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Star Trek: TNG's Dr. Soong Was Almost Played By Someone Completely Different

Fans have been enjoying Paramount+'s "Star Trek: Picard," where some of their favorite "Star Trek: The Next Generation" characters have returned to be part of the continuing sci-fi journey. One of these returning actors is Brent Spiner who plays the android character, Data. He recently told "The Inside of You" podcast how difficult it was to memorize all of the character's dialogue. "I'd come home and open up a script and my stomach would turn over," he admitted. Spiner went on to explain how he wouldn't allow himself to go to bed until he learned the next day's lines. It would be logical to assume that this amount of pressure would have resulted in the actor not taking on any more work. Well, that assessment would be incorrect. 

Spiner recently sat down with another "TNG" alumni, Wil Wheaton, and discussed what it was like simultaneously playing another character, Data's creator, Dr. Noonian Soong. It was here where it was revealed that the role was initially intended for someone else. "They had already hired Keye Luke to play the part," Spiner said. For those unfamiliar with Luke's past work, he's probably best known in the United States for playing the grandfather and original owner of Gizmo in the "Gremlins" movies. But it made more sense to Spiner that Data's creator would make the android in his own image, so he actually requested to play the role. However, once it was time to shoot scenes as both Data and Dr. Soong, Spiner began to question his own decision.

The task on taking on multiple roles was daunting for Spiner

The character Dr. Noonian Soong first made an appearance on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in Season 4, Episode 3 ("Brothers"). Brent Spiner, who played the role, recently revealed that he had talked the producers into shifting that gig to him from actor Keye Luke. However, when it was time to shoot the scenes which involved Spiner playing multiple characters, he realized the level of difficulty he had brought on himself. "That was really a charade," Spiner admitted. "How do I do this?" Spiner went on to explain how it was the talented make-up department who changed him into this other character, eventually giving him the additional mental tools he needed to bring Dr. Soong to life.

Dr. Soong, an Artificial Intelligence pioneer, found Data to be his greatest accomplishment. In the "TNG" series, Data was able to learn about his origin and history of his creator by being able to interact with Soong via a holographic recording of the brilliant doctor. The character appeared three times during the series' long run, with Spiner portraying him each time. Although Keye Luke would have been a fascinating actor to play the part, Spiner explained to producers why he thought he should play the role. "I said, doesn't make more sense for me to play Dr. Soong," he had asked? "He's not just his [Data's] father, his creator. He's everything." Of course, producers agreed and the part was his.