Data (Star Trek)

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Data
DataTNG.jpg
Lieutenant Commander Data
Species Soong Type Android
Born February 2, 2338, Omicron Theta
Died 2379 ( reborn in Star Trek: Countdown )
Affiliation United Federation of Planets
Starfleet
Posting USS Enterprise-E
(FCT, INS, NEM)
USS Enterprise-D
(Seasons 1-7, GEN)
Position Chief Operations Officer
Rank Lieutenant Commander
Father Noonian Soong
Mother Juliana Soong
Children Lal
Portrayed by Brent Spiner
First appearance "Encounter at Farpoint" (TNG)

Lieutenant Commander Data (/ˈdtə/ DAY-tə) is a character in the fictional Star Trek universe portrayed by actor Brent Spiner. He appears in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and the feature films Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis.[1]

An artificial intelligence and synthetic life form designed and built by Doctor Noonien Soong, Data is a self-aware, sapient, sentient, and anatomically fully functional android who serves as the second officer and chief operations officer aboard the Federation starships USS Enterprise-D and USS Enterprise-E. His positronic brain allows him impressive computational capabilities. Data experienced ongoing difficulties during the early years of his life with understanding various aspects of human behavior[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", also created by Soong, to Data's positronic net.[3] Although Data's endeavor 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 immense 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 offers an "outsider's" perspective on humanity.[4]

Development[edit]

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.[5] To get into his role as Data, Spiner used the character of Robby the Robot from the film Forbidden Planet as a role model.[5]

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.[5] Spiner also portrayed Data's manipulative and malignant brother Lore (a role he found much easier to play, because the character was "more like me"),[5] 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 favorite 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.[5]

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.[6]

Depiction[edit]

Television series and films[edit]

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 2341–45 (he describes himself as "Class of '78" to Riker in "Encounter at Farpoint", but that may refer to the stardate and not the year that he graduated) and then served in Starfleet aboard the USS Trieste.[7] He was assigned to the Enterprise under Captain Jean-Luc Picard in 2364. In "Datalore", Data discovers his amoral brother, Lore, and learns that Lore, not he, was the first android constructed by Soong. 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 (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 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, (88.81784197 PiB) and a total linear computational speed of 60 trillion operations per second.[8]

Data's family is expanded in "The Offspring", which introduces Lal, a robot based on Data's neural interface and who 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 allow her the chance to continue on with her normal life.

In "All Good Things...", the two-hour concluding episode of The Next Generation, Captain Picard travels between 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.

Although several androids, robots, and artificial intelligences were seen in the original Star Trek series, Data was often referred to as being unique in the galaxy as being the only sentient android known to exist (save the other androids created by Soong).[9]

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. However, by the events of Star Trek: First Contact, Data 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, saving the captain and crew of the Enterprise. However, Data previously copied his core memories into B-4, Data's lost brother who is introduced in the movie. This was done with the reluctant help of Geordi LaForge who voiced concerns about how this could cause B-4 to be nothing more than an exact duplicate of Data.

Spin-off works[edit]

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.[10]

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 Noonian 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.

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.

Characteristics[edit]

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 taking his head to engineering to solve an engine problem.

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), remote control shutdown devices, or through use of his "off switch" located in-between his shoulder blades. 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 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. 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. Being a mechanical construct, technicians such as Chief Engineer LaForge prove to be more appropriate to treat his mechanical or cognitive function failures than the ship's doctor. His positronic brain becomes deactivated, and then 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; however, 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 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 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" where 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.

Because of Julianna Soong's inability to conceive children, Data has at least five (source needed) 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.

Spot[edit]

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,[11] 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).[citation needed]

Data creates several hundred food supplement variations for Spot and composes the poem "Ode to Spot" in the cat's honor ("Schisms"). (The poem was actually written by Clay Dale, the visual effects artist.[citation needed]) 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.[12]

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"). After Data died, it was mentioned in a deleted scene of Star Trek: Nemesis that Worf is now taking care of her on board the Enterprise.[citation needed] In later Star Trek novels, Worf describes Spot as a "Great Warrior" who sees what she wants and takes it.[citation needed]

Reception[edit]

Like Spock,[13] Data became a sex symbol and Spiner's fan mail came mostly from women. He described the letters as "romantic mail" that was "really written to Data; he's a really accessible personality".[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

The Beat Fleet, a Croatian hip hop band, wrote a song called "Data" for their album Galerija Tutnplok dedicated to Data.[17] The release of this album coincided with reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation being shown on Croatian Radiotelevision. In 2005, the nerdcore group The Futuristic Sex Robotz released a song about Data entitled "The Positronic Pimp."[18] Cuban-American musician Voltaire has also performed a song about Data entitled "The Sexy Data Tango" on his LP Banned on Vulcan and later his album BiTrektual.

Footnotes[edit]

  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. ^ a b c d e Lt. Commander Data visits the Honesty Bar: an Interview with BRENT SPINER
  6. ^ "Brent Spiner Rules Out Star Trek XI". comingsoon.net. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  7. ^ Clues (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  8. ^ TNG: "The Measure of a Man"
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Star Trek: Countdown #2
  11. ^ Okuda, Michael; Okuda, Denise (1994). "S". The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Debbie Mirek. Pocket Books. p. 460. ISBN 0-671-53609-5. 
  12. ^ "Star Trek: The Next Generation: Genesis (1994)". StarTrek.com. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Dubois, Stephanie (October 29, 1990). "TREKKIES SWOON FOR ANDROID AS SHOW ENTERS NEXT WARP". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Media Services. p. A2. 
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ "Science center honors robots". The Pitt News. April 10, 2008. 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." 
  17. ^ Hip Hop Unity: TBF - Galerija Tutnplok. Fetched on February 23, 2009.
  18. ^ "The Positronic Pimp". 

References[edit]

  • Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg, Chapter 6, "Data" The Computers of Star Trek. New York: Basic Books (1999): 105 - 125

External links[edit]