TNG Wanted To Replace Will Riker With His Doppelganger
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TNG Wanted To Replace Will Riker With His Doppelganger


  • “Second Chances” almost saw the end of Will Riker, replaced by Thomas who resurfaced after 8 years on Nervala IV.
  • The idea to replace Will with Thomas revisited for TNG’s final season, but executive producers did not follow through.
  • Thomas Riker returned in Deep Space Nine, posed as Will, joined the Maquis, stole a starship, but his fate remains unknown.



Commander Will Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) exact double was introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation season 6, and there was a plan to kill off Will and replace him with Thomas Riker. At the height of its popularity, TNG season 6 revealed that a transporter accident created Will Riker’s doppelganger in the episode titled “Second Chances”. In fact, the original idea for “Second Chances” was to kill Will in that episode so that Thomas could take his place aboard the USS Enterperise-D.

“Second Chances” dropped the bombshell that 8 years before Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lieutenant Will Riker, who was serving aboard the USS Potemkin, led an Away Team to rescue scientists on Nervala IV. A transporter malfunction duplicated Riker; as one Will beamed back aboard the Potemkin, the other rematerialized on Nervala IV, where he was left stranded. The crew of the USS Enterprise-D discovered the second Riker and brought him aboard. Taking their middle name as his first name, Thomas Riker immediately tried to rekindle his romance with Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Since Thomas couldn’t remain aboard the Enterprise, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) secured Lt. Riker a posting on the USS Gandhi.


7 Versions Of Riker In Star Trek

Thanks to transporter accidents, alternate timelines, and changes in facial hair, several different versions of William T. Riker appear in Star Trek.

Star Trek: TNG’s Plan To Replace Will Riker With Thomas Riker Explained

Executive Producers Rick Berman and Michael Piller pulled the plug on the Riker switcheroo

If Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s producers had followed through on their original idea, Will would have died in “Second Chances” and Thomas would have joined the USS Enterprise-D crew, with Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) becoming the new First Officer. “We wanted to kill Riker… We thought it was a great idea and no one could tell us different,” executive producer Rene Echevarria said in the Star Trek oral history, The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross. But executive producer Michael Piller “knew it was wrong”, according to Echevarria, and he gave the final “no” on the Riker switcheroo. However, the idea of replacing Will with Thomas persisted and was revisited for TNG‘s 7th and final season.

Rick Berman did consider the idea, but he realized
“the other problems it created… How would it affect the movie and other variables?”

Star Trek: The Next Generation season 7’s showrunner, Jeri Taylor, wanted to kill Will and bring in Thomas to “energize the seventh season… and let Lieutenant Riker come onto the ship as a rejuvenated, energetic, driven, ambitious character… He wouldn’t be Number One, he would have been at Ops and have to prove himself… and I was very, very taken with that.” But this time, it would be Star Trek‘s head honcho, Rick Berman, who stopped the Riker replacement plan from moving forward. Berman did consider the idea, but he realized “the other problems it created… How would it affect the movie and other variables?”

Berman was thinking ahead of
‘s leap to the big screen with
Star Trek Generations.
The complications of explaining why there’s a different Riker to Paramount was another reason the original Will Riker remained as Number One.

Thomas Riker Returned In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Lieutenant Riker’s fate is unknown

Thomas Riker Star Trek

Thomas Riker reappeared in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season 3 episode “Defiant”. Posing as Will, Thomas kidnapped Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) and stole Commander Benjamin Sisko’s (Avery Brooks) starship, the USS Defiant. It was revealed that Thomas had joined the terrorist group called the Maquis, but Riker’s larceny of DS9’s starship brought the wrath of the Cardassians upon him. Thomas ultimately surrendered, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment in a Cardassian labor camp.

Thomas Riker Key Events


TV Series

Created in a transporter accident and trapped on Nervala IV


Star Trek: The Next Generation

Rescued by USS Enterprise-D, assigned to USS Gandhi


Star Trek: The Next Generation

Leaves Starfleet and joins the Maquis


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Steals USS Defiant, sentenced to Cardassian prison


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek never revealed Thomas Riker’s fate and whether he survived DS9‘s Dominion War. According to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, Thomas Riker’s return was on a list of ideas DS9′s writers were not interested in hearing pitches about. Jonathan Frakes himself said in a DS9 season 6 DVD commentary that his idea for Thomas to join Damar’s (Casey Biggs) Cardassian resistance during the Dominion War went nowhere. But Frakes complimented Will Riker’s doppelganger: “[Thomas is] much less confident than Will. But he’s also tender and sweeter. I think I like Tom better.” Riker’s Imzadi, Marina Sirtis, concurred, “I preferred Tom Riker. I thought he was cuter than Will.”

Star Trek: Lower Decks Parodied Will & Thomas Riker

William Boimler also pulled a Thomas Riker

Riker Boimlers

Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2 offered up an ingenious parody of Will and Thomas Riker when a transporter accidentally created a clone of Ensign Bradward Boimler (Jack Quaid). The doppelganger took Brad’s middle name, William, as his first name. Captain Will Riker, their commanding officer aboard the USS Titan, hilariously declared, “I’ve heard this song before!” As the Titan wasn’t big enough for two Boimlers, Brad was transferred back to the USS Cerritos while William remained aboard the Titan and received a promotion to Lieutenant, junior grade.

Similar to Thomas Riker betraying Starfleet for the Maquis, Lt. William Boimler faked his death to join Section 31 at the end of
Star Trek: Lower Decks
season 3, episode 8, “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus”.

Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Didn’t Reveal The Fate Of Thomas Riker

Thomas Riker remains an unanswered question

Star Trek: Picard season 3 reunited the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and provided a satisfying and resonant closure to the crew of the USS Enterprise-D, but the fate of Thomas Riker was never addressed. Picard season 1 established that Captain Will Riker and Commander Deanna Troi were retired and raising their daughter, Kestra (Lulu Wilson), on the planet Nepenthe. But the tragic loss of their eldest son, Thad, drove a wedge between the Troi-Rikers, and they were estranged at the start of Star Trek: Picard season 3.

The question of what happened to Will Riker’s doppelganger, Thomas Riker, may never be answered.

Happily, Will and Deanna reconciled after the Enterprise-D heroes saved the galaxy, but the subject of Thomas Riker was not raised despite Star Trek: Picard season 3 following up on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War. Picard season 3 set up a spinoff to continue the stories of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s icons, but that series is currently not in development at Paramount+. The question of what happened to Will Riker’s doppelganger, Thomas Riker, may never be answered, but if any Star Trek series has the potential to do so, it would be Star Trek: Picard‘s spinoff.

Star Trek: The Next Generation,

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Lower Decks

, and

Star Trek: Picard

are available to stream on Paramount+.

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