William Riker’s Best Quotes In Star Trek


  • Riker’s charm makes him a fan favorite in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Riker’s ability to overcome challenges, even those posed by the mischievous Q or deadly threats like the Borg, sets him apart as one of Starfleet’s best officers.
  • Riker’s admiration for Captain Picard is evident, as he turns down promotions to continue benefiting from Picard’s experience and guidance.

William T. Riker is a character so central to the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation that the show’s quality is regarded as being tied directly to actor Jonathan Frakes’ facial hair—many fans claim that the show only became worth watching after Riker grew his beard. The character was envisioned by creator Gene Roddenberry as a strong and sexy second-in-command who would take up Captain Kirk’s mantle as the show’s action hero.


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Much of Riker’s success can be attributed to Frakes’ performance. Frakes’ natural charm and interesting way of sitting on chairs have made Riker a fan-favorite, so it’s hardly surprising that many of the character’s lines have stuck in the popular consciousness.

1 “I thought I had.”

“Up The Long Ladder” (Season 2, Episode 18)

Riker in

  • “BRENNA: And what are you staring at? Have you never seen a woman before?
  • RIKER: I thought I had.”

Riker has a well-deserved reputation as a womanizer and, although he eventually settles down with Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), there are plenty of diversions along the way. One such romantic tangent occurs in the much-derided “Up the Long Ladder,” an episode that has been understandably condemned for its offensive stereotypes of the Irish. Riker can’t believe his eyes when he first encounters the beautiful Brenna (Rosalyn Landor), leading her to ask if she’s the first woman he’s ever seen.

Riker’s suave response is an example of the character’s flirtatious attitude, and represents a key development in The Next Generation compared to The Original Series: it is not the starship’s captain who is the ladies’ man, but rather the first officer.

2 “The more difficult the task, the sweeter the victory.”

“Captain’s Holiday” (Season 3, Episode 19)

Troi and Riker in

As can be intuited from the episode’s title, Riker is not the focus of “Captain’s Holiday.” Nonetheless, the episode contains one of the character’s classic quotes. The episode opens with an exhausted Picard having returned from trade negotiations with two alien states. Troi reflects that it’s a miracle that Picard managed to make the aliens see eye to eye, leading Riker to comment on how the greatest challenges yield the best rewards.


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This throwaway line illuminates Riker’s character as a whole: he is a man who is frequently faced with almost insurmountable difficulties, whether posed by the mischievous Q or deadly threats like the Borg. It is Riker’s ability to overcome these threats that makes him not only one of Starfleet’s best officers but also a fan-favorite character.

3 “Maybe if we felt any loss as keenly as we felt the death of one close to us, human history would be a lot less bloody.”

“The Bonding” (Season 3, Episode 5)

Riker in

“The Bonding” is an interesting episode that examines the ramifications of a minor crew member’s death. This is notable, as typical episodes of Star Trek (even those that feature the franchise’s heroes temporarily dying) tend to shy away from the emotional impact of their demises. When Lieutenant Aster is killed on an away mission, it falls to Worf to take care of her son. Yet despite the episode’s foregrounding of the Klingon warrior, one of its best scenes features Riker and Data.

Data asks Riker why it matters how well the rest of the crew knew the deceased lieutenant—surely, he argues, her death is a tragedy either way. Riker’s response is an example of Star Trek tackling one aspect of what makes the human race tick both in fiction and in the real world and demonstrates the character’s more sensitive side.

4 “Deanna, facing death is the ultimate test of character.”

Shades Of Gray (Season 2, Episode 22)

Riker undergoes surgery in

  • “Deanna, facing death is the ultimate test of character. I don’t want to die, but if I have to, I’d like to do it with a little pride.”

“Shades of Gray” is, understandably, one of The Next Generation‘s most hated episodes. The glorified clip show was the result of a writer’s strike that endangered TNG‘s second season, which makes it supremely ironic that the episode features one of Riker’s most iconic lines. After contracting a deadly alien parasite, Riker adopts an almost Klingon attitude, telling Troi that he plans to die with dignity if a cure cannot be found.


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Luckily for Riker (and unluckily for the viewer), it turns out that subjecting the first officer to clips of his adventures is the solution. “Shades of Gray” may be no fan’s favorite episode, but it demonstrates that great character moments can exist even within the weakest scripts.

5 “What would Picard do?”

“Pen Pals” (Season 2, Episode 15)

Riker advises Wesley in

  • “In your position, it’s important to ask yourself one question: ‘What would Picard do?'”

Riker’s respect for Captain Picard is evident. Indeed, Riker turns down multiple promotions throughout The Next Generation to continue benefiting from Picard’s experience and guidance. Admittedly, this character trait was a product of behind-the-scenes realities (The Next Generation‘s static format dissuaded any major departures throughout the show’s run), but Riker’s admiration for his captain is made clear in other ways, too.

When asked by Wesley Crusher for guidance, Riker offers the cadet a simple piece of advice: act as Picard would do. This exchange is enlightening, as it not only demonstrates Riker’s admiration for his mentor but also his willingness to help others flourish in Starfleet.

6 “Mr. Worf… fire.”

“The Best Of Both Worlds, Part I” (Season 3, Episode 26)

Riker prepares to attack the Borg cube in

“The Best of Both Worlds” is regarded by many fans as the high point of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The two-part epic manages to balance an alien invasion story with a deeply personal narrative for Riker, who must take on the captain’s role that he has been avoiding throughout the preceding seasons. His decision to fire on the Borg cube even while Picard remains a captive of the Collective marks the character’s development into a true leader (and makes for one of the franchise’s best cliffhangers).


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While Picard would continue to command the Enterprise for the remaining seasons of TNG, Riker’s order to open fire is the first step on the road that would take the character to a starship of his own, the USS Titan. It’s another example of how “The Best of Both Worlds” is not only a pivotal moment in Star Trek canon but also a key turning point in Riker’s career and development.

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