One recurring actor from Star Trek: The Next Generation was nearly cast to be Data.
Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will know who Data is, and will be well aware that he was played wonderfully by the very talented Brent Spiner. Spiner is still with Star Trek to this very day, despite taking 20 years off from the franchise as it went in a different direction. He’s back, however, thanks to Star Trek: Picard.
In it, he plays not just Data (in season one), but also multiple descendants of the creator of Data, Noonian Soong. In Picard (and Enterprise), Spiner played Noonians’ ancestors Adam, Altan, and Arik, all across different periods in time.
That wrinkle, of being able to play different characters in different time periods has helped keep Spiner around the franchise for years.
Despite his time with the franchise, there was a time when Spiner wasn’t the favorite to land Data. That honor was almost Eric Menyuk’s, an actor who would later land on The Next Generation as The Traveler.
Star Trek: The Next Generation nearly saw Eric Menyuk as Data
A lot of people may know that many in The Next Generation weren’t the first or favorite to land the role. In fact, two were swapped. Deanna Troi was originally set to be played by Denise Crosby, and Crosby’s eventual character, Tasha Yar, was going to be played by Marina Sirtis.
Whenever a show is put together, many things come and go, with different actors being changed out or reconsidered. Gene Roddenberry hated Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard and didn’t want to cast him. Kate Mulgrew literally started on Star Trek: Voyager on the second day of shooting the pilot, because the original actress didn’t work out.
so it’s not surprising that Menyuk was at one point considered to be Data. It also explains why the showrunners eventually brought Menyuk back. While Spiner did a great job as Data, that doesn’t take away Menyuk’s talent. It’s why he was brought back to play the Traveler.
The Traveler was a very important character, as he took Wesley Crusher from us and we have Menyuk to thank for that minor miracle. Granted the show was nearly over by then, and Wesley had only been in 11 episodes total since the start of season four, so, it was largely a nothing gesture but I consider it to be a symbolic gesture.
One not possible without the Traveler.