In 1987, Gene Roddenberry took a big gamble. He created a spin-off of his cult classic TV series Star Trek, but without Kirk, Spock, or anyone else from the original crew. Instead, a whole new crew was created, in order to better comment on the changing social climate of the 80’s and inspire a whole new generation. One character on this show that I came to identify with the most was Data, an android portrayed by Brent Spiner.
Designed by Dr. Noonian Soong (who was also portrayed by Spiner), Data was meant to be as close to humans as possible. He lacked emotions because Soong was unable to implement the same microchip he’d given to his “older brother” Lore. (also played by Spiner). Considering that Lore turned to evil because of his emotions, perhaps it’s just as well.
Data has many characteristics that aspies exhibit. He has a tendency to info-dump and will often ramble until told to stop. He has a highly intelligent, even creative mind. This is evident in his deductive reasoning, causing him to admire Sherlock Holmes. (the show was unable to use this admiration much due to the character still being under copyright) He has interests in various fields, but escpecially those pertaining to science. He will even focus on a task to the exclusion of all else.
Data is also socially awkward. He often takes things literally, especially idioms. He cannot read body language, and has often been deceived not just by Lore, but also by people he thinks he can trust. He is also incapable of lying, but is forced to go against this protocol in the episode “Clues”, when a paranoid alien race attacks the ship. He often has a hard time understanding humor. In fact, what makes him such an entertaining person for me is that he often doesn’t realize how funny he actually is. (That changed in the movies when Geordi activates his emotion chip. I didn’t care for this development as it led to many forced humorous moments that just weren’t as natural as when he didn’t realize how funny he was)
One driving goal for Data is a desire to be accepted as human and sentient, despite the fact that he is an android. In the episode “The Measure of a Man”, he is put on trial in order to determine whether he actually is sentient. Commander Riker is given the unenviable task of prosecuting him. At first Riker objects, because not only does he think Data is sentient, but he also considers Data a friend. Should Data lose the case, Riker doesn’t know if he’d be able to live with himself. But if he doesn’t prosecute Data, the trial would be declared a mistrial, and Data would be dismantled anyway. Riker is forced to take the task. Throughout the trial, evidence is presented both for and against Data–his relationships with crewmembers, his expertise, and his superhuman abilities. In a crucial moment, Riker even shows that despite all this, he can still simply deactivate Data, and even removes one of his arms, declaring. “Pinocchio is dead. His strings have been cut.” Riker loses the case as he wanted, but he still feels guilty for having to persecute a friend. Data disagrees because he knows Riker wouldn’t willingly betray him and forgives him.
Despite all these differences, Data is able to enjoy friendships. Geordi LaForge, Wesley Crusher, and Jean-Luc Picard seem the closest to him. In fact, he seems to be the only crewmember who gets along with Wesley and sees him as an equal, despite the fact that Wesley is the youngest crewmember and is outranked by everyone else as ensign.
This is why I identify with Data. I too have difficulty reading social cues, causing me to make both friends and enemies. I see myself in many of Data’s quirks, despite the fact that he is an android.