In DS9 S3E9 "Defiant", Tom Riker (Will Riker's transporter-accident-created twin from TNG S6E24 "Second Chances") comes to DS9 disguised as Will. When he (still in disguise) bumps into Miles O'Brien, the chief greets him warmly, but Riker says, "I have nothing to say to you, O'Brien. You know why."

I have always wondered what this was about. Obviously, if you're impersonating someone whom you don't know very well (Tom Riker having spent eight years entirely alone), you don't want to interact with people well known to the person you're impersonating, because they may catch you out in an inconsistency... so was this simply a way for Tom to get rid of O'Brien, to avoid an awkward situation?

If so then it was foolish on Tom's part, because if there was no dispute, the chief might start to wonder why Riker was snubbing him. So can we assume that Will Riker and the chief had had some falling out and Tom had found out (through intelligence gathering somehow)? If this is so, is it ever explained what this falling out was all about?

I know Riker and Worf had some disagreements over Deanna Troi (either in the "real" universe or some quantum alternative). But I don't remember any problem between the chief and Riker from the TNG series or the movies. Does anyone know?

  • 4
    Awesome. I'm watching that episode right now as I came across this question.
    – BBlake
    Commented Aug 4, 2013 at 3:35
  • This question and all the answers contain spoilers. I should have finished the episode before searching the web for Riker O'Brien...
    – daveloyall
    Commented Mar 4, 2020 at 0:17

5 Answers 5


There was no falling out between William Riker and O'Brien that I know of. Also, had there been, it is unlikely that Thomas Riker would have known of it.

I believe that your first suggestion is correct; that this was a reaction on Thomas' part to avoid a conversation with O'Brien that might bring up things that "William" Riker would be expected to know. O'Brien's surprise to the snub supports this.

I don't believe this was particularly foolish on Thomas' part. A conversation with a close colleague could quickly reveal that something was wrong. The path he took certainly confused O'Brien, but it likely would have taken some time for the confusion to form into suspicion, and Thomas planned (and succeeded) in being gone long before that happened.

  • 7
    @HorusKol: But then we wouldn't have an early hint that something odd is going on. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 4:34
  • 2
    Also, although there was no official on-screen argument that is seen, O'Brien may just assume Riker is angry at him for volunteering to transfer away from the Enterprise.
    – PeterL
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 16:02
  • 16
    I actually thought this was pretty clever on the writers' part: O'Brien in the one person on the station who could derail Tom's plan (well, maybe Quark, as he had a history with Riker too). What better way to get him out of your hair just long enough to steal the ship? I think people have the tendency, when confronted in this way, to retreat into their shell and assume that they DID do something to offend the other person and just can't remember what it is. A "poor" (cliche) solution from a writing standpoint would have been to just hypospray O'Brien or trap him in a force field or something. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 17:59
  • 8
    If O'Brien and Riker hadn't seen each other in the episode, the question being asked now would instead be, "Boy, wasn't Tom lucky that he didn't run into O'Brien!" Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 19:34
  • 1
    @HorusKol: "this always bugged me as some pretty poor writing (...) they could have just avoided having O'Brien and Tom meet" - wouldn't it rather be "poor writing" if Riker's plan had worked out just because random events (such as running into the chief engineer of the station and the ship Riker was going to steal) conveniently didn't happen? Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 12:36

Thomas Riker deliberately engineered an argument with Miles O'Brien, the one person on DS9 who could immediately identify him as an imposter.

This is borne out by the shooting script; It's clear that O'Brien has no clue why Riker is so angry at him and he's described as "too shocked to say anything"...

O'Brien takes his head out of the panel and sees Riker. He begins to stand up with a broad smile on his face, but instead of a warm greeting, Riker gives him his coldest and harshest look.

O'BRIEN : Commander. I heard you were aboard, but I hadn't--

RIKER : (harsh) I have nothing to say to you, Chief. And I think you know why.

Riker glares at him and O'Brien is too shocked to say anything in response. There's an awkward silence.

As to whether it was foolish of Tom Riker to try this ruse, the reality is that the deceit only needed to work for a day and it's unlikely that O'Brien would read enough into their encounter to do the serious legwork needed to prove that Thomas Riker was a fraud (such as locating the real Riker and contacting him).

On top of that, the fake Riker could reasonably assume that a career Starfleet veteran like O'Brien would be quite deferential to his superior rank. He clearly has no intention of speaking to him and O'Brien does precisely what would be expected and excuses himself from the Defiant's bridge

Frankly, the bigger (and more inexplicable) risk was that his fake beard would fall off before he could take control of the Defiant, immediately revealing his evil-twin goatee...

Thomas Riker

  • 15
    An important lesson to learn for all Trekkies - You can trust a beard, but never trust a Goatee...I think that's the 247th rule of acquisition.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 16:52
  • @Zibbobz - T. Riker is of course observing Rule #52; "Never ask when you can take..."
    – Valorum
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 19:45
  • 2
    Also, O'Brien was transporter chief on the Enterprise, and Thomas has a problem with transporters. If I remember correctly he may have been operating the transporter when Thomas was brought aboard. Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 6:28
  • 4
    @TysonoftheNorthwest - When he was brought aboard the Enterprise, yes, but he was on the Rutledge when the accident occurred.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 31, 2014 at 9:19
  • 1
    @colmde But he did know... Tom was pretending to be a well-respected senior officer, potentially a man with more time-in-service (and hence seniority) than O'Brien's own direct superior. As well respected as he is, a man in O'Brien's position does not mouth off to a man in Will Riker's position.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 14:25

Tom had to act in a harsh way since Miles and Will were such old friends...This way, he would not question Tom at the moment (due to his assumed identity/rank), and by the time Miles got through scratching his head over it, it would've been too late (just as is was).

This always bothered me too, but this is definitely the most logical explanation.

  • 2
    Are you answering the question, or just thanking other people for their answers?
    – Adamant
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 8:19
  • 1
    @Adamant - Probably the latter but once you remove the chatter, there's an answer in there.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 8:43
  • @Valorum - Yes, I think so. I didn’t flag it, because of that.
    – Adamant
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 8:44
  • 1
    @Adamant - The point about O'Brien being just as puzzled (and presumably then working it out) is a good one.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 8:46
  • Sorry guys...I was commenting on previous post plus outing my own spin on it. I didn't mean to be confusing...Sorry bout that...
    – BJ Duck
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 1:09

I believe the reason Thomas Riker snubbed Miles O'Brien on DS9 is very simple. O'Brien probably was the transporter chief on the U.S.S. Potemkin whose idea was to create a second confinement beam, which resulted in the duplicate of William Riker. They didn't realize Thomas Riker was created as a result of the transporter accident and he was stranded on Nervala IV for the next eight years, which separated him from Deanna Troi.

True, Riker was obviously posing as his alter ego so there's no way O'Brien could have known it was him. It was irrational for Tom Riker to risk blowing his cover like that, but we already know he was impulsive and reckless.

  • 2
    He wasn't. It was established (in TNG: The Wounded) that O'Brien was serving with Ben Maxwell on the USS Rutledge at the time the accident happened. Although it's theoretically possible that he swapped ships temporarily, there's zero reason to assume that that's what happened.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 7:40

O'Brien could have been the transporter chief in the accident that created Tom

  • 8
    He wasn't. It was established (in TNG: The Wounded) that O'Brien was serving with Ben Maxwell on the USS Rutledge at the time the accident happened. Although it's theoretically possible that he swapped ships temporarily, there's zero reason to assume that that's what happened.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 7:39
  • 2
    Even if it was, Tom was pretending to be William. It doesn't make sense for him to break character, and "you know why" would only make sense if O'Brien knew he was Tom.
    – Quentin
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 15:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.