Brent Spiner earns the distinction as the only actor in the Star Trek franchise to not only play multiple characters from fan favorites in Lt. Commander Data, his evil brother Lore on The Next Generation, his incomplete clone B-4 in Nemesis (2002), but an entire family lineage of all the male members of the Soong family over multiple series including Enterprise and Picard. While promoting his latest book, "Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir: Inspired by True Events," the actor spoke with SyFy Wire about his time in the franchise and making his triumphant return on the CBS Access series. On TNG, Spiner primarily played the beloved android Data, who longed to have human experiences despite not having emotions as an artificial lifeform. The series explored several different aspects of his own ethics and how the galaxy around would perceive his very existence. Lore tapped into similar aspects but touched with cynicism and malice, becoming a thorn at the side of the Enterprise with his deceitful ways. In the holodeck-centric episode "A Fistful of Datas," Spiner played multiple versions of Data in a Western setting that predates the iconic scene portrayed in 1999's Being John Malkovich when the actor became traumatized seeing multiple versions of himself in his own head.
"There's that double-edged sword of being identified with one role, but if I'm going to have to be identified for a single role, at least it's a role where I got to play all kinds of other different roles," Spiner explains. "I really enjoyed playing Sherlock Holmes when we did that [on TNG episodes 'Elementary, Dear Data' and 'Ship in a Bottle']. We did all kinds of things, and I was inhabited by different creatures and personalities. It's a dream for an actor to be able to do that. And so, really, I think of them all as the same thing, in a way. It was all one character, even though the Soongs were human."
Spiner Almost Didn't Play Dr. Noonian Soong on Star Trek: The Next Generation
Spiner played Data and Lore's creator Dr. Noonian Soong on TNG and his ancestor (great-grandfather) Arik Soong in the prequel, Enterprise. Most recently, Spiner pulled double-duty reprising Data presumably one final time in Picard in his former captain's (Patrick Stewart) dreams in early episodes and simulator in the season finale while also playing Dr. Altan Inigo Soong (Noonian's son), the latest to continue work on artificial lifeforms. Showrunners called the creations another nickname, synths. During Spiner's time on TNG, the actor reflected on his time as Lore and Noonian. "I always like playing Lore because Lore is really more like me than any of the other characters I've ever played because I am evil," he jokes. "It fits like a glove! But, seriously, I enjoyed it — it really turned out to be a perfect part for me." The actor also revealed that Keye Luke was originally supposed to play the androids' creator before he took over. "Almost the day before we were going to shoot, Michael Westmore — one of the great makeup artists of all time — had designed makeup for Dr. Soong, and he said, 'Let me put it on you and make sure everything's right; before we shoot tomorrow.' When he put it on me, and I looked in the mirror, I knew exactly how to play the part. I owe him a lot because I think we collaborated on that."
What Spiner Thinks of Picard's New Circumstances
One of the biggest twists of Picard's first season is the death of its main character Jean-Luc and the subsequent transfer of his consciousness to an artificial body. Spiner has some guesses as to what the character might have to look forward to. "I really don't know what his capabilities are now, though," Spiner admits. "I don't know whether it's just the body that's positronic and his mind is the same, so I don't know if he has any extra skills or super strength or anything like that. I don't think so. I think it just allowed him to go on living… or maybe he can fly," he adds cheekily. Spiner speculates the future of Star Trek's film franchise could be aligned with his series. "I've loved the recent movies," he said. "I think that sooner or later, they're going to do a reboot, a motion picture version of Next Generation, and cast some young guys in our parts." For more on Spiner's thoughts on his potential younger cast replacement, Space Force, and his book, you can check it out on SyFy Wire. Star Trek: Picard and TNG are available to stream on CBS All Access, which becomes Paramount+ on March 4.