The Star Trek franchise has an extensive array of both iconic actors and skilled directors, but the two categories overlap more than fans might think. The franchise began in 1966 with the premiere of Star Trek: The Original Series, and today the franchise encompasses a wide variety of both television shows and movies. The amount of content generated has meant an equally large number of actors and directors have worked on a Star Trek movie or TV show.
Most of the main actors who have been involved with the franchise have defined their careers with their role, and generally, credit their time on Star Trek as one of the most important experiences of their careers. Likewise, many of the regular directors for episodes or movies have achieved great success because of their involvement. For several actors though, Star Trek has been one of the first opportunities they’ve had to also step behind the camera.
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A surprising number of Star Trek actors have directed at least one episode or movie. For some, a handful of episodes as an experiment was all they were involved in, but others can credit Star Trek as how they got their start in a more prolific filmmaking career. To date, there have been fifteen series regulars who also directed for the franchise, and with more Star Trek content releasing all the time, that number will likely go up in the future.
Leonard Nimoy’s role as Spock on Star Trek: The Original Series defined his career and also allowed him to explore directing. Before his work on Star Trek, Nimoy had helmed a few episodes of other shows, but his feature film debut came with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in 1984. After this, Nimoy also directed Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a film that is considered one of the best Star Trek movies. Its popularity allowed Nimoy to land other directing credits, most notably Three Men and a Baby which was the biggest American box office hit of 1987.
William Shatner is best remembered as Captain James T. Kirk, but he also contributed his directing talents to another memorable Star Trek project. After Leonard Nimoy’s success in directing The Voyage Home, Shatner requested and was given the task of helming Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, a film which unfortunately ended up becoming a critical and commercial failure. After The Final Frontier, Shatner never directed another Star Trek project but did go on to direct episodes of TekWar, based on his novel series.
Patrick Stewart played Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and had continued to reprise the role in multiple other entries in the franchise. During his time on TNG, Stewart directed five episodes across multiple seasons, including such memorable episodes as “In Theory”, “A Fistful of Datas”, and “Phantasms”. Outside of TNG, Stewart’s directing credits are minimal, putting him firmly in the category of actors who only experimented with directing during their time on Star Trek.
Unlike Stewart, Jonathan Frakes is one of the few actors who went on to a wider directing career. Frakes started off playing Commander William Riker on The Next Generation and also directed eight episodes of the show. After TNG ended, Frakes was given two of the TNG cast movies to helm; First Contact and Insurrection. Along with these, he directed six total episodes of both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, and recently returned for episodes of Discovery and Picard, putting his total Star Trek directing credits at 21 episodes and two movies. Outside of the series, Frakes has enjoyed an equally prolific directing career on shows such as Leverage and The Orville.
LeVar Burton holds the distinction of being the actor who has the most directing credits for Star Trek, clocking in at an impressive 28 episodes. Burton, who played Geordi La Forge on The Next Generation, only helmed two episodes of TNG during his time on the show. However, he went on to direct ten for Deep Space Nine, eight episodes of Voyager, and nine for Star Trek: Enterprise. Burton has dabbled in directing for other shows, most recently with NCIS: New Orleans.
Although Michael Dorn first appeared playing his iconic character of Worf in TNG, it was not until he reprised the role on Deep Space Nine that he was given the opportunity to direct episodes. Dorn directed three episodes of Deep Space Nine and afterward went on to direct one for Enterprise too. Outside of Star Trek, Dorn’s directing credits are minimal, so perhaps the process didn’t suit him as well as some of his fellow TNG co-stars.
Gates McFadden played Doctor Beverly Crusher on TNG, and her singular directing credit is also one of the show’s more memorable. McFadden directed the season 7 episode “Genesis”, which tells the story of the crew beginning to de-evolve into prehistoric creatures after an experimental treatment by Doctor Crusher goes wrong. Captain Picard and Data are the only ones unaffected and must work to save the ship and find a way to reverse the evolutionary processes. While a classic TNG episode, “Genesis” is McFadden’s only directing credit for both the franchise and her career in general.
Avery Brooks made history on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Benjamin Sisko, the franchise’s first black Captain. Along with this, Brooks stepped behind the camera for nine episodes of the show. His directing credits include such memorable episodes as “Rejoined”, which featured Star Trek’s first-ever LGBTQ+ romance, and “Far Beyond the Stars”, which has been credited as one of the greatest Star Trek episodes of all time. Brooks did not take the opportunity to direct outside the franchise after the series was over, but his contributions will not soon be forgotten.
Rene Auberjonois played Odo on Deep Space Nine, a character who is considered a favorite among Star Trek viewers. In addition to playing Odo, Auberjonois directed nine episodes of Deep Space Nine, beginning in season 3 and continuing through the rest of the series. Auberjonois is one of the few actors who had previous directing experience before his role on Deep Space Nine too. It seems Auberjonois ultimately viewed acting as a better fit, as he did not go on to helm anything else after Deep Space Nine.
Alexander Siddig joined the ranks of his fellow Deep Space Nine actors who also directed in seasons 5 and 6 with the episodes “Business as Usual” and “Profit and Lace”. Both mainly featured Armin Shimmerman’s Quark as the main character, and while “Business as Usual” was reviewed favorably, “Profit and Lace” did not fare so well with critics. Like so many of his fellow actors, Siddig’s directing career began and ended with Star Trek.
Andrew Robinson is one of the rare recurring guest stars who also tried his hand at helming. Robinson played Garak on Deep Space Nine, and also lent his directing talents to one episode. After this, he went on to direct a further two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. In the early 2000s, Robinson also had a few directing credits outside Star Trek, before going back to acting exclusively soon after. Garak became another fan-favorite character during Deep Space Nine’s run, mainly because of Robinson’s performance.
Since her time as B’Elanna Torres on Voyager, Roxann Dawson has transitioned to directing almost exclusively, even coming out with her first feature film, Breakthrough, in 2019. Dawson got her start in directing on Voyager, making her debut with season 6’s “Riddles.” She directed one other episode of Voyager, before going on to helm ten more of Star Trek: Enterprise. As evidenced by her career ever since Dawson’s chance to direct on Voyager helped her realize that’s where her passion lay.
Robert Duncan McNeill
Like Dawson, Robert Duncan McNeill chose directing as his true career path thanks to his time on Star Trek: Voyager. McNeill played Tom Paris and was also the first cast member to be allowed to helm an episode, paving the way for others like Dawson to try their hand. McNeill directed four episodes during his time on the show and went on to direct another four on Enterprise. Since then, his career has become almost entirely devoted to directing, with credits on shows like Dawson’s Creek and The Orville.
Robert Picardo played Voyager’s holographic Doctor, but the actor also directed two episodes, in seasons 3 and 6 respectively. Like so many of his fellow Trek actors, however, Picardo’s foray into directing began and ended with Voyager, and although both of his episodes were favorably reviewed by viewers, he stuck with performing from then on.
The final actor who also directed an episode was Voyager’s Tim Russ, who played Commander Tuvok, the first Vulcan main character since Spock. Russ helmed the season 4 episode “Living Witness”. Interestingly, “Living Witness” heavily features Robert Picardo’s character, while Picardo’s directorial debut “Alter Ego” heavily features Russ’s Tuvok. Russ has gone on to direct several other projects since leaving Star Trek, the majority of which are short films or episodes of other TV series.
Because of how well-known many of the franchise actors are, it is often hard to remember them for anything else. However, it is important to acknowledge the contributions many of them made behind the camera as well as in front of it. The fifteen actors who also directed Star Trek episodes or movies have all contributed substantially to the franchise, and the list will hopefully continue to grow as more current Star Trek actors get a chance to try their hand at directing too.
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