Data’s Return: How ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Used Cutting-Edge Techniques to Reverse Aging

During the initial casting for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1986, Brent Spiner, who would eventually take on the role of Data, was approximately 37 years old. Notably, Spiner’s first makeup tests showcased a slightly different appearance for the android character. These tests explored variations in Data’s skin color and eye shade, with considerations ranging from a pinker skin tone to different hues of eyes. Eventually, the iconic design for Data emerged, featuring pale alabaster skin and distinctive chartreuse-colored eyes, creating a visually effective yet straightforward aesthetic that balanced between artificial and human.

As the series progressed, the contrast between the unchanging nature of Data’s character and the inevitable aging of the human actor became increasingly evident. In an episode titled “Inheritance,” the concept of androids displaying signs of aging was introduced, providing an in-universe explanation for Data’s evolving appearance. However, this issue was tackled in a more innovative manner in subsequent years.

When Brent Spiner reprised his role as Data in “Star Trek: Picard,” a dream sequence in the show’s first episode presented Data with his familiar 1990s appearance. Yet, by this time, Spiner was 71 years old, and his natural aging presented challenges in maintaining Data’s youthful look. In a recent interview with James MacKinnon, the makeup artist for “Picard,” it was revealed that achieving Data’s original appearance was a result of a combination of makeup techniques and subtle CGI de-aging methods.

Importantly, Data’s appearances in “Picard” were primarily relegated to dream sequences or psychic states, given that the character had previously passed away in a film. While Spiner’s aging was noticeable, the creative team utilized makeup and visual effects to recreate Data’s 1990s look. This fusion of techniques allowed Spiner to authentically resurrect Data’s voice and mannerisms, resulting in a seamless portrayal.

Within the context of the show, the slightly altered appearance of Data in “Picard” was logical as he existed within a surreal dream state. MacKinnon explained the complexities of maintaining consistency in Spiner’s appearance as he aged and described how the marriage of makeup expertise and discreet CGI adjustments achieved the desired outcome without altering Spiner’s inherent identity.

Ultimately, the production team of “Picard” skillfully balanced honoring Data’s iconic visual traits with the inevitable passage of time. The outcome was a convincing recreation of Data’s original appearance, achieved through the fusion of makeup artistry and digital enhancements. As the show’s narrative evolved, Data’s character also experienced transformation, culminating in a creative solution that incorporated Brent Spiner’s natural aging while preserving the distinct characteristics of Data’s persona.

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