Monday, April 28, 2014

TWITrek Character Insight No. 94: Thomas Riker

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight!  This week, we take a break from the cinema to profile our favorite transporter twin, Thomas Riker.
(Good Thing Thomas kept the epic beard...can you imagine old Riker without it?)

Yes, indeed, a transporter accident made twin is one of the more fun mirror entities, but it's still a trope of Trek.

Thomas Riker was created as a result of a second confinement beam being reflected back to a planet while Will Riker was beamed back aboard following an away mission. This planet only allowed transporter and shuttle use every 8 years or so, which means Thomas Riker was not discovered until 8 years later when the Enterprise went to pick up supplies left behind in the original away mission.

He chose to go by his middle name instead of Will following his discovery. Ironically, Thomas means twin, which is fitting. The fascinating aspect of Thomas Riker is the nature vs. nurture distinction with Will Riker. While Will becomes a cautious officer who values his career above even a relationship with Deanna Troi, Thomas remains youthful, impulsive, reckless, and in deep love with Deanna. The differences make this alternate Riker much more interesting than others, like Hobo Riker in Parallels. Although he still walks through doors sideways, and both Rikers play in a highly memorable and strange poker game shared with Data and Worf.

(Quote of the Week)
Lt. Thomas Riker: I thought if one thing were clear by now, it's that you and I play things a little differently.
Commander William T. Riker: Why don't we wait and see who comes out on top?
Lt. Thomas Riker: I thought you were willing to settle for second, Commander.
Commander William T. Riker: I've never settled for anything in my life. I know what I want, I know what I've got, and you'd be lucky to do so well, Lieutenant.

Although Thomas only appears in one episode of TNG, Jonathan Frakes had pitched at least one more story that just never ended up getting made. Frakes has been quoted as saying he actually likes the character of Thomas more. Frakes does get a chance to reprise the role once in Deep Space Nine, where Thomas has defected to the Maquis and stole the Defiant in an attempt to uncover a fleet of warships built by the Cardassian Union.

Although Thomas ends up in Cardassian custody and is never seen again, he lives on in a high number of Star Trek novels, video games, and comics. Of these, I highly recommend Triangle: Imzadi II by Peter David, which is all about the Thomas-Will-Deanna complicated love triangle, and the DS9 Millenium trilogy, which is just a great read overall.

Jonathan Frakes played Thomas Riker, and he can be followed on twitter @jonathansfrakes. His acting career includes bit role appaearances on Charlies Angels, The Waltons, and The Dukes of Hazzard.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

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