A long time favorite character of the Star Trek franchise is the android Data. Being such a beloved presence on the show, his death hit fans right in the heart. Many fans want to know the reasons why Data had to die.
One of the biggest reasons Data had to die is that he can’t age as an android. As Brent Spiner aged, he felt his portrayal of Data wouldn’t be believable. Other reasons for Data’s death include the meaning of humanity.
Let’s take a closer look at when Commander Data died and the reasons why it had to happen.
Who Is Data?
Data is probably one of the most loved characters in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was often referred to as being the Spock of the series. As an android, he wasn’t capable of feeling emotions. This, no doubt, is why so many fans saw him as the Vulcan counterpart in The Next Generation.
However, Data was very different from Spock. Data’s one goal was to become more human. Not only did he want to understand humans, but he also wanted to feel the emotions they felt. He believed that if he could feel as humans feel, he’ll accomplish his goal of becoming more human.
The role of Commander Data was portrayed by Brent Spiner. He also played the role of Data’s “father,” who is actually the man who created Data.
When and How Did Commander Data Die?
So, we know who Commander Data is, but how did he die? The short answer is that he was killed in an explosion in the Star Trek Nemesis film that was released in 2002.
In Star Trek Nemesis, Data went aboard the starship belonging to an evil clone of Picard. He was on a rescue mission to save Captain Picard from the clone. In order to accomplish that, he brought a portable transporter, beamed Picard off the ship, and then blew up the evil clone’s ship. The problem was that Data couldn’t get off the ship and ended up dying.
However, the end of the movie gave fans hope for Data’s possible return. His memories were put into another android, one who looked just like Data. The problem was that this android, named B-4 wasn’t as sophisticated as Data was.
Despite his lacking enhancements, B-4 ended the movie humming a song that Data started the movie singing. This gave the characters, as well as the fans, hope that Data wasn’t gone forever.
The Return of Data
In Star Trek: Picard, we return to Captain Picard after 20 years. We saw the return of many beloved characters. Based on the trailer, fans saw a return of Data. Waiting for the show to air had everyone dying to know if the loved android was back.
SPOILER WARNING: The paragraph below contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard.
In Star Trek: Picard, it would seem that Data is alive after all! However, it turns out that even though Data does, in fact, make an appearance in the show, he isn’t actually alive in the physical sense. Instead, his memories and consciousness are being stored in a simulation. One that Picard is able to access.
When Data Finally Died for Good
In the final episode of season 1 of Star Trek: Picard, Data dies once again. However, this time Picard is simply complying with Data’s request to end the simulation and terminate his consciousness.
Data’s death in Nemesis sparked wide debate about whether the android really had to die at all. Fans have tried since the time of his death to understand the meaning behind it. They want to know it wasn’t in vain or that it isn’t real. Below is a list of seven reasons Data had to die.
Brent Spiner Was Getting Too Old
The biggest and most obvious reason for Data’s death was because of the age of the actor. Brent Spiner was getting older, and Data can’t age. It’s a fact that the cast and crew of the show understood as The Next Generation continued to air new episodes.
Brent Spiner has said in a few interviews that he believed he was too old to play a character that doesn’t age. He’s quoted as saying: “I just don’t think I could get away with it. Yeah, they can CGI it, but why not just CGI the whole character and forget about me?”
Some fans believe the actor just simply didn’t want to play the character anymore. While that could be partly true, it’s less likely. If the actor had absolutely no interest in reprising the role, the writers wouldn’t have allowed the B-4 scene at the end of Nemesis.
It Showed Data’s Humanity
Data’s entire journey and character arc throughout the TV series and The Next Generation films were to become more human. He did this by studying and observing human behavior in an environment that bred heroic acts. The characters of Star Trek are famous for doing whatever it takes to protect the human race from alien threats.
Brent Spiner felt that the death of Data at the end of The Next Generation was a fitting salute to the character’s journey. After spending his time aboard the Enterprise, he was able to develop friendships with the rest of the crew. However, it wasn’t until he got the emotions chip that he was actually able to care for these crew members.
Even though he did turn this chip on and off, he knew he cared for the people on the Enterprise. After witnessing countless times the lengths the crew would go to in order to protect the people they cared about, he did what he knew was right. He sacrificed himself for Picard, whom he cared very much for. He also did it for the rest of humanity.
He Sacrificed Himself to Save Everyone
This is a more plot-related reason for Data’s death than the other reasons. Picard’s evil clone, Shinzon, was a danger to everyone, not just Picard.
This clone was created by the Romulans as a way of infiltrating Starfleet. The goal was to eventually replace Picard and control Earth’s position in the Federation. The Romulans would then find a way to destroy the Federation. Instead, he was actually banished from the empire.
From his position as the leader of the Remans, Shinzon was able to devise a plan of his own. He used B-4 as bait to bring Picard to the Romulan Neutral Zone. Picard was taken captive on Shinzon’s ship, and Data jumped across open space to rescue him. However, he was saving more than just Picard.
Shinzon had a weapon known as thalaron radiation that he intended to use on Earth. Data knew the device had to be destroyed. There was no time to set up an escape or deactivate the device, which had already been turned on.
Data knew that someone had to stay on Shinzon’s ship to make sure the weapon was destroyed, and Earth was safe once again. The most logically sound decision as for Data to do this.
Death Was a Theme in Nemesis
Data’s quest to become more human ultimately influenced his decision to die. Being human means to inevitably die. Data knew this, and so the choice to sacrifice himself for Picard was part of his attempt to become more human.
In Nemesis, both Picard and Data face alternates of themselves. Data’s being B-4 while Picard’s is the evil clone, Shinzon. This was a type of storytelling that indicated the story arc of the film was going to be made by Picard and Data. It wasn’t quite foreshadowing Data’s death, because the villain was Picard’s clone and not Data’s alternate.
Ultimately, either Picard or Data could have died at the end of this film. The decision to kill off Data rather than Picard in Nemesis likely came down to a combination of all of these reasons. It may have had more to do with Brent Spiner’s age than any other reason.
SPOILER WARNING: The paragraph below contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard.
The knowledge that humans must die is also the reason that Data chose to die in Star Trek: Picard as well. Even though he died in Nemesis, in that simulation Data understood that he wasn’t truly dead. He knew that his consciousness could be reborn into another android.
This meant that his death wasn’t that of the humankind that he strove for. In fact, he wasn’t really dead at all if you really think about it. In Star Trek: Picard, he wanted Picard to deactivate his consciousness because it meant he would achieve his full potential of being human. To truly be human is to die.
Picard Couldn’t Be Allowed to Die
Even though Data is an important character within the show, some could argue that Picard is more important. He couldn’t be allowed to die. At this point in the Star Trek franchise, Picard was captain of the Enterprise and an important member of Starfleet. Shortly after Star Trek Nemesis, Picard was promoted to admiral. Data knew that Picard needed to be saved. Starfleet needed him, and Data understood that.
It was also clear that the Enterprise was too badly damaged from the fight with Shinzon to go rescue Picard. Data had an experimental one-time transporter device in his arm. This meant that if he could get to Picard, he could use it to beam Picard out of Shinzon’s ship and back to the Enterprise. Data was the only one who could survive the unbreathable environment of space.
Data’s Death Paralleled Spock’s Death
Due to Data’s non-emotional presence on the Enterprise, he was easily comparable to the equally loved character of Spock from Star Trek: The Original Series. Spock was a Vulcan, an alien species that suppress their emotions and values logic above all else.
However, Vulcans tend to believe that the emotions humans embrace are flaws in their overall makeup. Data wanted those emotions because they’re what makes humans different, apart from what humans and androids are made out of.
Despite this, fans had no problem seeing the similarities between Spock and Data. These fans also equate Data’s death to a parallel of Spock’s death in Wrath of Kahn. Spock made a similar sacrifice to save Captain Kirk. There are some who believe that because of the success of Wrath of Kahn, this is why Data had to die in Nemesis.
Now, because of the similarities, many fans thought this meant another Next Generation film was in the works. Something that would be on par with bringing Data back from the dead. Spock was brought back one film after his death in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
However, despite their love for the android, fans weren’t thrilled about the prospect of him returning after Nemesis. Even though some felt his death was pointless, the idea of bringing him back was too much like Spock’s return, which caused it to feel lazy on the writer’s part.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Was Over
When making Star Trek Nemesis, everyone involved knew it was the final installment. It was the end of the road for these characters. This meant that the writers and Brent Spiner knew that it was the end of the road for Data.
Even though the writers and the cast knew Nemesis was the final Next Generation film, it’s likely they hoped for a potential sequel, which is why they gave Data’s character the possibility to return through B-4.
However, with the failure the film had at the box office the weekend it was released, it became obvious to everyone that there wasn’t going to be another film in The Next Generation series. This made Data’s death more emotional for not just the cast, but also fans as well.
Fans Don’t Agree That Data Had to Die in Nemesis
The cast of Star Trek: Nemesis didn’t like the film. In fact, Patrick Stewart made a statement that he would never return to the role of Captain Picard. The reason being how poorly the franchise was handled in Nemesis. Obviously, we all know he did, in fact, return to the screen to play Picard in the new TV show adaptation Star Trek: Picard.
However, it wasn’t just the cast who hated Nemesis. Fans were less thrilled about the final installment of The Next Generation films. One of the biggest reasons they hated it was because of Data’s death.
There are forums and fan pages all over the internet with people claiming Data’s death was meaningless and pointless. There are loopholes, and plot holes pointed out, such as the fact that Data could have brought two transporters. Or that he could have jumped ship before it exploded. He had already jumped across open space to get onto the ship in the first place.
Some fans believed it was an easy cop-out for Brent Spiner. Others felt the series was gearing up for a sequel in which the crew of the Enterprise would try to bring Data back using B-4. However, those fans were greatly disappointed when that didn’t happen.
5 Ways That Commander Data Could Have Been Saved
Data’s death haunted many fans for years. There are fans who truly believe Data didn’t have to die at all and have argued that there were ways to save him or bring him back. Below are four ways that Data could have survived Nemesis.
He Could Have Jumped Ship
Since Data was able to jump across open space from the Enterprise onto Shinzon’s starship, couldn’t he have just done the same thing just before the ship exploded?
This is a question that some fans have asked. Since he is an android and doesn’t need air to survive, couldn’t he have simply positioned himself in a way that would accomplish his mission and save his own life?
There’s a possibility that it was a timing issue, but really this is Star Trek, and the writers could have found a workaround if they wanted to.
Data Should Have Brought a Second Transporter
There are some fans who feel Data could have brought more than one portable transporter to beam first Picard out, and then himself. This could pose as a bit trickier, but it goes back to the timing issue.
But in truth, Data could have beamed himself into open space if he had to since he doesn’t need air.
He Could Be Reincarnated Through B-4
The most obvious return of Data was actually made at the end of Nemesis. Picard went to the android B-4 after Data died and explained the situation to him.
B-4 was always clearly not as developed or advanced as Data. In fact, it wasn’t quite clear that B-4 even understood the implications of what Picard was saying at the end of the film. However, Picard (and the viewers) caught a small glimmer of hope that the beloved android was in fact still alive.
Data had implanted his own memories into the less advanced android earlier in the film, but it was obvious it didn’t accomplish anything. However, at the end of Nemesis, B-4 is heard humming “Blue Skies” to himself. This is a song that Data actually sang at the wedding at the beginning of the movie. For many, this meant that Data would return.
Use CGI and Makeup to Cover Brent Spiner’s Age
With the way technology has advanced since the early years of Star Trek, it isn’t a far-fetched idea that Data could return using CGI and heavy makeup. While this is a possibility, Brent Spiner is likely not going to be on board for that.
He’s mentioned in an interview before that if you’re going to CGI the character, why bother involving Brent Spiner at all?
There you have it. The death of Commander Data has always sparked a debate among the fans. Many believe it was unnecessary to the plot of Nemesis. Whether or not you agree he should have died or not, this article covered the seven reasons that Data had to die.
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