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Mr. Data seemed to be a very advanced and unique Android in Star Trek TNG.

It came to my attention, however, that (seemingly more advanced? or at least more humaniform) androids existed in the hundreds of thousands in Star Trek TOS.

The episode I'm referencing is "I, Mudd", (the title being a clever reference to Asimov's "I, Robot", much like the iPod and iPhone).

Sexy Humaniform Androids

In light of this, did Data break any new ground as an android? Was his oft-malfunctioning emotion chip the only area where he (and his brother) represented an advance in robotics/cybernetics?

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The main difference between Mudd-Androids and Soong-Androids is that Mudd-Androids were created by a long dead alien race in the Andromeda galaxy, while Soong-Androids were the first real human built, and seemingly sentient Androids. The Mudd-Androids were not really Sentient. Just like any other technology in Star Trek, humans were rarely the first to create them.

Data's uniqueness is really due to how prominent he is in Star Fleet. He's first and foremost on Star Fleet's flagship, been around for a long time, is smarter than their most advanced, modern computers, and is shown to be Sentient. Also, fairly harmless. Most other Androids are not accessible, well known, and can even be violent. Data is the shiny, low hanging fruit. But he's so advanced he's sentient, which causes issues for mass production, as Noonian is dead and Data won't allow himself to be disassembled for study. Hence the entire "Measure of a Man" plot line.

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  • Let's not forget the androids (and gynoid?) in ST:TOS "What are Little Girls Made of?"
    – Anthony X
    Commented Jun 10, 2018 at 1:13
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The main difference between Mudd-Androids and Soong-Androids is that Mudd-Androids were created by a long dead alien race in the Andromeda galaxy, while Soong-Androids were the first real human built, and seemingly sentient Androids.

Not true. In the Star Trek episode "Requiem For Methuselah", Captain Kirk encountered an android far more human than "Data" - so much so he BELIEVED she was human, up to the point of actually falling in love with her. And who designed and built her? A human by the name of "Flint". So it's clear that superior, human-built androids did exist (and were quickly forgotten) in original Star Trek long before "Data" came into existence.

Also, the alien-built (and human modified) androids of planet Exo III were also superior to "Data". Yet, these facts were conveniently "forgotten" in order to make "Data" seem like something special to Next Generation viewers - when he wasn't. It's how Hollywood works: make something seem "special" and "new" in order to suck in more viewers.

That's the reality.

Rayna - Android With Human Emotions and Genius IQ Another human android in original Star Trek

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    Well, to be fair, Flint wasn't a normal human, he was immortal and several thousand years old. And his android, Rayna, eventually shuts down because she can't handle emotions. - And, in a reversal of roles, a woman falls in love with Data in the episode In Theory
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 21:26
  • Sherry Jackson, with all due respect to Flint's very amazing creation Rayna, was my favorite android of all time -- the outfit may have helped. Sherry is still with us as is Louise Sorel who it appears is still an active actor while Jackson has been retired for decades.
    – releseabe
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 10:53
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Data, despite his obvious non-human-ness (coloration, mannerisms, absence of emotion) was considered more than "human-enough" to be offered a Starfleet commission, something rather unique for an artificial being. Yeah, "Norman" somehow infiltrated the Enterprise crew in "I, Mudd" (no on-screen explanation), but I suspect Starfleet would never have offered him (or any others of his type) a commission as his behavior/mannerisms seemed a bit too "mechanical". Andrea, Brown, and faux Kirk ("What Are Little Girls Made Of?"), and Rayna ("Requiem For Methuselah") could all pass for humans in appearance, behavior, etc. - better than Data, but by benefit of superhuman (Flint) or entirely non-human (the "Old Ones") expertise. And, rather than being merely confused or baffled by emotion (as Data usually is), Rayna completely malfunctions. Note also that Andrea gets confused by emotion too.

As already noted, Data is distinguished by being the result of an entirely human creative effort (Soong) who is recognized as an equal by his crewmates (despite his superior abilities and inferior emotional responses). That is what makes him unique and a "first".

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