How A Classic Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Quotes Akira Kurosawa To Explore Commander Riker’s Sexual Politics

How A Classic Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode Quotes Akira Kurosawa To Explore Commander Riker's Sexual Politics

A running story throughout “Next Generation” is Riker’s careerism. He was the first officer aboard the Enterprise-D, and it was made explicit from the show’s start that Riker was quite interested in commanding his own ship. Riker’s interactions with Picard and with the Enterprise crew whetted viewers’ imaginations as to what kind of a captain Riker would make. Riker’s command style is described rather bluntly in the NextGen episode “Peak Performance” (July 10, 1989) wherein a visiting tactician named Kolrami (Roy Brocksmith) questioned the first officer’s casualness and jocund nature. In Riker’s defense, Picard says not to confuse Riker’s style with his intent. “The test is whether the crew will follow where Commander Riker leads,” Picard says. “His joviality is the means by which he creates that loyalty. And I will match his command style with your statistics anytime.” 

After that, it was codified: Riker was a jovial leader. He plays poker with his inferior officers, plays the trombone in bars, smiles and — and this is the kicker — flirts a lot. There are several episodes wherein Riker visits other worlds, and makes flirty overtures with presidents and dignitaries (“Angel One” and “Justice” come to mind). Riker is, in fact, the “ladies’ man” that Kirk was reputed to be.

One might say that Riker’s tendency to flirt is also part of the above-mentioned “joviality.” While he never speaks it explicitly, Riker seems to feel that “friendliness” and sexuality are a major part of diplomatic relations. One can easily negotiate a peace treaty, it seems, over a cocktail and a few winks. 

This philosophy, however, had Riker facing a (sadly not fully explored) existential crisis in the episode “A Matter of Perspective” (February 12, 1990). 

Thanks to some technical minutiae provided by Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Riker is discovered to have been targeted by his alleged victim. In trying to kill Riker, Nel Apgar is hoisted by his own petard. Krag exonerates Riker, apologizes for the accusations, and the Enterprise goes along its merry way. The final shot of “A Matter of Perspective” is the bridge crew together again, smiling that status quo has been restored. 

This jocular ending, sadly, seems to explicitly remove the end for Riker’s story. Troi mentions that he is not the fun-loving flirt he sees himself as, but a tall, imposing, sexually domineering presence. His sexual politics are not, it seems, breezy or functional. They can, in fact, lead to fear, suspicion, even terror. The episode should have ended with a quiet scene in Counselor Troi’s office. Riker should have admitted his lack of personal consideration when it comes to his sexual demeanor. Troi would have then encouraged Riker to think a lot more about how he is perceived by others. Such an ending could have provided closure to the story and granted Riker a moment of character growth. 

This content was originally published here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *