Interview: Brent Spiner On How Data’s Evolution In ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Fits Gene Roddenberry’s Original Plan


This year at the Saturn Awards, the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation was honored with a lifetime achievement award. Brent Spiner attended the event with his other co-stars, also celebrating their Saturn-winning return in Star Trek: Picard. TrekMovie had a quick moment to speak with the actor about Data’s return in Picard and if he’s interested in playing the character again. There’s also an update on Spiner reviving another character from his past.

Gene Roddenberry was also honored with this same Saturn lifetime achievement award. You knew Gene, and he created the character of Data. What do you think he would think of how Data evolved through TNG, into the movies, and now in Picard?

I think he would think it all went according to plan. Because one thing he said to me from the very beginning when I first met him, he said, “What I want is for Data is for him to get more and more and more and more human as time goes on, and by the end be almost human, but still not.” And that’s kind of where we are, I think.

Brent Spiner as Data and LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge in “Surrender” (Paramount+)

So for the Data from the end of Picard, you don’t see him as a new different character but as an evolution of Data?

He really is an evolution. I think what’s interesting about it is that for years and years and years, I was trying to become Data. And now in the latest iteration, Data has sort of become more like me.

What of Lore did you try to keep in your performance in those last episodes as Data? What of your bad side did you try to hold on to?

Actually of the two characters—Data and Lore—I’m much more like Lore. I mean, Lore was easy to play because I am evil. So they said, “Yeah, just let yourself go, be yourself.” So, okay!

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If there was a chance to do more with the character… everyone else seems to be on board, are you also on board if Legacy ever happens?

I really don’t even want to weigh in on it. It’s hypothetical at the moment. I’d be happy to another ER if they want to do it [laughs]. I just like to work. Certainly, if they came to me and I wasn’t doing something else, I’d love to do it.

Spiner returning to Night Court

While Brent Spiner’s return to Star Trek is still up in the air, he will be reprising another character from his past. TV Line has reported that Spiner will appear in the newly revived NBC sitcom Night Court. Before his time on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Spiner had a recurring role in the original Night Court, appearing in six episodes as the hard luck case Bob Wheeler, who often found himself in front of Judge Stone. According to TV Line, Spiner will be reunited with Annie O’Donnell, who played Bob’s wife, June Wheeler. The episode will feature the Wheelers’ daughter, played by Kate Micucci.

Brent Spiner and Annie O’Donnell in the original Night Court (NBC)

More red carpet interviews from the Saturn Awards

TrekMovie spoke to more Star Trek presenters, nominees, and winners at the Saturn Awards, so come back for more interviews and updates.

Check out our earlier Saturn Awards interviews:

You can hear audio from these interviews and more in the latest All Access Star Trek podcast.

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I was happy with the direction of the character over all. It was great to see Brent back in the make up.

Fun fact: Annie O’Donnell also did Star Trek. She was a mute Bajorin in “Progress”

coming to say the same thing!

She was also the bed and breakfast keeper w/ all the cats in Parks and Recreation

Absolutely adore and love both Spiner and Data, easily one of my favorite characters. A big reason I didn’t like Nemesis much was because they killed off his character.

I was very grateful to see him return in Picard and loved him in both seasons. If they make Legacy I would love for him to return in that as well. If not they ended his character beautifully in Picard.

Yes! Bob Wheeler returns! I’ve been waiting.

I just spent the last weekend in LA where I got to hang out with Brent at an auction, called Studio Auctions, where they sold a phaser from 2009 and a Horta egg from Greg Jein’s collection. I am now the proud (if somewhat broke) owner of the egg. Brent was so funny as always, and told me he was looking forward to the upcoming Trek cruise. I also got to hang with Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man. Altogether it was a really interesting experience seeing the behind the scenes production of a major auction. They sold the hoverboard from Back to the Future II for $150k, and an R2D2 from Obi Wan for half a million. I’d say they had a good day, and so did I – I got to hang out with one of my favorite actors!

Yea, Lee Majors is the man.

That sounds like a pretty fantastic weekend – cheers!

We’ve had a Data overload.
He needs unplugging for good.

After John Laroquette dressing up as Maltz, this just ones up it. The New Night Court is shaping up to be the same Trek loving show Big Bang was!

my hot take is that Big Bang Theory sucks. It’s not a love letter to nerds, it was created by jocks to make fun of nerds. And that nerds don’t see that it’s actually condescending and patronizing is it’s best joke. It’s a collection of nerd memes “hey bro, google stuff nerds like: Star Trek, Stephen Hawking”.

The one funny joke I ever heard in it was the incorrect math calculation that was published. That was a good bit.

my hot take is that Big Bang Theory sucks.”

Is…this hot?

I’ve heard the argument that its the show for nerds that pretends to be your friend.

It can also be argued that it takes shots at antisocial pockets of fandom rather than fandom itself, which it allows its characters to grow out of as the series progresses.

I don’t have a strong opinion either way. I’m not really a sitcom guy.

I get that OP and I see why you would think that. But counterpoint, Leonard, the “geek” got the “cheerleader” so to speak. So did Howard.

Once more female characters appeared as regulars in TBBT then it stopped seeming to be at the expense of ‘nerds’

The Hoops and Sharks they had to jump through to get that old man to play Data again. It would have been much more realistic to get a new actor to play Data, but that’s what happens when hacks use nostalgia as a shortcut and a crutch.

In that case, realism doesn’t sound very satisfying.

Reality never does.

Can’t argue with that.

I liked the way he was written in for season 3, it seems plausible, imo (taking into consideration the franchise we’re in), and I think Spiner did a great job with the material. As to a Legacy show, if we ever do see one, if he came back in the same incarnation I would have no issue with it. That said, if this is the last time we see Data, I think the character has come full-circle. It was a fine send-off. Honestly, what I’d really like to see more of is Dorn’s zen-Worf – loved how he played that.

The handling of the Data character was my favorite of the series. Matalas took Roddenberry’s direction and really brought Data as close he can possibly be to humanity without being fully human. I love the combining of Lore and Data in their minds. It reminds me of TOS episode The Enemy Within when there was a good side / bad side to Kirk, he then had to combine both to be fully human. The little touches to Data’s growth was neat, like when he put his hand on a grieving Picard’s shoulder to show empathy and support. I really liked the therapy session with Troi at the end, Data is not only almost fully human, but a neurotic one at that! Great way to end the character’s story.

But, like others had said, I think this should be the end of the TNG characters. This is the end of Data’s journey, so it seems right to just stop.

First Splinter did it better.

I hope we will see the upgraded Data again!!!!