Star Trek's Brent Spiner Swore Off Playing Data — Here's Why Picard Changed His Mind

This post contains spoilers for season 3 of "Star Trek: Picard."

Once upon a time, fans of Brent Spiner's character Data from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" thought they would never get to see their favorite humanist android in live-action ever again, but the third season of "Star Trek: Picard" changed all of that. The character had already appeared in the series' first season and had given Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) his final goodbye before apparently dying for good, and Spiner was adamant that he had no intention of ever donning a Starfleet uniform again. Somehow, however, "Picard" season 3 showrunner Terry Matalas convinced Spiner to come back for one more go-round in outer space, giving fans the chance to see him interact with the whole gang from "Next Generation" one last time. 

So how did Matalas convince the esteemed actor to don the uniform (and makeup) one last time? It turns out that Spiner just wanted a few small modifications to his character, but once he heard that everyone else was coming on board it was pretty tough to say "no." Thank goodness, too, because Spiner gave us some of the best, most heartfelt moments in all of "Star Trek: Picard," and maybe even all of "Star Trek." 

More human than human

When asked recently by TrekMovie what it took for him to take the role of Data once more, Brent Spiner was his typically dry self, cracking a joke about them throwing "hundreds of thousands of dollars" at him, before explaining that it was just a matter of having frank discussions with Terry Matalas about what they were going to do with Data. Once the two had hashed things out, Spiner was completely on board to come back and rejoin his friends on the Enterprise. He didn't want to repeat himself, and Matalas' plan gave Data a whole new dimension. Spiner explained:

"[...] it's taking the character to a completely different place, really, than he's been before. [Gene] Roddenberry when I first met him, he was describing the character of Data and what he wanted from Data was that Data would get closer and closer and closer to being human. And at the end of the day, he's as close as he can be and still not. And I think this kind of addressed that even more. It continues that journey of Data getting so very close to being human still he's not. He is still an android. He still has an artificial body. And he still has confusion about the human condition and what it means to be human. And that makes him, I think, even more human, because we all struggle with that."

From the beginning, Data has always longed to be human. He even got suckered into having flesh put on his android body by the Borg queen in "Star Trek: First Contact," nearly forsaking his friends and crew for a little android-on-Borg action. So his actually being made human, or as close to it as physically possible via Dr. Soong's cloning technology, is perfect.

Allowing Data to age

The other thing that had to be addressed was Data's appearance, because he's an ageless android and Brent Spiner is, well, human. Spiner and Terry Matalas discussed the decision around Data's aged appearance on The Ready Room, including how his makeup would appear. They decided to go for a much more toned-down look than the bright silver of Data in "The Next Generation," since he's now made of organs and tissue instead of cybernetics and metal. There's still a little bit of electricity about him, however, or as Matalas called it, "a sparkly kind of robotic glow that kind of mimics a little bit of Data, a little bit of human." Soong apparently decided to make the body look older because of the wisdom it contains, as Data, Lore, B-4, and Dr. Soong are all technically programmed into the same mind. 

While I'm sure it was nice not to have to sit in the makeup chair for lengthy amounts of time to play Data again, getting to do something new and engaging with the role was a lot more important, and thankfully, Matalas and the writers of "Star Trek: Picard" managed to give him (and us) exactly what was needed. 

"Star Trek: Picard" is streaming exclusively on Paramount+.