With Patrick Stewart making his big return as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard, it looks like the legendary Starfleet officer is mostly making it so with a bunch of new crewmates. And while classic characters like Riker and Troi appear to be showing up for what are likely cameo appearances, it seems one of the OG Next Generation crew is actually a cornerstone of the new series: Lt. Commander Data.
The thing is, Data is dead! Still, the golden android and Pinnochio surrogate had some robo-relatives who looked exactly like him. Yeah, there’s a whole family of Datas and Data off-shoots actually, like the evil Lore, or the not-all-there B-4. Let Brent Spiner himself explain…
“Well, Lore and B-4 are different characters, completely,” Spiner recently told IGN. “I mean, they look like Data, but they have different programming. So I just play what they write, basically. Fortunately, we have really good writers, and had really good writers who inform how the character is played.”
So the question is, could Lore or B-4 or some other Soong-type android figure into Picard? Hey, maybe that’s not even Data we’re seeing in the trailers. Oh, and what’s a Soong-type android anyway?!
Let’s explain all the different Datas!
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Regular Data is just that — the guy you think of as regular old Data. We followed his adventures for seven seasons of Next Generation and four movies, as he served as operations officer onboard the Enterprise. His greatest wish was to become more human, and he did his best to emulate human activities to that end, like playing poker with his friends, and practicing his painting, music, and acting. He dated, he got a cat, and he even learned small talk.
Eventually, he did get emotions, thanks to a computer chip — cough-Macguffin-cough — but unfortunately, he died in the last Next Gen movie, Nemesis, sacrificing himself to save Captain Picard. Or so we thought.
Dr. Noonian Soong (Human-ish Data)
O.K., he’s not an android, but Data’s creator, Dr. Noonian Soong, was also played by Brent Spiner, like most of the characters on this list. Also known as “Often Wrong” Soong because of his misadventures while attempting to perfect the positronic brain — the key to a successful android — the scientist eventually did just that, and Data was born. But only after some less successful prototypes were rolled out…
Lore (Bad Data)
In Season 1 of Next Gen, Data found out that he was not the only android out there when his “brother” Lore showed up. It turns out Dr. Soong had designed Lore before Data, but there was a bit of a problem with Lore’s ethical subroutines, which is a nice way of saying he was a son of a bitch. Also played by Spiner, Lore would go on to be a thorn in Data and the Enterprise crew’s side through most of the series’ run. He even teamed up with a group of Borg who had become disconnected from the Collective, with the android becoming a sort of cult-like leader to the lost creatures. In the seventh-season finale, Data was forced to gun down his brother during this encounter, and the last we heard was that Lore was to be deactivated. But come to think of it, the Borg are in Star Trek: Picard! Hmmmm…
B-4 (Barely Functioning Data)
Speaking of being deactivated, the Picard trailers show us that someone has been disassembled and chilling in a drawer at Starfleet for an unspecified amount of time now. Could that be Lore? Or is it B-4, the android who we learned in Star Trek: Nemesis had been created by Dr. Soong even before Lore? B-4 had a lower-end version of Soong’s positronic brain, and as such was fairly limited in his functionality. But when Data died at the end of that movie, the fact that he had copied his memories and uploaded them to B-4 left a glimmer of hope that our beloved android would be resurrected in his brother’s body… Which, really doesn’t seem all that fair to B-4 when you think about it, does it?
Other Androids (Not Brent Spiner)
But wait, there are even more members of the Soong family, both from one-off Next Gen episodes. Though Spiner didn’t play these two — obviously — Data also had a daughter and a mother, of sorts. Juliana Tainer had been Dr. Soong’s secret wife, but when she died, Soong built an android version of her because he couldn’t deal with the fact that she had died. Funny thing is, she didn’t know she was an android, and Data decided not to tell her as he realized she would be happier going on thinking she was human.
Lal, meanwhile, was built by Data. He considered her to be his daughter, and it seemed that with her, Data had succeeded in constructing a stable positronic brain like his own. Tragically though, when Lal exceeded her father’s programming and began to feel emotion, she suffered a cascade failure in her neural net and died. But notably, Data stored Lal’s memories in his own mind after her death. And as we know, Data’s memories were transferred to B-4… so maybe, just maybe, Data and Lal’s memories are still out there somewhere in the time period of Picard, just waiting to be given life again.
Dream Data (or Dreamy Data?)
We’ve seen Data appear to Picard in the trailers for the new Star Trek show, and it sure seems like this version of the android is a dream or illusion of some kind. We don’t know much about him yet, and even Spiner’s colleague Marina Sirtis, who plays Deanna Troi, seems to have questions.
“Is it Dream Data or Dreamy Data?” she asked when IGN interviewed her recently. You know, it’s a very good question!
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So what do you think? Which version of Data are we seeing in Picard? Could there be more than one of these guys lurking somewhere in the new show? Is he a dream or an illusion, or is there more to this than meets the eye? Let us know what you think in the comments, and for more on Star Trek: Picard, check out why Seven of Nine blames Picard, or ponder whether or not the Picard show’s real villains have been revealed…