|Starfleet Rank Captain|
|Portrayed Jonathan Frakes|
Frakes went to seven auditions over six weeks before being cast as Riker.
For the first two seasons, Riker is portrayed as bold and confident, an ambitious young officer in the tradition of James T. Kirk. Over time, Riker's character becomes more reserved, as experience teaches him the wisdom of a patient, careful approach. He becomes comfortable on the Enterprise, repeatedly turning down offers of his own command, and he learns to cherish the company of his fellow officers. Nonetheless, Riker never quite loses his arrogant streak, nor his willingness to occasionally disregard the chain of command.
Riker's background is first explored in the second-season episode, The Icarus Factor. In the episode, Riker's estranged father Kyle visits the Enterprise to offer his son the command of the USS Aries, which Riker refuses. We learn that Riker grew up in Valdez, Alaska, that his mother Elizabeth died when he was two years old, and that he was raised by his father until the age of 15, when he left home. In the episode, Riker has not spoken with his father for fifteen years, but they manage to partially mend their relationship over a game of martial-arts sparring called Anbo-jyutsu.
Other notable episodes developing the character include:
In the second-season episode A Matter of Honor, Riker volunteers for a temporary assignment on a Klingon vessel as part of an officer exchange program. In the episode, Riker proves surprisingly adept at dealing with the Klingon warrior culture, including the violent system of confrontation used for enforcing authority aboard Klingon ships. Later that season, Riker shows a genius with battle tactics, as well as a willingness to bend the rules, in the episode Peak Performance. In the third season finale The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, Riker has been offered his own command yet again, and a brash young commander named Shelby arrives on the Enterprise to help repel an invasion by an alien collective known as the Borg. In the episode, Riker ponders his place on the ship, his reasons for repeatedly refusing his own command, and the development of his personality over the last few years. He also comes into conflict with Shelby, whose recklessness reminds him of his own younger self. In The Best of Both Worlds, Part II (the fourth season premiere), Riker must take command of the Enterprise after captain Picard is kidnapped and assimilated by the Borg. Riker must prove his command ability under the most difficult circumstances, with the fate of human race hanging in the balance. By asserting his own command style and employing creative tactics, he manages to rescue captain Picard and repel the Borg invasion. In the sixth-season episode Second Chances, the Enterprise encounters a duplicate copy of Commander Riker who had been created during a transporter accident many years before. Though both beings have an equally valid claim to being 'William Riker' (since the two are exact genetic duplicates), the 'second' Riker takes the name "Thomas" (which is revealed to be William Riker's middle name.) In the seventh-season episode The Pegasus, Riker must confront his former commanding officer over a cover-up related to the destruction of the USS Pegasus.