Memory Alpha
Memory Alpha

"He's not Will. He is Will, but… you know what I mean."
– Beverly Crusher, 2369 ("Second Chances")

William Thomas "Tom" Riker was a result of a transporter accident in 2361 that created two William Thomas Rikers, genetically indistinguishable from each other, with personality and memories identical up to the point of the duplication. One of the duplicates continued to be known as William Riker. The other chose to use his middle name and be known as Thomas Riker.

Early life[]

A descendant of Yankee forebears, William Thomas Riker was born on August 19th, 2335 to Kyle and Betty Riker in Alaska on Earth. (TNG: "The Last Outpost", "The Icarus Factor", "Conundrum", "Second Chances", "Lower Decks"; PIC: "The Bounty") His distant ancestors included Thaddius Riker, a Union Army colonel who fought during the American Civil War of the mid-19th century, and a particularly rugged great-grandfather of note. (VOY: "Death Wish"; TNG: "Shades of Gray")

According to "Chain Of Command, Part I", Riker preferred Will over William, but was also acknowledged as Bill in "The Naked Now" and "Haven". While his middle initial was first given in "Encounter at Farpoint", his full middle name of Thomas was not established until "Second Chances". In writing "Second Chances", "Rene Echevarria said he created most of the Riker background […] but the group finally decided that "simplest was best" for a middle name. Taylor recalled that "Tecumseh" [as in William Tecumseh Sherman, later referenced by Riker in "Death Wish"] was among those considered–and, no, "Tiberius (as in James Kirk) never was..." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 1st ed., p. 250)

Peter David's novel Imzadi, which predated "Second Chances", gave Riker's middle name as "Thelonious" (possibly an allusion to jazz musician Thelonious Monk.) Jonathan Frakes voiced support for "Thelonious" on Twitter. [1] The novel Q-Squared explains that Riker's full name is William Thomas Thelonius Riker.

The Double Helix novel Double or Nothing stated that another ancestor of Riker's was an important early Federation statesman.

Betty died when Will was only two years old, leaving his father to raise him alone. (TNG: "Interface", "Time Squared") The Rikers remained in Alaska at Betty's wish. The only thing which kept Kyle going was Will, but he did not feel as if he could discuss the situation with him, even when Will was older. The memories of Betty's presence at their Alaska home were also painful for both. This initial trauma created a rift between the two Rikers which lasted thirty years. (TNG: "The Icarus Factor")

Betty's name is from Riker's bio seen in "Conundrum". The circumstances surrounding her death were never revealed, although "The Icarus Factor" seems to imply that it was due to illness.

When Will first started school in 2340, the five-year-old told all of his new friends that his mother was still alive. Eventually, he told the story so often that he began to believe the lie. Soon, his teacher learned of this problem, and both she and Kyle had to talk to Will and make him realize that his mother was dead and was not coming back. Will cried the entire night following, but later realized it was an important step in accepting his mother's death. (TNG: "Interface")

However, Will's relationship with Kyle continued to deteriorate into his early teens. He was often left to care for himself, learning such skills as cooking. (TNG: "Time Squared", "Future Imperfect")

Will was never able to concentrate much on subjects such as math, as he constantly daydreamed about starships. (TNG: "The Royale")

Riker fishing, remastered

Young Will Riker with a nice catch

In 2344, Will and his father went on a fishing trip. Will was able to hook a large fish, but Kyle insisted on reeling the fish in. This incident bothered Will for many years.

He also practiced anbo-jyutsu with his father. By 2347, when Will was twelve, Kyle admitted that his son's skills at the sport were superior. Will did not know that the only reason he always lost was because his father used illegal hachidan kiritsu moves.

Kyle completely abandoned Will by 2350, when Will was fifteen. Will held a grudge against his father for the following fifteen years. (TNG: "The Icarus Factor")

Starfleet career[]

Starfleet Academy[]

Will entered Starfleet Academy in 2353. Paul Rice was at the Academy at the same time, and they were friends. Riker's superintendent was a Vulcan, who had taken the time to memorize the personnel files of each and every cadet. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part I", "The Arsenal of Freedom", "The First Duty")

During his first year, Riker felt at odds with everyone, as if the world was against him. (TNG: "Frame of Mind")

At one point, Riker calculated a sensory blind spot on a Tholian vessel and hid within it during a battle simulation. (TNG: "Peak Performance")

Upon graduation in 2357, Riker was ranked eighth in his class and was commissioned as an officer with the serial number was SC 231-427. He set lofty goals for himself and hoped to reach captain before thirty-five years of age. (TNG: "Chain Of Command, Part I", "Gambit, Part I", "Second Chances"; PIC: "The Bounty")

A cut scene from "Coming of Age" would have had Riker telling Wesley Crusher of how tough the Academy's entrance exam was for him, even reliving the fear for a moment.

Early postings and assignments[]

Service aboard the Pegasus[]

Seven months after graduation, Ensign William Riker's first posting was to the USS Pegasus under the command of Captain Erik Pressman. He was the ship's conn officer, and his youthful appearance earned him the nickname "Ensign Babyface," coined by fellow crewmember Lieutenant Boylen. (TNG: "The Pegasus") Phil Wallace was another of Riker's friends aboard the Pegasus. (ENT: "These Are the Voyages...")

Fresh from the Academy, Riker was still somewhat serious about his work. Loyalty and obedience to his commanding officer were top priorities, with his ears still ringing with words like "duty" and "honor". This attitude caused him to behave against the principles of the Treaty of Algeron during a crisis on board the ship.

Captain Pressman had been illegally testing a prototype phasing cloaking device aboard the Pegasus. This top secret project was in violation of the Treaty of Algeron, not to mention extremely dangerous to the crew, leading most of the Pegasus officers, such as the first officer and chief engineer, to mutiny against Pressman. Riker was the only bridge officer to defend the captain, picking up a phaser and instigating a running firefight all the way to the escape pods. Only a few other members of the crew joined Riker and Pressman. Once safely away, Riker and the others watched as the Pegasus apparently exploded, killing the remaining seventy-one personnel.

Although Pressman commended Riker for his unquestioning loyalty, over the years Riker began to have doubts about whether he had made the right decision. The Starfleet Judge Advocate General investigated the Pegasus incident, but the survivors participated in a coverup. The JAG discovered evidence of a mutiny aboard the Pegasus before its destruction. While further investigation was recommended, Starfleet Intelligence declared the entire incident classified and no follow-up was ever conducted. (TNG: "The Pegasus")

Riker's graduation from Starfleet Academy and posting to the Pegasus is depicted in The Lost Era book Deny Thy Father.

Stationed on Betazed[]

Betazed surface

Riker and Troi on Betazed

Following the Pegasus incident, Riker was stationed on Betazed. While there, he met Deanna Troi. The two began a relationship which lasted several years. (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", "Ménage à Troi", "Second Chances")

Riker's tour of duty on Betazed as well as his early relationship with Troi are depicted in the novel Imzadi by Peter David.

Sometime during his early career, Riker needed to wear a feathered costume while on a diplomatic mission to Armus IX. Similarly, he wore furs to meet with the leadership council on Kabatris. (TNG: "Angel One")

Service aboard the Potemkin and Duplication Incident[]

By 2361, Riker was promoted to lieutenant and served in the operations division aboard the USS Potemkin. Aboard the Potemkin, he developed a tactic which involved using a planet's magnetic pole and shutting down all ship's systems to confuse an enemy vessel's sensors. He also took up poker so he could ingratiate himself with the senior officers in their games, which came across as rather obvious brownnosing. Fortunately, they realized he was young and inexperienced and decided not to hold it against him. (TNG: "Peak Performance", "Lower Decks")

Later that year, Riker led an away team to Nervala IV to rescue researchers stranded at the outpost on that world. Riker was the last to beam out. Atmospheric distortions threatened to dissipate his pattern, so the Potemkin transporter chief compensated by creating a second confinement beam. Only one beam was needed for rematerialization on the ship, so the second beam was shut down. In an odd twist of fate, the second transporter beam, which had exactly the same phase differential as the distortion field, maintained its integrity and was reflected back to the planet's surface, where it also successfully rematerialized Riker. The Potemkin crew did not realize that the beam had been reflected to create duplicate Rikers, resulting in Riker remaining stranded there for the next eight years. Up until the moment of transport, both Rikers were the same person. As a result, both had an equal claim to being the "real" William T. Riker. (TNG: "Second Chances")

Eight years later[]

Thomas Riker, 2369

Riker, rescued from seclusion

The existence of this other William Riker (hereafter referred to as "Thomas") was discovered on Nervala IV eight years later in 2369 when the USS Enterprise-D returned to retrieve scientific research that had been left behind. With the aid of Thomas, who had altered the computer systems on the planet to aid in his survival, the Enterprise away team was able to access the information and return to the ship with Thomas.

Will Riker received a promotion to lieutenant commander for his gallantry on the planet. While these actions occurred prior to the transporter accident and therefore were as much Thomas Riker's actions as they were Will's, Thomas remained a lieutenant.

Thomas and William clashed almost immediately due to the resentment each felt towards the other. The eight years of living different lives made them entirely different men – William evolved into a cautious and duty-driven officer while Thomas remained impulsive and reckless. As a result of conflicts with William – who was by that time a superior officer (a commander) – Lieutenant Riker decided to leave the Enterprise. He chose to use his middle name, Thomas, to distinguish himself from his counterpart. Captain Jean-Luc Picard managed to get Thomas a posting on the USS Gandhi where he could continue his Starfleet career. Upon Thomas' departure, William seemed to have accepted Thomas' existence and gave him his (or rather, their) trombone as a parting gift. (TNG: "Second Chances")

Joining the Maquis[]

Thomas Riker on defiant bridge

Thomas and Kira aboard the Defiant

In 2370, Thomas expressed dismay at the Federation's policies towards the Cardassians and the Federation colonies in the Demilitarized Zone, and later joined the Maquis resistance. In early 2371, Thomas, posing as William Riker, came aboard Deep Space 9 and stole the newly-commissioned USS Defiant.

With Major Kira as his unwilling passenger, Thomas took the Defiant to the Orias system, deep in Cardassian space, where the Maquis believed that the Cardassians were building a fleet of warships. Major Kira accused Thomas of still acting like a Starfleet officer instead of a terrorist; more concerned with intelligence reports and interstellar politics than with simply hurting the enemy. Trying to locate the Defiant with the assistance of Commander Sisko, Gul Dukat swore that he knew nothing of the fleet in the Orias system. He was telling the truth, as the fleet had been constructed by the Obsidian Order in direct violation of Cardassian law. As the Defiant arrived at Orias, it was intercepted by a number of Cardassian warships.


Sisko achieved a compromise with Dukat and negotiated Thomas' surrender – in exchange for the Defiant's sensor logs of the secretive Orias base, Thomas' sentence would be reduced to life imprisonment in the Lazon II labor camp, while the Defiant would be escorted back to the Federation-Cardassian border returning the rest of the Maquis crew to the Federation for trial. Thomas was initially wary of accepting the terms offered to him, but Kira pointed out that it would accomplish his mission and let his crew escape Cardassian imprisonment, even challenging his reluctance as some kind of death wish, a desire to go out in a blaze of glory in order to distinguish himself from the further-advanced William Riker.

Immediately after Thomas surrendered the Defiant to the Galor-class cruisers of the Cardassian Central Command, the Kraxon extended its shields around the Defiant to protect her from the fast approaching ships from Orias (upgraded Keldon-class cruisers with markedly higher top speeds than regular ships of the class). Dukat was confident that the Orias ships would not dare fire on Cardassian ships. Upon seeing this, the ships from Orias – under the command of the Obsidian Order and not technically part of the Cardassian military – turned around and returned to the Orias system.

Just before Thomas transported over to the Kraxon, Kira promised to return for him one day. (DS9: "Defiant")

By 2381, Thomas had presumably either been released, escaped, or was rescued as he was no longer in prison. (LD: "The Inner Fight")

After prison[]

By 2381, Thomas Riker was on a list of former Starfleet officers that Starfleet Command ordered to be located and escorted to Earth following a series of mysterious attacks on starships of different species. (LD: "The Inner Fight")

Personal interests[]


Riker was a jazz aficionado, and his favorite musical instrument was the trombone. Although he had trouble with certain pieces, including "Night Bird" as he spent ten years practicing it. (TNG: "Second Chances")

In reality, Jonathan Frakes is a trombone player and provided the audio whenever Riker was shown playing. Riker was also shown playing the trombone in TNG: "11001001", "Future Imperfect", "Conundrum", "The Next Phase", "Second Chances", and "Thine Own Self".


Riker first began playing poker as a junior officer aboard the Potemkin. (TNG: "Lower Decks")


Riker had several sports-related hobbies. Anbo-jyutsu was one such interest, (TNG: "The Icarus Factor") as were Parrises squares (TNG: "Future Imperfect", "Timescape") and handball. (ENT: "These Are the Voyages...") He had skills in the martial arts, tai chi chuan in particular (TNG: "Second Chances")

Other interests[]

Riker had an interest in cooking from when he had had to fend for himself as a child. (TNG: "Time Squared", "Remember Me") He also enjoyed fishing. One of his favorite fishing spots was Curtis Creek, which he recreated in a holoprogram. (TNG: "The Icarus Factor", "Second Chances") His favorite vacation spot was Risa. (TNG: "Captain's Holiday", "The Game")



William T. Riker[]

Thomas and William Riker

Thomas and William

The Enterprise was sent to Nervala IV in late 2369 when the atmospheric disturbances began to subside. Commander William T. Riker led an away team to the surface, and discovered his duplicate, later known as Thomas Riker. The two quickly clashed over various issues, including Tom's resistance to direct orders and his attempts to rekindle a relationship with Deanna Troi. Tom felt that Will was the one who had benefited from his misery of being stuck on the planet for eight years. After working together to retrieve log files from the station computers and saving one another's lives, they began to accept one another. Thomas transferred to the USS Gandhi, and Will gave him their trombone as a parting gift. (TNG: "Second Chances")

In the early stages of writing "Second Chances", Jeri Taylor and the TNG 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.

By 2371, Tom had resigned his post to join the Maquis. He pretended to be Will Riker in order to gain access to the USS Defiant, which he then stole for use by the Maquis. (DS9: "Defiant")


Deanna Troi[]

Thomas Riker and Deanna Troi

Thomas and Deanna

During the time he spent on the planet, Thomas had remained deeply in love with Deanna Troi, his girlfriend at the time. Thomas had planned to meet Deanna on Risa the year of the transporter mishap, a fact upon which he had dwelt while stranded. In contrast, the Riker that beamed off-planet eight years prior was soon promoted and made his career a priority over their relationship, and never made the trip to Risa with Deanna.

Upon his rescue, Thomas told Deanna that he could not believe Will had failed to meet her as planned and that he was hoping their relationship could resume. Initially, Deanna was opposed to the idea, but found herself won over despite her objections. In the end, however, Thomas decided that he could not remain on the Enterprise alongside his counterpart, while Troi's feelings for him were not strong enough for her to leave the Enterprise with him. (TNG: "Second Chances")

Kira Nerys[]

Riker kissing Kira

Riker "says goodbye" to Kira

Riker met Kira Nerys at Quark's Bar when he traveled to Deep Space 9. The two hit it off and spent three hours talking. Before Riker transported over to the Kraxon, Riker kissed Kira. (DS9: "Defiant")

Key dates[]

Memorable quotes[]

"I'm Commander William Riker from the Federation starship Enterprise."
"That's not possible. I'm Will Riker."

- William Riker and William Riker upon meeting on Nervala IV (TNG: "Second Chances")

"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 (TNG: "Second Chances")

"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 (TNG: "Second Chances")

"You always had the better hand... in everything."

- Lieutenant Riker, resigning a poker game to Commander Riker (TNG: "Second Chances")

"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 (TNG: "Second Chances")

"The last time I was here, I was only able to spend a couple of hours at Quark's – but by the time I left, I had all of his latinum and a date with one of his dabo girls, so I thought I might try my luck again." (laughs)
"You be careful – Quark's dabo wheel has been a little stingy lately, and one of his dabo girls is dating my son…"

- Thomas Riker and Sisko (DS9: "Defiant")

"The Maquis have been hearing rumors about shifting loyalties in the Cardassian government. Certain hardline elements were unsatisfied with the Federation treaty and are doing whatever they can to scrap it. We had our hands on an intelligence report outlining a suspected military buildup in the Orias system. A secret buildup that even the Central Command isn't aware of."
"You're telling me you did all this to attack some secret base that may or may not exist?"
"I'm convinced that it does. They are building an invasion fleet. If we let them finish it, these renegade Cardassians are going to use it."

- Thomas Riker and Major Kira about the Maquis invasion fleet (DS9: "Defiant")

"You shouldn't go fishing today, you won't catch anything."

- Thomas Riker to Kira (DS9: "Defiant")

"Tough little ship."

- Thomas Riker on the Defiant (DS9: "Defiant")



Background information[]

Thomas Riker was played by actor Jonathan Frakes, who also portrayed Will Riker.

The TNG writing staff toyed with the idea of having Thomas Riker permanently replace Will Riker in "Second Chances". With Will killed off, Thomas Riker would have been given a position at the Enterprise's helm, and Data would have been moved to the first officer position. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 1st ed., p. 249)

Jonathan Frakes described Thomas Riker as being "much less confident than Will. But he's also tender and sweeter. I think I like Tom better!" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 191) Troi actress Marina Sirtis concurred, "I preferred Thomas Riker. I thought he was cuter than Will." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 113, p. 19)

Jonathan Frakes filmed his scenes for "Defiant" between Wednesday 5 October 1994 and Tuesday 11 October 1994 on Paramount Stages 4, 17, and 18. According to the call sheet, he received a hair and beard cut prior to filming on 5 October 1994. The call sheets also distinguished the parts of "Will Riker" and "Tom Riker" in the cast section by using the numbers 9A and 9B.

The DS9 Companion notes that Thomas' return was on a list of stories the DS9 writers were not interested in hearing pitches on. In an interview with Jonathan Frakes provided with the TNG Season 6 DVD box set, however, he stated that he had approached Ronald D. Moore regarding a Thomas Riker DS9 episode involving Damar's rebellion, an idea that was not brought to fruition by the conclusion of the series. Towards the end of DS9, a rumor that Tom was to be revealed as a member of Section 31 emerged, although Moore said it was not true. (AOL chat, 1998)

Ira Steven Behr commented: "I thought that character... we could have had fun with that character on DS9. At that time, unfortunately for Jonathan Frakes who really liked doing it, that was the moment where I said, “We have to cut ties with the past, for sure.” As much as I liked that character, I said, 'We can’t bring him back. Sorry'. The guys kept saying, “We can use him.” We could never have used him enough in order to really get the good storyline going, continuing. That was a problem, to be honest, but that’s the character I would have liked to have driven". [2]


In John Vornholt's novel Quarantine, set in 2371, Thomas transferred from the operations division to the sciences division after a conflict with the Gandhi's first officer. He wore a blue Starfleet uniform and served as a medical courier pilot. It was in this function that he abandoned Starfleet for the Maquis, joining Chakotay and B'Elanna Torres' cell after working with them to stop a dangerous virus. According to Quarantine, it was Chakotay's idea to steal the Defiant from Deep Space 9.

In Peter David's novel Triangle: Imzadi II, also set in 2371, Thomas was freed from the Lazon II labor camp by Romulans, and had a brief affair with Sela, who believed that he was the original Riker. Driven by jealousy over news of Worf and Deanna's recent engagement, Thomas was manipulated into aiding an assassination attempt on Klingon Chancellor Gowron and Emperor Kahless, but it was averted due to Odo's interference, as Riker and Worf managed to replace the bottle that Thomas had been given – he had been told it contained poison that would only kill Gowron but it actually contained a dangerous nano-virus that would annihilate the Klingon race – with Odo. Thomas managed to escape capture, but his actions actually strengthened the Klingon-Federation alliance; believing the bottle to be poison, Thomas had been prepared to drink it himself before Gowron, thus prompting Gowron to reflect that there was still value in the alliance with the Federation if even a discredited Starfleet officer was willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of their alliance. This novel also featured some reflections on Thomas' reasons for abandoning Starfleet, including the idea that he sees himself as an "alternate" for Riker – having witnessed what Riker became as a loyal Starfleet officer, he decided to find out for himself how he would do as something else – as well as Troi speculating that Thomas had come to idealise their relationship, to the extent that he appeared to have forgotten how their last few days on Betazed had actually unfolded (Imzadi revealed that Riker and Troi's last meeting on the planet occurred when Troi walked in on Will in bed with another woman when he was drunk and believed that Lwaxana had convinced Troi to abandon any future relationship).

Thomas Riker late-2371 Malibu

Riker in Cardassian custody in late-2371

In the Malibu Comics Deep Space Nine title, two stories were published extending Riker's story. "Sole Asylum, Part One" and "Part Two", set at the end of 2371, showed that Riker had been taken to Cardassia Prime and that Cardassian scientists were trying to discover the secret of his duplication in order to create an army of duplicates. It was also revealed that Riker's cells were only nine years old, suggesting their complete creation at the time of the accident. Unable to rationalize the accident against the Law of Conservation of Mass and proven transporter theory, one of the scientists, a Dr. Nol, told the Cardassian High Council that he must be from an alternate dimension. Because of this, the Council decided to send him back to a labor camp.

In the computer game Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Dominion Wars, set between 2372 and 2374, a Federation Alliance mission involves rescuing Thomas from a Cardassian convoy, after which point he is available as a commander for your ships. A Dominion mission in the same game requires the player to destroy the Galaxy-class starship under his command.

In Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens' novel series Millennium, an alternate timeline found Thomas rescued from the labor camp by the Grigari. Feeling abandoned by Starfleet, Thomas joined the Bajoran Ascendancy, although he secretly worked as a double agent for Starfleet. By 2399, he was the commanding officer of the USS Opaka and was killed on Christmas Day of the same year after failing to kill Kai Weyoun 5. This timeline was later reset thanks to Benjamin Sisko and the crew of Deep Space 9.

The eBook A Weary Life revealed that, shortly before the events of Star Trek: First Contact, Will Riker still felt betrayed by Thomas' actions in stealing the Defiant. In a conversation with Deanna Troi, it was revealed that Thomas had left the Gandhi and her crew to join the Maquis. Thomas had been recaptured by the Cardassians after the attempt to assassinate Gowron, and had been returned to the labor camp on Lazon II. All of these feelings had Will questioning his inclusion on a mission to the DMZ assigned by Picard. The feelings came to the surface again when Will met with Kalita and discovered that Thomas had allowed himself to be captured to save his Maquis conspirators. Discovering this led Will to feel pride for his "twin," the first positive feeling he'd had since Thomas joined the Maquis.

According to the Star Trek: The Fall novel The Poisoned Chalice, Thomas Riker was still alive in 2385 and had been recruited into a Starfleet Intelligence black ops team known as Active Four, working with Tuvok and Nog to find those responsible for the recent assassination of the Federation President, only to nearly be killed as part of a conspiracy to frame the Typhon Pact – a recent collection of anti-Federation powers – for the crime rather than the Cardassian terrorists truly responsible. In the next novel Peaceable Kingdoms, he assists Doctor Crusher and a Cardassian contact in finding evidence that the current Federation pro tem president – then holding the position for sixty days after the assassination until a full election can be held – is actually a former collaborator with the Cardassians during the Occupation of Bajor who adopted another Bajoran's identity to fake his death.

External links[]

This is a featured article. At the time it was featured (December 2007), it was considered one of the best examples of the Memory Alpha community's work. This article was featured more than five years ago though, and its status should be reviewed. You can use the links below to see how the article has changed since it was last featured.
Featured revision (725473)Diff to currentBlurb