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WARP FIVE: Director Jonathan Frakes Hits the Target Within the 'Lagrange Point'

The Star Trek legend details directing the series’ penultimate episode, his journey with Discovery, and more!

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for the fifth season of Star Trek: Discovery.

Graphic illustration featuring Star Trek legend Jonathan Frakes and behind-the-scenes on the set of 'Lagrange Point'

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Welcome to Warp Five,'s five question post-mortem with your favorite featured talent from the latest Star Trek episodes.

Throughout the course of Star Trek: Discovery's five-season run, the director with the second most amount of episodes under his belt was Star Trek legend Jonathan Frakes himself, who directed the series' latest episode, "Lagrange Point."

In the series' penultimate episode, Moll and the Breen capture a mysterious structure that contains the Progenitors' power aboard their dreadnaught, while Captain Burnham leads a covert mission to retrieve it before the Breen figure out how to use its power.

Ahead of the release of "Lagrange Point," had the opportunity to speak with Jonathan Frakes about balancing the episode's epic action, capturing the crew's reaction within their Breen disguises, the range of relationships, and more!

Following "The Chase," and Coming Full Circle

Behind-the-scenes of 'Lagrange Point' - Jonathan Frakes heartily laughs as he places his arm around Anthony Rapp's shoulders on the set of Discovery's engineering lab

Behind-the-scenes of "Lagrange Point"

While starring on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jonathan Frakes took on Star Trek's unofficial Director School and became its first student, making himself useful during downtime as he shadowed producers, editors, directors, and more. One of the eight episodes he directed during the series' seven seasons was the sixth-season episode, "The Chase," which serves as a basis for Discovery's fifth-season mystery.

On the serendipitous fortune of directing "The Chase," Frakes explains, "It's interesting because in the Next Gen days, you're assigned episodes based on some random availability issues of other directors."

"Because I was on the show, they gave me slots when our regular directors had other commitments," Frakes continues. "I just happened to get 'The Chase,' and it just happened to be an episode that Michelle [Paradise] had decided to use as a tipping off point for Season 5. It's a privilege, and a lucky happenstance that I'm now connected with that connective tissue. It's luck, that's really what it is. I'm thrilled about it, but it's merely luck."

Balancing the Action and the Relationships in "Lagrange Point"

Behind-the-scenes of 'Lagrange Point' - Jonathan Frakes stands besides Doug Jones on the set of Federation Headquarters

Behind-the-scenes of "Lagrange Point"

"There's a lot going on in the episode," Frakes says. "The contrast of this wonderful story with Saru and T'Rina, their impending nuptials. It's such a different type of music than with the action adventure of the Breen story. The balance has made for a quite exciting episode."

Pivoting to the events on the Discovery bridge, Frakes reveals, "The thing at the end, the wonderful idea that Rayner has been given the responsibility to be the first officer and the runner, the kind of lighthearted runner that he refuses to sit down on the captain's chair until he gets this message from Burnham and he understands what his next move is. Tilly, as usual, has given him the confidence the way she gave Adira the confidence to go on the away mission. Tilly was a pivotal character in all of these stories. By the time we got to the bridge and we're setting up for the finale, I thought that what's going on the Discovery is in many ways as exciting as what's going on the Breen ship. It cut together quite well, and again, it's all in the writing."

Behind-the-scenes of 'Lagrange Point' - the crew captures Callum Keith Rennie as Rayner giving direction to the bridge crew

Behind-the-scenes of "Lagrange Point"

With the Discovery crew, a lot of the forward progression comes from other elements outside of strict action. "It begins in prep because with the writers, not only are you concerned with the dialogue," Frakes elaborates. "You're concerned with the descriptions of the scenes, the action lines, the slug lines, they're all in the script. In those slug lines, often are very important story points that the writers remind you of. As I get older and older doing this, I remember and I remind myself how important it is not to walk away from a scene without having covered those things, which are often meaningful looks or questioning looks or informing looks. That happens in this show more than others, specifically around this idea of Book and needing to be informed about the information Burnham now has."

"Then, we have that wonderful shot of the two fathers [Stamets and Culber] and Adira going down the hall," adds Frakes. "It's like they’re sending them off to college. The relationships are often, you don't remember what they said, but you remember how you felt when they looked at each other. And that's a very important part of the job."

The Infiltration of the Breen

Behind-the-scenes of 'Lagrange Point' - a camera grip follows the movement of two running Breen soldiers on the set of the Breen dreadnaught

Behind-the-scenes of "Lagrange Point"

This season of Discovery provides the franchise with more insight into the mysterious Breen Imperium as the Discovery sees a future when the Breen takes possession of the Progenitor tech and learns that the fugitive L'ak is the Scion of the Imperium.

"The Breen is not unlike the Borg," states Frakes. "They are so threatening and so omnipotent. One of the things I like about this episode is the idea of infiltrating the Breen by literally going into costume incognito, creating their helmets, and attacking from within once they've infiltrated the Breen bridge, which Burnham cleverly puts together in her head, telling them, 'Here’s what we’re going to do. You, you, you, and you, you’re with me. Let’s go.' It feels like you’re watching a 70s action movie."

When it comes to infiltrating a species that's monolithic and hidden behind a helmet, how did Frakes approach letting viewers know who are our heroes and who are our villains?

Behind-the-scenes of 'Lagrange Point' - Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala in Breen soldier uniform and Eve Harlow all lean against a structure on the set of the Breen dreadnaught bridge

Behind-the-scenes of "Lagrange Point"

"That was the biggest challenge," admits Frakes. "I had a wonderful new cinematographer named Maya Bankovich who did this with me. We needed to find a way to cut inside the helmet so that we could literally remind the audience who's who. Because the Breen, like the Borg, all look alike. When we found that close-up that you could believe that might be shot by a camera inside the helmet."

"We took the liberty with the storytelling, specifically the story about Burnham finding a time and place to share with Book the information she had gotten from 508 about the mystery that the archivist gave her in the library. Book didn't know anything about it, and it was affecting Burnham's behavior, and it was affecting their relationship. It was massively important that he knows something about what's going on in her head. What she's expected, what she learned, and what new information she had."

"Yet there's so much going on in the show because the writing is so tight that the only time they can talk about it was during the chaos of the Breen chase," Frakes continues. "She pulls him next to the wall, and they’ve got 15 seconds to tell him about what's going on. We definitely needed to see them. We needed the close-ups. We found a way to incorporate those close-ups throughout to remind the audience, so they didn't just look at the Breen helmet and hear their voices. You need to see the actor."

Imparting Legacy Wisdom to Each Next Generation

Behind-the-scenes of 'Lagrange Point' - on the set of the Breen Imperium dreadnaught bridge, Jonathan Frakes gives direction to Patrick Kwok-Choon and Blu del Barrio

Behind-the-scenes of "Lagrange Point"

Frakes joined the Discovery family when he directed the first-season episode, "Despite Yourself."

"I remember when I first went over there in Season 1, I was reminded of how familiar they felt as a family to our Next Gen one when we were starting in our first season," recalls Frakes. "Because Discovery, as you know and is obvious, they are the beginning of this next era of Star Trek, just as we were the beginning of the next one after [The Original Series]. There was a certain skepticism from the audience and from the fans. I think some of that affects the actors, the writers, and the filmmakers. When I arrived on set as a guy who had been through it as an actor and as a director, the curiosity from the actors was palpable. They came to me individually, and as groups, and asked, 'What’s this going to be like? What are we getting ourselves into?'"

"I shared with them what the late great DeForest Kelley had shared with me when I met him on our show," adds Frakes. "He said, 'Your lives are going to change. This is going to change your life.' Certain actors were excited, certain actors were skeptical, and certain actors were dismissive of it. Now flash forward, five or six years, to this finale of Season 5 of Discovery, all of them realize that it has in fact changed their lives, obviously for the better. And that we are all in this wonderful family that we're all blessed to be part of. It's a very limited addition. The boundaries are expanding, then there'll be more coming with Starfleet Academy people and this wonderful new movie that Michelle [Yeoh] is doing, Section 31, which will add new people to the family. Discovery really broke the ground for all of the new Trek, for Strange New Worlds, for Prodigy, for Lower Decks, and for Picard. It has been a blessing for all of us."

What Discovery Gave Us

Behind-the-scenes of 'Lagrange Point' - David Ajala and Jonathan Frakes point ahead of them, Blu del Barrio laughs, Callum Keith Rennie poses, Sonequa Martin-Green smiles, while Paul Stamets smiles facing Frakes and del Barrio

Behind-the-scenes of "Lagrange Point"

As he was wrapping up his conversation with, Frakes reflects on Discovery's arrival back at its start.

"The fact that they took this big swing, and then flash forward, whatever it was, 932 years, so they would not be saddled with the cannon of the Star Trek universe, which was so limited in a way," Frakes notes. "The freedom to tell a story about Discovery and its importance, as it is leading into its casting and storytelling. It was very Star Trek with its [inclusion of] the LGBTQ community [reflecting] Roddenberry's vision of the future — that there would be no racism, and there would be no sexism; everyone would be treated as equals. In Discovery, that's the way it is. Everybody does their job, and everybody is who they are. That representation has been very, very important for the worlds, for the fans, in the same way that Nichelle Nichols was on the bridge of the original Enterprise. That will resonate into the future."