Data (Star Trek)

Data (Star Trek)
Data on the bridge of the Enterprise-D
Species Android
Home planet Omicron Theta
Affiliation United Federation of Planets
Posting USS Trieste
USS Enterprise-D operations officer/second officer
USS Sutherland commanding officer (temporary)
USS Enterprise-E operations officer/second officer (films), commanding officer (Countdown comics)
Rank Lieutenant Commander
Portrayed by Brent Spiner

Lieutenant Commander Data (play /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]

Designed and built by Doctor Noonien Soong, Data is a sentient android who serves as the second officer and chief operations officer aboard the starships USS Enterprise-D and USS Enterprise-E. His positronic brain allows him impressive computational capabilities.[2] Data experienced ongoing difficulties during the early years of his life with understanding various aspects of human behavior[3] 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.[4] Though Data's strive for humanity and desire for human emotion is a significant plot point (and source for humor) throughout the series, he continually shows a nuanced sense of wisdom, sensitivity, and curiosity.

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.[5]

Data has a storage capacity of 88.81784 PB (800 quadrillion bits) and a total linear computational speed of 60 THz (60 trillion operations per second).[2]

He also has an aging program which allows him to age in appearance if he wants that (TNG: Inheritance (7x10)).



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 Robbie 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 malignant 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. 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.[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]


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.[8][9] He was assigned to the Enterprise under Captain Jean-Luc Picard in 2364. In "Datalore", Data discovers his amoral brother, Lore, and learns he was not the first android constructed by Soong. Lore fails in an attempt to betray the Enterprise to the Crystalline Entity, and Data beams his 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 life forms. Data eventually deactivates Lore, and recovers, but does not install the damaged emotion chip.

The episode "In Theory" traces Data's literary roots to Isaac Asimov's and Philip K. Dick's exploration of the nature of artificial intelligence and the nature of reality and humanity. The episode reflects the ideas created in such works as Bicentennial Man and Asimov's Robot Series (which introduced the Three Laws Of Robotics).

In "The Measure of a Man", Data is legally declared an autonomous individual, as opposed to Starfleet property.[10]

In "All Good Things...", the two-hour concluding episode of The Next Generation, Captain Picard travels between three different times. 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 universe as being the only sentient android known to exist (save the other androids created by Soong).[11]

In the film Star Trek Generations, Data finally installs the emotion chip he retrieved from Lore, and experiences the full scope of emotions.

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.


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 a copy of Data's head (an artifact excavated on Earth from the late 19th century) is attached to his body in the future.

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." Data has also been "possessed" through technological means such as; Ira Graves' 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 Geordi 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 - in terms of his ability to process and calculate information rapidly - the most intelligent member as well. He is able to survive in atmospheres which most carbon-based life forms would consider inhospitable, as well as in the lack of an atmosphere or the vacuum of space (the only other Star Trek main characters with the ability to survive the vacuum of outer space are Odo and USS Voyager's EMH Mark 1). 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.

Because of Julianna Soong's inability to conceive children, Data has at least five robotic siblings (two of which are Lore and B4). 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 (Hindi for "beloved") 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 is Data's pet cat and a recurring character in the show. Spot appears in several episodes during TNG's last four seasons, first appearing in "Data's Day". Spot also appears in the feature films Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis.

Despite the name, Spot is not actually patterned with spots. Spot originally appears as a male Somali cat, but later appears as a female orange tabby house cat,[12] 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 later 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 ("A Fistful of Datas").[citation needed]

In "Genesis", the morphogenetic virus "Barclay's protomorphosis disease" temporarily mutates Spot into an iguana-like reptile.[citation needed]

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]


Like Spock,[13] Data became a sex symbol and Spiner's fan mail came mostly from women. He descibed 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]


  1. ^ Lee, Luaine. "A Data with Star Trek again". 9 January 2003. The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 9 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b TNG: "The Measure of a Man"
  3. ^ TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint"
  4. ^ TNG: "Descent, Part II", "Star Trek: Generations"
  5. ^ Nemeck, Larry (2003). Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-7434-5798-6. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Lt. Commander Data visits the Honesty Bar: an Interview with BRENT SPINER
  7. ^ Brent Spiner Rules Out Star Trek XI
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Actually the ruling was that "[Data] has the right to choose [whether or not to submit to an ill-advised experiment involving his disassembly]". It does not mean that Data was declared, as a matter of law, human, with the full panoply of human rights, because this was not explicity stated in the ruling.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Okuda, Michael; Okuda, Denise. "S". The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Debbie Mirek. Pocket Books. pp. 460. ISBN 0671536095. 
  13. ^ Kleiner, Dick (1967-12-04). "Mr. Spock's Trek To Stardom". Warsaw Times-Union. Newspaper Enterprise Association (Warsaw, Indiana): p. 7.,498929. Retrieved May 07, 2011. 
  14. ^ Dubois, Stephanie (1990-10-29). "TREKKIES SWOON FOR ANDROID AS SHOW ENTERS NEXT WARP". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Media Services: pp. A2. 
  15. ^ James M. Conrad, Stiquito for Beginners: An Introduction to Robotics Wiley-IEEE Computer Society Pr; Book and Access edition (December 27, 1999), page 2, ISBN 0-8186-7514-4
  16. ^ "Science center honors robots". The Pitt News. 2008-04-10. Retrieved 2010-07-18. "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 Feb 23rd 2009.
  18. ^ "The Positronic Pimp". 


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

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