Jonathan Frakes celebrates the moment Riker finally stood up to Picard

Star Trek icon Jonathan Frakes has played Riker for decades now, but there's one recent moment in particular that the actor relished.

Jonathan Frakes as Riker in Star Trek

2023 has been a big year for Star Trek, with the release of new seasons of Strange New Worlds, Lower Decks, and Picard, as well as exciting updates on the upcoming movie Section 31. Picard season 3 in particular was a big surprise, and the series finally found some footing with its last season as it brought together the majority of the main TNG cast for a big reunion.

Integral to this latest Star Trek adventure was Jonathan Frakes. His legendary Star Trek character Riker played almost as big a role in the season as Patrick Stewart’s titular Jean-Luc Picard, appearing in nearly every episode while the actor himself directed two of the best episodes: ‘Seventeen Seconds’ and ‘No Win Scenario’. It’s in ‘Seventeen Seconds’ that Riker gets one of his greatest moments, standing up to his former Star Trek captain and telling him: “Remove yourself from the bridge. You’ve just killed us all.”

For Frakes, that was a highlight of the season because it was in such stark contrast to Riker and Picard’s relationship from their beloved Star Trek series TNG. “He’s older. He’s wiser. Thanks to [showrunner] Terry Matalas, he’s got more interesting things to say than he ever had before,” said Frakes, speaking at a Q&A at the Los Angeles SAG Awards [via Screen Rant].

He continued, “And, I must say, I got to throw Patrick Stewart off the f***ing bridge! I mean, that alone was a thrill. I mean, it wasn’t really Patrick, but it felt like it. Almost. It was Picard.”

It’s easy to see why it was such a standout moment for Frakes, who’s now played Riker for nearly four decades in a role that’s defined his career. It’s a pivotal moment for the two characters, subverting their relationship as Riker takes authority over his former commander. It’s something that Riker, and therefore Frakes, only experienced so rarely throughout TNG as conflict was infrequent between Picard and his number one in episodes like ‘Sarek’ and ‘The Pegasus’.

There was, of course, the: “Shut up! I said shut up. As in close your mouth and stop talking,” moment in the episode ‘Future Imperfect’ though Riker was only talking to a fake version of Picard created by an alien consciousness, rather than the real deal.

So this scene, in Picard season 3, gave Frakes a chance to flex some rarely-used acting muscles, and across the whole season, the actor was better than he’d ever been, proving his virtues as an exceptionally gifted actor. His performance even, arguably, overshadowed Patrick Stewart’s own and it’s no surprise that the actor is busy campaigning for some awards recognition after being dismissed by the Emmys.

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Hopefully, if Star Trek Legacy ever comes to fruition, Frakes will have the chance to return once again as Riker. Equally, though, it’d be great to see Star Trek start to try and move on to new characters too.

For more Star Trek thoughts, see our guide to the full Star Trek timeline, and learn about the best way to watch the Star Trek movies in order. Or, see what’s going on with Strange New Worlds season 3.