One piece of Star Trek: The Next Generation that has become a legend of its own over the years is Commander Riker's signature beard. Not appearing until the second season of the show, many people associate TNG's rise in quality and popularity during the second season with Riker's facial hair.
This idea of Riker's beard elevating the show has become so popular that it even has its own explanation on Urban Dictionary under 'Riker's Beard.'
"Euphemism for a moment in time (typically in pop culture) where something or someone that was lackluster and/or underachieving suddenly and surprisingly became much better and exciting. Taken from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which many fans considered wanting until Commander Riker grew a beard at the start of Season Two, after which the show was solid and well-received for the rest of its run."
In a way, the plan to change Riker's appearance came from Frakes himself. Between seasons 1 and 2 of the series there was a long pause in production due to a writer's strike, during which Frakes grew out his beard. By the time filming had started again for TNG Frakes decided he had enough of shaving and went on set as Riker with his full-grown beard.
Rather than have him return to makeup for a quick shave, Gene Roddenberry was thrilled about his beard and made the decision for the character to keep it.
“I love the beard. It’s nautical. We’ll keep the beard, we’ll trim it down and shape it. It’ll be decorative,” Frakes recalls Roddenberry saying about his facial hair.
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