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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Trek memories of 'android' actor
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Actor Brent Spiner - android Data in Star Trek spin-off The Next Generation - shares his thoughts on the sci-fi phenomenon as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Brent Spiner
Spiner played Data in 178 episodes and four feature films
In the flesh, American TV star Brent Spiner looks very little like the android character that made his name.

And a good thing too. With his glinting corneas and robotic demeanour, "sentient artificial life form" Data would look rather out of place in the London hotel where Spiner is promoting a new range of Star Trek DVDs.

His human alter-ego, however, looks very much at home.

Grey-haired and affable, he is happy to share his memories of his time on Star Trek: The Next Generation - the first and most successful of the four spin-offs that followed the much-loved original series.

"I'm delighted to have been a part of it," he tells the BBC News website. "I hope there is interest in it always."

The interest in the Trek phenomenon certainly remains, with DVDs, computer games and endless repeats ensuring we are never far away from the Starship Enterprise and its various crews.

In truth, though, the franchise as a whole is at something of a hiatus at the moment.

Since the most recent spin-off, entitled Enterprise, came to an end last year there have been no official Star Trek shows made.

And though there have been reports that an 11th film is in the pipeline, it will not be released until 2008 at the earliest.

Schadenfreude

Spiner, however, is certain the brand will resurface again, in some shape or form.

"I'm convinced there'll be another film and another series, and another series of films based on that series," he smiles.

The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation
The android (far right) was one of the show's most popular characters
"It's just part of our culture - something we've grown to count on."

Indeed, he believes US TV network UPN was rash to pull the plug on Enterprise after just four seasons.

"It was a very decent show that was getting better all the time.

"Had it continued, it would have generated some steam and would have been as successful as any other series."

That said, he admits he might have felt the tiniest hint of schadenfreude when Enterprise - like Deep Space Nine and Voyager before it - did not match his show's popularity.

"I'm sure a part of me didn't want them to be more successful than we were," he concedes.

'Another family'

"At the same time I was glad they existed. I think the whole thing became more interesting and fun the bigger it got."

As far as Spiner is concerned, though, The Next Generation - or TNG as it is known in fan circles - ended at the right time.

Brent Spiner in Star Trek: Nemesis
Data (r) was eventually killed off in 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis
"I think it played itself out," he shrugs. "We did 178 episodes and four feature films. I don't think anyone was cheated."

And if nothing else, leaving Data behind means he need no longer don the distinctive make-up he describes as "the only downside of the job".

"The contact lenses and the make-up every day was really a pain, particularly when most of the other actors on the show weren't having to go through it.

"At the end of the day Patrick [Stewart] would wash his face and leave, while I was still trying to get that stuff out of my skin."

This, however, was the only time he begrudged his co-stars, whom he describes with evident affection as "like another family".

"One of the best things about doing the show was how close we all became," he explains.

"And fortunately it didn't end when the series did - I still speak to them all the time."


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