Data had a "real" Father of course in Dr. Noonian Soong, but as we've all learned at one time or another - a "Father" is one thing. A "Dad" can be something else entirely.
Jean-Luc Picard was in a very tangible way, Data's Dad.
Picard guided Data through some of the most difficult circumstances. From the moment he defended Data's civil right to exist, to the very end of Data's life Picard nurtured and cared for his friend in the way any Dad would for a child. That relationship is especially affirmed in the first season of PICARD.
When that series opens we find a Jean-Luc Picard that's very different from the one we last saw in NEMESIS. Life hasn't necessarily been fair to our good Captain. But, of all the wounds he carries the one that propels the story forward is the loss of his friend, Data. In many ways we see a haunted man in that version of Picard, and you get the sense that he lost more than an officer or even a friend when Data died. He's more like a grieving father. His motivation in the first season of the latest STAR TREK series is to do whatever it is that he can do for Data. He owes Data his life, that’s true, but his motivating need is greater even than fulfilling an obligation. He does the things that he must in pursuit of his goals out of love for who Data was.
It's ironic in a way. Picard said at the beginning of TNG that he was uncomfortable around children - despite the fact that nearly every time we saw him with kids he was really very caring. Yet, of all the father/son & surrogate father/son relationships we see play out over the course of the Star Trek franchise - the purest of those might just be between a man and an android.
In the end, Picard did everything he could do for his only "true" son, Data.
John Cooley is a writer based in Las Vegas, and a product developer for ANOVOS.