Star Trek Book of Friendship delves deep into Picard and Riker’s band

The main appeal of Star Trek is watching valiant heroes bravely act in the name of discovery, exploration, and diplomacy. But talk to any Star Trek fan and they’ll tell you about the franchise’s secondary appeal: workplace drama. The sci-fi spectacle may draw fans, but it’s the relationships between the characters that keep them hooked.

These friendships are the focus The Star Trek Friendship Book, from the Smart Pop imprint by BenBella Books. Kirk and Spock, Bashir and Garak, Janeway and Seven of Nine: they all get their money’s worth. The official tribute to the greatest friendships in Star Trek history appropriately comes in the form of conversations between two friends. Authors Robb Pearlman and Jordan Hoffman [Ed. note: Jordan Hoffman has written for Polygon.]

Pearlman and Hoffman were kind enough to introduce Polygon’s exclusive extract The Star Trek Friendship Book, also in the form of a conversation between two friends. Read further and below the horizontal line an excerpt from the book chapter about Jean-Luc Picard and Will Riker.

Image: JK Woodward/BenBella Books

Robb Pearlman: I vibrate with the excitement of an overheated warp core! I’ve loved Polygon since my parents first plugged Pong into our black and white Magnavox.

Jordan Hoffman: How is this possible, that was before websites even existed?!

RRP: Space and time don’t matter anymore, Jordan, so don’t question it.

JH: Because of me. Star Trek is stuffed with such wacky premises, but do you know what the basis of this show is to me?

RRP: You’re not going to start talking about the USS Reliant actually flipping upside down again, are you?

JH: No, but I want to come back to that later. For me, it’s about the characters and how they relate to one another through unique friendships.

RRP: Agreed! And it seems like there are infinite combinations of friendships. With a gold standard being Kirk and Spock, there are the spoken and unspoken loyalties that make up Picard and Riker’s friendship, the fun enemy pairs like Quark and Odo, and so many others. It was also incredibly satisfying for me to see that friendships exist within Star Trek fandom, whether online or at conventions. In fact, that’s what inspired me to create The Star Trek Friendship Book!

JH: We met at a con, if you remember. You promoted your first Trek books there, e.g Fun with Kirk and Spock and The wit and wisdom of Star Trek, and I was there, hosting panels and hosting the previous Star Trek podcast. And then one night we stayed up until dawn and made jokes to Armus.

RRP: Ah yes, I remember well! Maybe salsa and chips were involved too. We started talking about Star Trek and went from there. I mean, that’s the thing. Whether you’re just meeting someone or have known each other for years, Star Trek gives people an instant and undeniable shortcut that connects people. It’s that sense of connection, that sense of enjoying the same shared experience, that serves as a launch pad for deeper and more meaningful friendships.

JH: Talking about Star Trek was a great way to stay sane while we worked on the book during the pandemic. And getting our Star Trek friend JK Woodward to do the illustrations is icing on the cake. His painting of Garak, the Dr. Bashir puts on should be in the Louvre.

RRP: There is a parallel universe it is in! We should also mention that the book features a special appearance by our friend Dr. Erin Macdonald and a foreword also written by our other friends and Star Trek icons Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips.

JH: Is correct! In fact, a portion of the proceeds from the book will go to The Planetary Society, so the book provides a way for Star Trek friends to help friends reach the stars!

RP: We are all in the same boat. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to be alone.

JH: In order. But keep your call frequencies open. I have more thoughts on The Reliant.

R: Picard and Riker are friends who would do anything for each other. Though their first meeting was a bit odd, when an unusually stern Captain Picard put Riker to the test by having him perform a saucer docking maneuver under a microscope, their friendship soon blossomed.

J: How many times have you faced the threat, “Oh no, Will Riker’s getting a promotion?” Feels like a lot! Some would describe their bond as a career killer for Riker. Of course you would be wrong. But Picard needed that. That’s why he chose Riker in the first place because he defied and got rid of Captain DeSoto on the USS Hood at Altair III. And he knew he could give Riker the absolute worst jobs ever and trust him to make him prosecutor in The Measure of a Man to force him to prove to the best of his ability that Data lacked capacity . That’s quite a

ask! But they both knew the only way to save their friend was not to come forward, they had to come right. Not unlike Kirk, who strangely fights Spock in “Amok Time.”

R: Wait, does that make Bruce Maddox a T’Pau or a Stonn?

J: Sorry, the thinner atmosphere surrounding this analogy requires a Tri-Ox compound shot if we’re to continue. But the writers knew they had something good there. There are a few episodes where Riker has to face off against Picard. The best known is of course the end of the third TNG season “The Best of Both Worlds”.

R: I can still hear those trumpets blaring as “To be continued . . .” came on the screen. And as someone who has chosen to spend their summers in air-cooled comfort, watching TV and reading, rather than having to go outside to exercise (the word still gets stuck in my throat) and wait for it That summer 1990 is coming to an end for the next episode to air was a particularly difficult season. And don’t forget “The Pegasus” from TNG Season 7, when Riker is ordered to keep the prototype cloaking device a secret from Picard – you can see him destroy it. It also didn’t do much for my anxiety.

J: This whole episode is stressing me out. I can watch everything, but I can’t stand it when Riker lies to our beloved Captain. But it wasn’t his fault! I really love how the two regularly know what the other is thinking, like the end of TNG season 2 “A Matter of Honor” and Rikers on the Klingon ship. Neither of them knows exactly how this standoff will work, but they trust each other enough to make it happen.

R: Best of all is TNG Season 6’s “Rascals”, in which the downtrodden Picard, or what I like to call him “Lil’ JL”, has to pretend to be Riker’s son. They both know exactly what to do and how to play it, but Riker just loves every moment of it. He knows he’ll be telling this for years because, “Oh man, this is going to be a funny story.” Riker is one of the very few people who can joke with Picard. And like any good friend, he knows exactly when to do it.

R: When you meet Raffi it’s like, wait, is she supposed to be a Riker 2.0? Which of course she isn’t. She is her own person. And then Riker shows up later in the series and cooks pizza.

J: Robb, I need to get some tissues while we’re talking about the group hug.

R: We are. It’s a sensational part of a sensational first season of Picard. Partly great fan service, sure, but also underpinned by the narrative that friendships with these wonderful characters only grew and didn’t fall apart. Picard, Riker and Troi are more than friends, they are family. They are our friends and family.

The Star Trek Friendship Book hits shelves May 10th.

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