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There were two instances in The Next Generation where Data can be said to have lied or at least severely distorted the truth that I can remember:

  1. "The Most Toys" (Season 3 Episode 22) - Data misrepresents how a weapon was discharged.
  2. "Clues" (Season 4 Episode 14) - Data is ordered by Picard to lie to cover up the existence of an alien planet.

In "The Most Toys," Data was going to kill his captor and was transported off the ship as he pulled the trigger. When Riker tells him the weapon was in a state of discharge, Data says "Perhaps something occurred during transport, commander." While this might not technically be considered a lie as he was not asked a direct question, it is bending the truth right up to that point.

Other than the examples listed above, are there any instances where Data explicitly lied without being ordered to do so?

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  • 2
    Does lying by omission count? I'm thinking of that episode where they find his "mother", actually another android programmed to believe she is human, and they opt not to tell her about it. That's sort of a lie. And I think there may have been some explicit lying to cover up that fact, e.g. falsely implying that she'd had some medical situation when it was actually more of a technological issue that caused her to lose consciousness. May 24 at 13:35
  • I was going to mention his ability to get into character, but looking over the transcript of “Elementary, My Dear Data,” he does avoid ever directly saying that he is not an android from the twenty-fourth century.
    – Davislor
    May 24 at 14:28
  • Data and Picard trick Moriarty into releasing control within the holodeck in Ship in a Bottle, perhaps that counts. May 25 at 2:44
  • Also in "The Most Toys", Data misrepresents his capabilities by standing motionless and inert, in order to mislead someone and vex his captor.
    – Roger
    May 25 at 3:34
  • Since you're Asking such a black-and-white Question, why are you not doing your own counting? May 25 at 22:44

2 Answers 2

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Data lies or misleads a number of times, without being ordered to, in "Time's Arrow" and "Time's Arrow, Part II."

The most clear-cut example of an outright lie is when he tells a bellboy, and later a group of poker players, that he's a Frenchman.

DATA: Excuse me, gentlemen.

SEAMAN: What in hell do you want?

DATA: I would like to join the game.

NATIVE: Pale face.

SEAMAN: I don't like Easterners, personally.

DATA: I am a Frenchman.

GAMBLER: Ah. Mes parents sont originaires de Bourgonais. Je suis ne à la New Orléans.

DATA: Alors. Nous sommes presque frères. Je suis heureux de vous connaître.

GAMBLER: Please, sir.

Star Trek: The Next Generation - S05E26 - "Time's Arrow"

He also tells the bellboy that he overexerted himself while lifting an anvil, and tells Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) that the time shift tracking device he was working on was something he invented for the horseless carriage.


Another instance of Data lying without being ordered to can be found in Star Trek: First Contact, when he tries to pass off his emotion chip-driven instinct to protect the vulnerable human skin grafted onto his arm by the Borg as an attempt to merely imitate human behaviour.

(Data breaks an arm free and thumps a Borg drone, releases himself, fights with drones before being restrained, his arm wounded)

BORG QUEEN: Is it becoming clear to you yet? Look at yourself, standing there cradling the new flesh that I've given you. If it means nothing to you, why protect it?

DATA: I ...I am simply imitating the behaviour of humans.

BORG QUEEN: You're becoming more human all the time. Now you're learning how to lie.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

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    Data also lies in the TNG episode "Unification," when he tells a Romulan woman that he and Picard (who were disguised as Romulans) were visiting from the city of Rateg. However, that could be classed as lying under orders, since it was a planned, undercover mission, unlike "Time's Arrow," in which Data had to improvise a cover identity for himself after being inadvertently stranded on 19th century Earth. May 24 at 3:06
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    Do you have any resources to see script notes? I would love to know about that scene in The Most Toys. I find it such a standout scene for his character.
    – SDH
    May 24 at 5:17
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    If Data was aware of the Temporal Prime Directive during Time's Arrow, he would probably have considered it an order, so he may have been effectively under orders for all of the lies in those episodes. A quick search tells me Picard seemed unaware of the directive in 2368, the same year the episode started, so maybe it wasn't in force then. Even so, Data might have interpreted the "normal" prime directive as requiring deception, since he knew he was before Earth's first contact. May 24 at 10:51
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    I see that most of the examples are from away missions where it would be important to maintain a cover of some kind. I see a distinct difference to his statement from 'The Most Toys'. It is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts for his own gain: to avoid having to answer for firing the weapon and murdering his captor. I can discount his actions during away missions but this has always stood out to me even more than the murder attempt. Shooting Fajo was a positive equation so I can see how he would weigh that in his mind but trying to lie about it seems off to me.
    – SDH
    May 24 at 23:28
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I think his behavior in "Brothers" qualifies. He takes control of the Enterprise while under the control of a program to seek out his creator. (This is the episode where he locks out ships controls with the most elaborate password ever.)

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    Can you point to a lie that was told in that episode? As it stands, your answer does not mention lying at all.
    – pladams9
    May 24 at 15:55
  • It's been a while since I saw the episode, but I can't imagine him taking over the ship without lying to somebody in the process. May 24 at 17:19
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    He lied to the computer when he pretended to be Picard to authenticate certain takeover / lockout commands....
    – Hellion
    May 24 at 18:43
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    He didn't really lie - mostly he ignored everyone, including Riker asking who entered new coordinates. The only sort of lie he told was impersonating the captain to the computer. Even then, he didn't technically say he WAS the captain, just told the computer to recognize the captain.
    – Grant
    May 24 at 18:46
  • That's really some hair-splitting there. May 26 at 15:52

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