Star Trek: Picard's dazzling San Diego Comic-Con trailer includes dozens of gobsmacking moments for longtime Star Trek fans - perhaps the biggest of which is the return of the beloved android Data. Portrayed by Brent Spiner, Data was the breakout character from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Audiences were enamored with the emotionless commander's journey to become more human, and Spiner's performance was good enough to put the character in the same sort of rarified pop culture air as Kirk and Spock. Data appeared in all seven seasons of The Next Generation, as well as the four movies featuring the TNG cast. In the final film, Star Trek: Nemesis, Data sacrifices himself to save Captain Picard, though his memories were transferred to the prototype android B4, who looked just like Data but had a far less sophisticated brain. B4 was too primitive to fully process Data's memories, though the film ended with him humming the song Data sang at Will Riker and Deanna Troi's wedding, suggesting Data is still in there somewhere.
There are a couple of possibilities as to how Data has re-emerged. The most obvious is that Data did eventually overwrite B4 and return to life. If that's so, it's likely a recent development; the trailer showcases Picard and Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) looking at a disassembled Soong type android, presumably B4. As the show seems likely to at least partially revolve around unassimilating Borg drones, cybernetic advancements figure to play a prominent role. Perhaps an offshoot of the new Borg tech was the opportunity to revive Data in B4 permanently.
The other possibility is that the body Picard and Jurati are looking at isn't B4 at all - it's Lore. Introduced in the first season of The Next Generation, Lore was Data's evil brother, created before him by Dr. Noonian Soong. The emotional, violent Lore met his end in Descent; he manipulated the burgeoning independent cluster of Borg drones who were made individuals when Hugh rejoined the Borg collective in the classic The Next Generation episode "I, Borg."
Once he was defeated, Lore was deactivated and disassembled. Unlike B4, Lore was just as sophisticated as Data; indeed, Dr. Soong himself was unable to tell them apart even while working on their brains in the TNG episode "Brothers." It's possible that a cyberneticist, perhaps Jurati, had figured out a way to transfer Data's memories from B4's positronic brain to Lore's. This could potentially result in a dangerous Jekyll and Hyde situation, with Data and Lore sharing the same body. This may account for why the android body is still disassembled all these years later - it would simply be too dangerous to let Lore back out into the galaxy, even with Data to temper him.
It's unclear if Data will play a major role in the Star Trek: Picard. He's certainly prominently featured in the trailer, but he's not a member of the regular cast, and seems unlikely to be a member of Picard's new post-vineyard crew. But even if Brent Spiner is only a one-off guest star and this is our goodbye to Data, it will still be a treat to spend a little more time with one of the best characters in Star Trek history.