Data Star Trek

Brent Spiner as Data

Lieutenant Commander Data, played by Brent Spiner, is a character that appears in all but one episode of the Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) television series and in the four films based on The Next Generation.

Designed and built by Doctor Noonien Soong, Data is a sentient android who serves as the second officer and chief operations officer aboard the starships USS Enterprise-D and USS Enterprise-E. His positronic brain allows him impressive computational capabilities.[1] However, he has ongoing difficulties understanding various aspects of human behavior[2] and is unable to feel emotions or understand certain human idiosyncrasies. Data is in many ways a successor to the original Star Trek's Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in that the character offers an "outsider's" perspective on humanity.[3]


Gene Roddenberry told Brent Spiner that over the course of the series, Data was to become "more and more like a human until the end of the show, when he would be very close, but still not quite there. That was the idea and that’s the way that the writers took it. He was a classical pierrot, 'Chaplinesque ... a sad, tragic clown.' "[4] To get into his role as Data, actor Brent Spiner used the character of Robbie the Robot from the film Forbidden Planet as a role model.[4] Commenting on Data's perpetual albino-like appearance, he said: "I spent more hours of the day in make-up than out of make-up", so much so that he even called it a way of method acting.[4] Spiner also portrayed Data's evil brother Lore (a role he found much easier to play, because the character was "more like me"[4]), and Data's creator, Dr. Noonien Soong. Spiner said his favourite Data scene takes place in "Descent", when Data plays poker on the holodeck with famous physicist Stephen Hawking, who plays himself.[4]

Brent Spiner reprised his role of Data in the Star Trek: Enterprise series finale "These Are the Voyages..." in an off-screen speaking part. Spiner felt that he has visibly aged out of the role and that Data was best presented as a youthful figure.[5]


Dialog in "Datalore" establishes some of Data's backstory: he was deactivated in 2336 on Omicron Theta after an attack by the Crystalline Entity, a spaceborne creature which absorbs life forms for sustenance. He was found and reactivated by Starfleet personnel two years later. Data went to Starfleet Academy from 2341-45 and then served in Starfleet. He was assigned to the Enterprise under Capt. Picard in 2364, after two prior ship assignments. In "Datalore", Data discovers his amoral brother, Lore, and learns he was not the first android constructed by their "father", Dr. Noonien Soong. Lore fails in an attempt to betray the Enterprise to the Crystalline Entity, and Data beams his brother into space at the episode's conclusion.

In "Brothers", Data unites with Dr. Soong (also portrayed by Spiner). There he meets again with Lore, who steals the emotion chip Soong meant for Data to receive. Lore then fatally wounds Soong. Lore returns in the two-part episode "Descent", using the emotion chip to control Data and make him help with Lore's attempt to make the Borg entirely artificial life forms. Data eventually deactivates Lore, and recovers, but does not install the damaged emotion chip.

In "Inheritance", Data meets "Dr. Juliana Tainer", who claims to have been Soong's wife and involved with Data's creation. Data discovers that Tainer is also an android created by Soong: a holographic program recorded by Soong and stored in Tainer's memory reveals that the real Tainer died. Data complies with the program's request that Tainer not be told of its true nature.

In "The Measure of a Man", Data is legally declared an autonomous individual, as opposed to Starfleet property. Dialogue in the episode also establishes some of his performance statistics: his storage capacity is stated as "800 quadrillion bits" or 100 petabytes (88.817842 pebibytes), and his processing speed is stated as "60 trillion operations per second" or 60 teraflops. Data attempted to reproduce in "The Offspring" by creating an android daughter, Lal, from his own neural net matrix. She dies at the end of the episode because of an emotional overload in the face of having to be taken away from Data on the order of Starfleet. Data transfers her memories to himself.

In the two-parter "Redemption" Data assumes his first command as captain of the U.S.S.Sutherland during an engagement with the Romulans, where he is met by a prejudiced first officer. The first officer thinks Data to be an incapable officer for commanding a Starship, due to being an android. Data overcomes this prejudice by exposing the enemy tactics through his daring and superior thinking.

Data experiences dreaming for the first time in the first part of the double episode "Birthright", generated by a plasma shock to his system, during which he sees his younger father again, telling him, 'to be as free as a bird'. But this would not be the last time he dreams. Later, in "Phantasms", he experiences equally surreal nightmares which enable him to eliminate a life-threatening parasite from the ship.


Being an android, Data is immune to nearly all biological diseases that can affect humans and other carbon based lifeforms. One exception however was in the episode "The Naked Now" where Data was also a victim of the Tsiolkovsky polywater virus. Data does not require life support to function and does not register a bio-signature, in which case the Enterprise-D crew usually have to modify their scanners to detect positronic signals in order to locate and keep track of him on away-missions.

Data however is vulnerable to technological hazards such as computer viruses, certain levels of energy discharges, ship malfunctions (when connected to the Enterprise main computer for experiments), remote control shutdown devices, or possession through technological means ranging from Ira Graves' transfer of consciousness into his neural net to an alien archeological probe that placed several different personalities into him. Other aspects that separates Data from most humanoid life forms is the fact that he cannot swim unless aided by his built in flotation device, yet he is waterproof and can perform tasks underwater without the need to surface. Data is also impervious to sensory tactile emotion such as pain or pleasure, until the events of Star Trek: First Contact when the Borg Queen grafted artificial skin cells on him where he was able to feel pain of another Borg drone scratching him (The Borg Queen later shows him an example of "pleasure" with his new skin cells). Despite being mechanical in nature, Data is treated as an equal member of the mostly carbon based lifeform crew, to the point where his injuries are treated in the medical sickbay by bio-medical physicians as opposed to engineering where the technicians such as Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge would prove more appropriate to his positronic physiology.

Data is physically the strongest, and information/calculation wise, the most intelligent member of the Enterprise crew. He is able to survive in atmospheres to which most carbon based life forms would consider inhospitable as well as the lack of an atmosphere such as that of outer space. However, as a result of being an android, he is the most emotionally challenged, and with the addition of Dr. Soong's emotions chip, the most emotionally unstable member of the crew. Before the emotions chip, Data was unable to grasp basic emotion and imagination, leading him to download personality subroutines into his programming when participating in holographic recreational activities (most notably during Dixon Hill and Sherlock Holmes holoprograms) and during courtship rituals (most notably with Tasha Yar and Jenna D'Sora), yet none of those personalities are his own and are immediately put away after the duration of his usefulness to him at that given situation.

With Julianna Soong's inability to concieve children, Data has at least 5 robotic siblings (two of which are Lore and B4). Later on, his "mother" is revealed also to be his positronic sister as the real Julianna Soong died and was replaced with an identical Soong Type android, the most advanced one that Dr. Soong was known to have built. Data himself has built a daughter, which he named Lal (hindi for "beloved"). This particular android succeeded her father in basic human emotion when she felt fear towards Starfleet's scientific interests in her. Eventually, this was a result of a cascade failure in her neural net and she died as a result.

In filmEdit

In the film, Star Trek Generations, Data finally installs the emotion chip he retrieved from Lore, and experiences the full scope of emotions: joy (in which Data invents the "Life Forms Song"), humor, crippling fear in the face of danger, and overwhelming guilt at his sudden failure to save his friend Geordi. This causes the chip to overload and fuse into his neural net. Later on however, he seems to be able to control his emotions much better, even though he cries for the first time upon finding his pet cat safe among the ship's wreckage at the end.

The Borg tried to use Data's emotion chip to manipulate him in the film, Star Trek: First Contact, in which the Borg Queen could activate it against his will (he could not deactivate it), before she tempted him with "live flesh" grafted onto his arm to generate physical sensations, to force him to comply with her while still her unwilling captive. She then seduces him more successfully after his failed escape attempt by turning him into a full 'human', with later even more skin grafted onto his face. Data is eventually forced to take her life to end his captivity, and admits to having been tempted to join her, for a mere "0.68" seconds; an "eternity" for an android.

In the film, Star Trek: Insurrection, Data malfunctions after having been shot at during a duck blind mission, causing his safety protocols to take over his cognitive functions, causing him to run amok. He is eventually safely retrieved by Capt Picard, by "singing" him into surrender, in the face of an entire attack force, and is returned to his usual functioning self. Data also states that, in case of a water landing, he was designed "to serve as an emergency flotation device".

In the film, Star Trek Nemesis, Data discovers another older brother, the childlike B-4. To this character he transfers his entire memory engrams to help him evolve. Near the end of the film, after Shinzon has been killed by Picard, Data beams the captain off the enemy Reman ship, the Scimitar, to safety using the only emergency transport device he has. Data destroys the Scimitar and in the process sacrifices himself, saving the captain and crew of the Enterprise. Data, as a result, effectively reached his ultimate goal of becoming completely "human", by giving his own life. At the end of the film Data's brother B-4 is heard attempting to sing the song Data performed for Commander Riker and Deanna Troi's wedding reception, with some assistance from Captain Picard.


Spot is Data's pet cat and a recurring character in the show. Spot is not actually spotted. Spot appears in several episodes during TNG's last four seasons, first appearing in "Data's Day". Spot also appears in Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis.

Spot originally appears as a male Somali cat, but later appears as a female orange tabby house cat,[6] eventually giving birth to kittens (TNG: "Genesis"). The authors of the Star Trek Encyclopedia jokingly speculate that these inconsistencies can be explained by the idea that Spot is a shape-shifter or victim of a transporter accident (depending on which edition of the Encyclopedia one reads).

Data creates several hundred food supplement variations for Spot and composes "Ode to Spot" in the cat's honor (TNG: "Schisms"). (The poem was actually written by Clay Dale, the visual effects artist.) A computer error later causes some of the ship's food replicators to create only Spot's supplements and replaces portions of a play with the ode's text (TNG: "A Fistful of Datas").

In "Genesis" (TNG) the morphogenetic virus "Barclay protomorphosis syndrome" temporarily mutates Spot into an iguana-like reptile.

Spot is notoriously unfriendly to most people other than Data. Commander William Riker once received serious scratches from Spot (TNG: "Timescape"). Geordi La Forge borrowed her to experience taking care of a cat, but she knocked over a vase and teapot and damaged his furniture (TNG: "Force of Nature"). When Data asked Worf to take care of Spot, Worf proved to be allergic to her and sneezed in her face, angering her (TNG: "Phantasms"). However, she did get along with Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, thus when Data had to leave on a mission at the same time Spot's kittens were due, he persuaded Barclay to take care of her (TNG: "Genesis").

After Data died, it was mentioned in the novel series Star Trek: Titan and in a deleted scene of Star Trek: Nemesis that Worf is now taking care of her on board the Enterprise.

Scholarly and fan receptionEdit

Fans and scholars have compared Data to Spock from the original series, though Data's desire to comprehend and emulate humanity contrasts with Spock's disdain for his perceived human shortcomings. Spiner later appeared with Leonard Nimoy in a scene in the episode Unification, Part II, where Data and Spock compared their ideologies.

In another vein, robotics engineers regard Data (along with the Droids from the Star Wars movies) as the pre-eminent face of robots in the public's perception of their field.[7]

In an interview with TV Guide, Brent Spiner said he received more fan mail than the other principal actors; he characterizes the letters as "romantic mail." He considers most of these letters as being "really written to Data; he's a really accessible personality."[8]

The Beat Fleet, a Croatian hip hop band, wrote a song called "Data" for their latest album Galerija Tutnplok dedicated to Data[9]. The release of this album coincided with reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation being shown on Croatian Radiotelevision.

With the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager, fans naturally began to compare that show's Emergency Medical Hologram to Data.[10]

On April 9, 2008, Data was inducted into Carnegie Mellon University's Robot Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[11]

According to Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers, he was inspired to develop the now popular iPod by watching Data in an episode of Star Trek: TNG listen to 5 pieces of music simultaneously, as well as queue up any song at will using the main computer. He was also inspired by the Enterprise-D holodecks to attempt to create his own, as featured in the documentary How William Shatner Changed the World.[12]

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