Tonight, The Back Room at Colectivo’s Prospect Avenue cafe will host none other than The Greatest Generation, a Star Trek podcast that’s specifically devoted to Star Trek: The Next Generation. From 1987-1994, the series won 18 Emmys, pulled in an average of 20 million viewers per episode, introduced viewers to Klingons as well as the wisdom and half-Betazoid beauty of Counselor Deanna Troi. (Maybe that last one was just us.) The sequel’s 176-episode, and four-film run also helped transport the careers of pre-knighthood Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, and Wil Wheaton to faraway galaxies.
Another actor who benefited immensely from The Next Generation was Brent Spiner, who the world knows better as the affable android “Data” that appeared in every episode and subsequent film the series made. Prior to the Generation gig, Spiner was a longtime character actor whose biggest credits included a seven-episode arc on Night Court and two episodes as “Billy Bob Conroy” on Mama’s Family. Similarly, in spite of continuing to nab small parts in television and film since he last washed off his face paint and gave his Lieutenant Commander uniform to the wardrobe department, Data is sure to go down as Spiner’s biggest and best-known role in his 50-year acting career.
In 1991, during what could be considered the heyday of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s popularity, Spiner decided to combine his love of 1930s and ’40s era music with his newfound notoriety when he stepped into the studio to record an album of lounge covers called Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back. The 12-track effort’s name is a play off Frank Sinatra’s 1973 release, Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back, and includes an overt nod to Spiner’s yellow-eyed Star Trek character in the process.
Even though Spiner appears in Data makeup on the album’s cover, the songs—including works originally written by icons like George Gershwin and Randy Newman—find the actor (and apparent crooner) skillfully and earnestly singing, with no direct reference to his most famous television role. There is one Next Generation connection, though. On “It’s A Sin (To Tell A Lie),” Spiner is accompanied by “The Sun Spots,” a group of vocalists featuring Stewart, Burton, Michael Dorn (aka “Worf”), and Jonathan Frakes (“Commander Riker”) in its ranks.
Allegedly, Bay Cities Inc. released Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back in Europe without Spiner’s permission, following a contract dispute between Spiner and the label. Though there’s not much information on the album out there and physical copies of the CD are harder to find than [put your favorite Star Trek reference here], some of the songs have thankfully made their way to the internet, thus adding more material to Trekkie-tailored playlists that also boast five Leonard Nimoy albums and a variety of songs by William Shatner.
Does this have anything to do with Milwaukee? No. Will this be discussed during The Greatest Generation’s live show tonight? Probably not. But you can now live long and prosper knowing that the dude who played Data recorded a bunch of old pop standards. You’re welcome!