(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise finds a second Will Riker on a planet that he helped evacuate eight years ago.
- "Captain's log stardate 46915.2. The Enterprise is orbiting Nervala IV and waiting for an opportunity to retrieve scientific data left there by Starfleet researchers when they were forced to evacuate eight years ago."
In Ten Forward, people are gathered together and a jazz band, with Will Riker at the trombone, is playing "I Remember You." Deanna Troi requests that he play "Night Bird" – a piece Riker has been having difficulty getting right for the past ten years. He hesitantly grants her request when she insists, and just as he is about to start, Lieutenant commander Data calls him to the bridge. Relieved, Riker goes to the bridge, where Data informs him that they will be able to transport down to the surface soon to get to the science outpost due to the use of the transport logs of the USS Potemkin which had last been there. Riker reminisces that he almost didn't make it out of there eight years ago. According to Data, they only have about 26 minutes to beam down to the planet and retrieve the database. There will be only three transport windows open altogether within the next four days, and after that, the next transport window, so Data says, will not occur for another eight years, when the planet's orbit will bring it close enough to the sun to de-phase the distortion field. Riker decides to go in ahead of schedule.
When Riker, Worf, Data and an engineer beam down to the outpost they realize that someone must have been down there. Data's tricorder detects a humanoid lifeform approaching, and much to their surprise, they find a man who looks exactly like William Riker.
The duplicate claims to be Will Riker. He says that eight years ago he led a team to evacuate this station. He did not return to the Potemkin like the others because he was the last one out and the distortion field must have interfered with the transport. They lost the signal lock on him, and when he tried to contact the ship, he couldn't get through the interference. He asks them to check with Starfleet to confirm that he was lost that day. Commander Riker, however, tells him that this is not what had happened. He says that in fact he himself was the last one out and that he made it back to the Potemkin. To be fair, he doesn't see how both stories can be true. He wants Doctor Crusher to check him out to verify his identity.
In sickbay, Crusher informs the captain that genetically, this man is indistinguishable from Commander Riker. Since there is no evidence of genetic drift, she excludes cloning as a possible explanation. She even compares their brain scans, for brain organization patterns are as unique as fingerprints, and with only a few minor differences, she claims that they are identical. She states that brain patterns cannot be cloned either, because they are determined by experience – mostly from early childhood. Captain Picard wonders how two grown men can share the same childhood experiences. The second Will Riker responds by insisting that he in fact is William Riker. He doesn't know who or what beamed back to the Potemkin that day but it was not him. Picard informs him that his chief engineer is checking the transporter logs of the Potemkin with the hope that it will shed some light onto the matter. In the meanwhile, he suggests that Lieutenant Riker make himself comfortable in the quarters he's been provided with.
After examining the transporter logs, Geordi La Forge informs the crew that apparently there was a massive energy surge in the distortion field around the planet just at the moment Riker tried to beam out. The transporter chief at that time tried to compensate by initiating a second containment beam. However, Commander Riker's pattern maintained its integrity by just the one containment beam. And even though the second beam was shut down, somehow it was reflected back to the surface, and another William Riker materialized there. The containment beam must have had the exact same phase differential as the distortion field – hence the two identical Rikers – they both rematerialized from a complete pattern and are identical. Both of them, it seems, are the 'real' William T. Riker. The only difference between them, as Picard notes, is that they led very different lives for the past eight years and thus are very different people. He compares it to meeting one's twin and as strange as it may seem, he states that they now have two Will Rikers on board and they should do whatever they can to make Lt. Riker feel comfortable and welcome.
Commander Riker points out that they still have the problem of retrieving the database. Many of the station's components have been removed by Lt. Riker to facilitate his survival and they do not know what he did and what he changed. Picard suggests that maybe he could help them, but Dr. Crusher objects by stating that he has been alone there for a long time and that she is hesitant to let him go back until he has been fully evaluated. So, Troi suggests that she should talk to him.
When she goes to see Lt. Riker, he is so happy to see her that he greets her by passionately kissing and hugging her, as to him, the past eight years had not happened.
She tells him that they need to talk. At first he assumes she and the commander are together which would explain her presence on board, but she informs him that Commander Riker and she are close friends now and nothing more. The last time they saw each other, according to this Riker's memory, was at Janaran Falls on Betazed – the day before he started his tour on the Potemkin. Riker recalls that they were going to meet on Risa six weeks later. Troi interrupts and tells him that meeting ended up not happening. She tells him that Cmdr. Riker earned a promotion very quickly (because, as Lt. Riker read in the commander's service record, of the commendation he received for the Nervala IV mission) and chose to make his career a priority. There wasn't much time for anything else. They kept in touch, says Troi, but they didn't see each other again until they were both posted on the Enterprise two years later. By then, however, their feelings for each other had changed. They have now been serving together for six years but things never went back to the way they used to be.
Riker tells her that he had a lot of time on his hands down on that station, being mostly lonely and thinking of her. He tells her that the only way he made it through was the hope of seeing her again. He says that even though he knows that her feelings have changed, his have not. He can't just give up, he wants to be with her again. Troi is a little taken aback by this, wishing him a good night before she leaves.
Cmdr. Riker and team are waiting in the transporter room on Lt. Riker while Lieutenant Palmer is briefing them on their transport window. When beaming down to the station, the two Rikers irritate each other easily and their initial interactions with one another are rather unpleasant and filled with antagonism. Lt. Riker second guesses Cmdr. Riker's orders, causing him to raise his voice against him and reassert his position in the chain of command.
Back on the Enterprise, Troi arrives at her quarters and orders Valerian root tea from the replicator, only to find a message on a rolled piece of paper in her fruit bowl, informing her to meet up in transporter room three. When she goes to the transporter room, she finds a flower with another message attached to it. It directs her to seek out the crystal that powers their flight – the dilithium crystal chamber in main engineering. There she finds yet another message with a piece of candy (quite possibly chocolate) directing her to go to Ten Forward. In Ten Forward, there is a package on the table for her to find. She opens it and finds a large square metal 'tile' with an engraving of the Janaran Falls – the place where she and Riker spent their last night together. Having watched her open it, Lt. Riker approaches and tells her that he made it himself about two years ago, by using a very fine phaser beam he carefully adjusted and the etching itself took him three attempts to create.
They sit down to talk, and he admits that things are a little more complicated than he had planned. He tells her how many times he used to think about her and how in the beginning he was hoping they would find him, so he could come back to her, see her on Risa. When he finally realized that no one would come for him, he accepted his situation. He believed that it was though he was killed in the beam out and therefore there was no one to return for; it made him feel better to imagine that there had been a memorial service for him, with Troi dressed in black ("very flattering on you, by the way," he jokes). He tells her that sometimes he would look up into the sky and think that if he tried hard enough, he could make her feel his presence, that he is alive, hoping that she'd wait for him. Troi confesses that she was in fact very disappointed when she and Cmdr. Riker did not meet up on Risa as they had planned. Even though she knew his career was taking him away from her, she did not want to believe it. She spent a lot of time thinking about Cmdr. Riker, wondering where he was, what he was doing. Sometimes she'd look up into the sky, and imagine that he knew and that somehow he could sense her thinking about him.
Lieutenant Riker had gone to see Picard about his plan to retrieve the database behind the commander's back. Picard called Riker to his ready room to discuss it. Picard explains the lieutenant's plan is to directly access the computer core underneath the station and that it's the only way to succeed in retrieving the database. Cmdr. Riker believes the caverns they'd be going into would be too risky because of the seismic activity. Picard relates that Lt. Riker was confident it could be done safely because he'd been down there recently. Cmdr. Riker says there's a good chance they can just use a console in the station, but Picard notes that if it doesn't work, there can't be another attempt for another eight years; they only have enough time for one plan. Riker objectively analyzes that Lt. Riker's plan is more dangerous but also has a better chance of succeeding, and Picard agrees that the data is important enough that it's worth the risk. He suggests that Riker have the lieutenant help him in drawing up the mission plan.
Riker goes to see the lieutenant working in engineering and reprimands him, saying it is not his place to go to the captain. Lt. Riker justifies doing so because Cmdr. Riker wouldn't hear him out the other day on the station, but Cmdr. Riker clarifies that he did but rejected the plan. He confirms that Picard approved the lieutenant's plan, but that's not the problem. He may disagree with the decision, but Picard is his commanding officer and he'll follow his orders, but in the same vein, he expects the same from Lt. Riker as his commanding officer. If he can't, there's no place for him on the commander's away team. After Lt. Riker stiffly acknowledges him, Cmdr. Riker informs him of a meeting scheduled for drawing up the mission plan.
Later, Troi and Crusher work out using Mok'bara. Crusher encourages Troi's feelings toward the lieutenant. When Lt. Riker enters, Crusher excuses herself to Troi's dismay. Riker compares the moves to tai chi chuan once told that Worf teaches Klingon martial arts. He tries out some moves, but then Troi quickly gets the better of him and puts him on the floor. They kiss.
The next day in Ten Forward, Troi has a conversation with Commander Riker. She admits that even though they both had relationships with other people, this is different. She is not sure how he feels about this and but can imagine that this must be very strange for him. Riker admits that ever since Lieutenant Riker has been on board, he has found himself thinking about the choices they made years ago. He doesn't mind if she chooses to be with him; however, he asks her to be careful, pointing out that if the lieutenant had gotten off the planet instead of him, he probably would have made the same choices as he did. He wants her to consider that because he doesn't want her to get hurt again.
Later, Riker, Data and Worf play poker in Riker's quarters. The lieutenant comes to see him, and Riker asks him to join in. He plays, but it turns out to be an awkward experience for Data and Worf as the two comment about their different lives. Lt. Riker tries to bluff the commander, but it doesn't work as Cmdr. Riker knows all of his tells. The lieutenant leaves after losing the hand, saying Riker's always had the "better hand."
Later that day, Lt. Riker meets Troi in her quarters to inform her that Captain Picard has managed to get him a post on the USS Gandhi, and considering how long he has been out of commission, it is an amazing opportunity he'd like to consider. He would leave in about a week. Troi is disappointed, seeing herself hearing the same lines she heard from the commander eight years ago about how he has to fix his career and work first before he can be with her. Lt. Riker assures her that he will definitely not be making the same mistake of leaving her again, but somehow Troi finds that hard to believe. It took her a long time to get over what had happened between Cmdr. Riker and her and she does not know whether she would want to put herself in that position again. She has worked hard to make a life for herself on the Enterprise; she is happy here. He tells her that if the situation was different, he'd stay but that he cannot reasonably do so while Cmdr. Riker is aboard. Even though Troi understands, she tells him that she just does not know whether she is willing to give up her life on the Enterprise. She is willing to think about it, however. Pleased, Riker kisses her and after he leaves, Troi realizes, heartbroken again, that she is back at square one even with this version of Will Riker.
The away team makes their final attempt at retrieving the database. The two Rikers go off to the computer core, and Lt. Riker almost perishes when a catwalk drops out from under him. Cmdr. Riker grabs hold of him, but warns him that he's sliding. Lt. Riker tells him to let go and save himself, but Cmdr. Riker urges him to fight his way back up, and the lieutenant is able to get high enough so that the commander can pull him the rest of the way. They successfully repair the servo link and the rest of the team is then able to retrieve the database.
After the Enterprise departs Nervala IV, Troi informs Lt. Riker of her decision to not join him on the Gandhi. She is just not ready to give up her life on the Enterprise. While they are talking, Cmdr. Riker comes in and gifts the lieutenant their trombone, noting that many things in his quarters belong to both of them. Lt. Riker is very pleased with the gift and announces that he has decided to change his name to Thomas, his middle name. Will notes that they really are different, for he never really cared for that name. Thomas kisses Troi one last goodbye and tells Will to take care of her.
"Saved by the bell."
- - Commander Riker, to Troi, after he's called to the bridge before the trombone solo he can't play
"I'm Commander William Riker from the Federation starship Enterprise."
"That's not possible. I'm Will Riker."
- - William Riker and Thomas Riker upon meeting on Nervala IV
"I am Will Riker. I don't know who or what made it back to the Potemkin that day but it wasn't me."
- - Thomas Riker, to Picard after being brought aboard the Enterprise
"We've both had relationships with other people. This is different. I didn't know how you'd feel about it."
"Flattered... sort of."
- - Troi informs Riker about her romance with Thomas Riker, his duplicate
"If you met a double of yourself, would you have difficulty interacting with him?"
"I think so."
"I am not easy to get along with."
- - Data and Worf
"You know, I've been thinking we should probably let Dad know what happened."
"I'm sure he'd be thrilled to know there are two of us."
- - Commander Riker and Lieutenant Riker
"You always had the better hand... in everything."
- - Lieutenant Riker, resigning a poker game to Commander Riker
"I waited a long time. I guess I can wait a little longer. Take care of her."
- - Thomas Riker, to Troi and William Riker before he leaves for the USS Gandhi (last lines)
- First draft script: 8 March 1993
- Final draft script: 17 March 1993 
- Bridge stunts scenes filmed: 30 March 1993 ("Bold New Directions Year Six – A First Chance at Second Chances", TNG Season 6 DVD special feature)
- Premiere airdate: 24 May 1993
- First UK airdate: 20 December 1995
Story and production
- This is the first Star Trek series episode to be directed by LeVar Burton, who received much praise (according to Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) for coping well with the difficulties of filming an episode with so many complex visual effects. He went on to direct "The Pegasus", as well as many episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.
- In the early stages of writing the episode, the production team briefly considered killing off Will Riker and having Thomas join the USS Enterprise-D's crew as his "replacement". Tom Riker would have replaced Data at operations and Data would have been promoted to first officer. The idea was quickly abandoned, partly due to the then-tentative plans to bring TNG's cast to the big screen. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- According to Ronald D. Moore, the working title of this episode was "Two Many Rikers!" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- The bridge stunts scenes were filmed on 30 March 1993 on the actual set and green screens. ("Bold New Directions Year Six – A First Chance at Second Chances", TNG Season 6 DVD special feature)
Cast and characters
- Dr. Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut in space, has a cameo as Palmer. Nichelle Nichols visited the production when Jemison was filming her scenes.
- Thomas Riker later appears in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Defiant".
- The Rikers seen in this episode were played by Jonathan Frakes, photo double Geoffrey Mutch, and stunt doubles Mark Riccardi and Tom Morga.
- The purple dress worn by Marina Sirtis in the Ten Forward concert scene was later worn by background actress Heidi Franz in the Star Trek: Enterprise first season episode "Two Days and Two Nights" in 2001 and was sold off on the Propstore. 
- When William T. Riker says to Thomas Riker that he was able to "patch up" a few things with their estranged father, he is no doubt referring to the events of the Season Two episode "The Icarus Factor".
- A duplication of this nature also happened in TOS: "The Enemy Within". In that story, Kirk is split into good and evil twins. In VOY: "Deadlock" the entire crew of the USS Voyager was duplicated.
- As of this episode, each of the five regular male actors have worn two different colored uniforms (Burton and Dorn going from red to gold in season two, Spiner wearing red in "Chain of Command, Part II" and "Future Imperfect", and Stewart wearing blue during "Tapestry").
- This episode reveals what Riker's middle initial ("T") stands for: Thomas. In the TNG novel Imzadi, Riker's middle initial is said to stand for "Thelonius."
- Thomas Riker's dilapidated uniform, when he is first found, is in the style used by the Federation in Season 1. This would imply that this style of uniform was used for at least two years before the start of TNG. It would also correspond with Picard's memories of the USS Stargazer crew at the time of the Battle of Maxia in "The Battle", as well as Beverly's recollection of visiting Jack's body in "Violations", with both instances set in the 2350s, well before Riker's visit to Nervala IV.
- Given that Riker served as the helmsman of the Pegasus as an ensign, he has apparently switched divisions from command, operations and back to command during his career. Worf has also done this during TNG and DS9.
- The transporter console used by Palmer does not appear to be activated (it's completely black when the camera is positioned behind her), yet she is able to report on information she is clearly supposed to be reading from it.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 75, 10 January 1994
- As part of the TNG Season 6 DVD collection
Links and references
- Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard
- Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr. William Riker and Lieutenant Thomas Riker
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Carl David Burks as Russell
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- John Copage as science division officer
- Hal Donahue as command division lieutenant
- Goldie Ann Gareza as civilian
- Kerry Hoyt as operations division ensign
- Arvo Katajisto as Torigan
- Michael Moorehead as science division ensign
- Richard Sarstedt as command division ensign
- Noriko Suzuki as operations division ensign
- Talbot as Ten Forward waitress
- Unknown performers as
Stand-ins and photo doubles
- David Keith Anderson – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Carl David Burks – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Michael Echols – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Geoffrey Mutch as photo double for Jonathan Frakes
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
2361; 2377; Aries, USS; Betazed; bluff; brain organization pattern; brain scan; cavern; childhood; cloning; command pathway; containment beam; crane block; crystal; distortion field; earthquake; energy surge; EPS coupling; Federation; file server; fingerprint; fracture; Gandhi, USS; genetic drift; Heisenberg compensator; humanoid; imzadi; interlink pathway; ion radiation; Janaran Falls; king; Lagana sector; memorial service; meter; middle name; mission plan; Mok'bara; Nervala IV; Nervala away team; Nervala station; neural pattern; "Night Bird"; number one; observation lounge; pattern integrity; phase differential; phaser; poker; Potemkin, USS; Potemkin transporter chief; primary EPS system; promotion; quarters; radiation shield; replicator; Riker, Kyle; Risa; rockslide; "saved by the bell"; schematic; science log; service record; servo-link; signal lock; solo; Starfleet; swelling; tai chi chuan; terraforming mission; transport buffer; transport log; transport window; transporter; transporter chief; Transporter Room 3; trombone; twin; Valerian root tea
- "Second Chances" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Second Chances" at Wikipedia
- "Second Chances" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Second Chances" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: The Next Generation|
| Next episode:|