Star Trek: Picard Season 3 Is Giving Us The Ultimate Brent Spiner Performance

This post contains spoilers for "Star Trek: Picard."

Throughout his seemingly unending tenure on "Star Trek," actor Brent Spiner has played the android Data, his own twin brother Lore, an android prototype named B-4, and the creator of all three, the elderly Dr. Noonien Soong. Additionally, since "Star Trek" takes place over such a broad timeline, Spiner also played the son of Noonien Dr. Altan Soong, as well as two of the character's ancestors, Dr. Arik Soong, and Dr. Adam Soong, the latter of whom lived in Los Angeles in 2024. That's six different characters. 

At the end of Start Baird's 2002 film "Star Trek: Nemesis," Data sacrificed his own life to blow up an enemy ship and save the U.S.S. Enterprise from destruction. At that point in "Star Trek," Lore had been deactivated, and the last Dr. Song had died of old age. The only remaining Data-adjacent character was B-4. Perhaps not content with only one Spiner in their universe, in 2020, the writers of "Star Trek: Picard" invented a dubious way to resurrect Data for the show's first season. It seems that someone salvaged a single particle of Data's body out in space somehow, and was able to — heavy sigh — clone his entire android brain, somehow. Data's consciousness and personality were encoded in a computer database, but not shunted into an android body. When the consciousness of Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) was downloaded into the same computer database, he was able to speak to Data briefly. Data felt he had lived a good life, and that mortality was increasingly appealing. Picard deactivated Data, effectively killing the character a second time. 

And yet, for the third season of "Picard," Data has returned. The reasons how are a little complicated.

Every Brent Spiner All At Once

In the sixth episode of "Picard," called "The Bounty," Worf (Michael Dorn), Raffi (Michelle Hurd), and Riker (Jonathan Frakes) have broken into the Daystrom station to investigate a mysterious weapon theft. They find that the station is guarded by a complex A.I. program that temporarily stymies them with holograms of crows and of Professor Moriarty (Daniel Davis). They eventually learn that the security system is tied into the android consciousness of ... well, it's not Data exactly. But it is Brent Spiner. 

A hologram of Altan Soong appears to explain that the aged android in front of them — Spiner is 74 — is a new android model that contains the complete experiences of Data, Lore, B-4, and even Data's short-lived android daughter Lal (Hallie Todd) from the "Next Generation" episode "The Offspring." When Worf and crew revive this new android, it begins to cycle through its personalities rapidly. It's Data for a few moments, but then becomes B-4, not recognizing anyone. Then Lore snarls at them. Spiner used to play various members of the same family, but it's rare that he is afforded the opportunity to play them all at once.

This new composite character — Datalore-4? — is of course a somewhat cheap opportunity for the writers if "Picard" to bring back a twice-dead character in as organic a fashion as they could muster (without time travel, at least). But it may have also been alluring to Spiner, as he wouldn't merely be reprising Data for the umpteenth time. Spiner has said in interviews that he is ambivalent about playing Data, and that he was finished with the character multiple times over. The composite android would, as audiences see, allow him to give a broader, more challenging performance.


Spiner understood the dangers of playing a well-recognized character on "Star Trek." Many cast members of the 1966 series, for instance, became typecast and struggled to find high-profile work after their tenure on the show. Spiner once said in a TV guide interview that he could win an Academy Award for playing a role wildly against his type and aggressively demanding of his talents, and Data would still be listed first in his obituary. The idea of merely playing Data again was likely uninteresting to the actor. 

The composite android is not Data. It's a new character, recently constructed. It's several characters at once. Data, as Trekkies are able to point out, was constantly striving to be more human, fascinated by our species and the strange social foibles we adhere to. He didn't have emotions, however, beyond slight rudimentary reactions to things. While the "Star Trek" writers took a great deal of delight in teaching Data objective lessons about humanity, Data was often seen, even after seven years, approaching humanity with a fresh face every day. Data was, to employ an acting term, always on the same note. 

Throughout "Picard," however, Spiner has had a chance to do a lot more. His two Soong characters are dramatically different. Altan was timid and peaceful, Adam was aggressive and villainous. Now, with his new character, Spiner is allowed to be all his old characters at once, as well as something completely new. It's the ultimate Spiner "Star Trek" performance, a handy package for the actor to deliver everything at the same time. What audiences have seen so far has been nothing short of astonishing.