Whether you think of him as Commander Riker, Number One, or Beardo Numero Uno, there’s no denying the omnipresence of William Thomas Riker in the collective consciousness of science fiction fans. We’ve watched him grow a beard, lean on people’s consoles, put his leg up at inappropriate times, and sometimes murder helpless people in cold blood.
And when you start to break it all down, Riker’s kind of a creepy weirdo. Here are 5 reasons why he’s a little scary, and why he probably wouldn’t have friends in real life.
5. Riker is an On-Purpose Loser
It would be easy to say Riker is frightening because he’s some sort of plotting, scheming asshole, but that would give him too much credit. Riker is mostly unaware of his lameness. And it’s in his “normalcy” that Riker makes one uncomfortable. Consider the notion of him passing up numerous promotions. He always says something to the effect that “serving on the Enterprise is great,” or “I really love it here.” Riker not leaving the Enterprise when he clearly has the resume and years of experience under his belt is like those 40-something guys who hang out in college towns and flirt with college kids at the bar. If you only go to that bar once, the funny older guy might seem cool, but if you live there, you know he’s sort of a loser.
4. Riker Acts Highly Unprofessional When People Simply Disagree With Him
When Riker has very reasonable work-related debates with people like Shelby, Ro, or Captain Jellico, he makes a REALLY big deal out of it, and these outbursts are rarely professional. He threatens poor Shelby, outright stops showing up to work with Jellico, and constantly harasses poor Ro, to the point where she should press charges. Whenever Riker is in charge of the ship in Picard’s absence, you rarely see him conferring with anyone. He just sort of does whatever he wants. And when people disagree with him, he flips out big time. What is Riker really saying in these moments? I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DON’T LIKE ME. EVERYONE ELSE DOES.
3. Riker is Really Terrible To Troi
Troi’s relationship with Will Riker is perhaps the unhealthiest friendship/romance ever depicted on TV. He stood her up years prior, and now she hangs around with him all the time. When they hang out and talk about Will’s problems, you get the sense that she is just giving him professional advice. She almost never speaks to him the way real friends to talk to people, (Picard and Beverly do this sometimes, despite also having a fucked up relationship) instead, Troi is distant and cold. And that’s because Riker screwed her over, and she still wants to sleep with him. Riker is truly awful, because he knows this about Troi, and instead of accepting a promotion to captain or transferring off the Enterprise and being a bigger person, he plays the “friend card” and while parading around meaningless affairs in front of Troi to hurt her feelings. She (like Beverly with Picard) rarely gets upset about this, and is in fact supportive. But if Troi suddenly is suddenly dating someone else? Watch out! Riker freaks the fuck out.
2. Riker’s Greatest Love Is Apparently a Porno-Hologram
In “Future Imperfect” when an alien creates a fictional version of a future life for Riker on the Enterprise, they decide to fix him up with the woman who he thinks about the most, Minuet. The episode portrays this as a “gotcha” moment Riker has on the alien, but in reality, the reverse should be true. The little alien was just scanning Riker’s brain for the person he had the strongest feelings for, and came up with the special hologram woman, Minuet. Now, we’re told over and over again that she was a very special program, but she was still a PROGRAM. Geordi and Barclay both pulled the creep card with this kind of thing too, but their hologram fantasy loves were based on REAL PEOPLE. Meaning, the alien scanned their brains, it would be like “oh Geordi is in love with Leah Brahms and Barclay is in love with everyone.” Not so with Riker. He’s basically in love with 24th century porn.
1. Riker Used to Be a Cool Person
Was Riker ever not creepy and messed up? Probably! We definitely get the sense of a sexier, more daring Riker in the form of his transporter duplicate Thomas Riker. Now, that version of Riker has some panache. He still wants to mess around with Troi, and doesn’t really see his “other self” as a problem. A few years later, after stealing the Defiant and getting arrested by the Federation, Thomas still makes out with Kira openly, despite the fact that he’s totally betrayed her. The difference between Thomas and Will here is simple. Will sort of lost his guts. His former self, personified as Thomas, has way more balls.
Meanwhile, Will Riker pretends to wear his sex drive on his sleeve, but is actually a little ashamed of himself, because he doesn’t want to offend the polite company of the Enterprise crew. Thomas Riker could care less about that, and is in fact the man Will should have become. When Q shows Picard the mediocre version of himself who never fought the Nausicaans, it’s depressing. The thing is, we’re seeing that boring version of Will Riker in most every episode of Star Trek.
It would be a good idea to send Riker to a shrink, but we all know how that would work out. (His shrink is his old girlfriend who tells him to watch episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise when he is confused about life. What?) The only real treatment for the Riker problem would be some kind of reintegration of his past self into his present self, kind of like that stuff they did with Captain Braxton in the Voyager episode “Relativity.” A little direct download of his previous, risk-taking; fun-loving persona might be just what Riker needs. In the meantime, like in that one Pink song, Will Riker’s mantra should be “Don’t let me get me!”
Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com. He went as Riker once for Halloween. Scary!