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.
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.”
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.
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.