Star Trek Guide

Why Data Is So Important To Picard (Despite Not Being Close On TNG)

Commander Data (Brent Spiner) is a pivotal figure in Star Trek: Picard, and here's why Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) feels so close to the late android, despite how different their relationship was in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Some Trekkers take issue with the way the CBS All-Access series portrays Picard and Data's past relationship; after all, they didn't seem that close in TNG, so it comes off as confusing (or even as a retcon) that Star Trek: Picard portrays Data as so influential in Jean-Luc's life that the retired Admiral even dreams about the android. However, there are a lot of aspects regarding Data and Picard's relationship - and how close the two Starfleet heroes grew during the TNG movies - that explain Jean-Luc's love of Data in Star Trek: Picard.

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It's true that on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard and Data weren't best buddies. In those early years aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D, Captain Picard was an aloof figure who held himself apart from his senior staff, despite his trust in and fondness for all of them. While the rest of the bridge crew spent time together (usually with regular poker games), the Captain preferred solitude with a book and a cup of hot earl grey tea. On TNG, Picard was often exasperated with Data's verbosity, despite his obvious respect for the android. Jean-Luc certainly relied upon Data and he helped secure the android's individual rights in the classic TNG episode "Measure of a Man". For his part, Data regarded Picard as a mentor and respected him as his commanding officer, but they weren't best friends like Data was with Commander Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton). So it's understandable if Trekkers feel confused by how Star Trek: Picard paints Data as someone the former Admiral has mourned for 20 years.

However, things changed and relationships evolved between the TNG characters, especially during their four movies from 1994 to 2002. It's worth remembering that Star Trek: The Next Generation's TV voyages lasted 7 years, but the crew was together for 15 years total. That means that after the Enterprise-D was destroyed in Star Trek Generations, the TNG crew was on the Enterprise-E for 8 years - even longer than fans saw on TV. But since Trekkers only saw TNG's cast four times during those eight years, we missed how their relationships shifted since much of it is presumed to have happened off-screen. In the movies, Picard's character also changed; the Captain became a more proactive hero (to suit being the hero of a movie franchise) and Data essentially became the second lead character so the TNG movies could replicate the Kirk/Spock dynamic. So, both on-screen and off, Data and Picard got a lot closer during the TNG movies.

The key moments that redefined Picard's relationship with Data happened in Star Trek: First Contact and in Star Trek: Nemesis. In their time-travel adventure against the Borg, Picard and Data teamed up to kill the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) and this shared crisis they overcame together sparked a new dynamic between them. Jean-Luc then risked his life without hesitation to stop Data from going rogue at the start of Star Trek Insurrection. By Star Trek: Nemesis, the new dynamic between Captain and android was crystalized and Picard handpicked Data to be his new Number One when Captain Riker (Jonathan Frakes) left to take command of the U.S.S. Titan. And, of course, Data sacrificed his life to save Picard and the Enterprise from Shinzon (Tom Hardy) at the end of Nemesis. Naturally, Picard never recovered from the loss of the android, whom he had come to love as a true friend.

Once fans remember that Data and Picard's relationship goes back over 35 years and the loyal android literally gave up his life for his captain, it's easy to understand the aged Jean-Luc's deep affection for Data, whom he described to Data's 'daughter' Dahj (Isa Briones) as "all courage". So it's not accurate or beneficial to only judge Data and Picard's friendship based on their TV voyages. Rather, Star Trek: Picard draws upon the whole scope of the decades-long relationship between Picard and Data, especially the bond they forged in the TNG movies.

Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.


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