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Star Trek TNG - Season 3 - Episode 16

Star Trek TNG - 3x16 - The Offspring

Originally Aired: 1990-3-12

Synopsis:
Data becomes a father. [DVD]

My Rating - 5

Fan Rating Average - 6.87

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 35 3 3 3 5 12 12 28 45 42 60

Problems
None

Factoids
- Riker was largely absent from this episode because he directed it, his first directed Star Trek episode. When Frakes asked Rick Berman if he could direct an episode, Berman told him to go learn a bit about directing first. So Frakes spent weeks intensely studying the subject until he was finally allowed to give this episode a shot. TPTB were so impressed with his directing ability in this episode, that he became a regular director on Star Trek, including the famous Trek movie First Contact to his credit.

Remarkable Scenes
- Data being secretive.
- Picard's annoyance with Data's undertaking of a project to produce a new android in secret and Data's responses.
- Wesley: "Data, she could learn a lot by being around children her own age." Data: "She is only two weeks old..."
- Lal's continual questions, one of which was "why is the sky black?"
- Lal in the turbolift with Data after the school day.
- Lal inadvertently insulting Guinan's age.
- Lal using a contraction.
- Lal seducing Riker and Data walking in on the situation. Data: "Commander, what are your intentions toward my daughter?"
- The admiral's disgust with Lal working in Ten Forward. Talk about bad first impressions.
- The admiral's meeting with Lal.
- Lal getting scared and seeking out Troi.
- Data's argument to the admiral supporting his belief that Lal should not be taken away from him.
- Picard: "There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders."
- The admiral's change of heart, trying to save Lal's life. I love the way the admiral described Data trying to save Lal's life.

My Review
I like the continuity with and similarity of this episode with TNG: The Measure of a Man. Picard mentions that he helped define the rights of androids, and the definition he set ultimately prevailed. What is most remarkable about this episode is that it serves as a very enlightening character piece for Data. You can learn more about Data's motivations, desires, and goals in this episode than virtually any other through the process of creating, teaching, living with, and witnessing the death of a pseudo-loved one. Encased in an emotionless shell on the surface is in fact a very emotionally moving story.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From DSOmo on 2007-07-24 at 4:55am:
    - During a voice-over, Data talks about teaching Lal "to supplement her innate android behavior with simulated human responses." The scene shows Data teaching Lal to blink. But in many of the scenes preceding this one, Lal can be seen blinking.
    - Picard makes the correct stand at the end of the episode - that Data is a sentient being with rights, and those rights include the right to raise a family. The state cannot simply take children away from their parents. Why does Picard have to take this stand in the first place? Why haven't Admiral Haftel's superiors shut down Haftel already? Or does the decision reached in "The Measure Of A Man" - defining Data as a sentient being - mean nothing? Or is Starfleet simply setting aside both their protection of the family unit and Data's sentience simply because these principles are inconvenient?
    - While Data and Wesley discuss Lal, Dr. Crusher pages Wesley and reminds him of a hair appointment. Wesley responds that he is on his way. He then shakes his head and says, "Parents!" There is no badge tap. Neither Dr. Crusher nor Wesley said "Out." There is no indication that the communication channel had been closed. In other words, Dr. Crusher heard Wesley say "Parents!"
  • From Rob on 2008-04-13 at 6:29pm:
    This episode is amazing in that its revolving around an emotionless android (Data) and a never-before-seen guest star (Lal) and yet it so emotionally moving. The death of Lal actually brings a lump to my throat, especially when she's in Troi's quarters thumping at her abdomen and saying "This is what it means to feel."

    Phenomenal work by the actress (Hallie Todd?) and everytime I've watched the episode I'm saddened all over again that she suffered that cascade failure. She would have been a fascinating addition to the cast.
  • From Crispy on 2009-07-22 at 4:11pm:
    Excellent episode - one of the few truly emotionally moving TNG episodes.
  • From CAlexander on 2011-04-21 at 12:09am:
    An excellent episode, rather touching. I found myself pondering Data's arguments. That is a good sign.
    - Since DSOmo brings it up, I'll point out that I don't totally buy Data's argument that he need not inform the Captain about his experiments because he is merely procreating like anyone else, and thus his actions are beyond question. This might be true if Data were a member of a race of androids who had reproduced since time immemorial by building new copies of themselves. But he is creating a brand new experimental life form that may or may not work. So his analogy is flawed; he is not the same as a normal human having a child, and more like a childless man trying to create a genetically engineered superbeing to act as his progeny. While it is reasonable that Data be allowed to "reproduce", his argument that he need not tell anyone else doesn't hold water.
    - Furthermore, the danger involved in building Lal is not merely theoretical. The existence of Lore suggests that Soong-type androids have a fairly high chance of becoming super-powered homicidal monsters. I think it would have been wise for Data to create Lal in a high-security facility with more oversight.
    - Data also defends himself by saying that he took all the steps that any other cyberneticist would have taken. But this is self-serving and thus irrelevant; it is like someone secretly building atomic bombs in their basement then saying it is OK because he promises he took all the necessary precautions. We believe Data, but there is no reason for Starfleet to take his claims at face value.
  • From rpeh on 2011-06-04 at 5:15am:
    I think this episode rates much higher than a 5. The acting by all the principal characters is superb, and the story is engaging and well-told. It manages to be touching without being overly cloying, which Trek can sometimes do.

    The only problem is the usual Reset Button: what happens next? Having demonstrated that he can create other androids, why does Data never apply what he learned and create more? Does he not give his new information to Star Fleet?

    Apart from that, it's great. I give it a 9.
  • From Jeff Browning on 2011-09-27 at 10:08am:
    I agree wholeheartedly with rpeh. Our webmaster has nothing but praise for this episode, but rates it a 5? Talk about damning with faint praise. I think it deserves at least an 8.
  • From John on 2011-11-22 at 7:12pm:
    One of my favorite episodes of any Star Trek series ever.

    Everything about this episode is great. The story is interesting and the actress who portrays Lal is superb in her role. Frakes direction is well-paced and thoughtful.

    The ending of this episode always gives me a lump in my throat and makes me tear up a bit, which I think is a good thing. It's very moving, and raises some interesting questions about the nature of life.

    Personally, I give a 10/10.
  • From John Bernhardt on 2020-04-13 at 11:05pm:
    This episode is certainly more relevant now as part the backstory for star trek-picard's soji/sutra character. I am surprised nobody objected to the admirals attempt to remove Lol from ship. Clearly, data could have simply gone with her.
  • From Azalea Jane on 2021-08-07 at 10:24pm:
    Lal does something similar to Data, but perhaps more so. She seeks to understand humans and be like them. Well before her fear episode, she also expresses what is clearly frustration at not being able to experience (other) emotions like love or lust or loneliness. Like Data, she expresses some form of emotion around her dissimilarity with humanity, but is unable to "experience" those emotions on a metacognitive level and name them as such. (And, for whatever reason, self-aware emotions seemed to be correlated with a system failure.) I like that Lal questions this pursuit. She expresses confusion and distress around the idea of working toward something one can never attain. Data talks of the "reward" of striving to be more than one is.

    I say all this not to nitpick or even find fault. I actually think it's an important point that there may be no true border between thoughts and emotions. Like most pairs of things in the universe, thinking and emoting aren't a simple binary.

    The theme of the "inner struggle" is a recurring one in Trek.

    The "what are your intentions with my daughter" bit was funny, but any half-sentient being could see that Lal was clearly in control of that situation. I think "Lal, what are your intentions with my commander?" would have been *hilarious.* And a little subversive of gender stereotypes, which always nice.

    Despite the ruling in "Measure of a Man", Starfleet brass is still trying to subvert Data's (and, by extension, his offspring's) rights. This might be a writing error, or it could be indicative of some humans' inability to see or acknowledge artificial life forms as truly sentient. This episode feels especially relevant in light of Star Trek: Picard, which I'm in the middle of for the first time. The status, personhood, and rights of artificial sentient beings will probably be an ongoing conversation among humans for a *long* time. The admiral's reaction at the end was quite touching.

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