've got my old buddy, the good Captain Picard. And this new Raffi and Seven relationship—their rhythm together is spectacular, I think. And we would be remiss if we didn't mention how charming and sexy Santiago [Cabrera] is. The cast is great and I think the audience has warmed up to this show in a way this season that I didn't know that any of us were expecting. But we're thrilled by it." For more on where Frakes talks about the cast playing multiple roles in season two, how Spiner developed Adam differently from his android counterpart, the dynamic between Agnes and the Queen, filming Star Trek set in the present, how he's involved in Strange New Worlds, differences with directing Discovery and Picard, and his future as Riker, you can go to TrekMovie. New episodes of Star Trek: Picard stream Thursdays on Paramount+.