Jonathan Frakes on screen return wasn’t part of Picard season 1’s plan
It turns out, Jonathan Frakes started working on Star Trek: Picard with the understanding he’d never appear on screen, that did not hold true.
Jonathan Frakes wasn’t supposed to reprise Starfleet legend William Riker when he started working on Star Trek: Picard as a director. Frakes routinely directs episodes of Star Trek and has even sat in the directors chair for two of the Star Trek films. One of which (First Contact), is considered to be one of the greatest Star Trek films ever.
So it wasn’t surprising at all that Frakes was brought in to direct a few episodes of Picard. It was down right expected. Frakes directed the fourth and fifth episode of the first season, and direct was all he was supposed to do.
Then the series took their standard break and that’s when Frakes got a phone call he couldn’t refuse. The show runners called up Frakes and asked him if he wanted to return to the franchise and get his “Riker-on”. Riker revealed to TrekMovies about how his return to Star Trek as an actor came about.
The choice to bring back Riker was not just key in regards to the plot, it turns out, but it was also a big boost to the show that was not the smash-hit, Logan-esq series that CBS All Access was expecting it to be.
The move made a number of fans tune in and it softenede some ocriticisms that the show was receving. The show eventually did alright but still only holds a 56% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.