Friday, 19 June 2009

Second Chances

Just watched the Next Gen episode Second Chances the other night. It's the one near the end of Season 6 where the crew discover an alternate Will Riker who was spawned in a freak transporter incident and ended up marooned on an uninhabited world for eight years.

This is one of those fantastic ideas that (idiots) who poo-poo sci-fi don't appreciate. And like a lot of Next Gen ideas it's handled amazingly well within the space of 42 minutes; how those writers managed to pack so much story into that space of time and do it so competently is a minor miracle.

Anyway, it got me thinking about an idea for a one-on-one game. The fate of "Thomas" Riker is fascinating - how would you cope with suddenly discovering that not only have you been marooned for 8 years...nobody even knew or cared that you were gone because (effectively) a doppelganger was in your place, making up with your estranged dad and shagging your girlfriend? How would you make a life for yourself as "the other Will Riker" in the brave new reality you've had thrust upon you?

This is the kind of thing that role playing games were invented for.


  1. I agree, this is a brilliant episode that tackles a massive concept within a very short timescale. Have you seen the DS9 episode where Thomas Riker makes another appearance?

  2. White Wolf's "Changeling: The Lost" addresses some of the very questions you suggest a cool RPG might; its central premise is uncannily close to your ideas here, and you might enjoy checking it out. (I also know you enjoyed "Changeling: The Dreaming," but fair warning: this is tonally a *very* different game.)

  3. Digging deep into my gaming vault (aka: a box in the basement) I come up with the "Doppelganger" stories from Autoduel Quarterly, the journal for steve Jacksons Car Wars. The main character is a clone who was unfrozen when his predecessor was thought dead, only to be part of the crew who rescued him. I think they did a couple of those stories.

  4. That was indeed a great episode, one that was overlooked in terms of not just good concept, but also good exposition. Thanks for reminding us of a good show.

  5. And despite being onscreen in two locations sometimes, Frakes still only needed two takes per scene... Damn, he's good!

  6. So that's what that DS9 episode was a sequel to!

    The closest I've come to a transporter accident in gaming was in my last AD&D campaign. Upon the party finding the Soul Gem, Glib Moltar's soul (Dwarf Fighter/Bard) was sucked into it, only to be expelled into the body of an elf from an alternate world during the final confrontation with Orcus and his armies of darkness. This 'dwarf trapped in an elf's body' was later split by The Apparatus into a Dwarf Fighter and an Elf Bard, both called Glib Moltar. They then each died separate horrible deaths in Ravenloft (the module). Yes, I am that kind of DM...

    wv: casto - spellcasting with gusto!

  7. sacha3791: I haven't seen all that much DS9. The only Star Trek series I've watched in its entirety is Next Gen. It's also the only one I really like - though to be fair I haven't really seen enough of DS9, Enterprise or Voyager to judge them.

    John: I've thought about getting Changeling: The Lost. Maybe one day. Which is what I say about dozens of different games.

    Blotz: Hmm. I wonder which came first? Presumably Autoduel Quarterly.

    Anonymous: I think, in general, the writers of Next Gen are unfairly overlooked. They managed to create coherent stories with beginnings, middles and ends which lasted only 42 minutes, consistently for 7 years. Okay, some are ridiculous and silly, but the majority are good and quite a few are great.

    zero_zero_one: That's why they call him Two Takes Frakes - the fastest lackluster film director in the West.

    Mothman's: You've not seen the episode before? Get it now.

  8. Star Trek is famous for bringing up cool, truly innovative ideas and doing *nothing* with them after that episode. They rarely do any 'follow-up' after introducing a cool plot point. That cool bit of tech they came up with to solve a problem? Never heard of again. That neat supporting character that opened up a neat plot point? Never heard of again. It used to drive me nuts.

    But now I don't watch fictional TV nor read fiction.