Data (Star Trek)

Data (Lieutenant Commander Data; Mister Data) is a character in the fictional Star Trek franchise. He appears in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) and Star Trek: Picard; and the feature films Star Trek Generations (1994), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).[1] Data is portrayed by actor Brent Spiner.

Star Trek: The Next Generation character
Lieutenant Commander Data
First appearance"Encounter at Farpoint" (1987)
(The Next Generation)
Last appearance"Et In Arcadia Ego, Part 2" (2020) (Picard)
Created byGene Roddenberry
D. C. Fontana
Portrayed byBrent Spiner
In-universe information
SpeciesSoong-Type Synthetic intelligence Android-lifeform
TitleChief Operations Officer
AffiliationUnited Federation of Planets
FamilyJuliana Soong (mother)
Noonien Soong (father)
B-4 (brother)
Lore (brother)
Dr. Altan Inigo Soong (brother)
ChildrenLal (daughter)
Dahj Asha (daughter)
Soji Asha (daughter)
  • Chief Operations Officer
    (USS Enterprise-D, USS Enterprise-E)
  • Second Officer
    (USS Enterprise-D, USS Enterprise-E)

Data was found by Starfleet in 2338. He was the sole survivor on Omicron Theta in the rubble of a colony left after an attack from the Crystalline Entity. He is a synthetic life form with artificial intelligence, designed and built by Doctor Noonien Soong in his own likeness (likewise portrayed by Spiner). Data is a self-aware, sapient, sentient and anatomically fully functional male android who serves as the second officer and chief operations officer aboard the Federation starship USS Enterprise-D and later the USS Enterprise-E.

His positronic brain allows him impressive computational capabilities. He experienced ongoing difficulties during the early years of his life with understanding various aspects of human behaviour[2] and was unable to feel emotion or understand certain human idiosyncrasies, inspiring him to strive for his own humanity. This goal eventually led to the addition of an "emotion chip", created by Soong, to Data's positronic net.[3] Although Data's endeavour to increase his humanity and desire for human emotional experience is a significant plot point (and source of humor) throughout the series, he consistently shows a nuanced sense of wisdom, sensitivity, and curiosity, garnering respect from his peers and colleagues.

Data is in many ways a successor to the original Star Trek's Spock (Leonard Nimoy), in that the character has superior mental skills and offers an "outsider's" perspective on humanity.[4]

Brent Spiner reprised the role in the first season of Star Trek: Picard.[5]


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." Spiner felt that Data exhibited the Chaplinesque characteristics of a sad, tragic clown.[6] To get into his role as Data, Spiner used the character of Robby the Robot from the film Forbidden Planet as a role model.[6]

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.[6] Spiner also portrayed Data's manipulative and malevolent brother Lore (a role he found much easier to play, because the character was "more like me"),[6] and Data's creator, Dr. Noonien Soong. Additionally, he portrayed another Soong-type android, B-4, in the film Star Trek: Nemesis, and also one of Soong's ancestors in three episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. Spiner said his favourite Data scene takes place in "Descent", when Data plays poker on the holodeck with a re-creation of the famous physicist Stephen Hawking, played by Hawking himself.[6]

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 had visibly aged out of the role and that Data was best presented as a youthful figure.[7] Spiner returned to the role for 2020s Star Trek: Picard,[8] having been convinced by the advent of digital de-aging tools.[9] He has stated the first season of Picard was his final time playing Data.[10]


Television series and filmsEdit

Actor Brent Spiner portrayed Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Dialog in "Datalore" establishes some of Data's backstory. It is stated that he was deactivated in 2336 on Omicron Theta before an attack by the Crystalline Entity, a spaceborne creature which converts life forms to energy for sustenance. He was found and reactivated by Starfleet personnel two years later. Data went to Starfleet Academy from 2341 to 2345 (he describes himself as "Class of '78" to Riker in "Encounter at Farpoint"—with "honors in probability mechanics and exobiology", although canonically may only refer to the stardate) and then served in Starfleet aboard the USS Trieste.[11] He was assigned to the Enterprise under Captain Jean-Luc Picard in 2364. In "Datalore", Data discovers his amoral brother, Lore, and learns that he was created after Lore. Lore fails in an attempt to betray the Enterprise to the Crystalline Entity, and Wesley Crusher beams Data's brother into space at the episode's conclusion.

In "Brothers", Data reunites with Dr. Soong. 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 lifeforms. Data eventually deactivates Lore, and recovers, but does not install the damaged emotion chip.

In "The Measure of a Man", a Starfleet judge rules that Data is not Starfleet property. The episode establishes that Data has a storage capacity of 800 quadrillion bits (1000 TB or 909 TiB) and a total linear computational speed of 60 trillion operations per second (60 THz).[12]

Data's family is expanded in "The Offspring", which introduces Lal, a robot based on Data's neural interface and whom Data refers to as his daughter. Lal "dies" shortly after activation. Later, his mother Julianna appears in the episode "Inheritance" and reunites with Data, though the crew discovers she was an android duplicate built by Soong after the real Julianna's death, programmed to die after a long life, and to believe she is the true Julianna unaware of the fact she is an android. Faced with the decision, Data chooses not to disclose this to her and allows her to continue on with her normal life.

In "All Good Things...", the two-hour concluding episode of The Next Generation, Captain Picard travels among three different time periods. The Picard of 25 years into the future goes with La Forge to seek advice from Professor Data, a luminary physicist who holds the Lucasian Chair at Cambridge University.

In "The Child", Data clarifies to the newly arrived ship's chief medical officer, Dr. Katherine Pulaski, that the correct pronunciation of his name is Day'ta, not Dah'ta.

In "The Chase", after being briefly attacked by a Klingon officer to test his strength, Data reveals to his attacker that his '...upper spinal support is a poly-alloy, designed to withstand extreme stress, and [his] skull is composed of cortenide and duranium.'

In "Descent", Data plays holodeck poker with Sir Isaac Newton; Albert Einstein; and Professor Stephen Hawking.

In Unification II Data meets Spock and is an interesting contrast: the android who tries so hard to feel emotions and the half-human/Vulcan who tries so hard to hide his emotions.

Although several androids, robots, and artificial intelligences were seen in the original Star Trek series (What Are Little Girls Made Of? and I, Mudd), Data was often referred to as being unique in the galaxy as being the only sentient android known to exist The Most Toys (save the other androids created by Soong).[13]

In the film Star Trek Generations, Data finally installs the emotion chip he retrieved from Lore, and experiences the full scope of emotions. However, those emotions proved difficult to control and Data struggled to master them. In Star Trek: First Contact, Data has managed to gain complete control of the chip, which includes deactivating it to maintain his performance efficiency.

In the film Star Trek: Nemesis, Data beams Picard off an enemy ship before destroying it, sacrificing himself and saving the captain and crew of the Enterprise. However, Data previously copied his core memories into B-4, his lost brother who is introduced in the movie. This was done with the reluctant help of Geordi La Forge who voiced concerns about how this could cause B-4 to be nothing more than an exact duplicate of Data.

In Star Trek: Picard, Data is seen in Picard's dreams, playing poker with him in Ten-Forward, and later painting in the middle of the vineyards of Chateau Picard. It is revealed that Dahj and Soji Asha are Data's daughters, created through fractal neuronic cloning, a procedure developed by Dr. Bruce Maddox. These neurons were apparently salvaged from B-4, who has been dismantled and placed in storage as his positronic net proved to be insufficiently advanced enough to hold Data's memories. However, Data's consciousness is revealed to still exist inside a quantum simulation crafted by Maddox and based upon memories retrieved from the neurons Maddox salvaged from B-4, the equipment holding the network now in the possession of Altan Soong, Noonien Soong's biological son. Since Data's memories only extend as far as the moment he implanted his memories into B-4, he lacks the memory of sacrificing himself to save Picard. After Picard dies, while Altan Soong transfers Picard's consciousness into a golem intended for his own consciousness, Picard meets with Data inside the simulation. Data requests that Picard terminate his consciousness, which would allow Data the experience of living, however briefly, believing that he could only truly live if he had a finite lifespan. Once Picard awakens, he carries out Data's wish and Data's consciousness rapidly ages to death, Picard giving a brief eulogy as he observes that what made Data remarkable was his ability to see humanity's worst traits and still aspire to the best parts of the human condition.


Data is immune to nearly all biological diseases and other weaknesses that can affect humans and other carbon-based lifeforms. This benefits the Enterprise many times, such as when Data is the only crew member unaffected by the inability to dream and the only member to be unaffected by the stun ray that knocked the crew out for a day. 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. The crew of the Enterprise-D must modify their scanners to detect positronic signals in order to locate and keep track of him on away-missions. Another unique feature of Data's construction is the ability to be dismantled and then re-assembled for later use. This is used as a plot element in the episode "Time's Arrow" where Data's head (an artifact excavated on Earth from the late 19th century) is reattached to his body after nearly 500 years. Another example is in the episode "Disaster", where Data intentionally damages his body to break a high-current electrical arc, and then Riker takes his head to engineering to solve an engine problem. Data's officer's quarters is unique in that it does not contain a bathing facility or bathroom, instead containing a work station with seats, eventually becoming also occupied by Spot, Data's cat.

Data 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), and shutdowns whether through remote control shutdown devices or through use of his "off switch", located on his lower back near where a human kidney would be. Besides Data, very few members of the Enterprise crew are aware of this switch's existence for reasons of security, including Captain Picard, Commander Riker and Chief Engineer La Forge. Dr. Crusher, who is bound by her Hippocratic Oath forbidding her from divulging this to anyone without Data's express permission, was the first member of the crew to be made aware of its existence in the first-season episode "Datalore". Data has also been "possessed" through technological means, such as Ira Graves's transfer of consciousness into his neural net; Dr. Soong's "calling" him; and an alien library that placed several different personalities into him. Data cannot swim unless aided by his built-in flotation device, yet he can perform tasks underwater without the need to surface. Data is also impervious to sensory tactile emotion such as pain or pleasure. In Star Trek: First Contact the Borg Queen grafted artificial skin to his forearm. Data was then able to feel pain when a Borg drone slashed at his arm, and pleasure when the Borg Queen blew on the skin's hair follicles. Despite being mechanical in nature, Data is treated as an equal member of the Enterprise crew in every regard. Being a mechanical construct, technicians such as Chief Engineer La Forge prove to be more appropriate to treat his mechanical or cognitive function failures than the ship's doctor. His positronic brain is deactivated, repaired, and reactivated by Geordi on several occasions.

Data is physically the strongest member of the Enterprise crew and also is, in ability to process and calculate information rapidly, the most intelligent member. He is able to survive in atmospheres that most carbon-based life forms would consider inhospitable, including the lack of an atmosphere or the vacuum of space for certain periods of time, though he appears to breathe. As 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 emotion 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 romantic encounters (most notably with Tasha Yar and Jenna D'Sora). Yet none of those personalities are his own and are immediately put away at the conclusion of their usefulness. Also, the abilities of Data's hearing are explained in the episodes "The Schizoid Man" and "A Matter of Time"; his hearing is more sensitive than a dog's and that he can identify several hundred different distinct sound patterns simultaneously, but for aesthetics purposes limits it to about ten. Throughout the series, Data develops a frequently humorous affinity for theatrical acting and singing. This is most definitively demonstrated in Star Trek: Insurrection where Picard and Worf distract an erratically behaving Data by singing two parts of A British Tar, compelling Data to sing the third part.

Data has at least five[14] robotic siblings (two of which are Lore and B-4). 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 constructed a daughter, which he named "Lal" in the episode "The Offspring". This particular android exceeded her father in basic human emotion when she felt fear toward Starfleet's scientific interests in her. Eventually, this was the cause of a cascade failure in her neural net and she died as a result. Star Trek: Picard revealed that Noonien Soong also had a biological son, Altan Soong; when Picard meets with Data's consciousness in a computer simulation, Data acknowledges Altan as another brother.

In the Star Trek science fiction universe, Data has a storage capacity of 800 quadrillion bits (which is 88.818, rounded, Pebibytes, or 100 Petabytes) and can make 60 trillion operations per second.[15]

Books and comicsEdit

In the comic book miniseries Star Trek: Countdown (the official prequel to the reboot Star Trek film), Data, having successfully transferred his positronic pathways and memories into B-4, now commands the Enterprise-E in 2387 in its mission to stop the Romulan Nero. Spock compares Data's "resurrection" with his own death and return years earlier.[16]

In the novels published by Pocket Books and set after Nemesis, Data returned in 2384 by having his memories and neural net transferred from B-4 into a new body which contained the memory engrams of Data's creator Doctor Noonien Soong after he was dying and being attacked by Lore years earlier. Data then takes control of the body after Soong deletes himself. After a tearful reunion with his old shipmates, Picard offers to reactivate Data's commission and to rejoin the crew but Data declines as he says he requires time. Several months later, with the help of the Enterprise crew, he is able to obtain the help necessary to resurrect his daughter, Lal.

The novel The Buried Age, set between the destruction of the USS Stargazer and Picard being appointed captain of the Enterprise-D, depicts Data's first meeting with Picard, during a mission where the two also work with then-Lieutenant Kathryn Janeway, which depicts Picard encouraging Data, who has prior to this been stuck in relatively menial roles because he was uncertain how to express ambition, to push himself and specifically request assignments. This advice leads to Data receiving a promotion and commendation when he uncovers a plan to sabotage the design of the still-in-development Galaxy-class ships, with the admiral overseeing Data's promotion assuring Data that there will be a place for him on a Galaxy-class ship when they are completed.

In the prologue to the novel adaptation for Encounter at Farpoint by David Gerrold, Data chose his own name, due to his love for, and identification with, knowledge.

Data also appeared in the crossover graphic novel series Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation2, set in 2368, in which the Borg Collective joins forces with the Cybermen when the latter invade their universe. Data and the crew of the Enterprise-D form an alliance of their own with the Eleventh Doctor—who immediately recognizes Data as an android upon seeing him—and his companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams. The group later forms a reluctant truce with the Borg, who have been betrayed by the Cybermen and are in danger of falling to them. Data and the others manage to restore the Borg Collective and destroy the Cybermen, but their Borg liaison then attempts to seize control of the Doctor's TARDIS. The time machine's intelligence then briefly transfers itself into Data to escape the Borg's control, and the empowered Data overpowers the Borg and throws him out into the Time Vortex before the TARDIS returns to its usual form.


Spot is Data's pet cat and a recurring character in the show. Spot appears in several episodes during TNG's last four seasons, as well as in the feature films Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis. She first appears in the episode "Data's Day".

Despite her name, Spot is not actually patterned with spots. Spot originally appears as a male Somali cat, but later appears as a female orange tabby cat,[17] eventually giving birth to kittens (TNG: "Genesis").

Data creates several hundred food supplement variations for Spot and composes the poem "Ode to Spot" in the cat's honor ("Schisms"). A computer error which occurs later in the series (in the episode "A Fistful of Datas") 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.

In "Genesis", the morphogenetic virus "Barclay's protomorphosis disease" temporarily mutates Spot into an iguana-like reptile.[18] Spot's kittens are not affected, leading to the discovery of the mechanism and a cure for the virus.

Spot is notoriously unfriendly to most people other than Data. Commander William Riker once received serious scratches while trying to feed Spot ("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 ("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 ("Phantasms"). However, she did get along with Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, so 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 ("Genesis").

Popular cultureEdit

Like Spock,[19] Data became a sex symbol and Spiner's fan mail came mostly from women. He described the letters as "romantic mail" that were "really written to Data; he's a really accessible personality".[20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

The Beat Fleet, a Croatian hip hop band, wrote a song called "Data" for their album Galerija Tutnplok dedicated to Data.[23] The release of this album coincided with reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation being shown on Croatian Radiotelevision. Cuban-American musician Aurelio Voltaire has also performed a song about Data entitled "The Sexy Data Tango" on his EP Banned on Vulcan and later his album BiTrektual.

Spiner himself released an album of old pop standards from the 1930s and '40s entitled Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back, a reference to the contact lenses he wore as Data.[24]

In 2016, Screen Rant rated Data as the 7th best character in Star Trek overall.[25] Data was ranked as the 4th best character of all Star Trek by IGN in 2009.[26] In 2012, Paste Magazine rated Data as the #1 character of all Star Trek live-action television shows up to that time.[27] They note Data as the robot that wanted to be human and his relationships with other crew as he tried to understand emotions.[27]

In 2017, IndieWire rated Data as the 7th best character on Star Trek: The Next Generation.[28] They ranked Data's cat Spot as the 4th best.[28] In 2019, Cinema Blend ranked Data the fifth best Star Trek Starfleet character of all time.[29] In 2018, CBR ranked Data as the 7th best Starfleet character of Star Trek.[30]

In July 2019, Screen Rant ranked Data the second smartest character of Star Trek, only surpassed by Q.[15] They go even further, stating "Data is one of the smartest beings in science fiction, period."[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lee, Luaine (January 9, 2003). "A Data with Star Trek again". 9 January 2003. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  2. ^ TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint"
  3. ^ TNG: "Descent, Part II", "Star Trek Generations"
  4. ^ Nemeck, Larry (2003). Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-7434-5798-6.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ a b c d e "Lt. Commander Data visits the Honesty Bar: an Interview with BRENT SPINER". Archived from the original on March 27, 2008.
  7. ^ "Brent Spiner Rules Out Star Trek XI". Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  8. ^ "TREK Vets Brent Spiner and Jeri Ryan Back for STAR TREK: PICARD, Plus: Frakes and Sirtis Returning Too!". TrekCore. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  9. ^ "Star Trek: Digital De-Aging Tech Helped Convince Brent Spiner to Return as Data in Picard". Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  10. ^ Weiss, Josh (March 29, 2020). "Star Trek: Brent Spiner says he's done playing Data after Picard Season 1, but is up to reprise Altan". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  11. ^ Clues (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  12. ^ TNG: "The Measure of a Man"
  13. ^ See the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Immortal Coil, which explains what happened to all of these in the timeframe between the original series Star Trek and The Next Generation and how they relate to Data and Dr. Soong's other androids.
  14. ^ TNG: "Inheritance"
  15. ^ a b c "Star Trek: The 10 Smartest Characters, Ranked". ScreenRant. July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  16. ^ Star Trek: Countdown #2
  17. ^ Okuda, Michael; Okuda, Denise (1994). "S". The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Debbie Mirek. Pocket Books. p. 460. ISBN 0-671-53609-5.
  18. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation: Genesis (1994)". Retrieved July 16, 2009.
  19. ^ Kleiner, Dick (December 4, 1967). "Mr. Spock's Trek To Stardom". Warsaw Times-Union. Warsaw, Indiana. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 7. Retrieved May 7, 2011.
  20. ^ Dubois, Stephanie (October 29, 1990). "TREKKIES SWOON FOR ANDROID AS SHOW ENTERS NEXT WARP". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Media Services. p. A2. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  21. ^ James M. Conrad, Stiquito for Beginners: An Introduction to Robotics Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Pr; Book and Access edition (December 27, 1999), p. 2, ISBN 0-8186-7514-4
  22. ^ "Science center honors robots". The Pitt News. April 10, 2008. Archived from the original on June 10, 2014. Retrieved July 18, 2010. The Robot Hall of Fame inducted four new robots: Lt. Cmdr. Data from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," LEGO Mindstorms, NavLab 5 and Raibert Hopper.
  23. ^ Hip Hop Unity: TBF – Galerija Tutnplok. Archived October 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Fetched on February 23, 2009.
  24. ^ "Star Trek before Discovery: what did the cast do next?". September 25, 2017 – via
  25. ^ "The 20 Best Characters In Star Trek History". ScreenRant. November 19, 2016.
  26. ^ "Top 25 Star Trek Characters - IGN" – via
  27. ^ a b "The 10 Best Star Trek Characters". July 23, 2012.
  28. ^ a b Miller, Liz Shannon (September 30, 2017). "'Star Trek: The Next Generation': Ranking the Crew, From Picard to Pulaski". IndieWire. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  29. ^ "The Best Star Trek Characters Of All Time". CINEMABLEND. June 10, 2019. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  30. ^ "Star Trek: The 25 Best Members Of Starfleet, Ranked". CBR. October 27, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  • Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg, Chapter 6, "Data" The Computers of Star Trek. New York: Basic Books (1999): 105–125

External linksEdit