The android known as Data is a major character in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was created by cyberneticist Dr. Noonien Soong and has served as science officer aboard the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D under Captain Jean-Luc Picard. He was portrayed by Brent Spiner.
Creation and Early Life
Data was built on the planet Omicron Theta, a secluded Federation colony world. He was the fifth in a series of androids that Dr. Soong had made in his image and was designed with the ability to learn and develop much like a human would. When first activated, Data behaved much like an infant, curious about the world he had been brought into and wishing to explore it. He was shut down by Dr. Soong so that the doctor could continue developing the android's positronic matrix and imbue Data with a sense of conscience, a factor that Data's predecessor Lore did not possess. Shortly after Data's completion, Omicron Theta was attacked by an unknown alien entity. Dr. Soong escaped the colony's destruction but was forced to leave his "son" behind. The entity destroyed all living matter on the planet before moving on, and so Data remained in the colony ruins inactive but physically intact. He would later be found by Starfleet and reactivated, quickly developing a sense of self and wanting to discover more about the universe that he was a part of. Eventually, Data would enrol in Starfleet Academy where he quickly excelled in all of his studies, putting all of his organic classmates to shame. By 2364, Data had joined the crew of the newly launched Galaxy-class starship, USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, as science officer and secondary helmsman.
Aboard the Enterprise
During his tour of duty aboard the Enterprise, Data continued to explore the various aspects of humanity and made every attempt to advance beyond the restrictions of his original programming. Though he could not experience emotions, he would regularly develop his social skills and became good friends with all of the Enterprise's senior staff, most notably chief engineer Geordi La Forge, who all provided Data with encouragement and support as the android endeavoured to become more human. He tried to adopt numerous aspects of humanoid life into his daily routines. He learned to play the violin, he adopted a pet cat called Spot, practised painting and even played the role of Sherlock Holmes in his own holodeck program. Over time, Data would even learn to dream and would eventually learn to experience emotions after liberating an emotion chip that was stolen from Dr. Soong by Lore. Initially when Data installed the chip, the emotions he felt overwhelmed him and even interfered with his duties. He would later learn to better control his emotions, but still felt that emotions may compromise his well-being and that of his shipmates, so he would later remove the chip.
In the tenth Star Trek film Star Trek: Nemesis, Data's final step in his journey to become human would be taken in the year 2380, when the Enterprise-E was engaged in battle with the Reman warbird Scimitar. Both ships had been heavily damaged and Captain Picard had boarded the Scimitar to destroy the vessel's thalaron generator, which threatened to unleash a force that would wipe out the Enterprise crew and then later annihilate all life on Earth. Unwilling to let his captain die, Data threw himself into the vacuum of space and swam through the void to board the Scimitar. He found Picard trapped in the thalaron generator room and gave the captain an emergency transporter beacon, allowing him to beam back to the Enterprise. With that, Data uttered "Goodbye" and used his phaser to overload the thalaron generator. The chain reaction destroyed the Scimitar and Data along with it. In sacrificing his own life to save another, Data had proven just how human he had truly become.