Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven't watched "Star Trek: Picard" episode 6, The Bounty.
Even though Spock died saving the Enterprise in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," Star Trek used the restorative powers of the Genesis planet to bring him back. So when Data made a noble sacrifice of his own in "Star Trek: Nemesis," it wasn't really a surprise when the door was left open – albeit slightly – for the android's future return.
"Star Trek: Picard" season one on Paramount Plus focused heavily on Data's legacy, introducing a family of synthetic offspring and revealing that his consciousness had been preserved in a virtual simulation. Jean-Luc Picard subsequently watched his friend die for a second time, but the show’s third season has just dropped the bombshell that – in true "Jurassic Park" style – something has survived.
In Picard season 3 episode 6, "The Bounty," Riker, Worf and Raffi Musiker's away mission to the top-secret Daystrom Station reunites them with an old friend, an android with a familiar face who's been given responsibility for the facility's security. But how did Data (still portrayed by actor Brent Spiner) survive certain death in "Star Trek: Nemesis?" Why does he look so much older now? And is he still the same android we knew on the Enterprise-D? These questions and more are answered below. If you're behind, you can catch up on Star Trek: Picard Season 3" with our Star Trek streaming guide.
- Want to watch Star Trek on Paramount Plus? Here's a free trial
- Subscribe to Paramount Plus starting at $4.99/month
Didn't Data die in Star Trek: Nemesis?
Yes. "Star Trek: Nemesis" is the 10th film in the Star Trek movie franchise and the last to feature the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It features a clone of Jean-Luc Picard called Shinzon who's out to get Picard (and the Federation), with Data discovering an earlier prototype of himself called B-4 along the way.
In the film's climax, the Picard clone Shinzon had rigged his Romulan/Reman (don't ask) warbird, the Scimitar, to unleash its lethal thalaron radiation weapon on a severely damaged USS Enterprise-E. With Picard on board the enemy vessel, transporters inoperative, and the crew trapped in the quintessential no-win scenario, Data came up with his own solution to the Kobayashi Maru test.
Effectively blowing himself out of an airlock, Data leapt across the void of space to the Scimitar and placed an emergency transport beacon on Picard, who was instantly beamed back to the Enterprise. With the weapon nearly charged, Data fired his phaser at the thalaron generator, destroying himself and the ship in the process. He had sacrificed himself to save his captain and the crew, a fact Picard subsequently struggled to live with. RIP, Data.
Data lived on in B-4, or DID he?
Data wasn't the only android built by his creator: genius cyberneticist Dr. Noonian Soong (also portrayed by Brent Spiner).
"Evil twin" Lore (Brent Spiner again) tormented the Enterprise crew on several occasions throughout "The Next Generation," and "Nemesis" introduced the earlier prototype model called B-4 (say the name out loud). Before his death, Data used B-4 as a kind of hard drive to back up his memories and personality, but – aside from sharing Data's ability to recite Irving Berlin standards – B-4's neural pathways lacked the sophistication to replicate his late brother.
But this is where it gets complicated ... The first season of "Picard" revealed that Data's consciousness had survived after all. Along with Soong's human son, Altan (also Brent Spiner), cyberneticist Bruce Maddox – who'd previously tried to prove Data was Starfleet property in classic "TNG" episode "The Measure of a Man" – used a process called "fractal neuronic cloning" to replicate a virtual Data from one of B-4's neurons. This version of the android lived in a "massively complex quantum simulation" until Picard agreed to his old friend's request to help him die for a second time.
There's another Data head in Star Trek: Picard, but whose is it?
Data, Lore and B-4 were all crafted in Noonian Soong's image, so it's almost impossible to tell them apart. It seems most likely, though, that the disembodied head we see in the top secret Daystrom research facility belongs to B-4.
First, we know from Picard's meetings with Dr. Agnes Jurati in season one that B-4 is in Starfleet’s possession. Second, when Will Riker reminds us that "Data copied everything he was onto B-4," the camera very deliberately cuts to the android head.
There's still a chance, however, that this is a misdirection, and that the head belongs to Lore. We have no idea what happened to Soong's more problematic son after his Borg misadventures in "TNG" two-parter "Descent" – we know he was dismantled but everything beyond that is a mystery. So while it's conceivable Starfleet have brought Lore back somehow, the show would have to fill in some gaps in the canon to explain his presence here.
The head probably isn’t Data's. The explosion at the end of Nemesis was pretty cataclysmic, and besides, if part of Data had survived, surely Maddox, Soong and Starfleet wouldn’t have resorted to using neurons from the inferior B-4 to bring him back.
Why is Data "old" now?
Picard season one used some clever digital tricks to de-age actor Brent Spiner to look like he did in "The Next Generation" era, but the Data we see in "The Bounty" looks much older. His complexion is also much more human.
While the change undoubtedly saved some money on the show’s VFX budget, there's also an in-universe explanation. This is an entirely different type of synthetic body to Data's, much more similar to the "golem" the late Altan Soong gifted to Picard, allowing to survive his incurable irumodic syndrome.
Soong Jr. had originally planned to transfer his own consciousness into the golem before he died, but ended up going down a very different route. He instead decided to combine the consciousnesses of Lore, B-4, Data and Lal (the "daughter" Data built in "TNG" episode "The Offspring") in one body, aka Daystrom Android M-5-10. Soong built this older-looking version "with the wisdom and true human aesthetic of age. With the hope that in totality, something, someone will rise to be the best of us."
What can Data do now?
That's the million-dollar question, though it's clear there's much more to this new-look Data than simply managing the security systems at Daystrom Station. It’s also clear this isn't quite the Data we knew and loved.
Altan Soong never got the chance to finish the project before he died, leaving the various personalities vying for supremacy within the vessel. Data still recognizes Geordi La Forge, Picard and the rest of the crew, but with Lore also lurking in that shared mind, this resurrected body could be a danger to everyone.
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Richard's love affair with outer space started when he saw the original "Star Wars" on TV aged four, and he spent much of the ’90s watching "Star Trek”, "Babylon 5” and “The X-Files" with his mum. After studying physics at university, he became a journalist, swapped science fact for science fiction, and hit the jackpot when he joined the team at SFX, the UK's biggest sci-fi and fantasy magazine. He liked it so much he stayed there for 12 years, four of them as editor.
He's since gone freelance and passes his time writing about "Star Wars", "Star Trek" and superheroes for the likes of SFX, Total Film, TechRadar and GamesRadar+. He has met five Doctors, two Starfleet captains and one Luke Skywalker, and once sat in the cockpit of "Red Dwarf"'s Starbug.
Don't forget there is another Data Head at the site where an away team beams to a planet and go back in time. To stop something bad happening. They meet Mark Twain who later goes back to his own time and retrieves Picard from the past. Data mentions to Geordie are we firing weapons at the planet ? Geordie replies Yes Data says it is important that we do not. Is that bead still there because I saw it in the final scene of the show.Admin said:How is Data in 'Star Trek: Picard' if he died in 'Star Trek: Nemesis?' : Read more
Data already had a built-in aging program according to the TNG episode with his "mother" Juliana.Reply
That head is in Mark Twains time. Don't forget. The one in the future was used to restore Data in The future.Reply
It's called plot armor. Tripping over yourself making excuses for lazy writers seems pointless...Reply