Under the looming shadow of the groundbreaking Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation had a huge mountain to climb to establish its own identity and prove its worth against Captain Kirk and his crew, whose fans were reticent at the prospect of such a change. In a deliberate move against the rough and ready space lothario of Kirk was new Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a measured and stoic officer who valued reason and ethics above all other considerations.
Not wanting fans to be turned away by a cast sipping tea and debating morality, the writers created a successor to Kirk’s bombastic character with Commander William Riker; Picard’s First Officer and a tall glass of suave, trombone blasting charm.
Going on to become a fan favourite (once he grew the beard, that is), Riker holds a special place in fans’ hearts with his wry smile, quick wit and natural way with women of all species. Debuting in 1987 and still making appearances today, Riker’s extensive history is full of a fair few bits of trivia and little known facts to whet the appetites of deep Trek nerds, and these are just some of them.
10. William Decker: The Proto-Riker
Following the conclusion of The Original Series, fans were desperate for more and Paramount heeded the call by immediately putting ‘Phase II’ into production.
Taking the DNA of the original series and pushing it forward, the show was to follow a refitted Enterprise and pair old favourites with brand new cast members as The Enterprise continued its mission across space after the curtailing of its first run. Whilst James Kirk would carry on in the Captain’s chair, Leonard Nimoy declined to revive the role of Spock, and new First Officer William Decker was created.
When Phase II was summarily canned due to poor advertising prospects, elements from the Decker character were repurposed for Commander Riker, including his first name, role aboard the ship, general character demeanour and even a ‘lost love’ subplot with a fellow crew member, which carried over to Riker’s romance with Deanna Troi.
Elements of Phase II were incorporated into the original Motion Picture, including Decker, but had it gone ahead we may have seen a totally different Will Riker on the bridge of the Enterprise-D, and who wants to live in a world like that?