Could Will Riker have captained the Enterprise had Picard been killed?

"Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2" -- Episode #110 -- Pictured: Jonathan Frakes as William Riker of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2" -- Episode #110 -- Pictured: Jonathan Frakes as William Riker of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Could Will Riker have captained the Enterprise as effectively as Captain Picard?

For many of us Trekkies (including myself), Captain Jean-Luc Picard is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) captain in the Star Trek franchise. Even if he is not your favourite, respect must be paid to that Earl Grey drinking, classical music loving, dime-store detective novel reading Frenchmen with an English accent, the captain who would command the Enterprise D through seven seasons of adventures, launching the Star Trek franchise back into relevancy, and a rebirth.

Indeed, had it not been for Captain Picard and Star Trek: The Next Generation, it is very likely that Trek would not be enjoying the rise in popularity it has found itself in in recent years, and we wouldn’t have the wealth of material we have now.

But what if command of the Enterprise been passed to Will Riker? Would he have made as excellent a captain as Picard?

Will Riker took over command of the Enterprise briefly when Captain PIcard was assimilated.

During th’e shows seven season run, one of the most memorable and iconic episodes was the two parter which ended season 3 and launched season 4, known as “The Best of Both Worlds.” This episode did something that Star Trek had never done before, which was end a season on a cliffhanger, not only a cliffhanger, but one that could have ended in one of the main characters being killed off. And not just any main character but Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard.

The first part of this episode ended with Commander William Riker uttering the words “Mr. Worf, fire,” and the Enterprise launched fire against the Borg cube that contained Captain Picard, who had been assimilated.

If you are reading this piece, then it is likely you know how the second part unfolded, that the shot did not harm the Borg cube, and that Picard was rescued and brought back to the Enterprise, but for the sake of an interesting discussion, lets say that he wasn’t. Let’s pretend the shot blew up the Borg cube, Picard was killed, and Riker found himself the new Captain of the Enterprise.

Could Will Riker continue on as Captain of the famed galaxy class starship?

For months after this cliffhanger, it was widely believed that the episode had been written as a result of contracts being discussed, and the futures of certain cast members and characters being murky at the end of season 3. At the time, there was a strong rumor swirling that Patrick Stewart’s time on The Next Generation had come to end, and the writers meant to kill off the character for good.

Had that been the case, and Picard had perished in a fiery explosion, would William Riker have been fit to sit in the captain’s chair? This Trekkie says yes.

From the very beginning, it is made evident through his demeanor, his actions, his poise, and just the way he carries himself that Riker was meant to be captain of a starship. Not only did he possess all the qualities listed above, he possessed the drive to be a captain from the moment he entered Starfleet. He graduated from Starfleet academy 8th in his class and was determined to reach the rank of captain before 35 years of age.

Riker was confident, charismatic, and a born leader as well as being decisive and able to make the hard choices that come with the captain’s chair. He possessed those intangible qualities that caused others to want to follow him and to obey him. And he was an accomplished tactician who invented several different stratigies while serving on different starships.

And “The Best of Both Worlds” wasn’t the first time Riker was given temporary command of a starship before he became a captain. During the episode “Peak Performance,” he took over command of the USS Hathaway as part of an exercise. The object was for the Hathaway to go up against the Enterprise, to give that crew a taste of what it would be like to face off against a superior enemy. Before the exercise was derailed by a rogue Ferengi, under the command of Riker, the Hathaway’s crew was able to update the ship and score several hits against the Enterprise.

In the second part of a two part episode “Redemption part 2”, during a Klingon civil war, Riker was placed in command of the USS Excaliburr, with Geordi La Forge as his first officer. Riker and his ship played a crucial role in bringing the Klingon civil war to an end.

We now return to the origins of the question, and not without a sense of irony, for I feel the event that set this discussion in motion in the first place, is the very event that ultimately proves why Riker could have been captain of the Enterprise.

As the events of “The Best of Both Worlds” unfolded, Riker was placed in command of the Enterprise. He gave the order to fire upon the Borg cube, knowing full well that he could be signing a death sentence for his own captain and close personal friend. Riker did this for he knew it was what had to be done, not only to protect Earth, but to insure the protection of the Enterprise and its crew.

This had to have been a difficult decision for Riker, but he did not waver once his mind was made up, and he knew what had to be done, and that sort of resolve and strength and willingness to protect your ship and its crew is exactly what captains are made of.

Luckily, we all know what happened in the end. Picard retained his command of the Enterprise. It wasn’t until Star Trek: Nemesis that Will Riker would eventually become a captain, taking over the helm of the U.S.S. Titan.

As for the series itself, had Stewart left the show, fans would have been disappointed without a doubt, but I do believe that the show would have gone on to continued success had Jonathan Frakes taken command of the Enterprise.

dark. Next. Who was the first and only person to play themselves on Star Trek?