Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced a new kind of character to the franchise. While all of the previous protagonists of the series had either been humans or aliens, the newest crew of the Enterprise had an officer who was neither. Lieutenant Commander Data was an android, who was created with incredible strength, intelligence and durability, yet he lacked the ability to feel emotions. Data’s journey aboard the Enterprise was a quest to become a human being. He is the science fiction equivalent to Pinocchio, with the hope that he could find his own Blue Fairy among the stars. Data quickly became the breakout character of Star Trek: The Next Generation, with his journey of self-discovery becoming one of the main stories of the series.
We are here today to look into the artificial life of one of Star Trek’s most beloved characters. From his initial designs, the huge female fanbase he acquired, and his ultimate fate amongst the ranks of Starfleet.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Data!
15. The Skin Of Data
It is tempting for the creators of science fiction to cheap out when it comes to creating a robotic crew member. They will usually be satisfied with throwing a couple of silver boxes on some failed theater actor and call it a day. Gene Roddenberry wanted to do something more sophisticated with Data. He wanted it to be obvious at a first glance that Data wasn’t human, yet the costume also needed to be flexible enough to not inhibit the actor’s performance.
When Brent Spiner was cast as Data, he was brought to Paramount studios for an extensive round of makeup tests, as they were still working out exactly what they wanted the character to look like. They knew that they wanted him to have yellow eyes (as Doctor Soong couldn’t afford a set of the colored contacts that cosplayers use), but they were unsure of his skin. A video of this makeup test has been included on Star Trek: The Next Generation home releases and they show Brent Spiner with different skin tones for Data. The producers of Star Trek originally considered bright pink skin for Data, as well as shiny silver, like the face of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.
14. The Vulcan That Became A Robot
The idea for Data came from a character that was planned for a Star trek: The Original Series sequel series that never happened.
When Star Trek: The Original Series was canceled, there were numerous attempts to revive the series. The closest that came to happening was Star Trek: Phase II, which was going to be a direct sequel to The Original Series. Spock was going to be replaced by Xon, who was a full-blooded Vulcan. Xon had successfully managed to repress all of his emotions. He only took the commission aboard the Enterprise in order to learn more about human emotions, as he could not understand them. The character of Xon was eventually reworked into Data in The Next Generation.
The main reason Star Trek: Phase II never came to pass was due to the success of Star Wars, as that inspired Paramount to finance a series of Star Trek films instead.
13. Data Cannot Use Contractions (Except When He Can)
One of the many things that make Data different from humans is his inability to use contractions in conversation. He cannot say “we’re” and must say “we are” instead. Lore brings this up to Data, as he can freely use contractions in speech. Data’s daughter, Lal, also developed the ability to use contractions in words.
The thing is… Data can use contractions. He used them all of the time.
Data’s ability to use contractions was a mistake on behalf of either the writers of the show or the actor. Brent Spiner should be given a pass for this, as he likely would have had to do numerous takes for any given scene, so it’s no surprise that he would slip up from time to time. There is no excuse for the writers, however, as they had all the time in the world to do a “no contractions” rewrite of Data’s lines.
12. Data Was Inducted Into The Robot Hall Of Fame
Yes, there is a real Robot Hall of Fame and it exists to honor both real and fictional machines.
Carnegie Mellon University is host to an official Robot Hall of Fame, which holds a ceremony every few years to induct some new members into its hallowed halls. Wall-E was the last fictional robot to be inducted, during the 2012 ceremony.
In 2008, Lieutenant Commander Data was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame. The event actually managed to draw a few celebrities, as it was hosted by Anthony Daniels (who plays C-3P0 in Star Wars). Data was inducted by Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the reboot Star Trek movies. They couldn’t get Brent Spiner for some reason, which is odd, as it was really his performance that was being honored. Then again, he would have been inducted alongside the likes of the LEGO MINDSTORMS toy and a robot that was designed to test out the ability for machines to hop, so maybe he thought it was beneath him.
11. Songs In The Key Of Data
The relationship between the actors of Star Trek and the characters they play is an unusual one. On the one hand, the actor has become part of an iconic TV show franchise that will allow them to be remembered long after their death. They will also always be able to make money appearing at science fiction conventions. The flipside of this is that they will likely be forever associated with that character and will be typecast as a result.
Brent Spiner has admitted that he has no love for science fiction and hasn’t even watched most of the episodes of Star Trek that he has appeared in. Despite this, he has no problem using Data’s name for his side projects. One of these was for an album, called Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back. This was a Frank Sinatra and traditional pop song covers album. The title and cover art were a clear homage to Data, despite the fact that the album has nothing to do with Star Trek (outside of some of his Next Generation castmates providing backing vocals).
10. Data’s Censored Defence Of Terrorism
Many episodes of Star Trek have been censored around the world. Some episodes of the show have even been banned from broadcast and taken out of rotation. One such episode was “The High Ground”, which was part of the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode dealt with issues related to armed terrorism. It was banned in the UK for almost seventeen years, due to a conversation that takes place between Data and Captain Picard.
In “The High Ground”, Data discusses how terrorism and armed conflict can lead to political change. One of the examples Data gives is the “Irish Unification of 2024“. This refers to the idea that peace in Ireland was eventually brought about due to terrorism. It was this line that caused the episode to be banned and it is still cut from some showings to this day. This episode has never been broadcast in the Republic of Ireland.
9. Data Absorbed The TARDIS
Doctor Who predated Star Trek by three years. It was the premier science fiction show of the UK for a long time, though it took until the ’00s for Doctor Who to finally find success in America. In many ways, the two shows can be seen as parallels to each other. Doctor Who deals with time travel, whilst Star Trek was about exploring space (though both would dip into the other from time to time). Star Trek dealt with a large and organized crew of a military vessel, whilst Doctor Who is about a crazy alien and the random humans that he drags along on his adventures.
Star Trek: The Next Generation has had a crossover comic series with Matt Smith’s iteration of the Doctor. The story focused on the crew of the Enterprise teaming up with the Doctor, in order to stop an alliance between the Cybermen and the Borg. In the final issue, a Borg drone makes its way inside the TARDIS and attempts to assimilate the main computer. The consciousness of the TARDIS flees into Data, in order to escape the assimilation. This briefly gives Data a massive surge of power (which also happened to the 9th Doctor) and allows him to destroy the Borg drone.
8. Girls Love Fully Functional Guys
The first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation is often considered to be the worst of the show’s run. This is mainly due to a few bad episodes at the start of the season. You had the bouncing Ferengis of “The Last Outpost” and the outright racist portrayal of black people in “Code of Honor”. There was also “The Naked Now” which featured the crew being infected with a disease whose symptoms resembled alcohol intoxication. The most well-remembered scene from this episode involves Tasha Yar having sex with Data after he reassures her that he is “fully functional”.
Data’s capacity for robot intercourse seemed to have inflamed the imaginations of his female fanbase. Brent Spiner was soon inundated with fan mail from interested lady Star Trek fans. This is the despite the fact that Data is supposed to look inhuman. According to Spiner, the reason women are attracted to the character is due to his inability to feel hatred or malice.
7. Data Escaped From Death
Data dies during the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. He sacrifices his life to destroy Shinzon’s ship and saves the Enterprise from destruction. The other members of the Enterprise crew mourn Data’s passing upon their return. The film suggests that Data might have found a way to cheat death, however. Earlier in the movie, they found an early prototype version of the Soong-type android, called B-4. Data had copied his memories and thoughts into B-4, in an effort to improve his functionality. At the end of the film, B-4 starts to exhibit elements of Data’s behavior.
There is a Star Trek MMO, which is stated to be the official continuation of the TV show universe. Star Trek Online revealed that Data’s mind would eventually take over B-4’s body, which allowed him to be resurrected. Spock also cheated death in a similar manner in the Star Trek movies. Data returned to service in Starfleet upon his return.
6. Data’s Transforming Cat
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Federation would enter a war with the Dominion. There were shapeshifters among the Dominion, who took over the lives of high-ranking Federation officials as part of their plan to sabotage the war effort. This started a wave of paranoia at Starfleet, as they desperately sought out a way to detect the shapeshifters.
It is a good thing that this paranoia never spread to the Enterprise, as Data’s cat would have been thrown out of one of the airlocks.
Data had a pet cat aboard the Enterprise, named Spot. During his initial appearances, Spot was clearly a male Somali cat. In later appearances, he changed into a female orange tabby, who got knocked up by one of the other cats aboard the Enterprise and gave birth to a litter of kittens.
5. Data Has Beaten Wolverine In A Fight
There have been several comic books and novels released over the years that have crossed the X-Men over with the cast of Star Trek.
In the comic series Second Contact, the crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation are sent back in time by Kang the Conqueror and arrive on Earth during the time when the X-Men are active. Data and Geordi are sent to infiltrate the X-Men’s mansion, where they run afoul of Wolverine. Data grabs Wolverine by the shoulder and throws him across the room like it’s no big thing. Colossus enters the room, only to have one of his punches stopped in its tracks by Data.
This wasn’t the first time that Wolverine jobbed out to a Starfleet officer. In Star Trek/X-Men, Mr. Spock would take out an angry Wolverine with the Vulcan nerve pinch. It seems that a healing factor and an adamantium-coated skeleton weren’t enough to stop Mr. Spock.
4. Data Was Almost Made By Aliens
Data is one of the most unique beings in the whole Star Trek universe. He was created by Doctor Noonien Soong, who sought to create an android that was superior to humans in every way. Only three Soong-type androids are known to exist, with Data’s death in Nemesis bringing that number down to two. Over time, Data would fulfill his dream of feeling emotions and becoming as close to human as he possibly could, which also allowed Doctor Soong’s ambitions to be realized.
In the original design documents for Star Trek: The Next Generation, there is no mention of Doctor Soong. Gene Roddenberry originally envisioned Data as being constructed by aliens, who left him at a Federation colony for unknown reasons. Data was also supposed to be totally indistinguishable from human beings. This means that Data was almost one of the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica!
3. The Nightmare On Enterprise Street
The roles for each character in Star Trek: The Next Generation were read by many actors. According to the actors that did get the roles, this was partly because everyone thought it would be a quick paycheque. It was thought that a new Star Trek series would bomb, as the cast of The Original Series had become so iconic that no one could replace them. Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner have both said that they expected to just film a pilot and a few episodes before the plug was pulled on the project.
Brent Spiner was quickly chosen to take the role of Data. The most well-known applicant to audition for the part was Robert Englund, who was known for playing Freddie Kreuger in the Nightmare On Elm Street movie series. Englund had become typecast for horror movie roles after the success of Nightmare On Elm Street, so maybe he was hoping to be typecast for science fiction roles instead.
2. Data’s Replacement
As an android, Data can be almost immortal. This is due to the fact that he has the ability to replace his body parts when they start to deteriorate. Outside of being blown up (like at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis), it is possible for Data to still exist in Star Trek franchises for years to come.
The main problem with Data’s immortality is Brent Spiner’s actual mortality. Brent Spiner has aged a great deal since Nemesis (unlike Patrick Stewart, who looks exactly the same) and he feels that he can no longer appropriately play Data in Star Trek outside of voice-only roles.
Brent Spiner’s inevitable demise doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Data, as other actors could take over the role, with the explanation that Data has changed how he looks for some reason (kind of the like the Doctor’s regenerations in Doctor Who). Brent Spiner has already given his official recommendation for an actor to take over the role. According to Spiner, he would choose Tilda Swinton to take over his position as Data.
1. Data Became The Captain Of The Enterprise
In the episode “Redemption II”, Data is given command of the USS Sutherland. He has to deal with Lieutenant Commander Hobson, who acts like a jerk towards Data, as he feels that an android should not be in charge of a starship. By the end of the episode, Data has proven that he is actually an awesome captain and Hobson grows to respect him. We are left with the impression that a command position awaits Data in the future.
There was a Star Trek comic released in 2009, called Countdown, which showed events from the TV show universe of Star Trek as they dovetailed into the reality of the reboot movies. Countdown shows us that Data (in B-4’s body) had risen in rank and had taken over Picard’s position as the Captain of the Enterprise-E. This position would carry on over to Star Trek Online, where Data is noted to have been the Captain of the Enterprise-E before its destruction at the hands of the Undine. Data survived the destruction of the ship and would later become a teacher at Oxford University, before returning to Starfleet once more.
The events of Countdown and Star Trek Online are likely not set in stone, as Data will probably return to the screen in some form or another. It might be Tilda Swinton with yellow contact lenses on, or a new actor playing the role in the inevitable Star Trek: The Next Generation reboot movie franchise. Chances are, we haven’t seen the last of ‘ol yellow eyes.