In the final frontier, no character ever really dies.
Just ask Brent Spiner.
In 2002’s “Star Trek Nemesis,” the actor bid farewell to the character of Data when the beloved android was blown up after saving Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Time travel nearly 20 years later, and Ol’ Yellow Eyes is back playing opposite Sir Patrick Stewart in the CBS All Access series, “Star Trek: Picard,” which was to end its first season Thursday.
“It was certainly unexpected,” Spiner told the Daily News as the coronavirus kept him self-isolated in Los Angeles.
The 71-year-old was initially reticent to reprise the role because he feared that, after 18 years, he couldn’t pull off a character who doesn’t age.
“I am too old to play the part,” he said bluntly.
That fear was nullified, however, when he was assured some simple CGI trickery would help make him seem ageless. That didn’t, however, erase all of Spiner’s concerns. The character, he argued, had a well-crafted story arc over the years that ended with his death, and he was afraid of messing that up.
“I was not really confident it was a good idea for me to do it,” he said. “I was concerned it would wipe out everything we’d done before.”
However, once he learned what the show’s creators had in mind for the character, he agreed.
“I bowed with respect to the creators of this show, who are all phenomenal talents,” Spiner said. He was also lured in to participate in the new show by the chance of getting to play an another, different character.
In addition to Data, the Texas-born actor also plays Dr. Altan Inigo Soong, the son of the scientist who created the android. Spiner has in various incarnations of Trek played different members of the Soong family.
This new role was a closely-held secret before the premiere of “Picard”’s penultimate first season episode last week.
“We all signed NDAs which also meant that if we revealed anything we’d go to prison, that was a heavy influence on the secrecy,” Spiner joked. But really, he added, we “wanted the fans to have some fun surprises, and didn’t want to give everything away up front.”
Did he find keeping quiet on his expanded role difficult in this age of social media?
“I just lied,” he quipped with his usual dry humor.
Getting the opportunity to play a new role, and revisit an old one, wasn’t the only thing that brought Spiner to “Star Trek: Picard.” It was the chance to work once again with Stewart.
“I wanted to work with Patrick again,” he said.
One of the first scenes the two filmed together for the show had Data and Captain Picard playing a game of poker in a recreated set from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“It was surreal,” Spiner said. “I hadn’t looked at Captain Picard and he hadn’t looked at Data in 18 years, and there we were looking at each other again.”
The reunion was emotional for both of him and Stewart, he said.
“There were many different feelings going on,” he said. It was “odd, and emotional and wonderful and strange, it was all of the above.”
Of course, as unique as it was for the two actors to reunite on the small screen in these iconic roles, the two have always remained close. In fact, the entire “Next Generation” cast has famously maintained a close-knit relationship for more than 30 years.
“We do actually get together fairly often,” Spiner said. “If not all of us at the same time, we all see each other individually quite a bit.”
What’s the secret to their friendship? Laughter.
“When we were doing the series we were on sound stages almost every day for almost 10 months, and we laughed all day long,” he said. “We all amused each other, and we still do, and that’s gone a long way and I think we’ll all probably be friends forever.”
Like that friendship, Spiner believes Star Trek, too, will endure the test of time.
“I think Star Trek will go on forever,” he said.
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