If you’re a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you probably recall the episode “Second Chances,” which revealed that a transporter accident some years earlier had created an exact duplicate of William Riker, then left stranded on a planet while the original Riker unwittingly went on about his business. While Tom Riker — the name the duplicate took upon reuniting with Will — later appeared in Deep Space 9 as a member of the Maquis, it turns out Next Generation could have had much bigger plans for Tom…and much more final plans for Will.
The folks over at Ain’t It Cool News have posted a look at the special features in the newly released third-season Next Gen Blu-ray set, and they’ve got a rundown of various cool factoids revealed in all the bonus material. One of the more intriguing is that “Second Chances” very nearly killed off Will Riker, and would have replaced him permanently with his teleporter twin Tom. As former Next Gen writer (and Battlestar Galactica rebooter) Ron Moore puts it, “It was a chance to reinvent the character.”
It makes a certain amount of sense. Riker was one of those characters who was always kind of tricky to manage, to the degree that his refusal to accept a promotion and leave the Enterprise became a running joke. Replacing him with Tom would have opened up all manner of story possibilities, most notably with Deanna Troi, who Tom was still very much in love with. It’s a sort of twisted love triangle that Farscape would later do exceptionally well with its story of duplicate Crichtons. At any rate, Michael Piller eventually nixed the Will/Tom death storyline, and Tom went on to serve in Starfleet and eventually pop up in DS9.