Many The Next Generation stars appeared alongside Sir Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: Picard season 1, Brent Spiner included. He could only make limited appearances as Data though, in either a hallucinatory or virtual sense, due to the android having perished in Star Trek: Nemesis. However, the show created a new character for him as well. Continuing Trek tradition, he played another member of the Soong family. This time, Altan Inigo Soong, son of Data’s creator, Dr. Noonien Soong.
In the season finale, Data was finally put to rest by his old friend Jean-Luc, after his mind had been digitally preserved by Soong, earning him the human death he’d always wanted. This doesn’t mean the end for Spiner in the franchise, though. EP Akiva Goldsman told IndieWire that Soong was deliberately introduced as a way to bring the actor back following Data’s passing.
“I think you always want another Soong,” Goldsman said. “I think that we wanted to feather in the possibility of more Brent, and we knew we were letting Data go. We all knew that this Soong character had been in our head canon when it came to the season anyway. But we want more Brent, and we wanted to create a platform for which there could be more Brent in future seasons.”
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Debuting in the first half of the two-part finale, “Et in Arcadia Ego,” Soong was revealed to be an old partner of Bruce Maddox and was living a reclusive life on Coppelius as a kind of surrogate father to the Synth lifeforms he’d created, who were descended from Data. He was initially planning to transplant his mind into the Golem, a bleeding-edge android, but when Picard died, he transferred the Starfleet legend’s brain into the body instead.
Spiner has previously ruled out a return as Data, as he feels that his peaceful demise in the season 1 finale was the perfect way to say goodbye to the character. We took that to mean he wasn’t coming back at all, but it sounds like the door is open for more of Altan Soong in Star Trek: Picard season 2 and beyond. Perhaps Soong will even encounter some of Picard’s old crew mates, allowing Spiner to share the screen with other TNG stars.