(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise finds a second Will Riker on a planet that he helped evacuate eight years ago.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Memorable quotes
- 3 Background information
- 4 Links and references
- "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." From the bar, 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, as Riker mentions the station was a mess when he left. Data also draws his attention upward, noticing a hastily made hatch covering up part of the ceiling. 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. Worf brings Riker's duplicate up to the ship to sickbay and is ordered by Riker to inform Captain Picard about this situation.
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 that he has 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 two 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 pulled out 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 very much wants to be with her again. Troi is a little taken aback by this and simply wishes 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. While working together at a console trying to retrieve the database, Commander Riker suggests to Lieutenant Riker that should should tell their father about this. Lieutenant Riker says that he would rather not speak to him right now and wonders what made his duplicate contact their father. Commander Riker says he did not; their father came aboard the Enterprise when he was offered the USS Aries to command and they managed to patch things up. Getting back to the task at hand, they cannot get the system working due to a malfunctioning EPS coupling and will try again when the next window opens up. However, Lt. Riker second guesses Cmdr. Riker's orders, mostly regarding his not allowing the lieutenant to stay working at the station until they can come back for him. This causes Commander Riker 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 placed on the transporter console. 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 at the master systems display table 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 exercises. 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 to see her 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, with Lt. Riker telling Cmdr. Riker that he seems to always be one to play it safe. 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 made some inquiries and has managed to get him a post on the USS Gandhi. Considering how long he has been out of commission, it is an amazing opportunity he'd like to consider and he would be leaving 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 underneath the station. Lt. Riker notes that there seems to be a conduit leaking ion radiation. Cmdr. Riker asks why he did not report this before and Lt. Riker tells him it was not there previously. He notes that they will not have time to retrieve the database if they have to repair the conduit leak. However, Cmdr. Riker is able to turn off the conduit which causes the radiation levels to drop. As he passes Lt. Riker, Cmdr. Riker tells him not to give up so easily next time. As they cross a catwalk crossing a large chasm, Lt. Riker almost perishes when it 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 – yet. 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 script
- Michael Medlock's story of duplicating Will Riker was nearly rejected, until the writers decided to use the concept to explore the romance with Deanna Troi. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 249)) René Echevarria recalled, "We'd always talked about the fact that they used to be involved, and now they weren't. And 'Second Chances' was our chance to tell a story about them, and what a big love this really was for this man and woman. Tom is Riker. He's spent the last eight years thinking about being reunited with her." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 307)
- In the early stages of writing the episode, Jeri Taylor and the writing staff considered killing off William Riker and having Thomas join the USS Enterprise-D's crew as his replacement. According to Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 249), Thomas would have become the helmsman, with Data promoted to first officer. However, in Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages (p. 279) Taylor is quoted stating that Thomas would have been the operations officer.
- Ronald D. Moore remembered, "We thought it would be bold and shocking, and something for the fans to chew over. But Rick Berman, and to an extent, Michael Piller, didn't want to make such a big change." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 307)
- A major reason for Berman's refusal was the then-tentative plans to bring TNG's cast to the big screen. He recalled, "Basically, you're putting a character on the ship who has not experienced anything of the last six years and doesn't know any of the characters." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 279)
- Piller noted, "Riker has always been a difficult character for writers to write and they said 'Let's get some conflict, let's get some excitement and energy,' but the fact is he's a pretty darn good character. A character that I relate to a great deal […] I said everything about this story suggests that the new Riker comes onboard and he's everything that the old Riker's lost. I resent that as somebody who wrote in "The Best of Both Worlds" that he's come to a place in his life where he appreciates what he has and is comfortable with his friends and has achieved a great inner peace. I don't believe that the guy who is a loose-end six years ago is necessarily the good part of the man. I fought very hard to protect the Riker that we had on the ship." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 279)
- Instead, Piller proposed the twist that both Rikers should live. "I mean, what other show could do it?" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 249))
- Brannon Braga suggested the treasure hunt based on his own romantic experiences. "When all else fails, try the treasure hunt. It worked with Troi." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 279)
- According to Ronald D. Moore, the working title of this episode was "Two Many Rikers!" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
- This is the first Star Trek series episode to be directed by LeVar Burton. With the many complex visual effects, Burton considered it a "real baptism of fire." He remarked, "I had one actor playing two different characters, and those characters continually interacted throughout the course of the story. It was incumbent upon me to figure out how to accomplish that. I felt that if I could pull this off without sinking the ship, I really had a possible future as a director." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 308) Burton went on to direct "The Pegasus", as well as many episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise.
- 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
- Jonathan Frakes recalled, "One of my fondest memories of 'Second Chances' is how I was trying to find subtle differences between the two characters. And to this day, Marina [Sirtis] always reminds me of that. She says, 'I liked Thomas Riker better.'" (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 307)
- Dr. Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut in space, has a cameo as Palmer. Burton cast Jemison as he knew that she had credited Nichelle Nichols' role as Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series as an inspiration. Burton remarked, "I knew how important seeing Nichelle in The Original Series had been for Mae. Just as it was for me, as a child of the fifties and the sixties, in formulating my own self-image. This was an opportunity that I didn't want to pass up – to complete that loop and close the circle." Burton invited Nichols to visit the production when Jemison was filming her scenes. Burton commented, "[I]t was magic. I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, this is so cool.'" (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 309; Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., pp. 249-250))
- 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. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 307)
- 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. 
- This episode reveals what Riker's middle initial ("T") stands for: Thomas. According to Jeri Taylor, the writing staff considered a number of names, including "Tecumseh", before deciding that "simplest was best". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 250))
- 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 (LeVar Burton and Michael Dorn going from red to gold in season two, Brent Spiner wearing red in "Chain of Command, Part II" and "Future Imperfect", and Patrick Stewart wearing blue during "Tapestry").
- 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.
- The producers praised LeVar Burton's directorial debut. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 249)) Burton remembered, "It was a lot of pressure, but I felt I rose to the occasion and delivered. Directing the episode was the most fun, the most exciting, and the scariest time that I'd ever felt on the set." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 308)
- René Echevarria commented, "It was a very romantic story, and obviously a lot of fun for Jonathan and Marina." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 307)
- Brannon Braga approved of the instalment. "I really like Riker and I enjoyed breaking this with Jeri and René. I was very moved, as is common with René's scripts. My theory is a TV show is in trouble when they do an evil twin episode and one could construe this as an evil twin if they hadn't already done it with "Allegiance". But this is not an evil twin, it is a tortured twin and it's a twin story I can buy." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 279)
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
- Debbie David 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
- Debbie David – 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
2359; 2361; 2364; 2367; 2377; Aries, USS; Betazed; bluff; brain organization pattern; brain scan; career; cavern; childhood; cloning; command pathway; containment beam; crane block; crystal; distortion field; dozen; earthquake; energy surge; EPS coupling; Federation; file server; fingerprint; fracture; Gandhi, USS; genetic drift; Heisenberg compensator; humanoid; "I Remember You"; imzadi; interlink pathway; ion radiation; Janaran Falls; king; Lagana sector; memorial service; meter; middle name; mirror; mission plan; Mok'bara; Nervala IV; Nervala away team; Nervala IV primary; 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
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