Let’s start with an observation. Smooth-talking bearded men who flip their legs over chair backs to sit in them shouldn’t be given commands of starships. Bad things happen and generally speaking the ship gets busted up something fierce when they call the shots. Yet, in the grand spectacle of mishaps such as these, none of these absent minded failures hold much of any consequence. Because crashing and burning is one thing. But having the confidence to brush it off as a necessity of doing business with him is quite another. This was the style of command incumbent in a man with solid posture, a finely trimmed beard, and a confident grin that could turn any green slave woman into so much clay on his own hand. This was Commander William T. Riker, second-in-command or “number one” of Captain Jean Luc Picard’s Enterprise.
The observation is important. I made it, more or less, as a sophomore in high school. It came in a life moment that could have seen me stay on my quiet fan-fiction reading self and would have left me as clueless about women and socializing as Data was about emotions. Star Trek: The Next Generation had been on the airwaves for nearby half a decade before I made that observation and I had been watching it on pretty much a weekly basis the entire time. Observations like this bring on slow creeping waves of enlightenment. Such was the case with of the nature of Commander Riker. There was nothing really overly successful about this guy, he simply charmed his way into doing exactly as he wished despite the overall effects he had on a starship and crew he had entrusted to him. Not once did his captain or fellow crew seemingly get mad at the guy for anything from dangerously breaking Starfleet laws to severely damaging or destroying the Enterprise every time he was given command. But, let’s not focus on the man’s faults. No one else around him seemed to do so and for good reason: His swagger.
William Riker exuded confidence in the way that let you know that absolutely everything he did was done with half the effort most folks put into things and about one third of anything resembling caution. Things like observations were for people (and aliens mind you, this is Star Trek) who weren’t Riker. They were meant to be made about him. Perhaps at that age I imagined myself to be like him as I aged. Romancing things up with all the wrong aliens on every planet you stopped at, being admired for my skills as a musician, and always being protected by wiser more cautious people in their jobs so that I could carry on in the one and only manner I could see fit. Basically Riker’s swagger comes to down to a belief that the entirety of creation had been laid before you to do exactly what one wished to do. The brilliance of it all was that nothing, not the fractured smoking hulk of his starship’s hull on a remote planet’s surface, the death of numerous red shirts, nor the near constant violation of the United Federation of Planet’s supremely important prime directive, ever lead to anything that would combat this view of creation. Here was a man that supremely believed in himself about all else. His belief so much so that even the universe agreed with him and never bothered to punish him for simply being himself.
Perhaps that’s what leads to me this point here, the point where I could sit and participate in this whole writing enterprise. To the extent Riker’s leg-drop chair sit, his often over masculine bravado, and the quotidian contouring of the universe to him that is essentially what I must suspect lies at the heart of conceiving of myself as a writer. There must be a reckless abandon to the manner in which we move forward remaking our world. In that recklessness there must also be some aspect of William T. Riker because observation is all too fundamental in the way we envision ourselves in this life.