Star Trek fans experienced a nostalgic thrill when they witnessed Jean-Luc Picard reunite with William T. Riker on screen in Star Trek: Picard. The comradeship depicted between the captain and his first officer in The Next Generation proved to be one of the series’s most vital bonds, as the duo shared an array of classic moments during their tenures aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D and U.S.S. Enterprise-E. Despite their mutual trust, many of their most memorable encounters stemmed from tense situations that placed the two friends at odds with one another.
Let’s examine some of the best Picard and Riker moments and decide which iconic exchange will prove to be “Number One.”
7. The “Final” Goodbye from Star Trek: Nemesis
Following Shinzon’s defeat, Captain Riker paid one final visit to Picard before he departed to take command of the U.S.S. Titan. While brief, the conversation struck a bittersweet balance between bidding farewell and looking ahead to new adventures. Picard playfully advised his former first officer to ignore his own Number One’s protests that a captain should not go on away missions, but the dialogue took a serious turn as each man expressed their fondness for having served with the other. Simple yet heartfelt, this goodbye epitomized a friendship that often transcended the need for words and stood as the officers’ last on-screen discussion for almost two decades.
6. The First Contact from “Encounter at Farpoint,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
After beaming aboard the Enterprise-D for the first time, Riker received a lukewarm welcome from his new captain, who swiftly assigned his second-in-command the task of conducting a manual docking procedure to reunite the ship’s saucer and stardrive sections. Picard continued the chilly reception in his ready room, where he confronted Riker’s stance that the captain should usually refrain from accompanying landing parties on dangerous missions. The first officer refused to back down, prompting Picard to begin to lower his guard and request that Riker ensure that his superior would never make a fool of himself around children.
Testing Riker’s procedural proficiency and willingness to stand by his convictions acted as Picard’s method of validating his decision to select the younger man as his Number One. The situation also represented the differences in terms of how their characters were outwardly perceived. Picard’s stern demeanor tended to obscure his kindness and friendly disposition from strangers, while Riker’s leadership capabilities were only rivaled by his good-natured attitude. The scene broke the ice between the two officers in an expertly executed fashion that ultimately mirrored their goodbye in Nemesis.
5. The Klingon Way from “A Matter Of Honor,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
While Riker participated in an officer exchange program aboard the Klingon vessel Pagh, Captain Kargan mistakenly assumed that Picard had purposely planted a corrosive organism on the starship’s hull. The Klingon vowed to seek revenge and set out to destroy the Enterprise-D. Torn between his loyalty to the Federation and the oath he swore to Kargan, Riker cleverly maneuvered himself into a position that would allow him to honor both pledges. Tricked into grasping the Starfleet officer’s transponder, Kargan was transported from the Klingon bridge to its Federation counterpart. Riker immediately assumed command, but the acting captain refused to give up the fight. Rooted in the center seat, Riker saved face in front of the Klingon crew and ordered Picard to surrender. Aware that his first officer would never endanger their vessel, Picard happily complied. Although the conflict deescalated as soon as Kargan was removed from the equation, the situation reflected key elements of Picard and Riker’s relationship. The captain exhibited an unwavering faith in his first officer’s judgment, and Riker demonstrated an unwillingness to break his oath to either crew.
4. The Number One Dad from “Rascals,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
In a more light-hearted episode, rogue Ferengi marauders captured the Enterprise-D shortly after a transporter accident transformed Picard, Guinan, Keiko O’Brien, and Ensign Ro into younger versions of themselves. Unaware of the children’s actual identities, the Ferengi invaders did not anticipate that the diminutive humans would organize a resistance against them. In an effort to communicate a need to release the computer lockout, Picard requested an audience with Riker by claiming he was his son. The ruse worked, but Jean-Luc accidentally referred to his first officer as Number One. Before the Ferengi could question the remark, Picard explained that he simply meant Riker was his “Number One Dad.” The humorous interaction supplied a highly unique perspective on the officers’ friendship and working relationship.
3. The Mutiny from “The Pegasus,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
A reunion with Admiral Pressman once again placed Riker in a situation that divided his loyalties, although the Enterprise-D’s second-in-command would eventually be cornered into choosing a side in this particular instance. Picard pressed Riker for details surrounding the mutiny aboard the U.S.S. Pegasus, but his first officer refused to dive into the incident with the level of detail that the captain would have normally expected. However, when the Romulans trap the Enterprise-D inside of an asteroid, Riker finally comes forward to that Pressman had violated the Treaty of Algeron and secretly developed a Federation cloaking device.
The revelation saved the ship and destroyed Pressman’s career, but it also sent Riker to the brig. In perhaps the most trying moment of their brotherhood, Picard extended an olive branch and acknowledged that Number One made the correct decision when the time to act emerged. The captain expressed his support for Riker, proving that captains and first officers must weather the ups and downs together. On top of that, Picard’s visit to the detention cell provided audiences with the unsettling imagery of seeing the beloved first officer incarcerated.
2. The Stand-Off from “The Best of Both Worlds,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
Fresh off of their assimilation of Picard, the Borg Collective deployed the captain’s strategic knowledge and familiarity with Riker’s tactics to deflect an attack by the Enterprise-D. Simultaneously mourning Picard’s absence and facing off against Picard’s experience, Riker was forced to grow into his own as a leader and starship captain. With Guinan and the rest of the crew supporting him, Number One planned a daring rescue that caught the Borg off guard and resulted in Picard’s recovery. The temporary loss of the captain, the need to step up to fill the void, and the challenge of fighting a foe who was familiar with his strategic thinking all combined to help Riker’s command skills mature more rapidly than at any other moment in his life.
1. The Trial from “The Measure Of A Man,” Star Trek: The Next Generation
This episode placed Picard and Riker in quite the rare position. Both officers sought to protect Data and uphold the android’s rights, but Admiral Louvois required Riker to prosecute the case against his synthetic friend. Number One handled the unenviable assignment with his typical expertise, but all involved considered themselves fortunate that Picard proved more than capable of laying out an even better defense. The stakes were incredibly high on the other occasions that Picard and Riker squared off, but determining Data’s fate was perhaps the most personal cause that the two officers clashed over. The unique circumstances of this situation easily propelled “The Measure Of A Man” to land at the top of our list.
Will Picard supply additional moments that might eventually compete with the episode? I can’t wait to find out!
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance science fiction writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine. He can be found on Twitter at @CaptStobie and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.