Star Trek: Picard's Big TNG Twist Explained
Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard.
The Star Trek: Picard premiere revolves around the big twist about a mysterious woman named Dahj (Isa Briones): She is a synthetic android and the 'daughter' of the late Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Furthermore, Dahj has an identical twin sister named Soji, so Data has two synthetic offspring who are far more advanced because they are indistinguishable from humans. This twist is a gigantic leap forward from what fans know about Data and his creation in Star Trek: The Next Generation and it reveals that Star Trek: Picard's story concerns the fate and future of artificial lifeforms in the Federation.Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now
Data was a positronic android built by Dr. Noonien Soong; a decorated Starfleet Officer and a kind, intelligent person beloved by his crew mates, Data was the best of several flawed versions, which included his evil 'older brother' Lore, who menaced the U.S.S. Enterprise-D on a few occasions, and B-4, an imperfect copy of Data introduced in Star Trek: Nemesis. In that 2002 film, Data sacrificed his life to save the Enterprise-E from Shinzon (Tom Hardy) and the android's death has haunted Picard for the 20 years leading to the start of Star Trek: Picard. However, the new CBS All-Access series is drawing back to Data's classic TNG episodes and looking at the ramifications of several key events.
In the TNG episode "Measure of a Man", Captain Picard defended Data in court and secured his individual rights as an artificial lifeform when Dr. Bruce Maddox (Brian Brophy) of the Daystrom Institute wanted to dissect Data to create more androids like him. In the episode "The Offspring", Data created an android daughter named Lal (Hallie Todd) and planned to raise her aboard the Enterprise, but Starfleet wanted to isolate Lal for research; however, Lal malfunctioned and had to be deactivated so Data placed her memory engrams into his own. Both of these classic Next Generation episodes have a huge impact on Star Trek: Picard; the premiere episode, "Remembrance", revealed that the Federation had been using artificial life forms (dubbed 'Synths') as workers and a group of these androids went rogue and destroyed the Utopia Planitia Fleetyards on Mars, killing thousands of people and ending the Federation's mission to rescue the Romulans from a supernova.
The Mars tragedy also had a sweeping political effect: the use and further creation of artificial lifeforms were banned by the Federation, ending the Daystrom Institute's research into human-like synthetic androids. Bruce Maddox then disappeared, leaving his protege Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) to pick up the pieces. But the emergence of Dahj and her twin sister Soji Asha show that human-like synthetic humans do exist and have been hiding in plain sight. So, Data got the 'daughters' he always wanted - but what does this mean for Star Trek: Picard going forward?
Data's Children: What That Really Means
Recalling Data's experience with Lal, Picard told Dahj that Data "always wanted a daughter". Unbeknownst to the late android, he had two more offspring (until Dahj was killed in the premiere episode). However, Dahj and Soji are far more advanced than their 'father', in all the ways Data always dreamed of being but could never achieve due to the limits of his programming. Dahj and Soji are convincingly human in every way, complete with the full range of emotions that Data could never imitate without his emotion chip. The twin girls are a huge leap forward for artificial life, but in the current political climate of the Federation, this is why their lives are at risk.
Since the tragedy on Mars prohibited synthetic life in the Federation, Dahj and Soji's existence wouldn't be tolerated, and indeed, Dahj was hunted by mystery armored soldiers and she was terminated in "Remembrance", despite the fighting prowess she was programmed with. The zero-tolerance of Synths the Federation now practices flies in the face of Starfleet's mission to "seek out new lifeforms", which shows the Alpha Quadrant has taken a darker turn in recent years. In fact, if Data were still alive, it's worth questioning whether the new laws would override the individual rights he won in "Measure of a Man" and whether he would have been deactivated despite being a Starfleet Officer.
How Were Data's Daughters Made?
Dahj and Soji aren't positronic androids like Data, they are sentient synthetics built from flesh and blood and appear human inside and out. This was theoretically impossible - except Maddox had a part of Data's neural net to work from. The necklaces Dahj and Soji wear is the key to Maddox's success: the twin circles is a symbol for fractal neuronic cloning. Maddox actually cloned Dahj and Soji as a pair from one of Data's positronic neurons, so they were grown and not assembled from parts like Data was.
Star Trek: Picard implies that Bruce Maddox built Soji and Dahj in secret after he disappeared from the Daystrom Institute. After "Measure of a Man", Data and Maddox remained friends and corresponded; Maddox clearly continued his life's work to improve upon Dr. Noonien Soong's creation and he had enough of Data's essence to work from. When designing Dahj and Soji, Maddox was even inspired by "Daughter", a piece of art Data painted in 2369.
Do Data's Daughters Mean He Can Be Resurrected?
The fact that Dahj and Soji were synthetics cloned from Data's neurons - and they possess the essence of their 'father' - opens up the intriguing possibility that Data could indeed be resurrected since Soji is still alive, after all. Star Trek: Picard may be building to the resurrection of Data - but this time, he could be a cloned synthetic who might be human-like inside and out instead of the pallid-skinned, yellow-eyed android missing human emotions.
The potential return of Data would echo the resurrection of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the original Star Trek movies. This would be fitting since Data's death in Star Trek: Nemesis was a retread of how Spock sacrificed his life in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - but Spock left his katra (his Vulcan soul) with Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) so that he could be brought back to life. Star Trek: Picard could be leading up to its own version of this story and bring Data back to life in a similar fashion since his 'daughter' Soji possesses his 'soul', i.e. his positronic neuron.
Will Dahj Return In Star Trek: Picard?
Dahj was murdered in Star Trek: Picard's premiere episode, but could she also be resurrected? It's possible; Maddox may have created more synths than just the twin daughters or another Dahj could likely be cloned from the same positronic neurons currently in Soji. However, the exact version of Dahj that Picard met - the one who lived in Boston, had an alien boyfriend, and was accepted as a fellow at the Daystrom Institute - is likely gone for good. A new cloned version of Dahj wouldn't have the memories and experiences her predecessor accumulated while she was alive, although she could be implanted with the same memories Maddox gave to the original Dahj. It remains to be seen if Dahj does indeed have a future in Star Trek: Picard.
What Is Data's Other Daughter Doing With The Romulans?
A huge question Star Trek: Picard must answer is what Data's other daughter Soji is doing on the Borg Cube controlled by the Romulans. Dahj's twin is posing as Dr. Soji Asha at the Romulan Reclamation Site and she has been there long enough where the Romulan named Narek (Harry Treadaway) has read and become fascinated by her work. The Romulans have secretly possessed a derelict Borg Cube for about 16 years and Soji's work is "fixing broken people", i.e. taking apart Borg technology grafted to assimilated lifeforms.
It's possible Soji her own agenda separate from the Romulans' plans and it might involve hidden secrets to Borg technology she is working to uncover. The fact that Soji was planted at the Romulan Reclamation Site and Dahj was going to work at the Daystrom Institute has to be linked. It's safe to guess that the twins were laboring to learn more about artificial lifeforms, possibly to continue their own evolution or to continue Bruce Maddox's work. But since the Alpha Quadrant is now a dangerous place for synthetic beings, there's the possibility that Data's remaining daughter could be working to start a revolution for artificial lifeforms in Star Trek: Picard.
Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.
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