The chair struggle: Jonathan Frakes’ Riker Maneuver on Star Trek explained

"Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2" -- Episode #110 -- Pictured: Jonathan Frakes as William Riker of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2" -- Episode #110 -- Pictured: Jonathan Frakes as William Riker of the the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: PICARD. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2019 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Jonathan Frakes’ Riker Maneuver from Star Trek is epic. Unfortunately, this does not work for those of us in the not-even-5-feet-tall range. Trust me, I have tried and failed. 

In the vast universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where space adventures unfolded on the starship USS Enterprise, there was a very tall and unexpected star stealing the spotlight – none other than Commander William Riker, played by the talented and charismatic Jonathan Frakes. While Riker’s command skills and dashing charisma were undoubtedly the reason we were all hooked on him, it was his unique and comical approach to sitting down that has become the stuff of legend.

One might assume that, you know, sitting down in the 24th century would be a straightforward affair, with advanced technology providing better and more comfortable seating and stuff. However, for Jonathan Frakes, the simple act of taking a seat turned into a memorable spectacle. On the set of The Next Generation, Frakes found himself facing a recurring challenge – the chairs on the USS Enterprise seemed designed to defy conventional sitting for him.

The birth of the Riker Maneuver

Enter the now-infamous Riker Maneuver, a term coined by fans who keenly observed Frakes’ unconventional sitting technique. Instead of gracefully lowering himself into a chair, Riker, in classic Frakes fashion, opted for a leg swing that involved swinging one leg over the back of the chair and straddling it before finally settling down. This became a signature move, leaving fans both amused and intrigued by the character’s unorthodox approach to seating.

But why, Cam?

Well, the story behind the Riker Maneuver is almost as entertaining as the maneuver itself. It turns out that the chairs on the set were not as accommodating as one might think.

In an interview with IGN, Jonathan Frakes said that the chair design, with its high backrest and narrow seat, made sitting down conventionally a bit of a challenge for someone of his height – 6’3″. Rather than fighting against the chairs, Frakes decided to embrace the situation and turn it into a distinctive part of Riker’s character and kept it going for the duration of the show as nobody told him to stop doing it.

The legacy of the Riker Maneuver

Fans of The Next Generation quickly caught on to Riker’s unique sitting style, and it became a beloved and favorite aspect of the character’s persona. Once social media grew to be what it is today, it became the perfect battleground for memes and discussions about the Riker Maneuver, turning it into a cultural phenomenon within the Star Trek community.

Decades after The Next Generation ended its run, the Riker Maneuver still remains an enduring and endearing part of Star Trek lore. Jonathan Frakes’ ease in making humor and authenticity part of his portrayal of Commander Riker has solidified his status as a fan favorite. The Riker Maneuver is not just a quirk – it’s a symbol of Frake’s ability to turn a mundane task into a memorable and cherished aspect of one of the most beloved characters in Star Trek history.

Small quirks and unexpected moments are the ones that often leave the most lasting impressions. Jonathan Frakes’ Riker Maneuver is a testament to his creativity and the power of humor in storytelling, regardless of its setting or tone. So, the next time you find yourself settling into a chair, take a moment to appreciate the simplicity of your actions – after all, you’re not trying to navigate the intricacies of space seating like Commander Riker.

And you’re probably not 6’3″ either, much like myself.

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Did you notice the Riker Maneuver when you were watching Star Trek: The Next Generation?