I have recently learnt that “Riker’s beard” is the opposite of “jumping the shark”. When a popular TV show starts to go downhill, it jumps the shark. When an unimpressive TV show suddenly becomes brilliant, that’s a Riker’s beard moment.
Riker, of course, is Commander William Riker of the USS Enterprise. He first appeared with a beard in season two, episode one of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The second season is when Next Gen became the show so many viewers love today.
I was disappointed by season one. It wasn’t horrible but there was a heavy emphasis on attractive fair-haired aliens in scanty clothing. In season two, Next Gen matured into truly interesting science fiction with great characters.
If you’ve seen Star Trek: Voyager and enjoyed the way each episode explored sci fi scenarios, you’ll love Star Trek: Next Generation.
Good science fiction writing often examines what if conundrums. What if a society engineered super soldiers and then the war ended? What would Bronze Age humanoids think if they went aboard a space ship? Does an android have the same rights as flesh and blood human beings? You’ll find the answers in Star Trek: Next Generation.
But I guess the characters are the best thing about Next Gen. It’s quite nice that Data loves playing Sherlock Holmes on the holodecks. He’s now almost as iconic as the fictional Victorian detective himself.
I’m sure most fans have their favourite Next Gen characters. Back when the show first aired, mine were Data and Captain Picard. I didn’t like Riker at all, I thought he was cheesy, even with his beard. Thirty years later I still love Data. Captain Picard is very watchable, though I do prefer his older incarnation in the show Picard. The young Picard makes far too much use of his angry voice to get things done.
And as for Riker? With that handsome beard of his, what’s not to love? Sometimes you have to be thirty years older to appreciate something.