Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Second Chances"

3.5 stars

Air date: 5/24/1993
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Mike Medlock
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise arrives at a barren world that's the site of a former Starfleet installation that was abandoned eight years ago because the planet's distortion field rendered access to the surface impossible by both shuttle and transporter. With brief windows of entry over the next few days, the Enterprise hopes to retrieve data from the station's computers before the opportunity for access expires. Crucial detail: Riker was part of the original evacuation mission eight years ago when Starfleet abandoned the post and was just barely beamed out before the window in the field closed completely.

So the crew is stunned to find a doppelganger of Riker on the station who claims to have been trapped there for eight years. It turns out the planet's distortion field caused Riker's transporter beam to be copied and reflected back to the surface, essentially cloning him (memories and all) into two separate people who are equally and legitimately William T. Riker. Neither knew that the other existed.

It's another high concept, to be sure, but it's a brilliant one the story takes seriously and uses to explore the past and present of Riker's character better than nearly all TNG episodes that have ever centered on him. Here's an episode that stops to consider that when you come face to face with someone who claims to be you and the proof shows he's not lying, a piece of you feels like your identity has been stolen. While this version of Riker seems a little too well-adjusted (and, indeed, not as different from our Riker in general as he probably should be) given that he has spent the past eight years in total isolation, the story uses its premise to posit a series of what-ifs (hence the title) — taking a look at the choices Riker made eight years ago, and asking whether he would make them again.

Most crucially is the question of Riker and Troi. If you look at the six years of TNG's run to this point, you realize that a lot was implied and hinted at about Riker and Troi and their relationship before they were both assigned to the Enterprise — indeed, the most concrete dialogue might actually have been in "Encounter at Farpoint," regrettably. But "Second Chances" finally takes a look at these two people and acknowledges that they once had an important and real relationship, and uses that to tell the rare romantic story on TNG that actually, truly works — precisely because it has a real history and real stakes and is believable, rather than being concocted in a few hours or days and banished to the realm of the immediately irrelevant, like most one-off romances.

This Riker spent many of those first few trapped months holding on to the hope that he would be rescued and ultimately reunited with Deanna — and when he learns that after the very mission that left him stranded his duplicate went on to make his career the priority, he finds it almost impossible to believe. He is certain he would never make that choice himself. But the situation allows them to perhaps pick up where they left off, and Troi herself allows for the possibility. "Second Chances" is essentially an exploration of the age-old adage of The Road Not Traveled, and a surprisingly effective one with good dialogue and character moments. One man went on to choose his career over his relationship, while the other one spent eight years trapped in a hole. Now seeing the big picture, the guy who was trapped in the hole has some resentments.

This culminates in a very good scene where Riker plays a poker hand against himself and the two of them clear the air. It's a simple and grounded scene dealing with an extraordinary situation. But naturally, you can't go home again; there are too many complications for the romance here to continue, and ultimately we can't have two Rikers living aboard the Enterprise. But I respect the decision by the writers not to make the obvious move of killing Thomas Riker and instead having him transferred to another ship to continue his life. (And this would, of course, have its own intriguingly bizarro consequences in DS9's third-season episode, "Defiant.") "Second Chances" is an episode that could've been a cynical or shallow exploration of its premise, but the execution is anything but.

Previous episode: Rightful Heir
Next episode: Timescape

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87 comments on this post

Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
I like what the creators were trying to do here, but Tom Riker is just too well-adjusted after eight years of solitude. Hell, he looks too well-fed, if nothing else!

And the fact that Deanna never mentions Tom Riker again -- and jumps in the sack with Worf of all people in season 7 -- is ridiculous.
Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
I'm with Paul--Deanna's apparent ease at getting over him, when we've had hints that she still feels so strongly for Riker, is not believable.

I know that for the sake of the show they had to send Thomas Riker away, but it still made me mad. If they had kept him around for a bit so that relationship could have been explored more, I would have enjoyed it.

I've always thought I would enjoy meeting a "younger" self. Could be interesting--but Will acts like Thomas did it on purpose to screw with him. I don't like Will in this episode.

Which is all just quibble, really--I love this episode for the way they deal with the "what if?" scenario. It's a great one.
Wed, Sep 12, 2012, 9:13pm (UTC -5)
Apparently, the writers toyed with the idea of having William Riker die and Thomas Riker taking his place for the rest of the series. It would definitely been a gutsy move, but imagine the story possibilities arising just from the promotions (e.g. Thomas Riker at conn, Data First Officer, etc.)
Thu, Sep 13, 2012, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
@Nic -- I've read that, too. But, of course, even the idea of it shows that they were running out of ideas for Will Riker.
Sat, Sep 15, 2012, 2:11am (UTC -5)
Nah this one didn't work for me.

Particularly the way Troi just jumps into a relationship with the 'other' Riker.. makes her seem silly and desperate.

You know, I always thought Jonathan Frakes was a decent actor until this one and Frame of Mind came along.
Nick P.
Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 3:44pm (UTC -5)
Agreed wit Jammer. This is a wonderful episode from beginning to end. One of the neatest things about this episode is that because the series is well established at this time (in other words, OLD), it feels real what is going on at this point. These are real people who are dealing with things that they have lay dormant for a number of years.

I LOVE this episode, but as someone mentioned above my comment, next season Troi jumps in bed with Worf, and what the hell is Riker doing? I still feel like Riker is one of the most abused characters in Star Trek. He could have been so much more. I prefer Riker from season 1 and 2. I think ferengi have bigger balls than Riker by season 6 and 7. If you could have told Riker in Season 1 that in 7 years, he would still be first officer, he is not married to Troi (hasn't really banged her much either) AND he was offered command at least 3 times, he probably would have killed himself!
Tue, Oct 9, 2012, 2:11pm (UTC -5)
@Nick P:

That's a little over the top. Riker was still Riker until the fifth season or so. It's about then when he's basically late-TOS Scotty to Picard (Kirk) and Data (Spock).

I wonder if some of this had to do with Frakes directing a bunch of episodes. But either way, he certainly devolved from "the finest officer I've ever served with" to a background character.

He actually has a bit of a resurgence in the movies. His dialog with Cochrane in "FC" was good and, though it was Scotty-esque, he was good in command of the Enterprise is "Insurrection".

Of course, he was completely worthless in "Nemesis".
Thu, Nov 15, 2012, 12:07am (UTC -5)
I always think of this episode (and DS9's Defiant) when I'm rewatching Farscape's season 3 (with the duplicate Chrichtons). For me, Scape took everything I loved about my favorite sci fi and either turned it on its ear or made it better. This is pretty much a shining example of that. Finding out that there was some consideration of either killing off Will Riker or having both Rikers around for an episode or two is going to make that connection even stronger for me.
Cail Corishev
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
Watching the series back when I was about 20, one of the biggest frustrations was seeing the young, dashing Riker sitting around on the bridge while old man Picard went on one swashbuckling adventure after another. Now that I'm older, Picard doesn't seem quite so ridiculous, but the use of Riker was still disappointing. This episode was one of the few where we get to see a Riker out of Picard's shadow. Here after 8 years alone, or facing Locutus, or as an admiral in the future, he's a total bad-ass compared to the Will who hangs around being noble about being in the friend-zone with his Imzadi and passes up command after command so he can keep playing second banana to Picard.

His turn on DS9 was great for that reason too. I think he would have made a great regular or semi-regular character there as the much more relaxed, adventurous Tom. I liked Eddington well enough, but Frakes in that role over a number of episodes would have been excellent.
Wed, Jan 16, 2013, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
I'm surprised no one brought up the parallel's to this season's Tapestry. This one might have flown better if it was not so close in proximety to that one, but look at these together:

We view a version of a main character with some change made to their past and see the implications their experiences have had on making them who they are today. The character also sees this and has a new appreciation for their past experiences.

I don't really think it ultimately makes this a worse episode, but I do think it's interesting that they have such similar concepts. I guess it goes to show that if you reuse a concept well enough, people don't notice or don't care.
Wed, May 1, 2013, 12:58am (UTC -5)
I wish Will Riker would have seen his other self and realized that he had forfeited his dream of becoming a captain for the security of being a first officer, then asked Picard to speak with Starfleet about a promotion. Will Riker gets written off of the show (with the possibility of coming back in guest spots), while Tom Riker serves as a new lieutenant on the Enterprise. It would have provided a much needed shake-up to the show.
Wed, May 1, 2013, 6:49pm (UTC -5)
Congratulations, Krog. You've solved the narrative dilemma that prevented the twist described by Nic above: they were going to *kill* Will Riker (plummeting down the convenient bottomless pit) but, looking forward to movies, didn't want to disrupt the character. Which is a feeble excuse; if Tom Riker had been the status quo for a year, we would've followed him to movies, too.

But your idea avoids that problem, Krog. If Will Riker simply opted for promotion (just in time for the season-ending cliffhanger), it would've completed his character arc *and* left him alive for potential movie cameos. Again, it must've been the pressure of a TV writing schedule that kept them from seeing the possibility (even during the 6/7 break).
Fri, May 17, 2013, 5:00am (UTC -5)
I remember a while back seeing this (knowing, I think, from future episodes that Tom Riker is a more "edgy" version and then coming back to it) as a classic example of the nerd frustration of "bad boy comes along and *instantly* snaps up the girl you've been trying to figure out how to win for the past 6 years" in its purest form: a younger and more determined version of your own self.
William B
Fri, May 17, 2013, 5:39am (UTC -5)
@Claudane, technically not younger -- just with years less experience chasing other women. (Hint hint Commander.)
Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 9:22am (UTC -5)
Left a few many ends untied for me... Tom Riker's later appearance on DS9 would resolve some, but it's all a bit whirlwind to really explore the idea.

Plus the Troi - Tom split-up at the end didn't really ring true for me.
William B
Sun, Sep 22, 2013, 4:49pm (UTC -5)
I find this episode quite touching; this is the best romance story TNG ever did that was not a Picard episode (I think that, in different ways, one can make strong cases for "The Perfect Mate," "The Inner Light" and "Lessons"). I think this is also the second best Troi story in the series, after "Face of the Enemy." That said, it has one significant flaw which holds it back from greatness, and that flaw is, basically, that the episode can't really address the biggest flaw in Riker's characterization post-BOBW2. Why is Riker still on the Enterprise, and given that he's on the Enterprise, why hasn't he tried to make it work with Troi? It's not that I think Riker *should* have gone and gotten a command somewhere else, and the episode seems to suggest -- when Will says "I know what I want, and I know what I have" -- that he recognizes that the Enterprise is a special place, and that he'd rather continue working there than to move somewhere else. But I don't think that's enough to account for the big discrepancy between what Will *wanted* at the beginning of the series and what he wants now. He is less likely to take crazy risks, and has some maturity which Tom does not.

I didn't end up finishing it, but after rewatching BoBW I started writing about Riker's character arc in that ep, and why I think he stays on the Enterprise at the end. On some level, the idea that Riker *has* to leave the Enterprise to follow his career is just as much a construct as the idea that he *has* to stay and stay under Picard's thumb. By "defeating" Picard and rescuing him all in one motion, Riker proves in part 2 that it is not fear of working without the net that allows him to stay; he genuinely likes serving on the Enterprise under Picard for its own sake. "Future Imperfect," not long thereafter, suggests that maybe Riker's desire to stay on the ship is also because the ship he wants to command is really the Enterprise (Riker says something similar in Generations). Given that "The Icarus Factor" (in a somewhat muddled way) ties Riker's ambition to his anger at his father, I think that the fact that he has let go of some of his anger at Kyle Riker is also part of why it's possible for Will to get settled, and, in particular, for him to stay on the Enterprise to maintain a close relationship with his mentor, friend, and surrogate father in Jean-Luc.

And yet, while I can see all that, it still is not really made explicit, especially not in this show, and this means that there is a gap in the Will/Tom conflict. Tom is a reminder of what Will has left behind, both good and bad, but it doesn't lead clearly enough to the question of *why* he left that behind.

On the other hand, I think this does the best job of explaining the Riker/Troi relationship and breakup that has yet been done. On some level, I think Troi really is still not *over* Riker's prioritizing his career over her back in the day. If Riker could say with certainty that he was staying on the Enterprise for the forseeable future, and if he also decided that he genuinely wanted a relationship with Troi, I think that he could win her over. However, for the most part, that's not what Riker wants -- he likes the emotional intimacy he has with Troi, but going for anything deeper actually means risking hurting her again in a way that she might not be able to forgive or get over. When Will warns Troi about not falling for Tom, because Tom will hurt her, I think he's also implicitly warning Deanna about himself. *He* is still not trustworthy; it's not just that he wasn't trustworthy all those years ago, but he still does not trust himself not to hurt her.

For what it's worth, I think season six is a very good year for Riker stories -- this, "Frame of Mind," "Schisms," and the Riker/Jellico part of "Chain of Command" (part 2 especially) are all quite good.
Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 10:02am (UTC -5)
@William B: I think this is an underrated episode. It's probably the best Troi performance in the series. Sirtis was BY FAR the weakest actor on TNG, but she was good here. I also thought the episode did a good job of differentiating Tom and Will.

It's too bad "The Pegasus" didn't take place in the fourth or fifth season, because that did provide rationale for Riker not getting a command of his own for a time as his reputation was tarnished. But, after the Borg attack and before that episode, it was kind of amazing that he was still on the Enterprise. I know there's some indication that Riker didn't get a ship immediately after BOBW because the fleet needed to be rebuilt. But that flies in the face of the ridiculous size of Starfleet (as far as the number of ships) that we see in DS9. And, anyway, Riker could have stayed on the Excalibur after "Redemption" or captained one of the ships that Picard said NEEDED captains at that point (presumably, those ships were part of the post-BOBW buildup).
Thu, Dec 26, 2013, 10:24am (UTC -5)
Men's leisurewear and formalwear must be similar in the 24th century. The shirt Riker wore while performing in the band in Ten Forward,(where Beverly and Troi were all dressed up) looked like the same shirt Riker was wearing while leisurely reading in his quarters when Jellico came to fetch him to pilot a shuttle.
Sun, Jan 5, 2014, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
I like the idea of this episode, but Will Riker was being a jerk to Tom. They should have just had it out and called themselves brothers.

That, and I feel like nothing happened. I'm not an action junkie and action isn't necessarily a missing piece, but the episode doesn't really pique my interest. There's not enough real conflict, and the one between the Rikers feels artificial.

As for the relationship angle, I sort of like it. It would have been better if it weren't a one-off, though.
Sat, Jan 25, 2014, 11:16pm (UTC -5)
Now see, this was sci-fi! Love that transporter. It's just an amazing piece of equipment! It can cure illnesses, regenerate limbs, keep people alive for centuries and even duplicate a person by accident.
Used to love Marvel's 'What if ..'comic . This fits right in. I actually wouldn't mind having a replica of me out around but given Riker's personality, I could see how it would irk him.
Somebody should remind Data that he met his own doppel ganger. He's already dealt with the uniqueness question.
Evil Troi couldn't resist the chance to get Will back for choosing career over love. She just had to lead him on.
Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 8:45am (UTC -5)
I think this episode really suffered from the fact that in TNG, all storylines have to be resolved in 50 minutes. This concept doesn't work for a complex idea like this one. And it really highlights the limits of that kind of storytelling. A frequent TNG problem.

It also made me wonder why anyone ever uses transporters anymore.... lol.
Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 1:34pm (UTC -5)
Agreed on the time constraint issue. It's probably also why everyone on the Enterprise was so ridiculously nonchalant about there suddenly being a Riker clone.
Tue, Feb 18, 2014, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
Liked the episode but thought it had a higher than realized ceiling. Remember when Calvin from "Calvin and Hobbs" clones himself? That WAS epic. This was more banter and argumental. Seemed they could have had some fun with this. Trombone duals...exchanged stories about the people they know...changed uniforms for fun to throw people off. Definitely needed more humor.

Just seemed like the same thing when they met...stupid arguing...nothing more.

Jeri Taylor (and much of the staff) wanted to kill Will Riker and replace him with Tom. Tom would have run ops and Data would have been the executive officer. Berman thought about it, but said no because he thought it would cause too many problems. Too bad...
Sun, Apr 6, 2014, 11:38am (UTC -5)
After eight years and having been able to restore various systems, one would think he'd have found a few minutes to replicate another garment, or at the least mend his uniform.
Andrew T
Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 11:29am (UTC -5)
I love this episode. That poker scene was just great. It's just a little constrained by the format.

I agree with the first commenter though, Tom Riker wouldn't be as well adjusted.

Has anyone seen 'Moon'? It kind of illustrates how years of isolation would change you. The main characters in that was talking to plants and that was only after 3 years. If Tom Riker was alone for 8 years he'd be nutty.
Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 7:35am (UTC -5)
They should have made this a two-parter, but only if they were going to follow through on killing the "real" Will.

As it is, it's rushed. Will's hostility toward his double comes off as forced.

Regarding Tom's state of mind, I think the only explanation is that the station had a holodeck. That's pure conjecture, but it's the only thing that would explain his mental health.
Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 5:00pm (UTC -5)
If it were a two-parter, Tommy, then the part that needs telling is what you suggest: a flashback to Robinson Crusoe with a holodeck. Contrary to your view, such an experience might wreck his mind even more. He might create an entire village of Fridays (like the guy in DS9's "Shadowplay"), but he alone would be their god-creator. And when he returns to civilization, he'd have trouble adjusting to reality, still interacting as if it were fantasy. How many holo-Trois did he bang? How many volleyballs did he kill?

But this got stuck in the "one episode per story; one gimmick per story" paradigm.
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 1:56pm (UTC -5)
About the Worf-Troi-Riker triangle, there is or was a fanfic set post-Generations where Troi jokingly suggest still seeing both of the them, leading to a hilarious reply by Riker, "I don't share my Trois with anyone".
Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 9:36am (UTC -5)
When the senior officer play poker and make bets, what exactly are they betting with, in a currency free society? It has to be something real, since Worf folds right away, and Data does further in. And if it something tangible, how has Lt. Riker accumulated enough of it in his short time "back" to make bets like his 50 opener and his 300 later on? The scene was clearly written to be a story-serving dramatic confrontation, but this still nags in the background.
Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 11:02am (UTC -5)
Sigh. As I've argued before, the broader TNG society is not currency-free. I see I'm going to have to write a dissertation on this and cite all the episodes that make this clear. It will be too long for this space, but I'll give y'all a link, when I get around to it someday.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
Ahh, Riker... Rewatching TNG, it has become apparent to me that he was devolving into a Neanderthal long before Genesis appeared. I'm not sure where and when the problem started; it was definitely present at the end of Season 5 and appeared to be present throughout Season 6. I'm also not sure how it happened. Is it the writers' faults? Is it Frakes? I don't know. Narrative-wise, though, his story definitely hit a wall at BoBW. He just saved the entire Federation, so what is he going to do next? Disappear back into obscurity by remaining a first officer. I guess he's entitled to it if that's what he really wants, but narrative-wise it's a disaster. He doesn't have a purpose anymore; his character is practically retired. We know he's capable of doing more than this, but yet he chooses not to. So what's the use of watching him? It may have worked if the writers focused on his reasons for staying on the Enterprise (putting down roots), but they shied away from that too. As WilliamB suggested, at this point there's no reason for him not to go after Troi again, unless he has fully moved on. But as All Good Things and (sigh) Insurrection and Nemesis show, he hasn't. So if his reason for staying on the Enterprise is because he is comfortable and ready to settle down, why isn't he ready for a relationship?

So his career is at a standstill and his social life is in stasis. So it's hard to write stories about him. Maybe that's why he gets the everyman stories, stories that he just reacts to stuff rather than be about him (Frame of Mind and Schisms are perfect examples). He's such a bland persona at this point that there's nothing else for him. There's no buildup on his ambition anymore, and there's no longer much emphasis on his ability to think on his feet and improvise. Unfortunately, the only thing left is to contrast with Picard (a la Kirk and Spock). But since Picard's character set is being calm, rational, and highly competent, that just means Riker becomes loud and dumb and emotional. Hence his constant yelling and stomping around and failing to solve anything.

I know some people have said that the problem is that he no longer has the cool duty of leading away teams, but is that a cause or an effect of his devolution? If Picard is becoming more exciting to the audience and becoming a more interesting character, than it becomes easier for the writers to write about Picard. Who wants to write for a nobody? It's not as bad as I remember Chakotay being, but the Riker of later Trek is a rather weak character.

So it was nice to at least see an episode like this, but I'm not altogether thrilled with the execution. Perhaps part of it is, in fact, that it's hard to deal with an issue like this in such a short time-frame. But I think there are some plotting issues too:

1) I was continually reminded of Shelby. I'm not sure if that's a good thing. But Will getting upset at Tom doing things his own way on an away mission? Tom going over Will's head to Picard, and Will getting pissed at it? The old fight about playing it safe? A poker match that is a not-at-all veiled subtext over their antagonism? It was all the same, covering no new material. BoBW concluded that storyline nicely, with Riker proving he could take risks and step up when the time came. So seeing the issues come up again here felt rather unnecessary. But it was unfortunately a big part of the plot.

2) Reading these comments is the first I heard that they were planning to kill Will in this episode. The underground scene suddenly makes a lot more sense. I thought on watching it how plainly obvious it was as a setup to get rid of one of the two Rikers. And just because they didn't do it here, it doesn't mean the scene works any better. If they scrapped the script where Will died, they should have scrapped this scene as well.

3) The technology is highly implausible. If we are going to ding Rascals for the silly transporter accident, and if we're going to ding Unnatural Selection for turning the transporter into a device to make others immortal, than we should ding this episode for making the transporter into a duplicator. I forgive a lot of Trek's magic, and in truth I forgive this episode of it too, but I feel the need to point it out anyway. In order to be logically consistent, we should have just as much a problem with this event as we do any of Voyager's reset buttons. Personally I can swallow more disbelief if the episode is good, but I do want to point it out.

So that leaves, essentially, the Troi romance subplot. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I honestly don't have a problem with Troi ignoring Tom after this episode. It was foreshadowed pretty heavily when Will mentioned that Tom was basically the same person and would make the same choices he did. And then, in the end, we see Tom going off on another mission, promising to go back to her several months later, exactly like what Will Riker did to her 8 years ago. She undoubtedly saw the parallels. And figured it would probably end the same way.

But I guess the question then remains, why did Troi pick up the romance in the first place? Did she really think such a thing through? She should have known that Tom didn't want just a fling, so she would have had to consider it as something for the long haul. And yet, at the same time, did she really think she could commit to Tom while staying on the Enterprise and working side by side with Will? She's a psychiatrist, couldn't she see the obvious tensions that would form?

I guess that means she never really got over Will (as William said above), if she was willing to jump right back into it. Heck, maybe that explains all the jabs she's made at Riker over the years as someone who is still in a bit of a love-hate relationship with an ex-lover who spurned her (see the beginning of the episode as an example, where Troi was trying to embarrass Will during his jam session). But then it makes me wonder, in all the years on the Enterprise, why didn't she ever try to get back together? Why didn't she take the initiative? And if she's built up 6 years of a new relationship with Will, how would she separate that relationship with Tom? You are essentially going from dating one twin to dating another. Yes, it's not really a fair comparison since Will and Tom were the same person back then, but how will she ever see Tom as anything but the "not real" Riker?

Then again, people do stupid things when in love. Why should Troi be any different?

In the end, the Troi-Tom angle becomes the most interesting part of the show, since the Tom-Will angle felt so flat and trite. But then the Troi-Tom angle had its issues too, because they didn't have time to fully explore them. So I think this is closer to a "good" episode than a great one. Very interesting idea, but needed a better execution. I mostly agree with WilliamB's analysis above (except the part about Riker being afraid of hurting Troi again; if he was serious about pursuing a relationship with her, he wouldn't hurt her, at least not in the same way. I think at this point he's essentially adrift in life and is afraid of going after what he wants.), but disagree with how well the story was executed.
Sat, Oct 25, 2014, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
@ SkepicalMI

If you compare first officers on the 24th century series (Riker-Kira-Chakotay), only one of the them really gets to see growth in their character, and it's largely because the setting of her series is larger than The Ship. Kira grew by leaps and bounds as a character as DS9 progressed, but Riker and especially Chakotay became smaller and smaller as time passed.
Sun, Dec 7, 2014, 11:47pm (UTC -5)
I'm sorry, Jammer, I just can't with this one. This episode wasn't horrible, but it was just so, so boring. The concept could have worked, but it was too dull to rewatch.

That, and it's off-putting how no one seems to care about Tom Riker's feelings. He's brought off the planet, and then immediately expected to act like he's just another junior grade officer. Why couldn't they just let him get used to the Enterprise again before giving him any duties? Maybe allow him some recovery time after being alone for several years? What huge jerks.
Wed, Apr 1, 2015, 7:26pm (UTC -5)
A very good episode. The idea of having one's own double appear is intriguing, and it's executed brilliantly here. The episode has a lot of depth to it in exploring the character of Riker and his relationship with Troi. The plot device that sets it up is unavoidable and nobody dwells on the silly techno-babble because the plot is, correctly, seen as more important.

A totally underrated episode. And, do you know what's even more satisfying? NO RESET SWITCH. All the way through this episode, on first viewing, I was expecting to see Tom Riker die at some point, but thank god the writer of the episode had a brain to realize why that would be a cheat way out. Tom makes another appearance in DS9, which I also enjoyed (at least SOME writers out there give a shit about canon and continuity).

A shame that his character wasn't utilized more with Troi... It would have been nice to see the arc get completed at some point. But nothing takes away from the fact that this is a well written tale that asks questions, doesn't brow beat you with answers, and respects the characters and viewers.
Thu, Apr 2, 2015, 10:43am (UTC -5)

It would've been awesome if somehow Tom Riker assisted with Damar's revolution in some way towards the end of DS9 but he probably just rotted away in a Cardassian cell :(
Wed, Jul 29, 2015, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
I like this episode 3 stars worth. One issue, and Jammer points this out is how little differentiation there is between the two Rikers--just the yellow vs. red uniform. And while it is startling and give a great heads up I think a better actor like Patrick Stewart might have been able to give a more nuance performance on the Riker that spent 8 years in isolation, and yes no holodeck or anything would allow that to be anything less than a traumatic experience. I actually had more belief in the kids in "Rascals" than I did in believeing two different Rikers, one in solitude for 8 years. Some suggestions: It was near the end of the season they could have had Lt. Riker with a bushy beard, then shaved after getting to the Enterprise. They also could have made him bit pudgier, why? Replicated food but living in a hole with little exercise.
I like that it was considered to kill off Cmdr. Riker. They could have went another way, promote Cmdr. Riker and keep Lt. Riker on the ship. A less note, I loved that Lt. Riker almost died, because you think they're hitting the reset switch, but nope there's going to be two of them.
Thu, Oct 1, 2015, 10:42am (UTC -5)
I really, really want to like this episode. But it's got problems that I don't think I can let pass.

While it is true that it's an actually engaging romance story and a wonderful tale of "The Road Not Traveled," what is the end result? Tom decides to travel the exact same road Will went down. He chooses to put his career ahead of Troi. We're asked to believe that this man spent eight years in complete isolation doing next to nothing besides literally pining away for this woman and yet when he finally is given the chance to be reunited with her, what is his response? "I can't stay on the ship; not as long as 'he's' on-board." In other words, Tom can't, or won't, get past the fact that Will had a better career than he did. Because he's obviously not upset that Will had a relationship with Troi, because he didn't. Either way you cut it, Tom prioritizes himself ahead of his relationship with Troi. It's a complete sabotage of a wonderful build-up. I mean, if he truly loved her and really spent all that time missing her, a more believable response would be for him to resign from Starfleet and remain on the Enterprise as a civilian.

I've heard rumors that what was originally planned for "Second Chances" was for Will Riker to die, for Data to be promoted to full Commander and First Officer and for Tom Riker to take over Data's old job as Operations Manager. The rumors also state that the producers ultimately nixed the idea because they thought is was simply too ambitious of a concept that would, in the end, do nothing but confuse casual viewers. While, like Jammer, I also applaud them for not going the super-easy way out with Tom Riker's death, this original idea would have been a much better way to end this story. As others have noted, myself included in other reviews, Riker was simply going nowhere as a character by this point. I actually like the fact that he remained on the Enterprise after saving the Federation in "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II." Simply shuttling him off by giving him his own command would have been easiest thing in the world to do. By keeping him on the show they had the chance to do something unique (like having him put down roots, as others have suggested). The problem is - they never did that. They just let the character languish instead of actually giving us a proper motivation for him not moving on with his career. If Will had died here and Tom "replaced" him on the show, they could have finally done just that - give us a Riker that was clearly ready to put down roots and pursue a committed relationship with Troi. Instead, we had to wait for the abysmal "Insurrection" for their relationship to start up again out of the clear blue sky. Talk about a missed opportunity.

The other major fault is the scene between Worf and Data on the planet where Data asks Worf why the two Rikers, especially Will, have such a hard time with each other. There is an enormous elephant in the room here that just gets ignored (TNG seems to do that a lot here in Season Six). And that elephant goes by the name of Lore. Data has experienced the exact same thing that the Rikers are experiencing - coming face to face with a duplicate of himself. And yet it doesn't even get a mention? Instead Data serves as the character who has the "aww shucks, I just don't understand" mentality? Give me a break!

But, I still want to like the episode. The standout moment is the poker scene. I absolutely love this display of male dynamics. We have four men all coming at the same issue from different perspectives and it's wonderfully handled. While it's odd that only three people were playing poker at the start of the scene, if Crusher, or certainly Troi, had been involved it would have ruined it. And massive props to Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn. After Tom metaphorically lays all his cards on the table and storms out we get short cuts to Data and Worf's faces and we can see exactly what they're thinking without a word of dialogue from either one. Very well done.

I really want to be generous here, because it's not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination. It just fumbles the ball at the goal-line. So, I'll go ahead and be generous....

Diamond Dave
Sat, Oct 10, 2015, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
Doesn't get much more high concept than this. And, as noted above, it rather boldly doesn't hit reset, even when the opportunity to drop Will Mk 2 down a hole presented itself.

The relationship aspect with Troi is well played out, nicely understated, and given room to breathe. Ironically, while I thought Frakes' performance was somewhat overwrought in Frame of Mind, I thought he was a lot better here. There was a subtle, edgy pushiness to Tom, setting him apart from a Will who perhaps is not pushing so hard anymore. The poker scene brought things to a head well.

But you have to wonder whether eight years alone would have pushed someone over the edge far more than it appears Tom suffered. And being ordered around - by yourself, no less - might come has a bit more of a shock. As might it have come to Troi and the rest of the crew. So there's some really, really good stuff in here, but just not quite enough for true greatness.

“I am not easy to get along with” indeed. 3 stars.
John Clark
Sun, Jan 10, 2016, 3:51pm (UTC -5)

I want to know how the duplicate Riker was shot. It's obviously the same actor, yet they appear in the same frame, even in front of each other, moving around. How do they do this?
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 5:17am (UTC -5)
"The other major fault is the scene between Worf and Data on the planet where Data asks Worf why the two Rikers, especially Will, have such a hard time with each other. There is an enormous elephant in the room here that just gets ignored (TNG seems to do that a lot here in Season Six). And that elephant goes by the name of Lore. Data has experienced the exact same thing that the Rikers are experiencing - coming face to face with a duplicate of himself. And yet it doesn't even get a mention? Instead Data serves as the character who has the "aww shucks, I just don't understand" mentality? Give me a break!"

I don't see the parallel. Lore and Data only LOOK the same, whereas the Rikers literally branched off the same person, which means that they share much more in common with each other such as certain inherent personality traits and all the experience before they branched off. The appropriate question would be how would 2 Datas interact with each other? I imagine they'd get along, since they have no emotions to get in the way.
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 11:24am (UTC -5)
I never really cared for this one. If two people had been beaming up, and one made it and the other didn't, I'd see having one left on the planet. But two beams trying to grab Riker, one successful in getting him to the ship, the other unsuccessful and deflected back to the transporter pad... where did the mass come from for the extra Riker (either one)? It seemed to me right from the beginning that both of the Rikers should have weighed half as much, or something other than human should have beamed back that didn't last too long...

Yes, I know they did this as well in an early TOS episode with Kirk. I have the same problem with it.

Oh, and even though Will had his pick of ships after BOBW's, he chose to stay on the Enterprise as the 1st officer and wait for Picard to retire or be promoted. Those are my thoughts. Then, he could be the Captain of the Enterprise. It'd been nice if they'd even hinted at that during the series, so we'd know for certain why Riker is letting his career stagnate.

Promoting Will and leaving Tom on the Enterprise? Might have been neat, but folks that missed that ONE episode would have been somewhat lost. Same if Will had died.

Oh, and after they almost fell into that pit, they go and fix the machine, and the next shot is a outer visual of the ship. Did they beam out? If so, why not just beam in instead of using a shaky bridge in the first place? And if they didn't beam out, how did they get back across?

If, as has been suggested, the replicators worked originally, could he have replicated a probe, shot it into space, and had it relay his situation to Starfleet? Heck, the problem was the planet had a condition they couldn't beam through, but the little station should have been functioning just fine 8 years ago. Tom said "The replicators haven't worked for a long time, it's been a while since I've had a decent meal", so they operated initially.

I don't know, it just didn't work for me. Then or now...

Thanks and have a great day... RT
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 12:15am (UTC -5)
"It pulses unendingly all through the night..."


This one is awful. Tom effortlessly adjusts to moving from eight years of solitude to life on the Enterprise, which would be hugely traumatic even without a doppelgänger. Conversely Will, who merely has to come to terms with the arrival of Tom, is an absolute arsehole to 'himself' even before the Troi triangle is established.

So basically the Riker who's been sat alone for eight years has in that time developed better 'soft skills' than the Riker who's risen to the rank of Starfleet Commander.
Fri, Apr 22, 2016, 10:25am (UTC -5)
Just finished watching this episode again, and one thing that hasn't been mentioned yet has always bothered me. In the episode Will Riker says that he received a promotion because of his acts of valor during the mission. Up until the moment of the transporter incident, they were the same person, and the mission had been completed, so shouldn't Tom receive the EXACT same promotion that Will got since he performed the same acts of valor, plus maybe a bonus or commendation for being marooned for 8 years?

It just seems like Tom is getting a really raw deal from Starfleet: "Oh by the way, we gave a promotion to your clone for the acts of valor that you both performed. You say you were marooned for 8 years alone? Just be thankful we're letting you keep your commission, Lieutenant; If Picard hadn't pulled some strings, you wouldn't even be assigned ship duty!"

Oh well, at least they didn't kill him off completely, or (perhaps) worse - leave him stranded alone on the planet for another 8 years.
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 12:31am (UTC -5)
I've seen a lot of people questioning why Troi even rekindled a romance with Thomas. I have two theories.
One, Thomas said everything that Troi wanted to hear eight years or so ago and she got swept up in her own emotions.
Two, she knew that Thomas' presence aboard the Enterprise was temporary so she allowed herself to essentially have a piece of Riker since she couldn't have the real/current Riker.
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 1:40am (UTC -5)
"One, Thomas said everything that Troi wanted to hear eight years or so ago and she got swept up in her own emotions.
Two, she knew that Thomas' presence aboard the Enterprise was temporary so she allowed herself to essentially have a piece of Riker since she couldn't have the real/current Riker."

Three, Troi always wanted Riker back but wasn't going to initiate anything until he was ready. He came onto the ship hesitant about seeing her again and made sure things were stable since that's his job as first officer. At some point that stability turned into his classic 'safe' habit such as is discussed in BoBW, also involving his declining commands of his own. It's a holding pattern, and we might even imagine he wanted to stay as #1 on the Enterprise because Troi was there. Thomas had none of that, including the responsibility of maintaining order on the ship, he went for her, and she was going to say yes to Riker at such a time as he came to her. Further evidence of this can be found in the features, where he does eventually want to go back to her and she accepts him more or less without question and marries him.
William B
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Peter on this. While I would have liked the show to be more explicit about Riker, me evaluating the past couple years of my own life make me see some rough similarities. Like, oddly enough, Wesley, Riker started with a very clear picture of what he wanted -- command -- and then at some point it sort of hit him that his desperate search for captaincy might not be as strong a drive anymore. Wesley came to the realization that Starfleet wasn't for him relatively early in life after floundering a bit. Riker was very driven and talented and was on a fast track, and dropped the possibility of a real connection with Troi for his career, but then...stopped. In particular, if we view Riker in terms of what he learned from his parents -- he wanted to best his father in his career and show that he could be a great strategist and success and be fully independent of the need for real guidance, and he wanted to form a series of relationships with women which are all by their nature fleeting and temporary in anticipation of their dying when he gets close ala mother -- then it makes sense that the Enterprise finally gave him a place where he could get close enough to a woman he loved without "committing" (and thus setting himself up for heartbreak) with Troi, and could find a mentor who also gives him lots of space to run things/be independent to allow him to "grow up" and also get approval from Picard. What he really wanted is the space to be able to grow up enough to be ready for command and for an actual adult relationship, and it seems like it isn't until the features that he gets there. I think that season seven does set him up for this okay -- dealing with the mutiny and his younger self in The Pegasus suggests some of why he was reluctant to take on his own command (at some point he must have started realizing something about his zeal was overriding his judgment) and the threat of Deanna actually seriously being with someone else let him realize that he wants to keep Troi close (and it's not fair to just expect her never to date). Riker's ambition and promiscuity do seem like overcompensation in retrospect; he does want his own command and a real relationship, when he's ready, but it takes until around BoBW for him to realize that he is stalling, perhaps deliberately because he knows he's *not* ready. Apparently substituting rapid career advancement and promiscuity for emotional connection didn't actually make him more fulfilled, and he has to start emotionally catching up for what most people would probably have already managed by Riker's age at the start of the series, *in place of* meteoric career advancement/bedpost notches. (The comparison to me is more on "career" end of things, not the promiscuity; I was a little like Wesley -- ahead of my peers scholastically and socially maladapted, until I realized I had lost a certain drive and was a bit of a jerk toward the end of my undergraduate days.)

Deanna -- well, I think that the Enterprise was simply always a great career move (and where is she going to get promoted to?), so careerwise she's not in the holding pattern he's in, and in fact she even takes greater career initiative within the series than he does (with the eventual improbable Thine Own Self promotion). And I think that she was probably pretty happy with Riker, relationship-wise. It's possible that observing her own mother's pushiness is part of why she had the level of patience to put up with Riker's kind of waffling on how serious their thing is as long as he did, subtly opting for "slightly more than friends" intimacy without being willing to go all in. (I love when she gets sarcastic with him about it. From The Loss: "Imzadi..." "OH PLEASE.") In fact it may be that she needed to get up the nerve to treat herself with more respect -- being a potential equal to him (in rank too!) and being willing to try dating, first with another actual Riker and then with Worf (even though it probably never would have worked), to implicitly let him know that the clock was ticking, for him to finally grow up. (The various men-of-the-week didn't seem that serious for the most part, and the ones who did -- like Ral -- turned out to be evil to various degrees so could be chalked up to her making stupid decisions rather than her being independent enough Riker would have to seriously risk losing her romantically.) I ignore most of Insurrection and Nemesis in my head but Riker/Troi getting together (and him taking a command) is something I think makes sense as an endpoint of that story and I'm happy enough with it.
Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 3:01pm (UTC -5)
Just a thought, if Will Riker got a fast promotion for getting everyone off the outpost, shouldn't Tom have received a belated promotion for doing the same thing?
Mon, Mar 13, 2017, 3:56am (UTC -5)
Lieutenant Riker sure didn't last long in that poker game...
Mon, Apr 17, 2017, 6:16am (UTC -5)
I thought the episode would end with Tom engineering an identical transporter malfunction thereby making a copy of Dana who stays on planet with him.
Wed, Apr 26, 2017, 9:59pm (UTC -5)
"I wish Will Riker would have seen his other self and realized that he had forfeited his dream of becoming a captain for the security of being a first officer, then asked Picard to speak with Starfleet about a promotion. Will Riker gets written off of the show (with the possibility of coming back in guest spots), while Tom Riker serves as a new lieutenant on the Enterprise. It would have provided a much needed shake-up to the show."

Agreed. I like Riker, but they never do anything with him in the later seasons. This was their chance to finally give the character the promotion he deserved and shake things up while still keeping a Riker on board. What a wasted opportunity. At the very least this should have been a wake up call that put Riker back in the spotlight and Picard back on the bridge where he belonged.
Wed, Apr 26, 2017, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
@Krog et al

I disagree that promoting Will off the show and keeping on Thomas as Lieutenant would've worked. People always forget this show was written for syndication and so throwing a character off the show (even if replaced with the same actor) would simply confuse the audience too much. If you didn't happen to catch this episode you'd be confused at what would feel like Will's demotion to Lieutenant. The episodes following would need to constantly remind us that Will isn't the same guy from before and it would get old quick.

In fact, we can sort of see this experiment in action with Ezri Dax in DS9. If you haven't watched season 7 lately, nearly every Dax episode is about Ezri proving she isn't Jadzia. But rarely is Ezri's character complemented for this, as people simply would've preferred Jadzia staying around over tedious Ezri exposition.
Wed, Apr 26, 2017, 11:39pm (UTC -5)
Good point. I hadn't considered the implications that would have on syndication.

I still wish they hadn't let the character stagnate so much. He hardly does anything anymore, it's like he's become a side characte.
Thu, Apr 27, 2017, 11:28am (UTC -5)

I also wish Riker got more scenes in later episodes. I want to say it was because Frakes was too busy directing, but I don't see him credited with that many episodes.

At some point, Picard became the new Kirk and Data became the new Spock, leaving little space for Riker. You see this especially in the movies, like Insurrection, where Riker is just given some random fist-fight so has something to do.
Thu, Apr 27, 2017, 11:58am (UTC -5)
It would've been so great if they somehow rescued Thomas Riker off Cardassia at the end of DS9. As it stands, he probably was killed like the 800 million other people on the planet by the Dominion.
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 4:39pm (UTC -5)
It's strange that RIker would have been wearing the yellow uniform immediately before joining the Enterprise...I though he was already on the command track before that, which is what red means. I suppose it was so that we could easily tell Will and Tom apart at a glance.

The opposite problem happened in Menage a Troi when Wesley started wearing regular uniforms and his was red. Can't imagine Wesley was on the command track...I'd have expected either a yellow or blue uniform for him.
Sun, Sep 17, 2017, 12:16am (UTC -5)
This episode had some subtle touching moments but also left me wondering why Commander Riker was so harsh on Lt. Riker. I guess for me, I never cared too much about the Troi/Riker relationship but it would make sense that Lt. Riker still has a thing for Deanna and that affects her. So I thought "Second Chances" did a really good job exploring the what ifs in the relationship, why they broke up etc. It wasn't done in a careless, or heavy-handed manner.

It seemed a bit that Lt. Riker easily integrated into everything Enterprise after *8 years* all alone -- very little was discussed about how he survived but that isn't the point of the story. But I think it should have been covered at least medically/psychologically -- not just establishing that he's an exact, perfect copy due to brain scans etc.

The other thing I was reminded of was "The Enemy Within" from TOS, however this duplicate of Riker is a true duplicate. The transporter technobabble wasn't bad here and it works when you easily accept it.

Commander Riker appeared to be more driven to succeed (e.g. poker game) and I guess because Lt. Riker was all alone for 8 years, perhaps his competitiveness to succeed wasn't at the same level.

The ending scene with the ladder collapsing was a huge cliche. Up to that point the 2 Rikers were not comfortable with each other but after Commander saves Lt. everything's cool.

A strong 2.5 stars for "Second Chances" -- a decent character examination episode for Troi/Riker but the premise is a bit of a stretch and Commander Riker's initial attitude toward his double struck me as a bit harsh although he can be demanding on subordinates. Conveniently resolved in the end with Thomas Riker.
Sat, Nov 4, 2017, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
Too bad we didn't get a Season 7 Thomas Riker episode.
Sun, Mar 25, 2018, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
3.5 - classic Rene Echevarria and classic Trek. Marina Sirtis nails it. The episode is possibly a little understated for its own good - the focus on the Riker-Troi-Riker triangle and the Riker-Riker rivalry comes at the expense of any real study of Lt Riker's isolation and trauma; he doesn't at all seem like someone who's just spent 8 years alone in a hostile environment never expecting to be rescued, he's far too well-adjusted. But the Troi material is excellent, and is the series' best exploration of this relationship. The cave scene where Lt Riker almost falls to his death is a cliche, but I like that the episode doesn't choose a cop-out ending by having him die or by having the transporter recombine him into Cmdr Riker (accidentally or deliberately). I'm glad we got to see him again in Defiant, but it would have been interesting to keep him around for longer in TNG too. Frakes isn't a showy actor at all, and I feel Sirtis outshines him here, but his performance gets the job done well enough - credit also to the hair and make-up people for making Lt Riker look subtly different, just like a real identical twin, in a recognisable but not overdone way.
Cody B
Tue, Jun 12, 2018, 9:23am (UTC -5)
Just going by the synopsis, I thought this sounded horrible. Well I was pleasently surprised. It was interesting to see the jealousy the two rikers had for each other. Great episode. Don’t judge a book by its...... quick synopsis?
Jason R.
Tue, Jun 12, 2018, 10:23am (UTC -5)
This episode is Riker's comeupponce for being such a bigoted jerk to those clones in Up the Long Ladder. Oh yeah, and for murdering his clone in cold blood.
Tue, Jun 12, 2018, 10:45am (UTC -5)
@Jason R.

It’s not like anything bad happens to Will in this episode. If anything, it was a great way for him to realize he needed to commit to Deanna. If only the writers weren’t trying to ship Worf-Troi so badly, surely it would’ve happened season 7.
Jason R.
Tue, Jun 12, 2018, 10:57am (UTC -5)
"It’s not like anything bad happens to Will in this episode."

Well in Up the Long Ladder he basically claimed that if he was cloned he would lose his soul. I guess the joje was on him - he lost it already. The spirit of his murdered clone must be laughing at the irony.
Tue, Jun 12, 2018, 11:22am (UTC -5)
@Jason R.

The big difference here is that there was no “cloning” in the sense of it being a violation to Riker. Tom is also unique in that he shares all the experiences of Riker up until a little before the series started. So, it’s literally a great chance for Will to see what kind of person the Enterprise made him.
Cody B
Tue, Jun 12, 2018, 9:08pm (UTC -5)
@Jason R
To be fair, in Up the Long Ladder, Riker is just the one who VOICES not wanting to be cloned. Picard then says that that is how most people on the Enterprise will feel and they arnt going to have success trying to clone Enterprise members
Jason R.
Wed, Jun 13, 2018, 11:25am (UTC -5)
I just wonder if they had this in mind when they conceived Thomas Riker:

RIKER: It's not a question of harm. One William Riker is unique, perhaps even special. But a hundred of him, a thousand of him diminishes me in ways I can't even imagine.
Wed, Jun 13, 2018, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
@Jason R.

It would be interesting if they had that in mind, it might even give more meaning to a bad season 2 episode that desperately needs it.

"Up the Long Ladder" itself is partly about the diminishing capability of a race of people using the same stock from an ever-shrinking gene pool, so I think Riker's words were in line with that sentiment. Though, I'm not sure this episode ever addresses a point about Will Riker feeling like he's lost a part of himself now that he's found a duplicate. The story focused more Thomas Riker, who really has been diminished by another Riker taking his place in life.
another David
Wed, Oct 17, 2018, 8:40am (UTC -5)
If I recall correctly, after securing a "no death penalty" for Thomas Riker they said personally to him that they'd get him out...but unless I'm mistaken, they never did and never attempted a prisoner exchange or political fix to break him out, leaving him to rot in the Cardassian prison, breaking rocks. I was watching for something to happen in that regard after that episode.
Mon, May 6, 2019, 11:01pm (UTC -5)
If Riker was only a lieutenant eight years ago and a full commander six years ago, he must not have been a lieutenant commander very long.

And if he'd accepted his first captain offer, he'd have gone from lieutenant to captain in less than four years.

Meanwhile, Data was a Lt. Commander from the moment we first met him until the moment he perished....fifteen years later.
Tue, May 7, 2019, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
Well we had a Worf episode, a Crusher one and now a Riker one.

I like Riker a little bit more after his great acting in that episode with the play where he was kidnapped. However, what an asshole he is here. His back story tells me he had a rough childhood with his mom dying and an asshole for a father. We have seen him struggle with relationships and his career. So I was willing to cut him some slack in his behaviour. But why is he (Commander) so nasty to himself (Lieutenant)? After they confirmed what happened and it wasn't a hoax, wouldn't he be curious about himself. maybe be kind? he has a twin now. Instead he acts like this is his most hated sibling. And it rubs off on the Lieutenant version as well.

I did enjoy seeing Troi and the Lieutenant connect. Crusher egging Troi on was pure useless Crusher. Ugh. Of course new Riker doesn't think of Troi's life at all, just wants her to join him.

Picard was funny picking the riskier database rescue option suggested by the new Riker. That data is so important it is worth risking their lives even though they haven't had it for 8 years and could try again in 8 years. I must have missed what the data was. Sometimes Picard can be such an asshole.

8/10 for the good parts. ha ha!
Adrian Lopez
Tue, Jul 16, 2019, 1:38am (UTC -5)
I give this episode two-and-a-half stars. It's an interesting premise, and somewhat entertaining, but I just can't forgive Will Riker's hostility toward Thomas Riker. Riker's animosity comes out of nowhere and vanishes just as quickly by the end of the episode. The writers could have come up with a better way to explore Will Riker's growth as a character than to have him be a jerk to the man he might have become.

Great idea with some interesting scenes, but poor execution.
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
Oh come off it-TOS episode series One-Enemy Within-transporter duplicates Captain Kirk.
This is a more mature but nevertheless reworked version of that story.
The eternal triangle was quite good but absolutely agree that Deanna just leaps at Worf next season only to lose him to Jadzia Dax in DS9-that Worf is a right tart isn't he?
I too cannot see why Will Riker has to be such a bung hole to what ,in effect, is a sort of long lost twin brother.
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
I've just finished rewatching this one. Add me to the list of people shocked at how unpleasant Will was to Thomas. He deserved a clip round the ear for that gratuitous hostility to someone who really needed support.
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
In Will's defense, at least he didn't kill Tom in cold blood like he did with another duplicate William T. Riker.
Mon, Aug 26, 2019, 12:22pm (UTC -5)
Some day you folks will have kids and understand that we tend to pick on the weaknesses we see in ourselves.
Picard Maneuver
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 2:51am (UTC -5)
So, the Rikers are trying to recover the database and Lt. Riker tells Cmdr. Riker to disable the file server. Then Cmdr Riker just goes along with it.

That was some awkward-ass Tai Chi Troi and Crusher were doing, lol.

It's kind of funny that Freedom Riker is all angry, brooding, and sulking while Imprisoned Riker is vibrant, spontaneous, and fun. Riker #1 probably should have accepted one of those 2,927 command positions previously offered.

Pretty presumptuous of Riker #2 to assume Troi was still available after eight years when he first kissed her. Well, knowing Riker, he probably didn't care. Troi missed an opportunity for a really weird, sad, shameful threesome. The Rikers wouldn't be telling Dad about it.

If I met my unexpected twin, I'd want to join forces. I'd know we'd get along because he'd be thinking the same thing. We'd divide labor, arrange pranks, and set up a system of plausible deniability by constantly blaming the other one even though it was us all along.
Tue, May 12, 2020, 8:53pm (UTC -5)
As at least two respondants have already noted, this episode is linked thematically to TOS "The Enemy Within". Because of Kirk's ordeal, my feelings are that the Federation would already have developed a policy on transporter errors of the kind that divided Riker in two. Instead of turning Second Chances into a 24th century take on the Dating Game, I wish the writers had explored the similarity between transporter duplication and cloning as an ethical problem (remember Kahless the clone?). Beverly would say to Picard something like "Ever since the first Martian colony was established x centuries ago, cloning has been expressly forbidden! I can't help but see the allowing of two genetically identical Wills tormenting themselces and others, as a violation of the Federation's code of ethics ".
Picard: "I see your point, doctor, but what would you have me do"?
Dr. Crusher: " I heard once about a transporter error reversal process used to put James Kirk back together on the old Enterprise, after he had gotten split in two. They used to talk about it in our 1st year Star Fleet Medical core lectures".
Picard: "Make it so"!
Of course, writers can do anything they want, so why not have the two Wills agree to go through the process, since both were obviously not very happy about their forced co-existence. When joined back together into the Riker in red we all know, he walks straight into Ten Forward and finds himself able to play the jazz riff he had found to be impossible before.
Mr Peepers
Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
I always thought all along why the transporter couldn't make copies of people. They make it seem like it is virtually impossible to do this on purpose or by accident, which it does by bouncing beams or something. At least it wasn't as hokey as when the transporter merged Neelix and Tuvok on Voyager.

The two Riker's were interesting in how they interacted with each other. I would had expected Thomas to have a scraggly beard and be thin, but I guess eight years of replicator food can keep you fit as well adhering to Star Fleet personal grooming standards no matter what. You would think Will would cut his twin some slack after all that he's been through, but he was expected to toe the Star Fleet line regardless.

The relighting of the fire between Thomas and Troi wasn't that remarkable. She fell for Thomas and jumped into the sack with him just as easily as she does with every other visitor who shows her some attention. She forgot about him just as easily once he left the ship. Not sure why any staff officer would want to get married anyway. How could you be married and have time for a relationship while stuck aboard a ship for years? Or worse while being away from your spouse while the other is 100 light years away.
Sun, Aug 16, 2020, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
@Mr Peepers
I believe it is common for married couples in Starfleet to serve on the same vessel (or station); we've seen a few examples. It's *not* the Navy. And they're typically only on duty for a third of the 'day,' with minimal commutes, so they should have plenty of time.
James G
Wed, Nov 4, 2020, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Despite the spectacle of aliens playing 20th century jazz in the 24th century, I love this one. I remember watching it many years ago, and was very much looking forward to seeing it again.

It's just such a thought-provoking, fascinating scenario - being confronted by someone with an equal claim to being you, as you. How would you react? How would you relate to yourself?

In this case, I think it would be absolutely intolerable for Lt Riker especially. Psychologically I suspect it would be impossible not to think of your replica as a copy, not the real thing. And in this case, Commander Riker has not only stolen his girlfriend and had his career and life, he's managed to split up with her. And of course the commander's very existence has guaranteed that no-one even knows that he existed, while he manfully survived 8 years of solitary existence on some distant planet.

What would make it doubly intolerable would be having your copy bark orders at you. Someone who knows every memory and thought you had for the first twenty-odd years of your life. But quite irrespective of the seniority disparity, simply knowing that there's another version of you somewhere, privy to your thoughts, inclinations, memories and so on would be extremely invasive.

The whole idea is so fascinating that I found this one really quite compelling.

The Bizarre Quasi Love Triangle with Deanna introduces a nice tension and gives us a ncie insight into Riker's past.

There are a few things wrong with this episode for sure. Lt Riker never really seems to get enough credit for surviving eight years on his own, and I have to wonder where he gets his hair cut and styled. I would think he'd look a bit more haggard.

Remembering how Scotty managed to save himself in a pattern buffer (or whatever) for 75 years in 'Relics', this episode offers the intriguing prospect that people could be backed up! So if you get killed on an away mission, no worries - just break out the backup copy.

That moment when Lt Riker is in grave danger is quite clever. The first time I saw this I probably expected him to be killed, for a convenient and neatly tied-up ending. So there's a nice bit of suspense there.

Really superb. Loved it.
Fri, Nov 27, 2020, 8:10am (UTC -5)
Great episode. I would actually give it a full four stars, but obviously that’s only a minor difference from Jammer. I can definitely see now why people referenced this episode in the comments about the Orville’s “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”, although that one still had a slightly different twist.

“And then what happened?” LOL, Beverly.

What follows are two very minor nitpicks (clearly they have to be minor indeed, since I give the episode a perfect four stars).

Those were some pretty rough looking apples in that bowl.

I’m with Lieutenant Riker. For supposedly Klingon exercises, those looked exactly like tai chi chuan.
Fri, Nov 27, 2020, 9:54am (UTC -5)
@Rahul: “Commander Riker appeared to be more driven to succeed (e.g. poker game) and I guess because Lt. Riker was all alone for 8 years, perhaps his competitiveness to succeed wasn't at the same level.”

As a veteran poker player myself, I have a different take on this scene. There was of course the usual string betting that is always present in poker scenes on TV or in movies but would never fly at a casino, but would perhaps be tolerated in some home games. And Commander Riker made very strange, very small raises – I have never seen a poker game where it was legal to raise by less than the amount of the original bet, unless it was all you had left.

But other than that, there was some basic poker logic to what happened. The two players engaged in a betting/raising/reraising war. I don’t remember how many times it went back-and-forth, but every time Lieutenant Riker had the opportunity to be aggressive and raise, he did so. However, his last action was only a choice between calling and folding. He could no longer show aggression, because Commander Riker had already raised all in. At that point, Lt. Riker can only call if he has something decent and thinks Commander Riker is bluffing. Since he folded, we must assume that he was bluffing earlier, just as Cmmdr. Riker assessed. So it doesn’t matter how much Lieutenant Riker “wanted” to win, he just didn’t have the cards.

We can’t OTOH be absolutely sure what kind of cards Commander Riker had. Everything about the way he played it indicated that he was dealt something very strong at the beginning, a flush or a full house or maybe a straight. But it’s also possible that he decided to go on a massive bluff from the beginning of the hand without exchanging any cards, to try to make himself look very strong (it’s very rare in five card draw to get dealt such a hand right away, as you can see by the looks Data and Worf exchanged when he said he didn’t want to exchange any). If he was bluffing, it was quite the risky and bold power play, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Lieutenant Riker can’t call at the end because he himself was bluffing all along.

I suppose if Lieutenant Riker had a hand that was fairly weak but not absolutely nothing, like a single medium pair, he could have called if he felt fairly sure that Commander Riker was completely bluffing and did actually have absolutely nothing. But then Lt. Riker would look like a fool, a weak “calling station”, if he turned his cards over and Commander Riker did have good cards, just as he had represented throughout the hand.

WRT the question of why anyone in the hand would fold if they did not have real currency to play with, I always find this a strange viewpoint. Admittedly, even very good poker players take this perspective, that it is pointless to play poker for play money—which is the only thing legal for Americans to do in most states currently. And when you do play on PokerStars for play money, there are definitely people who seem to take that attitude, that they might as well just throw all the chips in every time because it’s just play money, who cares? But there are so many other games people play without betting on them, from bridge to Scrabble to Monopoly. What’s so special about poker, that you couldn’t play just to try to amass the most chips and be the winner? I don’t get that.
Frake's Nightmare
Sun, Dec 13, 2020, 4:04pm (UTC -5)
It's quite obvious that in the poker game Worf is thinking 'Oh XXXX, two of these XXXXXX...surely it's ok to kill one of them!'
(and now you can make as many as you like is it really murder?).
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
You find yourself rootin' for Tom halfway through the episode. Will comes off as a jaggoff u
Fri, Jan 15, 2021, 8:26pm (UTC -5)
LOL. The number of reviewers who take ST literally and nit pick on things as if this was Wisteria Lane and its denizens.

Roddenberry had trouble initially selling ST cos so many in the industry at the time found it "too cerebral". And yet the best sci fi in any medium is cerebral and so is ST. It works best not with literal scenarios but one where metaphor and symbolism are the means of "telling the story".

And this episode succeeds because it does just that: of course we can laugh at the technological absurdity of a secondary transporter beam bouncing back to the ground and creating a second Riker in full. Geordie's technobabble explanation is laughable at best. But that's not the point of the episode.

The point is a psychological exploration of what constitutes self, identity, self-awareness, character traits, having to live with the consequences of our life decisions etc.

And the episode does this brilliantly. Dramatic tension is maintained, Sirtis' and Frakes' much maligned acting skills more than rise to the occassion here, and the narrative pace and character chemistry are top rate all the way.

It's incredible fun having two Rikers on screen, double the screen presence, Frakes is an incredibly sexy man on the screen, no matter how we assess his acting chops, the red and yellow uniforms playing visual and character counterpoints, and the sibling rivalry ( or is it "Brutus with himself at war"?) resolved so beautifully at the end with Will giving Tom his trombone, and the future of the romantic relationship at the centre of it all also remaining open ended.

This episode is brilliant and an exception to most of TNG because it does the opposite of what usually happens: instead of starting with a brilliant premise and butchering it in the execution, it takes a fairly silly one and elevates it to superb television viewing through great execution. Pity that the TNG iteration hasn't managed to do this more consistently.

And yes, what's with the dodgy apples in Troi's fruit bowl? Or is it the digital enhancement that makes such physical details fully noticeable?
Wed, May 5, 2021, 11:43am (UTC -5)
" I've just finished rewatching this one. Add me to the list of people shocked at how unpleasant Will was to Thomas."

Also joining.

There where a multitude of scenarios possible. Wills unpleasantnes was perhaps the price for this otherwise very good episode.

Also add me to the list where Will had been transferred and Tom stayed. That could have opend the way for many good A, B and C plots.
Matt B
Sun, Jun 13, 2021, 3:05pm (UTC -5)
I remember watching this decades ago and thinking it was a meh episode. But on rewatch its actually not bad.

But I really like Krog's idea. Will finally gets promoted and Tom takes his place. There would have been so many good stories there. And then in the movies (like the Borg fight) it would have been great to have two Rikers.
Wed, Jul 21, 2021, 5:21am (UTC -5)
On one hand, I agree, that this episode is novel. Star Trek has done the "WTF There Are Two Of Him" Gimmick a lot before, and it always ends up being an impostor, or an alien energy being, or a transporter malfunction that has to be corrected, or whatever... This one didn't take those shortcuts.

From the moment Dr. Crusher states that his early childhood brainwave patterns are identical to Cmdr. Riker's, Lt. Riker becomes a very interesting bit of SciFi Storytelling, transcending the gimmick. There is no fistfight between them. There is no "Oh but he's really evil" reveal. The episode doesn't take those shortcuts to drama, and it benefits as a result.

On the other hand, this episode never really gets past the awkwardness of the situation; it's not the episode's fault. It feels too short. In a way, transcending the gimmickry of previous Trek outings that have tried this idea, ended up sabotaging the episode a bit. 45 minutes isn't long enough to make the emotions generated by this seem real enough. I would be a LOT more freaked out to meet a Double of myself, who'd been stranded alone on a desert island for 8 years, and if I were the Double, I'd be A LOT more freaked out about having been ahem, STRANDED ALONE ON A DESERT ISLAND FOR 8 YEARS. And to wit, if I were my longtime girlfriend, I would imagine I would be losing my lunch.

This is all SUPER FREAKING AWKWARD, and the episode just plain doesn't have time to go into a discussion about it, or do a proper examination of the kinds of psychological issues at stake.

The fact that Data and Worf have to sum up the themes for us in the middle of the Data Retrieval Mission near the end speaks volumes about how this episode just couldn't be done in 45 minutes, but it had the cajones to try, and for that, I guess it does deserve 3 stars.*

*I will add an extra half-star just cuz seeing Gates McFadden hint to Deanna that she needs to get laid appeals to my personal feti---TASTES. Oh crap that's not any better.

... Dr. Crusher stan for life, step on me yas Queen OH GOD

(Beams out hastily)

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