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.
Here are a few more interesting tidbits, and you can see the rest over at Ain’t It Cool News.
- The younger writers said they were frustrated with Piller because he wouldn’t let TNG characters argue as much as Spock and McCoy used to.
- [Writer Naran] Shankar didn’t understand why there was alcohol that didn’t get you drunk. And writers joked that if people really had holodecks and replicators they would never leave the house.
- A “technobabble generator” created as a joke by a friend of Shankar became a frequently utilized not-joke writers’ room tool.
- Gene Roddenberry’s original rules for the series included “no time travel,” “no dream sequences” and “no mention of the original series.”
- “Yesterday’s Enterprise” evolved out of an idea not from the show’s writing staff but from “pre-production associate” Eric Stillwell – an alternate-universe idea that involved revisiting The Guardian of Forever [first introduced in the Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever”].