Star Trek Made Us Dread Seeing Our Favorite TNG Actor

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

star trek tng

While the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation is amazing, it took very little time for Brent Spiner to become a fan favorite. His portrayal of Data (the android who dreams of being a human) resonated with fans on a deep level, so it makes sense that the franchise kept finding creative ways to bring Spiner back. However, the fact that he almost always ended up playing a mad scientist relative of Dr. Noonian Soong made me begin to dread seeing our favorite TNG actor onscreen.

The Many Faces Of Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner Data Star Trek

Ironically enough, this was an annoying Star Trek tradition that began way back in The Next Generation. Early in that series, it made sense for Brent Spiner to portray Lore, Data’s evil twin. By the time Data got to meet his maker in the episode “Brothers,” the fact that Soong made Data and Lore in his own image was the perfect excuse for Spiner (under a starship’s worth of old age makeup) to play Dr. Noonian Soong.

B-4 (Say It Outloud)

Thanks to Star Trek: Nemesis, we got to see Brent Spiner play B-4, a kind of prototype android built by Soong who functions as Data’s simple cousin. In the climax of that film, Data sacrificed his life to save the Enterprise and her crew, and it was reasonable for fans to assume that we would never see Spiner in this franchise again. However, it wasn’t very long before we saw him in the most unexpected place of all: the Star Trek prequel show Enterprise.

The First Soong

In a three-episode arc in Enterprise, Brent Spiner played Dr. Soong’s ancestor, Arik Soong. He had been secretly raising Augments, part of the same breed of genetically enhanced humans as Captain Kirk’s foe Khan Noonien Singh. After aiding Captain Archer in ending the Augment threat (for the time, at least), the mad scientist takes the failed Augment experiment as a sign from the universe to start working on cybernetics instead, a family interest that eventually leads to Dr. Soong creating Data and Lore.

Another Soong

brent spiner

At this point, having Brent Spiner pop back into Star Trek to play one of Dr. Soong’s relatives was novel, and I’d go so far as to say him and his Augment storyline is one of the reasons that the fourth season of Enterprise was its very best. It seemed like a one-and-done kind of cameo, but when Star Trek: Picard came back, we got way more Spiner than is healthy for any given fan.

Oh For The Love Of…A Third Soong!?

star trek picard data

First, Brent Spiner came back to play Data again, which was perfectly fair, but that wasn’t his only role in the first season of Star Trek: Picard. Later in that same season, he played Altan Inigo Soong, the biological son of Dr. Soong, who is effectively the galaxy’s foremost authority on artificial life. Without his expertise, the dying Picard would not have had his mind transferred into a convenient cybernetic golem of his original body.

Yet Another Soong

In the second season of Star Trek: Picard, Brent Spiner came back to play Adam Soong, a man desperate to save his daughter from a very unique disease. In his desperation, he conducts illegal genetic experiments, works with Q to try to murder Picard’s ancestor, and even colludes with the Borg. Aside from his desire to save his daughter, this character is mostly greedy and selfish, and he is willing to murder to ensure that he has a legacy other than that of a failed, mad scientist.

Almost Redeemed Enterprise

Here’s the thing: any one of these Brent Spiner as crazy scientist cameos seems fine on its own. I loved the Enterprise one, but Picard basically trained me to dread seeing Spiner’s face again. It’s not the fault of the actor, but he eventually served as a kind of writing shortcut: whenever the writing team wasn’t sure how to move a plot forward, they’d just throw Spiner into the mix. Not only does this keep Spiner cameos from feeling special anymore, but it serves as a symbol of Picard’s wider problems (especially in the second season).

Picard Was A Bridge Too Far

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At different points in Picard, it seemed like the writers were just running out of new ideas. For example, all three seasons featured the Borg, appearances that got so confusing that most fans still don’t know what the relationship between Jurati’s Borg and the rest of the Collective really is. The Spiner cameos seemed particularly phoned in because the franchise brought him back after nearly two decades to do the same thing he was doing on Enterprise.

A Rehash Of A Better Story

Honestly, I knew things had gotten bad when Brent Spiner popped up in the second season of Picard, and I felt like screaming. Hadn’t we just said goodbye to this actor in this franchise last season? And now all the writers could think of doing was giving us a crappier version of Arik Soong?

Everyone Still Loves Brent Spiner

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Sorry, Paramount: to this lifelong Star Trek fan, you made me dread seeing Brent Spiner onscreen. The actor remains as talented as ever, but the quality of the writing for his characters is so bad that we can understand why Spiner originally wanted to get out of the franchise way back in Nemesis. It turns out he was right, and Star Trek as a whole would be stronger if that awful Trek film was the last time we saw Spiner appear in the franchise that Gene Roddenberry built.

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