My first place first officer of Star Trek

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: Jonathan Frakes attends "Star Trek: Picard" final season advance screening and conversation at The 92nd Street Y, New York on February 13, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: Jonathan Frakes attends "Star Trek: Picard" final season advance screening and conversation at The 92nd Street Y, New York on February 13, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images) /

The captains set the tone for Star Trek, but the first officers are often the unsung heroes.

During the nearly 60-year existence of the Star Trek franchise, much ado has been made about the captains of each incarnation of Trek, and rightfully so, for the Captain can set the tone for the entire show.

There is much deliberation and debate on who is the best captain (especially out of the first five), and one of the first pieces I ever wrote for this fantastic site was a piece ranking the original five captain. However I find that the unsung heros of Trek that sometimes stand in the shadow of their captain is the first officer.

All the first officers have made their place in Trek lore, but my personal favorite will always be, Commander William T Riker, first officer to Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise D.

A Star Trek first officer, Commander Riker, was an exceptional second-in-command to Captain Jean-Luc Picard

William Riker would rapidly rise through the ranks of Star Fleet before finally being assigned to the Enterprise to serve under Captain Jean-Luc Picard. From the get go, Riker displayed a deference and respect to his captain. It was also made evident in the very first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that Riker took the safety of his captain extremely seriously, telling Picard that he would rather the captain did not beam down to unknown planets on away missions for his own protection. During the course of that same conversation, Picard confides in Riker that he is not always good with children so he hopes that Riker will keep him from “making an ass of himself” which in my opinion demonstrates Riker’s ability to cover for his Captain when it is necessary and use his own strengths to draw attention away from what could be considered his captain’s weakness.

Riker’s loyalty to Picard and to the ship is beyond any doubt. Having said that, Riker is not afraid to take his captain to task if he disagrees with a decision or feels his captain’s judgement may be compromised. Some captains could see this as insubordination, but Picard sees it for what it is, the mark of a confident and competent first officer, who rather than blindly follow his captain’s every demand, is unafraid to speak his own mind when he feels it is appropriate. Riker knows when to be a subordinate, when to be a first officer, and when to be a friend.

When dealing with the rest of the crew, as mentioned earlier, Riker is confident and competent. He is also charismatic, charming, a shrewd negotiator, and a born leader. There have been instances where Riker had to command the rest of the crew of the Enterprise, or even had to take over as acting captain in the absence of Picard, and no one (crew member or viewer alike) had any doubt whatsoever in his abilities to command the ship. Riker was acting captain of the Enterprise several times during TNG’s seven season run, and this would lead to him receiving his own commission and being made captain of his own ship.

This Star Trek first officer wouldn’t have been the same played by any actor other than Jonathan Frakes.

Not only do I feel that Riker is the best first officer in the Star Trek canon, I must confess that I am also a huge fan of the man playing Riker, the great Jonathan Frakes.

As far as I know, no other cast member has been as involved with the Star Trek brand than Jonathan Frakes. Not only has Frakes assumed the role of Riker, (one of the franchise’s most beloved characters) he has also been very active in directing episodes, films, and the promotion of Trek. I hold to the opinion that Frakes is one of the faces of this franchise.

This piece is in absolutely no way putting down the other first officers of the Trek franchise, for to pick just one is a truly difficult task, but I think that none represent the franchise more completely then William T Riker, and indeed the man behind him.

Riker will always give his captain the respect he deserves. He will always make decisions that are in the best interest of the captain and his ship. Riker has the experience to know when to defer to his captain’s judgement, and when he needs to bring a matter to his captain’s attention, or even outright disagree with him.

Riker is more then capable of commanding the ship in the absence of the captain and has proven so on many occasions, and has also proven himself as a worthy diplomat, and while I do not claim to know Jonathan Frakes personally, he seems to be a man who is truly passionate about Star Trek, its past, its present, and its future.

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