- 10 “I would gladly risk feeling bad sometimes…”
- 9 “If the water falls…”
- 8 “Yes sir. I’m trying to fill a moment of silence with unrelated conversation.”
- 7 “Can you continue the little bickering, please? I find it very amusing.”
- 6 “The real secret is to turn harm into advantage.”
- 5 “I am superior, sir, in many ways, but I would be glad to give that up to be a man.”
- 4 “Prejudice is very human.”
- 3 “Differences scare people sometimes.”
- 2 “It’s just a thing…and things can be replaced. Life can’t.”
- 1 Mortality gives meaning to human life.
Since the beginning Star Trek Episode debuted, they worked hard to introduce loads of intriguing new characters, species, and worlds, but none were more unique than Lt. Commander Data of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data, portrayed by Brent Spiner, was a synthetic robot with artificial intelligence created by Dr. Noonian Song (as portrayed by Spinner) in his own image. Although he may have been artificial, Data may have been one of the more down-to-earth characters in the series.
While some have claimed Data is a successor to Spock, offering a unique outsider’s perspective and approach within a very human Starfleet, there’s no denying that he quickly rose to standing in a league of his own. In his quest to understand human emotions, Data has spent a great deal of time exploring the nature of humanity itself. From sadness and joy to anger and love, Data has cracked jokes to make others laugh, tried his hand at parenting, and even became a loving pet owner in order to locate a cat. He sought out a romantic relationship or two, just to see what it could be like, and while it’s hard to say he loved Mystery and Sherlock Holmes, there’s no other way to describe his infatuation.
Across the series and in the movies, Data has become a shining example to everyone around him. In the first season of Picard, retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is seen often lamenting the absence of data on his life. Over the years, he’d thought of him as his closest friend and confidant, and with good reason. Data’s intelligence was only matched by his wisdom and, ultimately, his humanity.
Artificial intelligence is still often a terrifying concept for humanity, but data has been the exception. As a character, he’s left fans with a lot of statements and deep thoughts to think about, and sometimes he’s more human than human. His thoughtful commentary on humanity and life continues to make many wonder how much easier life could be if everyone approached it from the same point of view as data.
10 “I would gladly risk feeling bad sometimes…”
Data’s influence often spilled over into the children around him, such as Timothy, whom he rescued in Season 5, Episode 11, “Hero Worship”. Timothy’s fascination with data leads the boy to declare himself an automaton, trying to forget the horrors he saw and the way they made him feel. But Data noted that being human has equal advantages and disadvantages, saying, “I’d gladly risk feeling bad sometimes, if it also meant I could taste my own candy.”
It wasn’t a reminder of the data about how often humanity takes life’s pleasures for granted. In his longing to experience life as a human, he can easily see all the little things humans unwittingly ignore. Like how lucky they are to taste, touch, smell, see, hear and then process the way they feel to truly experience something.
9 “If the water falls…”
Data spent a lot of time testing jokes and trying to make people laugh. In the Star Trek: Rebellion In the film, he reminded everyone, “In the event of a water drop, I was designed to act as a flotation device.” As funny as he is, the funny part about his little joke is that there may have been some truth to it. Dr. Song had a strange sense of humor, and turning his most thoughtful and clever creation into a flotation device to appropriately serve the people around him was not far off.
8 “Yes sir. I’m trying to fill a moment of silence with unrelated conversation.”
Continuing his quest to learn and understand humanity, Data once created a subroutine that would allow him to engage in small talk in Season 6, Episode 18, “Starship Mine”. After attempting to make small talk with Captain Picard, then explaining his ultimate goal, the captain directs him to the notorious small talk expert, Commander Calvin Hutchinson. As Data quickly realizes after getting close to Hutchinson, small talk has the potential to become eternal. But is it because life is full of embarrassing moments, or does small talk add to the embarrassment?
7 “Can you continue the little bickering, please? I find it very amusing.”
When Deanna Troi was getting ready to get married in Season 1, Episode 11, “Haven,” nothing seemed to be going her way – especially after her mother, Lwaxana, got into an argument with her intended fiancé about the superiority of betazoids over humans. Before Troy angrily leaves, she tells them to stop their petty bickering, but once she’s gone, Data tells them to keep it up. After all, not only is it a fascinating study in human nature, it’s actually pretty funny.
6 “The real secret is to turn harm into advantage.”
When the hearing-impaired negotiator Riva boarded the Enterprise, there was much frustration between Riva and the crew. Picard orders Data to learn sign language, so he can easily work as an interpreter, but Riva’s frustration makes him want to abandon his mission and go home abortive. Troi attempts to inspire him, using the quote above, which Data later translates to the crew when Riva finds his power. People often forget that every aspect of life, regardless of one’s circumstances, often provides them with a unique advantage that others around them do not. This reminder for everyone to turn what they see as a disadvantage into a useful strength is always relevant.
5 “I am superior, sir, in many ways, but I would be glad to give that up to be a man.”
Since his first introduction in the pilot episode, Data has made it clear what he wants. Physically and mentally superior to those around him, he felt a deep longing for what he did not have: humanity. He would spend the following years serving in the institution and desperately trying to achieve an ideal human experience. Even when Q offered Data the chance to become human, the latter turned him down. Data realized that he didn’t need to physically be like everyone else to be human, or to have a very human experience. In many ways, he was more human than most of the people around him.
4 “Prejudice is very human.”
The people around him often showed their annoyance a little. Even Riker (Jonathan Frakes), upon first meeting Data, has doubts about working with AI. Daters broke the ice with a very clever observation about prejudice being a human reaction, although to say that this created a good foundation for their relationship is laughable. Over time, Riker would definitely adapt, and like everyone else on the crew, he began to think of Data as a friend, but he initially displayed one of humanity’s worst traits in his prejudice against Data.
3 “Differences scare people sometimes.”
Exploring the nature of humanity eventually led Data to create life and become a parent. Although he cannot reproduce normally, he has the ability to create androids using the knowledge of his creator, Dr. Song, and he did. His daughter Lal only seemed to enhance the humanity of the data, as he conveyed as best he could his own personal observations of life, just like a human father.
His poignant remark, “Differences scare people sometimes. I’ve learned that some of them use humor to hide their fear,” a reminder that fear is often seen as a weakness. Deflecting and hiding behind a wall of humor can provide temporary relief from fear, but eventually, the wall will come crashing down.
2 “It’s just a thing…and things can be replaced. Life can’t.”
When she encounters a group of humans who refuse to leave their land, even though they face inevitable death, Data desperately tries to steer them away. Fearing they will lose everything they have, the colony refuses to budge. It’s hard for people sometimes to look beyond the moment, towards the bigger picture. Giving up materials in order to preserve one’s life is not easy, but even data know that things can be replaced; People, not so much.
1 Mortality gives meaning to human life.
Data never dies. He could continue to live forever, but that wasn’t what he wanted. In the first season of Picard, he finally got the option to end his own life. When he expresses this to his friend and former captain, Picard struggles to make sense of it. Data admitted that he did not want to die, but wanted to live for a while with the understanding that one day his life would end. This will help him appreciate every moment that is given to him, prompting him to make the most of the time he had. Knowing that one is going to die brings meaning to life in the most subtle of ways, allowing a person to die feeling like they did everything they could to live given the chance.