Friday, December 9, 2022

Star Trek: Second Chances

Episode: "Second Chances"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 24
Original Air Date: May 24, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Will Riker meets his doppelganger.  Evidently, there was a transporter mishap during the evacuation of Nervala IV eight years before and Will was essentially split into two beings.  One is the character we have known on the Enterprise.  The other was marooned on Nervala IV, no one knowing he was there.  This second Will, who eventually decides to go by Thomas, has an understandably rough readjustment to life in Starfleet.  The presence of Deanna Troi aboard the Enterprise complicates matters for all involved.

"Second Chances" is a strong Riker episode and it plays on the very issue I have perceived with the character: the writers never seem to know quite what to do with Will.  By rekindling the Will-Deanna love affair, the story circles back to the beginning of the series when the two are first reunited.  We weren't given much to go on in the pilot regarding their past together, though there clearly was one.  NextGen doesn't develop the romance as much as it could have and for the most part, that's probably a good thing.  But questions linger.  A lot of those questions are answered in "Second Chances" and that's satisfying to a point.  And also very sad, especially for Deanna.  

In a sense, we get to see who Will is through who he isn't.  Thomas fell in love with Deanna and stayed in love.  Will didn't.  His ambitions took precedent.  But maybe we see in this story the limits of those ambitions.  Perhaps the romantic within Will helps to explain why he has repeatedly chosen staying on the Enterprise over accepting his own command.  The Starfleet flagship offers the greater adventure.  Maybe Deanna factors in his desire to stick around more than we've been led to believe.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

The best "Second Chances" story of all may be a behind the scenes one.  Dr. Mae Jemison plays the role of Palmer, a transporter tech.  In 1992, not even a year before the episode aired, Jemison became the first black woman to travel to space.  She was a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Endeavour.  

Typical of astronauts, Jemison's bio is extraordinary.  She was born October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama and grew up in Chicago.  She graduated from Stanford with two Bachelor's degrees, one in chemical engineering, the other in African and African-American studies.  After earning a Medical Degree from Cornell, she joined the Peace Corps, serving as a doctor in Liberia and Sierra Leone.  After working for a time as a general practitioner, she applied to NASA.  

Jemison was a huge Star Trek fan, Nichelle Nichols's performance as Uhura, in particular, inspiring an interest in space from an early age.  Bringing all full circle, Nichols was invited to the set during the filming of "Second Chances" in order to meet Jemison.  On top of everything else, Jemison is an accomplished dancer and choreographer.  She has also written several children's books, including a memoir and other books about space.