Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hair kept The Traveler from playing Data
Brent Spiner was perfect as Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation
Fans couldn’t imagine anyone but Brent Spiner playing the android who wanted to be human. Spiner perfected the robotic movements and captured the spirit of an artificial life form without emotion. He developed such a huge following of fans that many wept when his character died in Star Trek: Nemesis, the final movie with the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew. And even more so when Star Trek: Picard closed out his life with a final, perfect scene.
But a different actor was in the running for this iconic role, and if it weren’t for his hair…or lack thereof, he could have had the part. Eric Menyuk had a thinning hairline, and the original plan was for him to shave his head to play the part of Data. Menyuk ended up portraying The Traveler in three episodes of the series but was being considered to play Data. In fact, the casting came down to Spiner and Menyuk. After Patrick Stewart was cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the production team wasn’t sure they wanted a man who would look so similar to the leading actor. In an interview with StarTrek.com, Menyuk lamented the hair situation.
After his last Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in 1994, Menyuk guest-starred in five more episodes of various television series before choosing to retire from acting. He graduated from Loyola Law School in 1998 and is now an attorney specializing in children’s education rights and represents children with disabilities, and he has been seen occasionally at Star Trek conventions and on the Star-Trek themed cruises on Carnival Cruise Lines.
Though Menyuk didn’t get to play Data, his role as The Traveler was an important one in the series and led to Wesley Crusher’s departure from Starfleet Academy, which, at the time, surprised fans considering Wesley’s deep love for Starfleet, Enterprise, and its crew. It’s not likely that any Star Trek fan will forget The Traveler.