Star Trek: TNG Alums LeVar Burton & Brent Spiner Talk "Picard" Returns
Star Trek: The Next Generation alums LeVar Burton & Brent Spiner discuss their returns in Star Trek: Picard Season 3, their legacies & more.
As we progress further into the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard, a few fans were starting to grow restless as not every cast member of The Next Generation appeared halfway through. The missing Enterprise-D alums in question are LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner, who played Lieutenant Commanders Geordi La Forge and Data, respectively, on the syndicated series. The two spoke to Variety about their return to Picard and reflect on their TNG memories. The following obviously contains major spoilers for the episode "The Bounty."
Star Trek: Picard: Burton & Spiner on Return and Reunion
The history of Data is unique to the TNG crew since Spiner's character is the only one to die not once but twice. The first was as a final act of saving his former captain in Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), transporting him back to the Enterprise-E away before blowing up Shinzon's (Tom Hardy) ship in 2002's Nemesis, the final TNG film. The second was during Picard's season one finale, where he survives in Dr. Alton Soong's (Spiner) drive, and Data requests Jean-Luc to help delete him to "die," which he obliges. We come to find near the conclusion of "The Bounty" a hybrid design of the Soong original model is created where Alton combined aspects of his ancestor's creations in Data, the evil Lore, and Data's creation Lal into the new body.
After Riker (Jonathan Frakes) buys time for Worf (Michael Dorn) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd) to safely disconnect the hybrid, which we'll just call Data for the sake of consistency, the three are transported back to the Titan with Riker shot with a phaser blast that also inhibited transport. As the now Commodore Geordi La Forge works on Data, he switches from the various personalities given his unstable nature before revealing the Changelings' actual target from their Daystrom Station theft: the real body of Jean-Luc, who died and his consciousness transferred to the golem intended for Alton.
As far as their rebellious nature on the TNG set, "That implies we were badly behaved. I resist that a little. We were rambunctious. But we had no ill intention," Burton said. "We had fun. We were on soundstages with no windows for 14 to 16 hours a day for 10 months a year. If we didn't have fun, we would have murdered each other, and we wouldn't be friends today," Spiner added. "But I wouldn't say it was exactly the same [on 'Picard']. It was different. We didn't have fun anymore. No, I'm kidding. We had fun. We enjoyed each other, but I don't think it was quite as raucous as in the old days. We were trying to serve Terry Matalas, who had given us such nice stuff to play." "Quite frankly, we're older and —" Burton followed up. "More mature!" "Slower." "Exactly."
Spiner, as he did on TNG, played multiple roles throughout Picard in the initial first two seasons, including the aforementioned Data, which was primarily featured in Jean-Luc's memories before the final sequence along with Alton. In season two, he played the villainous Dr. Adam Soong, the 21st-century geneticist enticed by Q (John de Lancie) to stop the Star Trek future as we know it, who we later find out starts the augmented program that would create Khan.
Prior to Picard, Burton didn't think much of his character since his last hurrah in the 2002 maligned Stuart Baird film. "When it was clear that 'Nemesis' was going to be our last hurrah, there was some sadness that we didn't have an opportunity to go out, you know, knowing that we were going out. Creating a story that did that would have been nice. But after two decades, I've long since given up on the idea that we'd ever come back together again. So this was a pleasant surprise — and an opportunity, I think, to make an adjustment where Geordi is concerned that I felt really needed to happen. In the series, Geordi, as the engineer, was uncomfortable in the presence of women, which I never liked. Especially given that if you look at Worf as a Klingon and not human, then Geordi was the Black man who had maladaptive relationships with women. That felt uncomfortable as well. Terry's idea that Geordi had kids, that he was a parent, addressed that for me really elegantly."
As far as the hybrid Data that's a work in progress leading up to the reveal, "The sixth episode, as I recall, we've seen bits of Data in a sort of a mélange with several other characters, all coming through one bod," Spiner said. "Literally, there's nothing more I can say about it, other than I've enjoyed the season. There's a lot of good stuff still coming in [Episodes] 7 through 10." As far as Data's updated look reflects more of Spiner's natural look. "Well, it certainly saved a lot of time for me. Terry and I discussed this synthetic being having no gold eyes, either. But at the end of the day, we thought it needed that one distinguishing quality that just went through time and remains the same."
For more, including how Burton felt moving on from Geordi's signature visor following 1994's Generations, having best friends reunite on screen again and relationship off-screen, getting recruited by Matalas, Spiner reuniting with Frakes and Marina Sirtis in season one, weighing their futures and not wanting to wear out their welcome, you can check the interview here. Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on Paramount+.
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