Every now and again, there are certain paths a franchise takes that are just inconceivable and unforgivable. Star Trek killing off Data, for example, would be one of them, but that very nearly happened in Star Trek Insurrection.
Throughout the history of Star Trek, we’ve been spoiled, really, by a wealth of fascinating and intensely likable Star Trek characters. It’s testament to the show that The Next Generation cast has provided us with plenty of these lovable spacefarers, with Jean-Luc Picard (one of the very best Star Trek captains) and Data high up on that list.
Now, can you imagine if Picard was ever to kill his old friend, Data? Well, in the new book The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, it’s revealed that was exactly the original plan for the Star Trek movie, Insurrection. In the book, the writer of the film, Michael Piller, said: “In the first draft, Picard and Data are brutal, bitter enemies. In the film there’s a wonderful moment where they battle in a dogfight… in that battle Picard was ultimately forced to kill Data.”
Piller felt that angle was “interesting,” but ultimately led to a script that was far too bulky and the story just wouldn’t fit into the constraints of what the team were trying to do. Piller also recalls, “It was Patrick, frankly, who said, ‘This is dark and dreary and it’s not fun,’ and he was the one who put us back on the fountain of youth course that ultimately really leads the story to its current state.”
However, co-writer Rick Berman remembers it differently. “It was really not Patrick who put the kibosh on the story, it was the studio. And I think to a great degree they were right,” Berman wrote. “They thought a Star Trek movie should be uplifting and fun and exciting. And those were not words that really fit into Mike Piller’s vocabulary. Exciting maybe, but not fun. But that was like the biggest note that we really ever got.”
To be fair, maybe they should have been given bigger notes. Insurrection is definitely not the best movie in the Star Trek timeline and, despite going for that fun and exciting approach, the end product flopped. Sadly, I can’t even describe Insurrection as divisive, really, as I’m pretty sure even the most hardened Trek fan would struggle to defend this one.
Still, we’re glad Piller and Berman were talked off the ledge and let Data survive. He’s one of the most fascinating characters in Trek history, not least of all because, as an android, he is technically not supposed to elicit any emotion or forge any real connections, but Spiner’s work is so impressive that we genuinely empathize and feel for Data. It’s something I wrote about previously, as Patrick Stewart thinks Spiner was snubbed for awards during his time on the show.
For more from Trek, check out our list of the best Star Trek starships, and our ranking of the Star Trek series. Speaking of, here’s what we know about the Star Trek Legacy release date and the Star Trek Discovery season 5 release date. We’ve also information on new movies like Avatar 3, if you want a different kind of sci-fi.