“Star Trek: Picard Debunks B-4 Theory (But Could Data Return?)”
Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard.
The premiere episode of Star Trek: Picard debunked the theory that Commander Data (Brent Spiner) was resurrected as B-4 while dropping a hint that the beloved android could still somehow return to life. Set 20 years after Star Trek: Nemesis, the new CBS All-Access series finds the former Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) restlessly coping with life after he quit Starfleet. When a mysterious girl named Dahj (Isa Briones) asks him for help, Picard discovers that she is a human-like synthetic built from the neurons of Data — in effect, Dahj and her twin sister Soji are Data’s “daughters.”
Picard has been haunted non-stop by Data’s death in Star Trek: Nemesis; his friend and the Operations Officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-E sacrificed his life to save Picard from the evil Romulan Shinzon (Tom Hardy), who was himself a clone of Jean-Luc. However, Shinzon planted B-4, an android copy of Data built by Dr. Noonien Soong, aboard the Enterprise as a spy. Data attempted to transfer his memory engrams into B-4 prior to his death. After Data died, Star Trek: Nemesis ended with a hint that the memory transfer could have been successful when B-4 began humming Irvin Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” which Data sang at the wedding of Captain Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis).
The Star Trek movies and TV shows, which are considered canon, never definitively stated whether B-4 ever fully became Data; after Star Trek: Nemesis failed at the box office, the forward movement of the Star Trek franchise in the 24th century came to a dead stop. Any further adventures of the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew were mothballed and the franchise instead went backward, generating prequel series like Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Discovery, as well as J.J. Abrams’ feature film trilogy, which were not just prequels about Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) but were also set in the alternate Kelvin timeline to boot. However, as fans hoped, Data is a pivotal presence in Star Trek: Picard, which came out of the gate and answered the Data/B-4 question in its premiere episode, “Remembrance.” The answer isn’t quite what Trekkers wanted to hear, but the good news is that Star Trek: Picard is hinting at an even greater possibility.
Star Trek: Picard definitively stated that Data’s plan to return in B-4’s body failed. This contradicts Star Trek: Countdown, a 2009 comic book miniseries that set up J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie. In the comic, B-4 successfully became Data and he then took over from Picard as Captain of the Enterprise. However, most Star Trek comics and novels aren’t considered official canon and Star Trek: Picard has debunked that possibility.
What’s now official canon is what Jean-Luc learned in “Remembrance” when he visited the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa and met with Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), the world’s foremost expert in cybernetics: Data’s memory engram transfer failed because B-4 was an inferior copy with a far less sophisticated positronic brain. As Jurati summed it up, ultimately “B-4 wasn’t much like Data at all.” Further, B-4 was dismantled and his parts are in storage at the Daystrom Institute. This is likely due to the mandate that banned all artificial lifeforms in the United Federation of Planets after a group of rogue synthetics attacks Mars in 2385. In fact, had Data lived through Star Trek: Nemesis, the new policy could have led to the android being forcibly deactivated, despite being a Starfleet Officer and Picard himself helping define Data’s individual rights as a sentient lifeform in the classic TNG episode “Measure of a Man.”
Could Data’s resurrection actually be Star Trek: Picard’s endgame? As Spock (Leonard Nimoy) would say, “There are always possibilities,” and the introduction of the twins Dahj and Soji could be the key to their “father” coming back to life. As Picard learned from Jurati, Dahj and Soji were created by Dr. Bruce Maddox, who once tried to dissect Data in “Measure of a Man.” Maddox dreamed of surpassing Dr. Soong’s work and creating a race of Datas. Jurati told Picard that after the artificial lifeform ban in 2385, Maddox disappeared but Dahj and Soji are proof that the former head of the Daystrom Institute continued his work in secret.
According to Jurati, Maddox built Dahj and Soji through a process called neuronic fractal cloning. Using a single engram from Data, which Maddox theorized could contain all of his memories and abilities, Jurati believes Maddox grew Dahj and Soji to be human-like synthetic lifeforms — a huge leap forward from the positronic android comprised of parts Data was. Neuronic fractal cloning requires subjects to be grown in pairs, hence Data’s twin “daughters.” Maddox may have easily acquired Data’s neuron from B-4, which is in Daystrom’s possession and, as Picard discovered, Maddox based Dahj and Soji’s appearance on a painting by Data called “Daughter,” which the android made on the Enterprise-D in 2369.
If Dahj and Soji could be grown from a single neuron from Data, this could mean that Data himself may possibly be resurrected by neuronic fractal cloning as well. There would have two be twin Datas grown through the process, but the upside is, like his “daughters,” a reborn Data could be a human-like synthetic with the full range of emotions — essentially Data’s heart’s desire come true. If Star Trek: Picard does indeed lead to Data’s rebirth, it would be similar to how Spock came back to life in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock after the Vulcan died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In fact, Data’s death in Star Trek: Nemesis was a blatant copy of Spock’s sacrifice in Wrath of Khan, but Star Trek: Picard could ultimately be building to the happy ending Star Trek III delivered and bring Data back, better than ever.
If Data is resurrected to be a human-like synth in Star Trek: Picard, it might also mean that he could appear in Star Trek: Discovery season 3. The hint is that when Picard asked Jurati if creating a flesh-and-blood synthetic was possible, the cyberneticist replied “not for a thousand years.” And yet, Maddox did the impossible and created Dahj and Soji. What’s not yet clear is how long Soji can live (since Dahj was murdered in “Remembrance”). The twins appear to be in their early 20s — would they age or would they remain the way they are forever? If it’s the latter, and Data is resurrected by the same method, this opens up the chance that he could show up in Star Trek: Picard‘s predecessor series.
Star Trek: Discovery ended season 2 by jumping 930 years into the future — a new era of the Alpha Quadrant to explore and one where the Federation seems to have devolved into a lesser power. The overall story of Discovery season 3 is still kept under wraps, but if Star Trek: Picard resurrects Data as a human-like synth — and if Data is essentially immortal in that new form — it opens up the intriguing possibility that Data could play a role in Star Trek: Discovery‘s 32nd-century voyages.
And even if a Data guest spot in Star Trek: Discovery doesn’t come to pass, Star Trek: Picard‘s macro story is concerned with the role and future of artificial lifeforms in the Federation. Hopefully, this could all lead to bringing back Data, which would right the mistakes of Star Trek: Nemesis and give Trekkers back their beloved character. Lastly, Data resurrected as a human-like synth would bring fulfill a prediction Riker made in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s very first episode when he met Data and called the android “Pinocchio.” In Star Trek: Picard, Data may be reborn as a “real human,” after all.
Star Trek: Picard streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Crave TV, and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.
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