by Jen Dalton

Commander Data embodies some of the most fascinating and hilarious contradictions in "Star Trek" sociological exploration. We are asked to believe that the android Data is incapable of emotions, yet he attempts romantic relationships, creates a daughter of whom he is obsessively protective, paints pictures, and—with no acknowledgment of the paradox—envies his fellow officers for their ability to have emotions. Now, I am more than willing to grant a bit of poetic license when I'm well entertained, but what inner turmoil could a machine (albeit a handsome one) possibly have to creatively express?

Discuss Data Quite a bit, as it turns out. Here's the background: Data's creator, Dr. Soong, frightened by the problems that Data's emotion-saddled brother Lore exhibited (megalomania, amorality), opted against endowing Data with human emotions. At the urging of his wife, Data's "mother," Dr. Soong installed in Data the creative urge through which he might express his... uh... the things he needed to express, as a sort of consolation prize. Thus, Data has acquired the means of expressing emotions he is incapable of having.

Taking the irony of android artistry to extremes, the writers chose Geordi to teach Data how to paint. Even thick-as-a-post Riker picked up on the joke, commenting, "A blind man teaching an android how to paint. That ought to be worth a couple of pages in someone's book." Ha, ha. But of course, on the other side of the vanishing distinction between fiction and reality, here I am with my couple of pages.

So somehow Data finds inspiration to paint, and in manifold styles. His work, actually created by scenic artists Jim Magdaleno, Alan Kobayashi, and "Star Trek" aesthetic visionary Mike Okuda himself, runs the gamut of representational styles, from genteel 19th-century-style landscape pictures to manly expressionism. The impetus that drives Data to paint differs each episode. While painting can't properly be said to serve any psychological purpose for Data, it often plays an important role as a plot device in "The Next Generation."

The Art History of Data's Painting by Episode:


"A Matter of Perspective"

"Birthright, Part I"

All screen shots are from THE NEXT GENERATION
© Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
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