Every now and then one of the Star Trek cast loses his cool and lashes out against the franchise that made them famous. It’s easy to understand why they might resent it, for every Patrick Stewart who goes on to play other roles, there’s a Leonard Nimoy who walks into a casting office and is instantly dismissed as the guy who played Spock.
The latest Trek alum to lash out is Brent Spiner, who played Data on TNG, though to be fair lashing out may be too harsh an assessment of the statements he recently made to UK Theater.
It started when the interview was interrupted by a few teenage Star Trek fans, who barreled in and rudely interrupted Spiner to ask an incredibly stupid question. From there, as you read the interview, he just seems to get crankier with the whole notion of Star Trek and Star Trek fans in general. For instance he expresses bafflement and frustration with people’s inability to distinguish him from the character he plays. He tries to be good natured about it, but there’s a twinge of bitterness there and frankly, I can’t blame him. As a fan of his work as Data, I’m with I’m on it.
Well, it’s not like I’m not a fan of other people. I like a lot of actors, I like a lot of performances. When I met William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy for the first time, I didn’t talk to them like they were Spock and Kirk, I didn’t think they were. I kind of got the idea they were actors who were playing those parts. It is kind of peculiar. Even to this day, if I write something on Twitter that is so counter to what Data would have been, if it’s ironic or if it’s sarcastic, whatever, the things that I am, people think: “Oh man, I don’t really like you. You’re not like I thought you were.” And my reaction is: “That’s too bad! You know, you’re not like I thought you were either! I thought you were an adult.”
But then things take a turn for the worse as Spiner begins to address the nature of Star Trek in general. Addressing the idea that Star Trek has a grander purpose than just mindless entertainment he says…
I think there is an illusion about it. You know, if you ask somebody, why has Star Trek lasted so long, they always say the same thing: because it has a positive vision of the future. But to tell you the truth, I don’t know what is so positive about it. We are still blowing people away. We carry guns. It’s a joke. It’s like that illusion that it is somehow all about peace. It’s really not. It is a western, it is a shoot’em up. But it does have elements that are nice, like the fact that all people are celebrated for who they are, their differences rather than their similarities, and I think that’s a very positive thing. The positive thing about it is just that it depicts a future, and that is somehow reassuring, that there is going to be a future. I don’t think it necessarily depicts a future that’s better or worse than where we live right now.
On this, I can’t agree with Spiner. I see where he’s coming from, but as someone who’s spent so much of his life involved in that world, you’d hope and expect he’d see the grander things that we all see in it too.
Yet, it’s easy to understand why he might not. Spiner sounds a little like a guy who’s trying to upbeat, but is also sick to death of Star Trek. There’s little doubt that as an actor, he’s one of the most talented Trek castmembers, yet he’s also one of the Trek castmembers who has gone on to do the least visible work outside of Star Trek.
Based on talent alone Spiner should probably be as famous and well respected as Patrick Stewart, but somehow it’s never worked out for him. He seems happy doing work on the stage now, but if you’d have asked me back in 1989 which Trek castmember was most likely to win an Oscar some day, I’d have picked Spiner.
Maybe that bothers him, or maybe he’s right and the idea of Star Trek as a grand vision of what humanity could achieve is just a joke. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.