The Star Trek TNG Line That Came Back To Haunt Picard And Data

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Picard data Hamlet star trek

Outside of the excellent Lower Decks, Star Trek is not a franchise that is really known for its comedy, but The Next Generation episode “The Most Toys” had one unintentionally hilarious line that would haunt two beloved characters. In that episode, Picard thinks Data is dead and quotes Hamlet, saying “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.” It’s a pretty speech, but thanks to Brent Spiner’s endless cameos, Picard would spend literally decades looking at the “like” of Data.

The Most Toys

star trek, kivas fajo

Why is Picard mourning Data, and what the heck does Shakespeare’s Hamlet have to do with it? In “The Most Toys,” the android becomes the target of an amoral collector named Kivas Fajo. Knowing that Starfleet would hunt down anyone they knew had kidnapped Data, Fajo instead manages to fake the artificial officer’s death.

While we immediately see that Data is alive and in Fajo’s clutches, the Enterprise crew spends a good chunk of the episode believing that their colleague is dead. Picard takes the news particularly hard, and at one point, he picks up a book of Shakespearean drama that he had given Data and quotes the famous line from Hamlet. In case you were sleeping that day in English class, this quote is something Prince Hamlet says in remembrance of his late, great father.

By the end of the episode, Picard and the crew have rescued Data (thanks largely to Geordi La Forge figuring out that the android’s death was faked), meaning he can get his book back and enjoy Hamlet on his own time. As for fans, it’s hard to enjoy Picard’s heartfelt quote about his artificial colleague because the captain would end up seeing Data’s “like”–that is, characters with Data’s face–again and again.


brent spiner lore

For example, Picard had already encountered Data’s evil twin (one of the few storytelling cliches Hamlet didn’t have) Lore in a previous episode. In the later episode “Descent,” Lore takes control of some rogue Borg and kidnaps Picard and two of his officers. Most chillingly, Data teams up to help his brother wage war against the Federation, though he gets better when he’s no longer manipulated by an emotion chip.


Picard data Hamlet

The next time Picard encountered a Data likeness, things were Hamlet-like in that the good captain also ran into his own likeness in the weirdest possible way. In the (rightfully) reviled film Star Trek: Nemesis, Picard has to deal with a crazy clone of his who was basically raised by space goblins. He also encounters B-4, an earlier invention of Dr. Soong that looks exactly like Data.

Star Trek: Picard

brent spiner picard

Speaking of Data, his sacrificial death at the end of Nemesis would have seemingly ensured neither Picard nor anyone else would ever see the android again. But in the Picard series, our titular hero encounters dream versions of the android before encountering his living consciousness. Making things weirder, he also sees Data’s face in Altan Soong (Dr. Soong’s son and Data’s biological brother) and, one season later, Adam Soong (a 21st-century scientist willing to do anything–even kill–to secure his legacy).

Spiner Is Here To Stay

As you can tell, Picard mourning Data with that particular Hamlet quote is ironic because the captain would repeatedly encounter the officer’s likeness. There are plenty of other potential examples I could have listed, including Data’s head in 19th-century San Francisco and the newest iteration of the android popping up in the final season of Picard. One thing is clear: as long as Trek’s writers and actor Brent Spiner have their way, all of us will be looking upon Data’s “like” for a good, long time.

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