The original First Officer in Star Trek was Spock, who was a cold and completely logical person. When Star Trek: The Next Generation was in development, Gene Roddenberry wanted a character that was the total opposite of Spock.
He came up with William T. Riker, who resembled a young Captain Kirk in a lot of ways. Captain Picard states that the reason he chose Will Riker to be his First Officer was that he had a history of defying orders if he felt that the safety of the Captain was in jeopardy.
Will Riker was a risk-taker, who had the skills and the knowledge to make sure that his gambits paid off. He remained on the Enterprise throughout the run of the show, even though he was offered numerous chances to take up command of his own vessel.
We are here today to look at the life of the greatest First Officer in Starfleet.
From his reused character design, to his future place in the franchise, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Will Riker.
15. Will Riker Is Basically A Rehash Of Willard Decker
Will Riker was the first character created out of the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew. This is because he is a reworked version of a character who was planned to appear in Star Trek: Phase II and who did appear in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
There were plans to create a sequel to The Original Series in the late ’70s. This show would have been called Star Trek: Phase II and would have featured a mixture of the old cast members and a few new characters.
Captain Kirk’s new second in command was going to be an officer named Willard Decker, whom he would have referred to as “First” (similar to how Picard often called Riker “Number One”). Decker was intended to be a younger, and more light-hearted character, who would occasionally remind Kirk of his younger self.
Decker would appear in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, alongside Ilia, who was also planned to appear in Phase II. When The Next Generation was in production, the Decker character was reworked into Riker and Ilia was turned into Deanna Troi.
14. The Beautiful Beard (That Saved The Show)
The term “Jumping the Shark” has entered common parlance. It refers to the point when a good TV show (or other forms of media) starts to go bad. The name comes from a scene in an episode of Happy Days, where the Fonz jumped over a shark during a stunt.
There is an opposite term for “Jumping the Shark” and it comes straight from Jonathan Frakes’ face. The term for when a bad TV show becomes good is called “Riker’s Beard” (which is also known as “Growing the Beard”). It refers to the fact that Star Trek: The Next Generation had a pretty bad first season, yet improved significantly from the second season onwards.
Jonathan Frakes had no facial hair during the first season of the show. He grew it out during the break before filming the next season and Gene Roddenberry loved it so much that he told him to keep it. Star Trek: The Next Generation only got better from that point on.
13. The Rocketeer Almost Played Riker
There was some trepidation among the actors who auditioned for the roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was because no one thought that the franchise could continue without The Original Series crew.
Patrick Stewart has said that one of the reasons he took the role of Picard was because he thought he would get a big pay day for doing the pilot and could leave when the show was canceled. It is likely, for this reason, that most of the actors who auditioned for The Next Generation weren’t big stars. LeVar Burton was probably the biggest celebrity in the cast.
The actor who came closest to snagging the role of Riker was Billy Campbell, who is best known for playing the starring role in The Rocketeer. The role of Riker came down to either Campbell or Frakes, with Frakes ultimately winning the part.
Billy Campbell would later appear in one of the most hated Star Trek episodes of all time. He played The Outrageous Okona in the episode of the same name. Campbell basically played a writer’s fan-insert character, who everyone thought was sexy and awesome.
12. The Riker Maneuver
If you create an awesome battle tactic in the Star Trek universe, then it will be named after you. The most famous is the “Picard Maneuver,” which is the name given for using a high-speed warp to appear in two different places at once for a brief moment. Riker also created his own maneuver in Star Trek: Insurrection, which involved scooping up volatile gas and detonating it in proximity to an enemy ship.
The term “Riker Maneuver” has taken on a second meaning with fans. It now refers to the unusual way in which Jonathan Frakes sits on a chair. Riker would often climb onto a chair as if it was a saddle on a horse, rather than sitting down normally.
This is because Jonathan Frakes injured his back when he was younger, as he used to work as a furniture mover. Frakes has trouble sitting in a normal posture, which is why he was often shown leaning forwards on the show.
11. Will Riker Was Going To Die And Thomas Riker Would Have Taken His Place
The transporter beam can do a lot of amazing things. Scotty used it to freeze himself in time in “Relics,” while the transporter can record a lot of information about the biology of a person being teleported, which has been used in numerous different ways throughout Star Trek.
One of the most impressive uses of the transporter was when it created a clone of Will Riker, who took on the name Thomas Riker. This meant that there are two Riker’s running around, with both having a claim to the name and achievements of all that happened before the creation of the clone.
The creators of Star Trek: The Next Generation were originally planning to kill Will Riker and replace him with Thomas Riker. As Thomas had a lower rank than Will, it would have changed the command structure of the Enterprise.
Data would have become the new First Officer, while Thomas would have taken Data’s old position at the command of the ship. The reason this idea never happened was that there was a discussion about making a movie series based on The Next Generation and the creators didn’t want to mess with the dynamic of the show.
10. “Interface” Was Originally Going To Be About The Death Of Riker’s Father
There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Interface”. It was about an experiment on Geordi’s visor, which would allow him to control a probe directly and “see” through its sensors, which would allow him to act as a scout for the Enterprise. Geordi learns that his mother’s ship has gone missing, which ties into the events connected to his visor.
“Interface” was originally going to be about Riker. We see Riker’s father in an episode called “The Icarus Factor”. The two of them don’t get along, as Riker’s father abandoned him when he was young. “Interface” was going to involve Riker testing out a virtual reality suit for the Federation.
Riker would find out that his father passed away and he would start to see visions of his past. This original outline was scrapped, due to Riker already having an episode that focused on him that season (“Frame of Mind”) and that it made more sense to use Geordi’s visor as a plot device.
9. The Klingon Encounter
The ’90s introduced compact discs to video games. This was a huge step forward in technology, as it increased the memory capacity of games by a factor of hundreds. The PlayStation made the best use of this technology, as it allowed its games to include high-quality audio and full motion video sequences.
The compact disc is also responsible for creating the short-lived “FMV Game” genre. These were games that were based on brief video clips, which had a minimal amount of interactivity. This genre died in the ’90s when people realized how bad the games were.
Jonathan Frakes actually directed one of the Star Trek FMV games. It was called Star Trek: Klingon and it starred Chancellor Gowron, who has created a hologram adventure that will teach the player about Klingon society. You had to solve a murder mystery that happens within the Klingon Empire. Star Trek: Klingon is best known for its shoddy sets and below-par acting.
8. Riker Appeared In Every Modern Trek Show
Michael Dorn holds the record for the most appearances in Star Trek. Jonathan Frakes also had a lot of appearances across the franchise, as he was one of the few actors to appear in every modern Trek show.
Jonathan Frakes appeared in every single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he played Will Riker and Thomas Riker. He would later play Thomas Riker in an episode of Deep Space Nine. Q would later summon Riker to testify in court in an episode of Voyager, though Riker had his memories erased when he was returned to Starfleet. Q reveals that Riker was one of the potential choices to be the Captain of Voyager.
The most controversial Riker appearance has to be in the finale of Star Trek: Enterprise. This was an episode called “These Are the Voyages…”, and it depicts Riker witnessing the final days of the original Enterprise crew on the Holodeck. “These Are the Voyages…” was criticized by fans for essentially turning the final story of Enterprise into the B-plot of an old episode of The Next Generation.
7. The Episode Critic
Jonathan Frakes is one of the harshest critics of certain episodes of Star Trek and he has never been afraid to share his opinions with the fans.
One of the most hated episodes of Star Trek is a Next Generation episode called “Code of Honor”. It is one of the infamous few terrible episodes from the beginning of the first season of The Next Generation. Jonathan Frakes has publically referred to the episodes as a “racist piece of shit” at conventions. This is an opinion shared by most of the fanbase.
Jonathan Frakes has also voiced his displeasure with the Star Trek: Enterprise finale. He has said that it “stinks” and understands why Scott Bakula and the fans would be annoyed by how The Next Generation hijacked the finale of the show.
It should be noted that this didn’t stop him from appearing in the episode, despite the fact that he must have known that he and Marina Sirtis would have looked ridiculous, as they were coated in makeup in an effort to make them look like how they did in the ’90s.
6. The Boole & Babbage Commercial
There were pieces of technology that were seen as science fiction in Star Trek: The Original Series that have become real devices. Unfortunately, it’s all the lame stuff, like the automatic doors and the communicator, rather than warp engines or transporters.
The actors and characters from Star Trek have been used in many different commercials over the years. Jonathan Frakes appeared as himself with the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series in an advertisement for MCI’s friends and family package.
Jonathan Frakes also played Riker in a commercial for a computer company called Boole & Babbage. Riker and the Enterprise cross the boundaries of time and fiction to help a guy who is having computer problems.
The Enterprise computer is hooked up to an automated airline control system. Riker breaks the temporal prime directive and helps a random guy in the ’90s come up with a better use for his computer system.
5. The Star Trek/Cybill Crossover
The characters from the various Star Trek shows have had some bizarre crossovers. Spock has fought Wolverine of the X-Men, while Data fought Colossus. Worf appeared on Webster, while Picard fought alongside Matt Smith’s Doctor in the comics.
One of the most unusual quasi-Trek crossovers happened on Cybill. This was a ’90s sitcom that starred Cybill Shepard as an actress. In the episode “Starting on the Wrong Foot”, she is seen acting in a Trek-ripoff show alongside Jonathan Frakes. They then establish that Frakes also stars in Star Trek and attends conventions. He also wants to date Cybill.
Frakes shows up at Cybill’s house at the end of the episode, though she doesn’t answer the door. He then pulls out a communicator and is beamed up to a spaceship.
4. The Rikers Proposal
There have been many failed attempts at creating Star Trek TV shows over the years. This is because Paramount has been reticent to use the license too much, as they don’t want to burn the property out with the public. They don’t mind letting a franchise lay dormant for a few years, before bringing it back with a bang.
A lot of Star Trek actors have pitched TV show ideas to Paramount, where they would play the starring role. George Takei and Michael Dorn have both pitched Captain Sulu/Worf shows, without success. Bryan Singer and Seth MacFarlane have also petitioned hard to helm a new Star Trek show.
Jonathan Frakes pitched a Star Trek spinoff to Paramount, which would have followed Riker and Troi’s adventures (and married life) aboard the Titan. Paramount refused, as they felt that the Star Trek license had been watered down too much, which is one of the reasons given for the failure of Star Trek: Nemesis.
3. The Deleted Tentacle Attack
The first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was called “Encounter at Farpoint”. The crew of the new Enterprise encounter Q for the first time and are put on trial for the crimes of humanity. It is up to the crew to solve the mystery of Farpoint Station, knowing that Q might eradicate all of mankind if he finds them unworthy.
It is revealed that Farpoint Station is containing a powerful alien being, which can transform its energy into solid matter. The script for “Encounter at Farpoint” called for a scene where tendrils would appear and attack the away team. Riker would have had to fight off giant tentacles, as they were dragging off Troi and Data.
2. Riker Became An Admiral
The 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise involved the removal of most of the episodes of the TV show from continuity. In 2009’s Star Trek, a Romulan named Nero went back in time to order to get revenge on the Federation (and Spock) for allowing the destruction of the planet Romulus.
Nero created a timeline where James T. Kirk’s father was killed. This created a new universe, where only Star Trek: Enterprise and the new movies exist.
The storyline of the original universe has been continued on in an MMO, called Star Trek Online. In this official continuation of the story, Will Riker has been promoted to the rank of Admiral. He still commands the Titan and uses it as his own personal vessel. Riker and Troi are still married and have a daughter, named Natasha Miana Riker-Troi. The Rikers were instrumental in allowing Data (now in the body of B4) to return to Starfleet.
1. Jonathan Frakes Isn’t Done With Star Trek
When a TV show becomes a hit and runs for several seasons, the actors will sometimes ask for the opportunity to produce or direct episodes as part of their compensation. This happened a lot in shows like Sex and the City, Frasier, and Star Trek. A lot of the main cast members of Star Trek: The Next Generation were given the chance to direct episodes, which extended to the later Star Trek shows like Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
Jonathan Frakes made the most of these opportunities and has become an accomplished director as a result. He directed Star Trek: First Contact and Insurrection. He has also directed episodes of numerous TV shows, such as Castle, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Burn Notice.
The next Star Trek TV show is called Star Trek: Discovery and it is currently in production. It has been confirmed that Jonathan Frakes will be directing an episode of the show. He might be the number one choice for the position, as he has been involved with the franchise since the ’80s and has appeared both in front of and behind the camera.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about Star Trek‘s Will Riker? Let us know in the comment section!
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