Star Trek: The Next Generation spent most of its time dealing with all manner of adventures involving the Borg and other aliens, and the very close friendships of the crew we followed on the Enterprise. While romance was generally a very small factor in the lives of the crew members, one romantic relationship that captured people's attention early on was that of Riker and Troi. Jonathan Frakes, who played Riker, is now saying that he was never happy with how that romance unfolded on the series.
Riker and Troi (Marina Sirtis) began their time together on the Enterprise as former lovers who separated because Riker's work took him too far from Troi. When we first meet them on The Next Generation, they actually haven't seen each other in two years. But, instead of immediately jumping right back into dating, the show grew their friendship while making their clear feelings for one another fluctuate over the seven seasons of the series.
Jonathan Frakes recently had the opportunity to reprise his role alongside Marina Sirtis' Troi, on Star Trek: Picard, and it turns out that one reason he wanted to do the show was so that they could fulfill the promise of the relationship which he felt was side-lined by The Next Generation. Here's what he told Syfy Wire:
When they introduced this story that Marina [Sirtis] — Counselor Troi and I — have a family and live on a planet that looks like rural Maine, it felt like a gift. The obvious gift being that we got to play together with our friends from 33 years ago, but it's also the idea that Marina and I had both held onto a very specific story for these characters. We held it close to our hearts for many years, and the writers had seemed to give up on it.
While Riker and Troi did, in fact, marry, that didn't happen until Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the movies featuring the cast of TNG. Most of the time the two characters spent on the show saw them put aside any personal feelings and be able to work as close friends. They had plenty of other romances (Riker especially) and would even periodically check to make sure that the other was alright with a new partner when that person was somehow important to their former love. You know, like that time Troi found herself falling for an exact copy of Riker's younger self.
Even though it was obvious how Riker and Troi felt about each other, TNG was pretty committed to keeping them apart romantically, and made the controversial move in the last season of having Troi and Worf start a relationship, which, of course, strained things between them and Riker.
Frakes noted that he understood why TNG left them as free agents, but felt that having the characters show up on Picard so many years after their wedding really helped add closure to their relationship.
At the beginning of The Next Generation, Troi and Riker were lovers before they transferred to the Enterprise, and then that [story] was buried so that they could be whatever — available to relationships with random aliens. [Laughs.] But, we held onto this relationship and insisted to each other that we maintain it. And as a result —I think — it resurfaced in the final movie [Star Trek: Nemesis] in which the two characters were married. It was very important, this relationship, we take it very personally and we feel wonderfully vindicated to see them return.
Fans have certainly enjoyed being able to watch Riker and Troi continue their romance as a married couple, so it's good that Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis stuck to their original idea that the relationship was important and needed to be explored.
If you haven't caught up with Star Trek: Picard, Season 1 airs new episodes every Thursday on CBS All Access. But, be sure to check out our 2020 midseason guide to see what else is new right now.