'Star Trek: Picard' Episode 9: 'The Next Generation' Legend Returns to Show in New Role

Unless Star Trek: Picard has a big guest star up its sleeve for its Season 1 finale, the show has cleverly had the same The Next Generation actor as the first and last cameo appearance on the CBS All Access. Brent Spiner appeared as Data (or, more accurately, a version of Data who existed inside Picard's mind) in the first episode of the show, and now appears in a surprise role as another character in Episode 9, streaming now on CBS All Access and on March 20 on Amazon Prime Video.

In "Et In Arcadio Ego Pt. 1," Spiner appears as Dr. Altan Inigo Soong, the son of occasional The Next Generation character Dr. Noonian Soong (also Brent Spiner). For viewers of Picard not so familiar with Next Generation history, Dr. Noonian Soong is the creator of Data, which means we might consider Altan to be Data's brother, or more precisely half brother, as Altan's mother is presumed to be the human Juliana Soong (Fionnula Flanagan) where Data has the synth "mother" Juliana Tainer, the android copy of the human Jualia (also Fionnula Flanagan).

This is far from the only Soong Spiner has played on Star Trek. He played Soong ancestor Arik on Enterprise, Noonian on The Next Generation, as well as a number of androids created by Noonian that he considered his "sons," including not only Data but also his evil brother Lore and the prototype B-4.

star trek picard brent spiner
Brent Spiner returned in 'Star Trek: Picard' Episode 9 playing Dr. Altan Soong CBS

Though Spiner's role as another member of the Soong family was a surprise to many, technically he did tease the role during an appearance at the Star Trek Las Vegas Con (according to Trek Movie), at which he said: "I am delighted to be part of the show and all I am, is a part of the show... I want to make it semi-clear, because I don't want to make it too clear, that I am not a regular on the show. Data did die at the end of Nemesis. But I am on the show. I do make appearances. Data's story is a part of the thread of show."

Most took this to mean that Data would make multiple appearances, but in reality Data has so far only appeared in the first episode of the show.

The reason why his second appearance in Picard saw him playing a human may have been down to something he joked about at that same event, where he said, "My relationship with the character has been very different than the audience's, because you didn't have to put on that makeup every day."

In a 1991 interview with the Chicago Tribune, the actor revealed it took over an hour every day to turn him into Data. He said: "It's a double-edged sword. It took about a year to get used to the contacts — for a long time, it felt like I had Elvira's fingernails in my eyes. And it's a drag to sit in makeup for 75 minutes every morning. On the other hand, when you're in a scene with seven other cast members, viewers' eyes do tend to focus on the one who glows.''

Star Trek: Picard airs on Thursdays on CBS All Access.