21 Years Later, Brent Spiner Helped Reboot Data For Star Trek Canon
Data is back. But for how long?
In Star Trek: Picard Season 3, the saddest moment of Star Trek: Nemesis has seemingly been undone. After dying on the Reman warship, the Scimitar, in 2379, Data has been reborn in 2401. But, after the events of “The Bounty,” this new version of Data is decidedly different than the one we remember. Jammed in the same body as his evil android brother, Lore, the latest version of Data is fighting for his existential life in the episode “Dominion.” And, for actor Brent Spiner, the meaning of life and death for Data are very different than you might think.
Spoilers for Star Trek: Picard ahead.
Because Data’s living consciousness, which existed in limbo from 2379 to 2399, died at the end of Picard Season 1, the presence of another copy of Data’s memory in this new human-ish body, might make you wonder if those other Data deaths counted. But for Spiner, it’s a bit simpler than all that.
“People have said Data's died twice now. But, well, Data didn't die. He’s not a human being!” Spiner tells Inverse with a laugh. “It's like if your computer blew up, and you were still able to retrieve the hard drive. That’s the essence of him. So, Data goes on because they were able to access his memories and his experiences.”
Mental gymnastics aside, Spiner did have several conversations with Terry Matalas and the other Picard writers to determine that this resurrection made sense.
“I wouldn’t say I was resistant,” Spiner reveals. “But I was dubious, at first. The writers and Terry were so open and receptive. I don’t mean they just let me do everything the way I asked. I mean, we struggled. These are smart people and talented people, and so we would go back and forth. They were always wide open and available. And, finally, I think we came to something that satisfied all of us. Also, at the end of the day, I don't want to be home, wondering if my friends are having a really good time on the set, playing their characters again.”
In “Dominion,” we learn that Data's personality has been partitioned from Lore’s in this body, and the outcome of that struggle will determine, eventually, which persona will become dominant. In this way, the Data-Lore-Soong hybrid in Picard Season 3, is actually a new character, and not just a copy-and-paste of Data from Nemesis.
“It is a new character in a sense,” Spiner says. “But also, I think what we’re saying is that we are our memories. Obviously, we all have memories of things we love. But also of things that we don’t love. Of sad things. Of horrible things. Data is all of that now.”
In “The Bounty,” fans were reminded of Data’s love of Sherlock Holmes, something which feels appropriate in real life. After Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off the detective in “The Final Problem,” the sheer popularity of the character forced him to bring Holmes back. And Data is very much the same. “Well, we tried to off Data,” Spiner jokes. “But they keep tracking me down. They keep bringing me back in.”
Now that Picard Season 3 is warping toward its conclusion in just three weeks, it feels like the swan song for The Next Generation crew is truly coming to an end. With a (potentially) newly reborn Data, would Spiner want to continue doing more Star Trek? Or is this really, really it?
“The thing about being an actor is no one ever retires,” Spiner says. “Cagney. He was retired after One, Two, Three. Then he came back and did Ragtime. Fred Astaire said he never wanted to do it again, and there he is in Finian's Rainbow. Nobody really wants to stop.”
In this way, Spiner is open to appearing in a future Trek project beyond Picard Season 3, should a hypothetical spinoff series materialize or not.
“We don't have any control over it. I know Terry would like to do more. Certainly, if there was a deal on the table, and they said we’d love you to come back, then I’d have another decision to make. I can't imagine that I would say no. Certainly, if everybody else was doing it, like I said, I don't want to be at home while they're having fun,” Spiner says. “But there’s also something to be said for going out with goodwill. This season has achieved so much goodwill from the fans and critics and everybody who’s seen it. It wouldn’t be a terrible place to stop if we had to stop.”
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 streams on Paramount+