Michael Chabon Reveals Riker-Troi Family Backstory On USS Titan, Including Son’s Middle Name Was Worf

Before being tasked as executive producer and showrunner for the first season of Star Trek: Picard, Michael Chabon was mostly known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. And so it should be no surprise that he knows how to write a story. And to show how much thought he put into Picard, he has now revealed some intricate family details he developed for Riker and Troi before they were reintroduced on the show.

Chabon’s story of Thaddeus Worf Riker-Troi on the USS Titan

In the episode “Nepenthe” Jean-Luc Picard visits his old Enterprise crewmates William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), still married, and retired from Starfleet living on the planet Nepenthe. The reason given in the episode for the move to Nepenthe was due to their ailing son Thad, who later passed away as a teen a few years prior to Picard’s arrival.

In the episode, an image of Thad as an infant was shown, along with some of his artwork, including the map to his imaginary planet “Ardani,” which also included a number of languages he also invented to go along with it.

Picard and Troi in Thad’s room with his “Ardani” artwork

This week Michael Chabon posted “SOME NOTES ON ARDANI” on Medium, which goes into great detail about Thad’s invented world and languages. It also confirmed Thad passed away in 2396 at age 15, and his full name was Thaddeus Worf Riker-Troi, showing how Deanna and Will honored their former Klingon shipmate. There was no mention of if there was any relationship between Worf and Thad, but it is possible he took this honor seriously and took an interest in the boy, something that could be explored if Michael Dorn ever guest stars on the show.

As for Thad’s fascination with other languages and cultures, as Chabon sees it, it was a reflection of the other languages and cultures he encountered on the USS Titan, which according to the Star Trek novels had a majority alien crew. Chabon’s post details what young Thad’s life was like on the Titan:

From a very early age, Thad became interested in the different native languages spoken by non-human personnel on board the USS Titan, a starship under the command of his father, William T. Riker. Born on Titan, taught Federation Standard, Thad was fascinated by the idea of a “native language” and how it was intimately associated with the idea of “home.” Home — a homeworld — became a source of intense longing for the boy Thad, growing up rootless on the Titan, constantly on the move. Employing a child’s logic, Thad decided that the first step toward having a homeworld of his own would be to speak a native language of his own. And so Kelu was born.

It was a fairly simple and arbitrary language at first, just a few simple words and phrases. But Titan crew members took an interest in the precocious little Kelu-speaking boy, to the point that they learned to speak it too. Kelu eventually became a kind of shipboard slang on board Titan, with many terms of Kelu reportedly still in use to this day, long after Riker and Commander Deanna Troi’s retirement to Nepenthe.

The rest of the post goes into details on the various Ardani lands and languages portrayed in Thad’s artwork, including one land inspired by “the memories of a Vulcan officer whom Thad considered his best friend on the ship.”

Picard, Riker and Troi in “Nepenthe”

While much of these details were never seen or discussed on-screen (and are therefore not officially part of the canon), Chabon’s backstory informed the development of the props, along with actor performances. When Jonathan Frakes talked to TrekMovie about how he prepped for the episode, he said: “The story about this son was explained to me. And that’s what motivated our move to that Nepenthe planet.” And it is possible some of this backstory could be used in season two or later. Frakes told TrekMovie he wants to return to Picard as Riker, adding “I’m hoping that there will be more Riker-Troi family.”

Elements could even come into play on Star Trek: Lower Decks. It has been confirmed that season two will feature Riker and the Titan. And season one was set in the year 2380, only one year before the birth of Thad.

William Riker and Deanna Troi on the USS Titan in Lower Decks

Some of Chabon’s story could also be incorporated into James Swallow’s upcoming novel Star Trek: Picard – The Dark Veil which tells the story of Riker and Troi on the USS Titan in the year after Jean-Luc Picard resigned from Starfleet. This would be while Thad was still a young boy. The Dark Veil will be released on Tuesday, Janaury 5th.

Check out  “SOME NOTES ON ARDANI” for even more details from Michael Chabon’s story about Thad Riker-Troi.


See more Star Trek: Picard news and analysis at TrekMovie.com.

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Looking forward to more Riker on Lower Decks and hopefully on Picard too. Nepenthe was a really great episode, and both Frakes and Sirtis were wonderful in that episode. It immediately felt like oh, yep thats Riker and Troi, they slipped back into the roles so well. Their backstory since we last saw them was sad but they (and I think Sirtis in particular), did a great job with it.

Unlikely to happen but I’d love to see Frakes/River much, much more involved in S2.

I really loved the entire back story they gave Will and Deanna in Picard, especially how Thad was done. Very creative. Also love that Worf is his middle name. There is a reason Nepenthe is such a stand out episode for most Trek fans. Real character development. Hope they do expand on it in season 2 on Picard. And yes I guess we could see something develop on the Titan in Lower Decks but that’s probably a few seasons away.

I like the idea that he was named in honor of Worf, but found this a little odd as Worf is Deanna’s ex-boyfriend…

Worf is the real daddy. Calling it.

Happy new year daddy.

Happy New Year Son

I thought the same thing.

Thad:: Where does my Middle name come from?
Wil: One of your mother’s former lovers.
Thad: Eeeew.
Kestra: I think I don”t wanna know why my middle name is Minuet.

They dated for a year over 25 years ago. They weren’t married.

Re: They weren’t married

In PARALLELS, Worf certainly found himself in a universe where they were.

With all the time travel and universe hopping, in all the series leading up to DISCOVERY, not to mention DISCOVERY itself, it isn’t totally out of the realm of possibilities.

Ok, but not in the prime universe. And Star Trek takes place in a huge multiverse. I wouldn’t be surprised there was a universe where Picard and Deanna were married. Or Deanna and Beverly. ;D

Re: not in the prime

You miss my point. All these shows, with ships hopping universes, and back and forth through time are prime altering, They are NOT synchronized.

There are multitudes of what can be argued as “real” Prime universes or timelines (You pick which is current Trek Prime science.) whose histories are out of sync with each depending whose ship you coose to follow.

The only “real” way that I can see to have a one true Prime is to have a series based on a Federation temporal ship enforcing the Temporal Prime Directive whose scripts resolve the alternate possibilities by declaring what they regard the one true history to be?

Oooookay. Thanks.

Point still stands, in prime universe, they were never married.

But you can’t possibly defiinitively document that fact for every equally valid Prime Universe spun out by separate history altering time jumps of different Trek ships and forgive me I should have included individual Trek characters who managed it on their own, as well.

And, like it or not, the 3 movies last produced established the precedent with the Kelvin histories being equally valid, that time travel in the movies is out of sync with the series. So with Picard time traveling in the first TNG picture we can’t even declare Troi’s wedding as definitively occuring in the television series’ Prime universe.

You could try to make the case that she and Riker are married in PICARD, but it, features Seven of Nine who can only exist thanks to the altered history of Admiral Janeway (And was it ever established definitively which Janeway appeared in the movie?). And their being married doesn’t preclude previous marriages for Troi, it only establishes they’re married.

Very funny!
However, realistically it would be more like:

Thad: Where does my middle name come from?
Will: Thaddeus Worf Riker-Troi, you’re named after two very courageous men. One was an ancestor of mine who fought in the American Civil war, about 500 years ago, and it’s been a family name ever since. The other was our friend and former shipmate, Captain Worf, who has saved both of our lives many times over.

But were they ever headmasters of Hogwarts Starfleet Academy?

He was also a person both considered a close friend and a brother-in-arms, so the idea that it would have been strange for them is, well itself rather odd. The notion that you should try to erase all former lovers from the memory of your partner is nonsensical.

The people of the 24th century, Starfleet officers in particular, are likely above the absurd and petty concerns that somehow still occupy the attentions of the lower life forms of the 21st. Was that not Roddenberry’s vision after all?

Fascinating backstory that makes so much sense.

Is the official Titan book series now defunct or something see as they essentially are doing a titan story within the Picard series brand or whatever?

Unless it’s mentioned on screen then it’s usually best to take everything outside of that medium with a pinch of salt

At this point, the post Nemesis Relaunch novels have to be considered to take place in their own “Relaunch” universe that branched off after Shinzon was defeated.

That said, the new television series haven’t hesitated to take context and ideas from them including the general history of the Titan and the idea of Control.

ViacomCBS retains all the IP for the tie-in novels so the writers can take elements and integrate them. The design of the Titan (from a competition for a book cover) is now canon as it has been adopted into Lower Decks.

Its a real shame that this level of detail never made into the show. In retrospect after a wonderful first half of the series, the second half was a real nose dive in terms of quality (in my opinion). They spent so long moving all the pieces into place that they ran out of episodes and the two part finale was a rushed hellscape of hand waving, missed opportunities and dropped plots.

It would be hilarious if Boimler had to deliver Thad on the Titan in a spoof of the classic Trek disaster episode

Just a thought – make Ardani and Kelu central to S2 of Picard. Somehow.

The ongoing Trek post-Nemesis story – as related in dozens of interconnected novels – is the best version, and not these new tales that try to ret-con everything, negating years worth of great storytelling for a few new “legitimate” episodes. The writers of these various new shows should refer to all of the existing novels and honor and include them instead of striking out on their own in rather bleak directions.

Book content was “retconned“ since TOS and TAS. Its by far not a Nu-Trek phenomenon. Hoe would you even decide, which author or medium is “correct“. You have games contradict comics contradict book series, and then there is ST Online with yet another completely different timeline. So. No. Even if they took inspiration from one thing or another, they would be accused of stealing…

“It also confirmed Thad [Riker-Troi] passed away in 2396 at age 15, and his full name was Thaddeus Worf Riker-Troi, showing how Deanna and Will honored their former Klingon shipmate.”

Did his grandmother Lwaxana call him “Thad Woof”?

And what if Ardani actually wasn’t imaginary? And what if that becomes the thrust of a very Star Trek-like plot point in a future season of “Picard”

And what if Thad has actually been on that planet for years?

(….Maybe with Peter Bishop….?)