I have noticed that, regarding character, both Kirk and Riker have some similarities - both are womanizers and can be cheeky. There are certainly differences, such as Kirk being much less formal than Riker at the best of times, and Riker not having as much of a risk-taking attitude as Kirk. Now, it could be that I'm just seeing similarities where there are none, but with the success of TOS perhaps the producers may have wanted to reprise the character of Kirk a little in Riker.

My question: was Riker actually based on Kirk, or at least partially? (I say based, as, although there are some striking similarities, they are far from identical)

I'm looking for evidence from the actors, producers, directors, or writers to confirm or deny this contention.

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    Again, I fail to understand the need for a downvote. I seem to be attracting a lot of these lately (a review of my profile will show that some people DV questions that others strongly UV). Please will the downvoter explain why they downvoted? I cannot see what is wrong with this post. May 3, 2014 at 5:34
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    I didn't downvote, but on reading the question, I can see why someone did. You focus on a number of superficial similarities, as if Roddenberry or someone else sat down and planned out things like a middle initial or the "-er" part of it. That's overanalyzing to the point of absurdity. Then you just VERY briefly touch on the characters and that, from a writer's point of view, is where the important issues are.
    – Tango
    May 3, 2014 at 5:56
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    Look, it probably comes down to the fact that questions like can be answered with your own research. The second link on google is the memory alpha page for riker and the background information gives a bit of info about background. Duplicating this easily available info probably rubs people the wrong way, just imho.
    – sumbuddyx
    May 3, 2014 at 6:07
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    In addition to the above analyses: You ask an either/or question (tacitly limiting the kind of answer you will accept to only those which conform to your pre-formed notions) which presumes that your assumption Kirk inspired Riker is correct, and only inquires as to the extent to which you're right. (This is a common thread in your questions and may be part of the downvoting trend; you regularly ask questions which presume that some significant assumption on your part is correct and ask a question based on that assumption, rather than asking about the assumption itself.)
    – BESW
    May 3, 2014 at 6:17
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    You then conclude with a set of too-large pictures (one animated for no reason) with no mention of how they improve or elucidate your question. If you meant to point out that their smiles/hairstyles/whatever are similar, you should say that in text. Otherwise, you may give the impression that you think SE citizens can be bribed with shiny pictures to give you upvotes.
    – BESW
    May 3, 2014 at 6:19

1 Answer 1


William T. Riker is not based on James T. Kirk. On the contrary, he is based (at least in part) on Willard Decker.

The original concept of Will Riker had much in common with the Willard Decker character as intended for Star Trek: Phase II; indeed, the background story of the love affair between Riker and Troi is somewhat similar to that of Decker and Ilia as seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Commander Willard Decker was to have featured as the Enterprise's first officer in Star Trek: Phase II. Yet, the story of Willard Decker and Lt. Ilia were "borrowed" for the characters of William T. Riker and Deanna Troi when Star Trek: The Next Generation went into production. Riker duplicated many of Decker's character traits, as well, at least in the first season.>

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    Plus I doubt Riker's autobiography would have been named "Risk is Our Business" like Kirk's... I feel he'd more likely have named his "I, Riker" as he was always so pleased with himself and that beard of his... Or perhaps "I went into Star Fleet because I couldn't make it as a trumpet player" =P May 3, 2014 at 9:47
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    "I'm #1, so why try harder"
    – sumbuddyx
    May 3, 2014 at 11:30
  • Several Star Trek Phase II scripts were rewritten as Next Generation scripts, and having somewhat similar characters facilitated this. But since Picard is not very much like Kirk, I can see Riker getting a lot of Kirk's lines, making RIker based on Decker but with Kirk influences. Jul 8, 2016 at 13:29
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    Trombone, not trumpet Jan 31, 2019 at 13:17
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    Wikipedia claims without citation that Decker was introduced due to "concerns that William Shatner was too expensive to retain permanently," which suggests that Decker may have been based on Kirk to some degree. Then by the transitive property...
    – Kevin
    Aug 15, 2019 at 22:29

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