Decker and Ilia didn’t have a chance at romance
In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Captain Decker, who was demoted to first officer when Admiral Kirk assumes command of the Enterprise, is surprised to see Ilia, the woman he’d fallen in love with, coming aboard as the ship’s navigator. Decker and Ilia, a Deltan with extra-sensory abilities, had met while he was stationed on Delta IV, and though they fell in love, Decker’s career was too important to him, and he left Ilia behind without saying goodbye.
After The Motion Picture’s producers decided to write the couple out of the franchise because they didn’t connect with the audience, According to ScreenRant, Gene Roddenberry decided to hold on to the concept of the couple for future use. And that’s where Riker and Troi come in.
Riker and Troi get the romance Decker and Ilia didn’t get to have
Fast forward five years later, and we’re introduced to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Commander William T. Riker and Counselor Deanna Troi, a couple who share a past romance. They met on Betazed, and just like Decker, aspiring captain Riker left Troi on her home planet without saying goodbye.
Troi is empathic, a trait carried over from Ilia, and Riker is an ambitious, career-oriented commander much like Decker. Only, in this iteration, Decker and Ilia got their happily ever after. Of course, it took another fifteen years of back and forth between Riker and Troi before the producers finally gave the fans (and the actors) what they wanted.
The happy couple got married in Star Trek: Nemesis, but they didn’t have time to enjoy their marriage before chaos broke out with Shinzon. But, hey, that’s life aboard a Federation starship. At least Riker and Troi’s relationship wasn’t doomed for all eternity, proving that old ideas can work out for the best with a little polish.