150 – Second Chances

Grade: B

Second Chances (1993) on IMDb


The Enterprise is in orbit around Nervala 4, where the crew will need to retrieve data that was left on the planet’s surface 8 years before. What they didn’t know, however, is that Lt. Riker was duplicated in a transporter accident and while one of them beamed up to the ship, the other stayed behind on the planet.


Transporter problems are not exactly an original idea in the Star Trek universe. It seems there are at least a couple of episodes per season when the transporters don’t work, or when they have some kind of strange accident. But Second Chances takes a slightly different twist on the subject – we end up with two Will Rikers. I was interested at first, to see what they would do with this storyline, but eventually they took the easy way out. I’ll get to that a little later.

I liked the idea that Riker would have a second chance to make things right again with Troi. The plot could have become melodramatic, but this was thankfully avoided. And while we find out that the original Will Riker chose his career over Troi, this time, when the tables are turned, it’s Troi who chooses her career over Lt Riker. Pretty interesting – even if it wasn’t the direction I would have preferred for them to go.

Acting-wise, this is definitely among the best acting we’ve seen from Marina Sirtis. I was impressed that the story showed us how she felt in subtle ways rather than just have the character tell us. I could also say the same for Jonathan Frakes, who had to play two roles – one of the risk-taking Lt Riker and one of the more risk-averse Cmdr Riker.

But there were some weak spots in the episode as well. The poker game was a bit heavy-handed and predictable, and it didn’t seem to do much except add to the animosity between the two Rikers. Also, Cmdr Riker yells at Lt Riker on the planet, but it doesn’t seem very realistic. I’m not sure what it needed, but just didn’t feel right. Later, when Lt Riker won’t do anything because he wants Cmdr Riker to order him around, that seemed a bit much. And also when Lt Riker couldn’t find out how to shut down the radiation leak, but Cmdr Riker could – that was really stupid. We’ve spent all this time establishing the point that Lt Riker had been trapped on that planet for 8 years and that he would certainly know his way around the station forwards and backwards. And yet Cmdr Riker is the one who can solve the problem without even thinking about it. It just doesn’t make much sense to me, and it ruins the credibility.

Finally, one last problem I had with this episode was how that scene ended – with Lt Riker almost falling to his death, having to be rescued by Cmdr Riker. It just felt a bit over the top and melodramatic. I don’t like being manipulated.

Earlier, I mentioned that the story didn’t end the way I expected, or hoped. In my opinion, the ending (with Lt Riker leaving the Enterprise to serve on some other ship, while Cmdr Riker and Troi go back to their “friendship” relationship) was a cop-out. I think the series should have had a different ending and tried something more risky. Like for example, why didn’t they let Cmdr Riker finally accept a promotion to Captain and take command of his own ship? They brought this up yet again in this episode, as if to remind us one more time that the Riker we’ve seen up to this point just doesn’t seem to want to be a Captain. Then they could have left Lt Riker on the Enterprise so he could serve there and be with the love of his life. It would have been a little weird for this series to end with a Lt Riker instead of a Cmdr Riker on the ship, but that’s not a huge problem. Besides, it would have been an interesting problem to deal with.

The other thing they could have done is killed off Cmdr Riker and left Lt Riker on the Enterprise. After all, what is the point of duplicating a major character only to have him be written off the series like this?

About the only good thing there was to this ending is that we could see that this time, it was Troi who had to call it off. And instead of choosing to be with a man she loved before, who certainly still loves her, she decides to stay on the ship with a man who has repeatedly chosen to be with other women. His activities are legendary – we don’t need to recall them here. But I think it really tells something about how Riker and Troi have developed as characters. She’s now every bit as committed to her career as Cmdr Riker is to his. And maybe that’s the only thing the two of them have in common now.

So the bottom line here is that this is an interesting twist to a very familiar storyline, but there are a bunch of problems with the plot. I give it a B. Good idea, but not great in its execution.

Of Note

It’s odd that both Rikers in this episode look exactly the same, despite being different people for the past 8 years. Lt Riker even has the same hair, beard, build, etc. You’d think they would look slightly different based on how differently they’ve lived. And one other thing on that point – Lt Riker says he hasn’t had a decent meal in 8 years. So why is he just as pudgy as Cmdr Riker?