Star Trek Picard: 10 Essential Data Episodes From The Next Generation
Here's all the Data you'll need.
The biggest shock from the Star Trek: Picard trailer was the cameo of Data.
It left Trek fans with unanswered questions that we shouldn't expect answers to until the new show premieres in early 2020: Is this the real Data? Is it a hologram? Or perhaps it's B-4's body, coupled with Data's positronic brain?
But if it is really is Data, then Star Trek: Picard will continue one of the greatest arcs in the Star Trek franchise's history: Data's never-ending quest to become human. There have been similarly themed arcs in other Trek shows: the Voyager Doctor's attempts to move beyond his holographic nature, and Seven of Nine's assertion of her individuality. But Data's arc remains the most moving and detailed.
There are 178 television episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but not all of them are essential. To help you prepare for Star Trek: Picard, here are the 10 essential, must-watch Data episodes that will tell you everything you need to know about our favorite android. And if you liked this gallery, check out our interview with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Quark, our mini-history of the Borg, our gallery of essential Picard episodes, and our breakdown of the best Star Trek: Picard theories.
Disclosure: CBS is GameSpot's parent company.
1. "The Measure of a Man"
Episode: Season 2 Episode 9
The first entry on our list is also considered the first "great" TNG episode. A Starfleet scientist wishes to disassemble Data in order to study him and create more androids like him. "The Measure of a Man" quickly becomes a courtroom drama, in which Picard must argue for Data's life and his status as an individual, rather than the property of Starfleet.
2. "Deja Q"
Episode: Season 3 Episodes 13
Q, an near-omnipotent alien, must learn to function as a mortal, after his people turn him into a human being as punishment. The dilemma is mostly played for laughs, but the best parts of the episode involve Data, who patiently guides Q in human social interactions and the power of food to affect one's emotions.
3. "The Offspring"
Episode: Season 3 Episode 16
One of TNG's most touching episodes, "The Offspring" introduces Lal, an android who Data constructs as his daughter and begins teaching about the world. It covers similar thematic ground as "The Measure of a Man," but it adds some additional, poignant commentary about the difficulties of fatherhood.
Episode: Season 4 Episode 3
Data gets recalled by his creator Dr. Noonien Soong, who wants to give Data something important. Unfortunately, the same recall attracts Lore, Data's evil android brother, and complications ensue. "Brothers" is notable for how actor Brent Spiner performs multiple roles as Data, Lore, and Dr. Soong. There are earlier TNG episodes that characterize Dr. Soong and Lore, but this episode is the best of them.
5. "Data's Day"
Episode: Season 4 Episode 11
A lighter episode than most, "Data's Day" follows Data around for an entire day as he interacts with every member of the senior crew. He mediates a couple's relationship, learns to dance, and navigates his friendships, all in his naive, ironically insightful manner.
6. "Hero Worship"
Episode: Season 5 Episode 11
Data discovers the last survivor on an adrift vessel: a small boy who is understandably traumatized by the incident he's suffered. Because Data is the one that rescues him, the boy begins to confide in him, and Data must help him embrace and deal with his negative emotions. It's no small task for an android who cannot feel emotion himself.
7. "A Fistful of Datas"
Episode: Season 6 Episode 8
This is a holodeck episode starring Worf, who is cosplaying in a Wild West scenario with his son Alexander. But then, all the villains start resembling Data, and the safety protocols go offline, which means the lead bullets register real damage. "A Fistful of Datas" is funny for all the right reasons, and it features multiple campy, scenery-chewing performances by Brent Spiner.
Episode: Season 6 & 7 Episodes 26 & 1
Data encounters the Borg. And when he kills a drone, he experiences anger (and more disturbingly, pleasure) for the first time. This pair of episodes involves Data's evil android brother Lore, who has organized a subset of the Borg into his personal army. These episodes also include an appearance by Hugh the Borg, who will also appear in Star Trek: Picard.
Episode: Season 7 Episodes 6
Data has nightmares as a result of his dream program, which lead to some of the weirdest visuals of Season 7. Counselor Troi appears in his dream as a sheet cake, which Lieutenant Worf is eating. Commander Riker appears with a straw in his head, and Dr. Crusher drinks from it like a coconut. And eventually, the dream imagery begins bleeding over into Data's real life.
Episode: Season 7 Episodes 10
Data meets the former wife of his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, and he learns details about his formative "childhood," which was erased from his memory processors. "Inheritance" is both sweet and sad, and it comes with an 11th hour twist that places everything you've just seen in a new perspective.
11. Star Trek: Nemesis
And lastly, watch Star Trek: Nemesis. Even though it's a movie and not a television episode, it's the most recent instance where we've seen both Picard and Data.
Picard said it best in this film: "In his quest to be more like us, [Data] helped us to see what it means to be human… his wonder, his curiosity about every facet of human nature allowed all of us to see the best parts of ourselves. He evolved. He embraced change because he always wanted to be better than he was."