Kate Nagy’s delight at seeing the name Robert Duncan McNeill as the director of V’s kick-ass season finale last month brings up quite a remarkable Hollywood phenomenon that is eminently worth looking into. McNeill’s name has been popping up all over the genre map of late, and he is hardly the only Star Trek actor to have added “slash director” to his resume… though, admittedly, many a Trek actor/director only ever directed episodes of Trek. (Try saying that five times fast.)
Of The Next Generation cast, Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) directed five episodes of the show, including the awesome “In Theory” (04.25), in which Data gets himself a girlfriend; and Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) directed the Emmy-winning “Genesis” (07.19), in which the crew devolve to various points along the evolutionary scale and in which Crusher spends the majority of the episode conveniently in stasis. (But, hey, at least they didn’t all turn into giant lizards, mate, and then abandon their helpless offspring on an alien planet; shame on you, Janeway and Paris!)
Over on Deep Space Nine, Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko) directed a synchronicity-blessed nine episodes, including “Rejoined” (04.05), which featured Star Trek’s first girl-on-girl smooch; Rene Auberjonois (Odo) likewise directed nine, including the Rules of Acquisition-laced “Ferengi Love Songs” (05.20); and Alexander Siddig, neé Siddig El Fadil, (Dr. Bashir) directed two other Quark-centric tales, “Business as Usual” (05.18) and “Profit and Lace” (06.23).
Of Voyager’s Trek-only directors, there is just Robert Picardo (The Doctor) with two outings: “Alter Ego” (03.14), a holodeck-based obsession story and “One Small Step” (06.08), a Delta Flyer-based obsession story.
(They didn’t let the Enterprise folks anywhere near the director’s chair. Can’t imagine why. Though Scott Bakula did direct a few episodes of Quantum Leap, back in the day.)
And what of the Star Trek stars who have directed more than mere Trek? They, my friends, are legion. As you shall see…
Geordi LaForge, The Next Generation
Burton’s Geordi LaForge was known mostly for his nice guy persona, his enthusiastic technobabble, and his hair accessory-powered eyesight. He’s always been a very busy actor, what with his continued literacy education efforts on Reading Rainbow and his turn as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ali. (And let us never forget that he was the voice of Kwame, who wielded the splendid power of Earth, on Captain Planet.)
He began directing with The Next Generation’s “Second Chances” (06.24), the transporter-accident episode in which William Riker gained himself that pesky clone, “Tom”, and followed that one up with “The Pegasus” (07.12), which saw Captain Picard Day celebrated to such pleasingly comic effect aboard the Enterprise-D. Still in Trek, Burton directed nine Deep Space Nine episodes, including several Mirror Universe outings; eight Voyager episodes, including “Nightingale” (07.08), which sees Harry Kim finally in command of something; and nine episodes of Enterprise, including… meh, who really cares?
Outside of the Roddenberry-verse, Burton directed two episodes of Showtime’s long-running “black drama” Soul Food, one each of JAG, Miracle’s Boys and Las Vegas, and three of Charmed. (Ooh, including the one where Utopia sucks, “Extreme Make Over World Edition [07.12] -- and hot FBI guy Kerr Smith is in it!). His movies include the 1999 Disney Channel comedy Smart House, starring Futurama’s Katey Segal, The Pretender’s Ryan Merriman and Earth 2’s Jessica Steen; 2003’s family-friendly Christmas movie The Blizzard (sure, the title makes it sound like it might be a thriller of some kind, but it is most emphatically not); and the 2009 tear-jerker Reach for Me, starring Star Trek: First Contact’s Alfre Woodard, Burton himself, and, um, Lacey Chabert.
But it is his 1998 biopic The Tiger Woods Story that is the most intriguing of all his works, as we can now only speculate on what a follow-up to that rather inspiring and amusingly wholesome tale would be like. At a guess? It would no longer be eligible for Emmy nomination as a “Children’s Special”, that’s for damn sure.
ROXANN (BIGGS-) DAWSON
B’Elanna Torres, Voyager
Dawson’s half-Klingon B’Elanna Torres started out on Voyager as a rebel Maquis with a quick temper and a way with machines. She ended her seven years there as a loyal Starfleet officer, wife and mother… with a quick temper and a way with machines. Acting-wise, Dawson’s been pretty quiet of late, but in addition to her writing -- she co-wrote the sci-fi/adventure Tenebrea Trilogy (with Daniel Graham), and wrote the play Passage Through the Heart -- Dawson has been very, very active behind the scenes.
Dawson got started in directing with two Voyager episodes, “Riddles” (06.06), in which Tuvok loses his Vulcanosity and comes to actually like Neelix, and “Workforce, Part 2” (07.17), the storyline of which bears no resemblance whatsoever to Stargate SG-1’s earlier kidnapped-brainwashed-labor outing “Beneath the Surface.” Then she went on to direct ten episodes of Enterprise. And that’s all that needs to be said about that.
Outside of Trek, Dawson has been incredibly productive. She directed an episode of legal drama Close to Home, worked on medical crime dramas Medical Investigations and Crossing Jordan (the latter of which she directed eleven installments), and helmed an episode of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s HawthoRNe. She also did eight episodes of Cold Case, two each of The Division and The Closer, one of The O. C. and one of the new (and happily canceled) Melrose Place.
In genre, Dawson has been quite prolific, giving us an episode of Charmed (that one with the leprechauns!), an episode in Lost’s trippy second season, three episodes of Heroes, including “Close to You” (04.15), which aired in January and which almost no one was interested enough to be still watching, and “End of the Line”, for Caprica’s mid-season finale. (If only “End of the line for Caprica” were true.)
And in good TV news, Dawson directed The Mentalist episode “Red All Over” (02.20), the one with Generations’ Malcolm McDowell as a Scientology-ish cult leader, and which also starred Queer as Folk’s Michelle Clunie and Robyn Lively, who once played Doogie Howser's girlfriend. It was a really good episode. Just sayin’.
Worf, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine
Seeing Michael Dorn without his Klingon makeup is always disconcerting, but his bass baritone voice is unmistakable in its many, many cartoon and video game outings. Dorn has done stints in everything from Duck Dodgers to Justice League to Ben 10 to, of course, Gargoyles, which was once a Star Trek alum must (Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks and Colm Meaney, et al.) And he even reprised Worf in a sketch on The Family Guy (“You can both suck my ridges!” he growled at Riker and Picard).
In direction, Dorn headed up three episodes of Deep Space Nine (yes, he was in all of them), and an episode of Enterprise (the one where the crew go to the pleasure planet Risa, which never goes well), and -- oddly -- a 1996 episode of Hope and Faith. He directed the 2002 spec-sitcom pilot Through the Fire (which he also wrote and starred in, alongside good friend Marina Sirtis), though it sadly did not get picked up.
But Dorn’s greatest directorial coup? A 2002 episode of the Pamela Anderson vehicle V.I.P. A resume just does not get any better than that.
William T. Riker, The Next Generation
Commander William T. Riker started out as a despised latter-day Kirk, but got himself a beard, some added girth and accompanying gravitas in The Next Generation’s Season 2, and soon became a firm favorite as Picard’s “Number One.” His non-Riker acting has been limited mainly to guest spots and cameos -- and hosting Beyond Belief -- but this is certainly not the case behind the camera.
Frakes’s directorial debut was with The Next Generation episode “The Offspring” (03.16), which featured Data’s android daughter Lal, and is one of the greatest Next Gen episodes of all time. He followed that up with seven more in the series (only Season 7 stinker “Sub Rosa” [07.14] was sub-par, and that can be blamed entirely on Brannon Braga’s dreadful script). He then headed to Deep Space Nine to direct three episodes -- including the Brigadoon-esque “Meridian” (03.08) -- and he also directed three episodes of Voyager: Projections (02.03), Parturition (02.07) and Prototype (02.13). (That’s a lot of second season “P” word titles; wonder why they didn’t give him “Persistence of Vision” [02.08], as well?)
Still in Star Trek, not only did Frakes direct the video game Star Trek: Klingon, but he also helmed the tremendous Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and the simply awful Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), giving credence to the odd-number, even-number Trek movie curse thing that Search for Spock, Nemesis and Star Trek 2009 otherwise tend to refute.
Moving away from Star Trek, Frakes’s TV directing has taken him to the short-lived nursing drama University Hospital, the astonishingly long-lived medical crime drama Diagnosis Murder, and procedural dramas Persons Unknown and NCIS: Los Angeles. He has also brought the funny with episodes of crime comedies Castle and The Good Guys, along with five episodes of the ever-intriguing Leverage.
In genre, Frakes executive produced Roswell, in which he also once guest-starred and of which he directed five episodes (and, yes, in all of them Liz and Max make sickening doe eyes at each another). He also headed up a 2002 edition of The Twilight Zone, that upsetting episode of Dollhouse where we find out Sierra became an Active because some douchebag doctor dude wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and the episode of V where we find out that, actually, John May doesn’t live, after all. (Although he does bear a remarkable resemblance to Sam Anders from BSG.)
And then there are Frakes’s non-Trek but still sci-fi movies. From 2002’s Clockstoppers (ah, Jesse Bradford) to 2004’s Thunderbirds (ah, Bill Paxton) to his work on two of those TNT Librarian movies starring the lovely Noah Wyle (one of which won a Saturn award), Frakes can definitely claim to have made some memorable genre films. (If not always memorable for the right reasons.)
But most impressively? Frakes directed an episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “The Discarded” in 2007. Written by Harlan Ellison. Hosted by Stephen Hawking. Starring John Hurt, Brian Dennehy and James Denton. (Also Alex Zahara, who played Ezekiel in Jeremiah and was also in Blood Ties, Tru Calling, Dark Angel, Supernatural, Sanctuary and Fringe, among a bunch of other geeky things.) Add “directed by Riker” to that list, and you’ve pretty much got the best genre credentials this side of Comic-con. (Or an episode of V, for that matter.)