Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Offspring"

3 stars

Air date: 3/12/1990
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

After undertaking a project of unusual secrecy, Data stuns the crew by revealing that he has created another android, Lal (Hallie Todd), which he introduces as his child. Lal is activated and interacts with Data and the crew in a series of lessons designed to aid in the development of her sentience, cognitive abilities, and social understanding. Picard is somewhat taken aback at the revelation of Data's child, having not been consulted about the creation of a new artificial life on board his ship. He's unsettled by what Starfleet might do when it finds out about Lal.

Picard's fears turn out to be founded. Starfleet wants Lal sent to a starbase for further study, arguing that Data does not have the required expertise to ensure Lal's proper development. Picard argues back and forth with Starfleet, and refuses to separate Data from his daughter, until Starfleet sends out Admiral Haftel (Nicholas Coster) to make a determination of Lal's situation and whether her development would be best served remaining on the Enterprise.

I've always found the much-adored "Offspring" to be a solid, intriguing, but somewhat overrated TNG episode. It isn't without its problems. For one, the whole notion of Lal choosing her species seems to me like an idea that is little ado about nothing. The scene where Lal narrows down her choices in the holodeck seems awkward and truncated, and it arises from a point I find confusing: If Data's mission has been to study and become more human, why would his daughter be anything else? It's not like Data has spent his life trying to understand the Klingon or Andorian condition. But that's a minor point. A more significant one is the fact that Starfleet's position regarding Lal's development (they intend to separate her from Data) feels like an excessively forced point of conflict. Haftel is written as far too arbitrarily obstinate. His stance against Picard acts as if "The Measure of a Man" never happened (events of which Picard explicitly mentions).

Still, "The Offspring" has its heart in the right place and represents an interesting (albeit brief) journey. The fact that the story is about Data's rights and experiences as a parent at least centers everything on human issues rather than technological ones. And there's some fascination in watching Data and Lal grappling with basic human questions of learning and love (although I found some of these individual scenes to be a bit too "cute" at times). The building friction between Picard and Haftel is not resolved (which is ultimately a bit unsatisfying), but instead rendered moot when Lal begins experiencing unanticipated emotions, malfunctions, and ultimately death (described by Data as "total system failure"). Data's inability to feel emotion over the death of his daughter is simultaneously a blessing and a tragedy, and yet he was still able to derive an unparalleled enrichment to his life through Lal's existence.

One thing is certain about season three: It saw TNG introduced to what would become much of the core staff of writer-producers on Trek for years to come: Michael Piller, Ira Steven Behr, Ronald D. Moore, and now Rene Echevarria. "The Offspring" is also Jonathan Frakes' directorial debut.

Previous episode: Yesterday's Enterprise
Next episode: Sins of the Father

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135 comments on this post

Fri, Aug 1, 2008, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
I feel that S3 of TNG was their best season... everything just seemed to come together finally and the writing staff was really cooking. But, I wanted to comment specifically on Hallie Todd who I thought did an utterly fantastic job as Lal in 'The Offspring'. I think there are very few guest stars whose characters you could picture staying on the show and being a welcomed addition. She is one of them IMO. And I find it heartbreaking when she tells Troi that she's afraid and points to her stomach, saying "this is what it means to feel". The tragedy of Data's not being able to really 'feel' the loss while the crewman around him (especially Troi, Geordi and Wes) are obviously grieving on his behalf is also a special moment.
Sun, Jul 15, 2012, 12:15pm (UTC -6)
Kind of nice but I found the ending a bit contrived. It felt as just a quick way of getting rid of a character that wasn't planned to be a regular but then again, there really was no proper sense for Lal to die. Would have been nicer if she had stayed as a every once in a while regular, kinda like Guinan.
Wed, Aug 29, 2012, 8:22pm (UTC -6)
I always get choked up at the line: "Father, thank you for my life."

One of my personal favorite episodes.
Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 1:44am (UTC -6)
A heartfelt episode. Lal is simply adorable, just like her father. It's a pity the producers didn't keep her "alive" for the rest of the season, it would be a nice addition to the crew. Hallie Todd did a great acting. I can't say the same about the "Admiral", who did overplay when he and Data failed to save Lal.

For me, the best scene of this episode was when Lal met Riker and grabbed him kissing him. Riker's expression was hilarious.
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 1:54pm (UTC -6)
I don't see how one can come to any other conclusion other than that Admiral Haftel "killed" Lal.

The dilemma that she faced so soon after coming to existence "killed" her. If she had a bit more time to exist and acquire life experience, she likely would have learned coping. Of course, the plot demands thins to be as they are, but the entire thing was so convoluted that I can't recommend this episode.
Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 12:50am (UTC -6)
Another case of a gratuitous "farewell" scene in Star Trek that undermines the way a death is other wise presented. Here we have Data's hands moving "faster than Haftel can see", all in an ultimately futile attempt to avoid inevitable death, or here, "total system failure", but Lol is nevertheless somehow stabilized long enough to say a proper goodbye. Wouldn't total system failure mean a cessation of all function?
Fri, Jul 5, 2013, 9:46am (UTC -6)
I wondered if this episode wouldn't have been a bit stronger if the character of Commander Maddox accompanied the Admiral. I guess I was disappointed he never showed up in the series again after MOAM.
Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 2:30am (UTC -6)
This was one of the episodes (along with 'Remember Me') that really turned me on to TNG (the first two seasons did little for me). Like William, the line 'thank you for my life' really got to me.

There were a few things that I wish had been better, like Lal's blinking before she is 'taught' to blink; or the emotional reaction she has to soft furnishings (!) but in the greater story telling they are minor.
Sun, Jan 26, 2014, 3:36pm (UTC -6)
Jay, one could argue the opposite, and that Lal's death proved that the admiral was right. Data noticed an aberration (the stupid contraction thing), but all he could do was note the aberrations and look for a pattern. Instead of controlling the problem, however, it suddenly ended up worse and ended up causing Lal's death. Perhaps at the cybernetic station the advanced facilities could have caught the problem in time. Of course, it all happened so suddenly that there was no time to fix her, but the point still stands. Perhaps the confrontation with the admiral hastened her demise, but it's at least conceivable that the same problem would have happened eventually if Lal had stayed on the Enterprise, and at least conceivable that it could have been solved at Starbase Whatever.

As for the episode itself, I agree that it's overrated, mainly because it is so formulaic. There's really nothing surprising in the plot, and involves a few too many cliches. In particular, the overly obstinate admiral wasn't needed; the rational that Data could not accompany Lal to the station was completely unconvincing and was clearly there only to cause the plot to move forward. And frankly, there's a good chance the plot could have survived without this intransigence. But it gave Picard the ability to pontificate again, and I'm pretty sure that all admirals are contractually obligated to be stubborn and wrongheaded.

The episode also spent too much time hammering in the message that Data should be treated as any other parent. Yes, obviously that's the point, but it seems like every 2 minutes that point was being stated again and again. There was no subtlety involved in it.

And as a random aside, Data was willing to resign from Starfleet to save himself in Measure of a Man, but was all set to obey the admiral's orders until Picard stood up to him?

But those quibbles aside, the emotional punch of the last 5-10 minutes still makes this a darn good episode, and even though it seemed obvious in retrospect that she would have to leave the show, it was still gut-wrenching.
Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 8:24pm (UTC -6)
This is the only episode of TNG that ever made me cry. I dont think it will have that effect on me again, because I cannot unthink what I thought at the end of it this time.

Data was saying Lal so enriched his life that he added all her memories to his own. It never occurred to me before, but I have 2 boys, who became teens since the last time I saw this episode, and I had the sudden thought "Yeah, then I'd know FOR SURE why we go through so much kleenex, so no thanks."

I'll never watch this episode again now, well, at least not until after my lobotomy next week....
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 10:14pm (UTC -6)
While I liked the concept and the guest actress, I think it was a bit rushed.

I agree with impr and xaaos when they say it'd have been better to have Lal for the rest of the season, as a semi-regular character. I could get behind the idea of a season-arc for Lal, ending exactly the same way it did here. That way, you've a slower introduction, time to get to know her and more reason to feel sorry for her unavoidable demise.

But we're talking of a drastic format change for TNG. Alas, this is what we get, and I wasn't as moved as something that lasted, say, at least two episodes.

@ Susan: No, you! LOL!
Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 1:07am (UTC -6)
This was a moving episode and it asks an interesting question: does Data have the same right of procreation as humans and what does procreation mean for a robot?

I agree that the confrontation seemed a bit forced. Why does Starfleet want to take Lawl away so soon? If they recognize Data as a lifeform (since Measure of a Man), then shouldn't he also have rights as a parent? They should have found a better reason why Starfleet wanted to take her away. And the admiral wasn't super convincing in my opinion.

Some of the arguments he used are pretty weak too: "there are only two Soong style androids", yet they never cared that Data could also have died? "you're not a parent, I am. There comes a time when every parent must part with his children." First, she is only two weeks old, or barely older. As Picard says, that just might be a little too soon. And what kind of parent would argue for taking children away from their parents?

It also seems forced when the admiral seems moved by her death. It makes no sense that he suddenly has empathy for her.

Oh, and a minor point is the whole thing about using contractions. It's completely ridiculous that Data can't use contractions. He needs help from Google Translate.
Wed, Apr 9, 2014, 3:26pm (UTC -6)
Is SkepticalMI suggesting that being able to say contracions killed Lol?
Sat, May 10, 2014, 8:56pm (UTC -6)
I just re-watched this episode, and although I agree with much of what is written here, I still think this episode is one of the strongest of this series if only because it did give a very strong emotional tug to the audience and it does make you "think" which is one of the recipes to supposedly making a TV show a great TV show.

That being written, I agree that much of what was argued and set in stone in "Measure of a Man" was simply taken away and gotten rid of via Haftel's position that really shouldn't (I'm taking the Lal contraction idea) have been there -- AT ALL.

I also do agree that Lal's creation and subsequent life (and still death?) should have been the first several episodes story arc for the whole entire franchise (and not have waited for the story arcs we were about to get from DS9 -- most of which weren't bad, or from Voyager -- which had a mixed record with their story arcs -- or even Enterprise -- which probably had the most uneven story arcs.) Imagine if while Roddenberry was still alive (which if memory serves me he still was when "The Offspring" was written and later presented) a story arc had been created around the character of Lal, her creation and yes, "growing up" and perhaps later difficulty that the Federation might have had about two androids staying aboard the flagship of the Federation -- that YES, could have met with some disaster at any time! (NOT that it would with long term consequences -- because the ship was the show itself -- but just imagine if that might have happened -- it would have been interesting as well if Haftel had mentioned The Borg to Picard & Data in his arguments about taking Lal away and not just the Romulans, because the Federation even at that point that they might have to deal with The Borg at some point soon and yes, in that third season or at least the end of it, THEY WOULD!) Yes, this whole episode really begged to be expanded to become the first long term story arc presented in all of Star Trek television history. I know of course at that time in late-1980's and early-1990's very few shows existed that did that and most of those were either cop shows ("Hill Street Blues" that had ended or medical dramas, "St. Elsewhere" that had already ended by that point in time; but then again at that time there was already long term story arcs presented on "L.A. Law" which was unique for that point of time -- one of those on that show even involved former "Star Trek" alumni -- from both series -- TOS and TNG, Diana Muldaur, and the comedy "Cheers" was also doing successful long term story arcs, not to mention how well the dramady named "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" were doing the same -- so, why couldn't have "Star Trek: The Next Generation" have done so with the character of Lal to make her existence in the Star Trek universe be even more special?)
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 6:34pm (UTC -6)
I have been recently rewatching TNG for the first time since it was on the air. I'm following a friend's guidelines for skippable episodes, plus my own childhood memories.

This was the first episode that I had no memory of, and really gutpunched me hard. I know a lot of people prefer Measure of a Man, but I actually think this one is stronger. Both episodes tug at disbelief when the 'plot' is examined, specifically the way the conflicts arise. But in both, the conveniences allow for the best possible use of the 40min available, in my opinion.

Part of what makes me like the Offspring more is that there is a more tragic note, beyond Lal's death. I'd like to copy and paste a post I made at a forum:
I mean, "Is Data property?" is a fantastic ethical question to explore, but doesn't quite hit home as hard as "Do Data and Lal constitute a parent-child family?" I can't quite pinpoint why.

The first question has a bit more of a logical flavor to it; the question passes from one of definition to one of future legal and ethical implications. All of this is eminently understandable to Data, as is the issue of self-preservation. But the question of family carries a lot more emotional weight to it that Lal ends up understanding better than Data. As my friend put it, 'Data not being able to really be sad makes the whole thing sadder.'
Also, if the central conflict is ignored, Measure of Man is nothing, but Offspring still offers some great scenes. Data and Picard at the beginning. The utter sadness of seeing Lal try to go to school. Guinan being an awesome teacher for Lal instead of some kind of mysterious 'mystical being'. The concept that Data does care for Lal, despite the fact that he is unable to consider this care "love".

I will grant the complaint that the episode lacks subtlety. The themes and emotions are direct and blunt. Much like Data himself. I think it works, especially given the time crunch. I also agree with people who complain that the ending feels a bit contrived, but it doesn't affect my enjoyment of the episode.

As of now in my rewatch (early season 4), this would be the only 4-star rating besides Best of Both Worlds 1.
Wed, Sep 10, 2014, 5:05pm (UTC -6)
I was age 7-14 when I watched most of TNG on TV, and hadn't re-watched most of the episodes since then. Now, as an adult re-watching TNG via Netflix, I take very different emotional insights from these episodes than I did when I was a kid. Generally because I have had 20 years of life experience since TNG ended, and particularly because I am now a parent.

The scene where Lal tells Data that she loves him, and his silent reaction shows he genuinely appreciates the sentiment, but tragically cannot feel the same thing for her, nearly brought me to tears. Brent Spiner handled that beautifully. The anguish of not being able to give your child something they need is very relatable.

Also: when Dr. Crusher gives Data the advice that "children just need support and love", and Data responds that he can give Lal support but not love, I now, as a parent, take Beverly's full meaning when she says: "Now why do I find that hard to believe." Because I now understand something that Data, at least in this scene, did not: Love is not just an emotional feeling (which Data cannot experience), it is an action (which he can). Making selfless efforts for someone else (as he did in constructing Lal, tutoring her, and working to save her when her systems failed) is an act of love, and Data demonstrates in this episode that he is indeed capable of that kind of love.
Wed, Sep 10, 2014, 7:29pm (UTC -6)
627 thumbs up to dgalvan's comment above, especially the third paragraph. See also my comment on the In Theory review for more of my thoughts on this matter.
Fri, Jan 2, 2015, 4:31am (UTC -6)
Most of the criticisms are correct; the episode is formulaic and somewhat contrived, and it confronts the issue of A.I. rights with little subtlety, raising questions it can't possibly answer in 45 minutes. But for all that, it's a strong and well executed episode that can't fail to personally affect the viewer. Lal is a remarkable character, and like others I would have liked to see her story spread out over more episodes. Confining a story with such amazing potential to one show means that everything is rushed: her development, the confrontation with Starfleet Research, and the end of her life. But at the same time, this compression is what makes the episode as powerful as it is. I won't forget it.

At the end, I also found myself thinking sadly of ST: Voyager and what a lost opportunity it really was. The idea that people could live on an isolated ship without contact with--or accountability to--the rest of the Starfleet is fascinating. A story like this one could have reached great heights on a program where the Starfleet conflict would not exist. In a way, that did happen with Seven of Nine, but the show embraced action and style while ignoring character development and the value of its premise almost completely. As a result, Seven made no more progress in four seasons of Voyager than Lal did in a single episode of TNG.
Fri, Jan 2, 2015, 7:21am (UTC -6)
@Dusty - I criticize VOY a lot for lack of character development and ignoring what little character development it did do.

BUT, "Seven made no more progress in four seasons of Voyager than Lal did in a single episode of TNG" is just plain false.

Although she too (like most of VOY) had to relearn certain lessons over and over (I guess VOYs crew is just thick as anything) she became a surrogate mother to Icheb, a surrogate daughter to the captain, a significant other to Chakotay (although seriously rushed, there was build up over 3-4 episodes), a close friend to the Doctor, made peace with her Borg upbringing, her parents mistakes, reached out to a relative on Earth, developed hobbies and really did try to explore the human condition, possibilities and relationships.

Could they (and should they) have let her go a bit further? I think so. Does that mean that she didn't have a satisfying arc? I would say she did.

There are those on VOY that did NOT have a satisfying character arc, but she's not one of them.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 5:44am (UTC -6)
@Robert - Maybe that was the wrong way to put it. Seven did experience much more in the time she had (though I would question how much it added up to when almost every episode of Voyager seemed to happen in a vacuum). What I meant was that I found Seven's character arc to be no more satisfying than Lal's, even though that was contained within one episode. In a short period she improved on Data's verbal skills, confronted social difficulties, developed strong emotions, showed physical affection, broke down, and died. Seven took much longer to do all the same things, and when she did they were often temporary or seemed to happen irrespective of each other.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 5:47am (UTC -6)
^ Minus the dying, of course.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 6:37am (UTC -6)
That is fair. One one finds satisfying often involves subtracting frustration with pleasure, and while Seven's episodes were often a pleasure character development on VOY (especially when ignored or forgotten) could be a source of frustration as well.

I found this episode very satisfying, although I had hoped it would leave a more lasting change on Data, especially since he absorbed her memories.

It also raises the question as to if it's possible to revive her, or if Data still desires children (it hints in a later episode he might, but is not explored). Although that would gut the episode. I was glad that like Picard's flute they do bring her up again in the future in either case.
Sun, Jan 11, 2015, 11:46pm (UTC -6)
I just think this episode has so many good scenes, and it was extremely well-written. Lal was acted extremely well.

This episode just got me so emotional while watching it, moving laughter to sadness.

The only blemish on the episode was the admiral, but even still, this episode is easily one of the best of the season. Despite the rushed ending, you have to be heartless to not feel anything when Lal tells Data she loves him and says, "Father, thank you for my life."
Wed, Jun 3, 2015, 9:01am (UTC -6)
Now this, unlike "Yesterday's Enterprise" is an instant classic. It's a wonderful follow up to the issues addressed in "The Measure of a Man" and has an emotional punch that just take your breath away. Seriously, I emotionally connected more with Lal in this one episode than I did with Yar in 22 or than I did with, say, Chekov in his 36 appearances (I don't think I emotionally connected with Chevok as a character until "The Wrath of Khan").

I'll just point out three lines that really sum up why this episode is so good - "Order a man to hand his child over to the state? Not while I am his captain," "His hands were moving faster than I could see, trying to stay ahead of each breakdown. He refused to give up. He was remarkable" and "I will feel it for both of us. Thank you for my life." Holy shit, man! Right in the feels!!

The only problem I have with "The Offspring," and many others have already pointed it out, is the admiral. I'm going to leave aside the fact that he really does come off as needlessly hostile and confrontational, because he does gets called on the carpet for it by Picard and eventually learns his lesson. What really bugs me about him is that he wraps his justification for taking Lal in the guise of "research regulations." What exactly are these regulations that make it possible for him to just arbitrarily swoop in and commandeer Data's "research"? Does Starfleet have a policy that any research done by any of its members must be subject to strict oversight by Starfleet committee? If that's that case, then I finally understand why most of the scientific research we see done on this show is performed by people who aren't in Starfleet - they can actually get some work done without having to worry about these busy-bodies constantly sticking their noses where they don't belong.

As a side note - I just what to point out that since Data incorporated all of Lal's memories into his positronic brain, that means that Data now knows what it's like to sexually assault Riker. That's kind of funny and yet kind of disturbing at the same time. LOL!

Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 7:45am (UTC -6)
I agree with most that this was a good episode that could have been so much better given its premise.

Lal's death was contrived to be sure. If this story had been pitched in a season or two later, I'm sure the writers would at least have considered making Lal a recurring character.

Haftel struggles for the whole episode to make his points; even he doesn't seem to believe his own arguments. His role should have been excised entirely, OR, what would have been a very bold choice, Lal could actually left Data and gone to Galor IV. I think that somehow would have been more tragic than her random death.
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 11:08pm (UTC -6)
Regarding the "Measure of a Man", I don't find that to be a plot hole at all. It has been established that a significant portion of Federation society (maybe a majority?) including a lot of powerful Starfleet brass, view androids as tools, not sentient life. That's not the kind of social prejudice that just goes away after one season. "Measure of a Man" was a significant victory, but it didn't settle the argument any more than Martin Luther King's speeches or even the Civil Rights Act ended all racism forever.
Wed, Sep 2, 2015, 12:02pm (UTC -6)
I found this episode overly mushy, entirely unsubtle, and the acting on almost everyone's part as wooden and unfeeling as the android who was the central figure. The plot, acting, and script bang the viewer over the head with the obvious, cliched themes. I found myself rolling my eyes at almost every interaction, and couldn't wait for this one to end. It was too much story packed into 40 minutes. It may have been better without the admiral business, which was a real distraction from the main event. But as it stands, this has to be one of my least favorite episodes of the series so far. I do not understand the undying love that so many have for this one. I may have to go back and watch "Measure of a Man" to get the bad taste of it out of my mouth.
Diamond Dace
Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 8:03am (UTC -6)
After the big ticket sensibilities of Yesterday's Enterprise we get to this wonderfully affecting little story. Having previously established a set of rights for Data's character, we now push on past them to examine a whole new set of parameters. These cover Data's urge to reproduce and improve on himself as the sole being of his kind.

In accepting the limitations of what can be covered in an hour's TV, we find an engaging and beautifully acted character in Lal. Data's reaction to Lal as a parent is equally engaging - leading to an emotionally charged finale as Data recognises that Lal can experience feelings that he cannot. It is an emotionally involving moment of the like we have yet to see in the series so far.

Yes, the Haftel character is unconvincing, but the episode needs an antagonist to push against. An excellent 3.5 stars.
Sun, Oct 18, 2015, 8:31am (UTC -6)
I was clicking around and saw this on TV so I recorded it.

One of my favorite TNG episodes.

I've read all the comments, and I have to speak with reference to 'Measure of a Man'. Data was NOT ruled sentient in MoM. So, I can only assume that something earth shattering in that areana has happened off-screen or this is a MAJOR plot hole. Picard identified Lal as sentient on more than one occasion. If this was an 'Enterprise' episode, it would have been butcherd. But hey, it's TNG so all is well.

This could have easily been a multiple episode arc, but we got what we got.

The discussion and reference to parenting throughout the episode always makes me "feel".

Picard's best line:

"PICARD: There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders. You acknowledge their sentience, but you ignore their personal liberties and freedom. Order a man to hand his child over to the state? Not while I am his captain."

Wonderful acting by Hallie Todd. I think the most moving scene in this episode is when Lal is in Troi's quarters. Very moving.

As I was watching the end of this episode, I was sort of taken-a-back by the crews reaction to Data on the bridge.

"DATA: Lal suffered complete neural system failure at thirteen hundred hours. I have deactivated the unit.
PICARD: The crew is saddened by your loss, Mister Data."

I'd think that someone would have made a comment to Data about the "unit" reference. Something like, "Data, you mean 'she'"... or "She was not just a unit Data".

But hey, just love this one. Hit's me every time.

4 stars from me.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
Also doing a rewatch thanks to Netflix. Haven't seen this one in 26 years, and totally forgot what happened. Now I'm a father of 2, and that last scene brought full on tears. True the plot has holes, and the Admiral was pure characiture (all he needed was a twirly mustache to complete the cliche), but damn this was a great episode, with an incredibly bittersweet ending. TNG, nay television itself, at its best.
Thu, Mar 17, 2016, 3:28pm (UTC -6)
I found this episode so cute, and I did cry several times. Kudos to Hallie Todd, I loved her acting, I really think some android genes were spread. I actually like the fact that she won't be a recurring character. I loved Lal, but I didn't like her effect on the show. That's my usual opinion on these kinds of situations, because relations between other characters become stressed, and too focused around the child. I love my babies, and I don't want them excluded from the spotlight.
Mon, May 9, 2016, 12:51pm (UTC -6)
This episode has one glaring plot hole: Lal, and her father, have the right to self-determination. This was established when Picard championed Data's right to decide whether or not he'd be taken away for research, and won. Prejudices may yet exist within the Starfleet ranks, but prejudices or not they still have that right. And Lal's refusal to be relocated should have been the final word on the subject.

And if it were, and the Admiral withdrew his demands there, maybe she wouldn't have suffered cascade failure and died.

Touching as it may be, this episode, and that Admiral, irritate me for these reasons.
William B
Mon, May 9, 2016, 1:28pm (UTC -6)
@James, while this should have been made more explicit, the thing is no human has the right to make their own decisions about custody when they are a baby of a month or less old. Pretty well everyone in the episode agrees that unlike Data, Lal is still a "child," albeit one who has an adult body, and that she needs to be cared for by an appropriate parent or guardian. The legal standard for being a capable guardian is higher than the standard for not being property, especially when the "child" requires unusual care. This is partly a custody battle over an infant.

In fact, if The Measure of a Man hadn't happened, this would have played differently -- perhaps Haftel could seize Lal, but maybe not, since it would not be clear if she was Starfleet property. It would be a property case rather than a custody battle, and that's a huge difference. Perhaps Picard could find a way to make Lal his own private property, e.g.

I suspect that there would be objections to Data (permanently) adopting a humanoid child as well, because his parental qualities are untested and it would worry people -- can Data have the necessary emotional component to parenting? I think Data would be a good parent, but it's not a trivial question. Data's fitness to raise Lal is not entirely obvious.
Fri, Jun 3, 2016, 9:09am (UTC -6)
The problem with this episode and its predecessor (The Measure of a Man) is that Datas and therefore Lals rights should never have been in question. Data was a Lt. Commander, not an acting officer. Starfleet had already granted him citizen status when he was allowed to enter the academy and it was reiterated every time he was promoted "with all the rights and privileges commensurate with that rank". The second that admiral Haftel attempted to violate those rights he should have been arrested and held in the brig until the Enterprise arrived at a starbase for a full hearing. It was good that Picard showed some backbone but it should have happened instantly and been more forceful. I keep reading about the "Bible", but it got walked all over way too often.
Fri, Jun 3, 2016, 10:08am (UTC -6)

Funny, I was just watching this one too. I agree, it really feels like Picard did a 180 from his POV in "The Measure of a Man". Maybe that just makes him a successful litigator though.

So Picard does still hold some of the feelings that Data is a machine and lifeforms like Data should be treated like machines first, and lifeforms after they've gotten the green light from Starfleet Command. It's nice, at least, that the admiral was so rigidly skewed to this view that it showed Picard the danger in his ambiguous interpretation of androids.

But I don't think the Admiral should get too much criticism either. He looked like he accepted Lal's decision to stay with Data, despite him not liking it. I think his collaboration with Data at the end was meant to show that he really thought he had the interests of the new android in mind, although the way he went about it was insensitive.

3 stars about captures it.
Klovis Mann
Thu, Oct 6, 2016, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
I like this episode pretty well. A bit precious at times but affecting. I agree the Admiral was a weak point.

Was anyone else reminded of the TOS episode "Requiem for Methuselah" ? I couldn't help but think of Spock's line near the end of that about the joys of love making her (Rayna, the android) human and the agonies of love destroying her. Lal had something of the same conflict. However, this was a better treatment of a similar theme.
Sat, Dec 31, 2016, 11:35am (UTC -6)
I have an alternative theory about the end. The Admiral realized he wasn't going win, so he sabatoged Lal, and caused the "cascade failure." It was literally the first thing that popped into my head when he walked out of the room and said "His, etc" I
He looked guilty and disingenuous. I don't know what he did, but he DID something.

2.899999-3.122222 stars
Peter G.
Sat, Jan 14, 2017, 11:53pm (UTC -6)
For anyone who rails against DS9 with claims that it warped Roddenberry's vision of Starfleet and the Federation, they should go back to TNG season 3 and watch this episode again. Here we have a Starfleet that is willing to either (a) take a child away from its parent, or (b) steal a research project away from its creator, both on the grounds that the technology is so valuable that they will have it in their own lab with no discussion about it. This sort of raw grab at powerful tech presages Section 31 in DS9, who see the balance of power as being more relevant than Federation principles in how they make decisions.

There is an almost terrifying aspect to how firmly Admiral Haftel is intent on taking Lal away from Data even after having openly admitted that she is a life form with rights. Despite Jammer's conclusion that this was some sort of writing error, I think rather that it was a deliberate sign that regardless of any hearing to grant rights to androids Starfleet was going to prioritize strategic concerns over some minor court decision. I can just see the avarice in their thoughts of having androids on every ship; the temptation to override one person's rights in order to make that happen would be immense. It doesn't betray Trek's vision to portray a Starfleet that is imperfect, because what we get instead is an example of what the Federation is really built on: men like Picard, who won't allow the state to cow them into doing things that go against their conscience. Trek has oft been called a secular humanist show, and as such the centerpiece properly needs to be good individuals, rather than good governments.

I hadn't watched this episode in many years and I'm sad to say I had never taken it that seriously before. I was blown away this time, especially by how affecting some of the scenes were involving two beings who feel nothing. The sort of helplessness and incapability we see from Lal brings to mind not only human children, but even adults who in their 'experience' like to pretend they have overcome fears and concerns from childhood that in reality they have only learned how to ignore. I'll class this among the best episodes in all of Trek.
Thu, Feb 2, 2017, 12:28pm (UTC -6)
Sorry, but i didn't enjoy this episode like most others here seemed to. I found Lal incredibly annoying, her hair, the way she talks, the way she walks. Pretty much everything. I hated her. I mean...that helmet of hair was just distractingly horrible, and why does she walk like C3PO if data walks normally? But it wasn't just physical issues, i also found the interactions between her and Data were overly cutesy and predictable. In a series already crammed with "human behaviour appears weird to non-humans" jokes, this was pure overkill.

And the admiral was ridiculous too. Cold, heartless one minute, blubbering the next

I wasn't the slightest bit touched by the end scene. Omg....just die already! I only wish they'd shown her being recycled for scrap. Good riddance
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 9:19am (UTC -6)
This is one of my favourite episodes of fiction, period, though I don't claim it is one of the *best* such. Funny how that works. (It influenced my thinking and feeling in spite of some of the flaws discussed.)

As for Requiem for Methuselah, *exactly* the same point is raised, yes.

However, there's also a *minor* take-back. I am not sure why he held so, but my father (who used to catch some TNG with me as I grew up) thought that Beverly's line about not believing Data when he says he can't love her was the most important one of all. Data is *deluded*: in a way the whole point of the episode is that he *does* love, his protestations not withstanding. I agree with this interpretation, even though as I've learned, it is not intended in the scripts. Though there was apparently a draft of "Skin of Evil" where Data says "how empty it will *feel* without her presence" (emphasis mine - the closing scene with Data wondering about the loss of Tasha).

It is sort of an "emotional Turing Test" watching Data. He's reserved, but is he unemotional? How does one know? (See also "The Most Toys", for example.)
Peter G.
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 9:52am (UTC -6)
@ philosopher-animal,

I think it's meant to be factually true that Data doesn't experience emotions; it's not just a whitewash of real emotions he does feel but aren't identical to the human ones. I think a tendency in episodes like "The Most Toys" to attribute Data's actions to an emotional desire for revenge is ironic, because a lot of the appeal of Data is in the fact that he's written in such a way that we can project our feelings onto him, and since he's not exuding any feelings our projection is never contradicted. He can be a placeholder for us, in a sense, which is very interesting. But on the other hand this doesn't mean that emotions we may instinctively attribute to him (by imagining ourselves in his position) are actually felt by him.

I agree that the crux of "The Offspring" is in Crusher's implication that Data does love Lal, but the reason this is crucial isn't because he actually does experience emotions; it's because real love isn't an emotion but rather a choice and an action. Acting lovingly IS love, rather than merely being a sign of it. The 'loving' emotions can feel very important and even overwhelming to a human, but it is the desire for the good of another that is the hallmark of love, and in that Data certainly does love Lal as well as anyone could love someone else. That's one of the reasons I find the episode so touching - that someone even bereft of all the rewards that normally stimulate our behavior (positive feedback mechanisms like endorphin release and hormones) can still live out a loving relationship, and in Data's case maybe even better than we can since he additionally lacks fear and selfishness. By the end I feel more sorry for him that he can't grieve for Lal than even the fact that he lost her.
Dark Kirk
Fri, May 12, 2017, 11:51pm (UTC -6)
Why were Nicholas Coster characters such pains so often?

Do actors ever get tired of playing those kinds of characters? I haven't seen his recent work, so maybe he does play different characters now.

I'm watching the episode and just noticed Lal's "adversarial" talk with him. Great moment.

Hastel: "We have great respect" for Data.

Lal: "You do not speak with respect."

The scene in Troi's quarters gets more moving the more you see it and know what will happen.

Great job Jonathan Frakes and Hallie Todd.
Raphael Bloch
Wed, Jun 14, 2017, 5:43pm (UTC -6)
Loved this episode. But if there's one thing that makes me furious, it's blantant continuity errors and obvious contradictions. This episode in all its greatness has one of the most glaring and frankly stupid mistakes of all TNG. Data says "she can use contractions. I cannot", and Admiral Dirtbag asks "what have you done about that?". Data then proceeds to use not one, but two contractions on his answer and nobody acknowledges this. I mean it's right there, possibly in the very same page of the script. How has nobody in the cast & crew noticed this while producing this episode is beyond me.
Mon, Sep 25, 2017, 3:51am (UTC -6)
I love the way Data (in the last scene) uses a contraction immediately after declaring that he has incorporated Lal's neural pathways.

Does this incorporation change Data's prospects for developing feelings? Was this one motivation for Data to undertake the incorporation?
Wed, Oct 11, 2017, 3:29pm (UTC -6)
I was bored by this episode almost all the way through until the last scene where I allowed my heart strings to be manipulated as the writer intended.
This must have been felt to have been a great success as the concept was re visited in the equally emotional Voyager episode in which the holographic daughter has a virtual family.
In both cases the daughter dies tragically and it seems to be the only way to enhance your quasi humanity if you are a robot or hologram is to have your offspring expire in a scene worthy of an opera.
An awful lot of nothing .
Sun, Feb 25, 2018, 4:33am (UTC -6)
I always feel deeply moved by Data who brings me to tears - but Lal again is very "uncanny", disturbing. She seems aggressive, cold, and still overly human at the same time.

Also I found it kind of sad that Lal was somewhat forced to settle on a gender - this seemed unnecessary because it suggested being human can only be experienced via gender.
Cody B
Tue, Apr 17, 2018, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
Hello everyone, this is my first time commenting.

I think this episode deserves a higher rating but that is one of the problems with using a four star rating system. You could give one episode three stars because you thought it was average while you give another episode three stars because you thought it was great but it quite worthy of four stars. Then you compare the two episodes and you enjoy one much more than the other yet they have the same rating. I think a ten star system is more accurate but that has its problems as well since people seem to fall in love with giving sevens. Anyway, about this episode. I found it to be one of my favorites of season three and I think it’s very entertaining. Data walking in on Riker being kissed by his “daughter” and then saying “Commander Riker, what are your intentions with my daughter?” is absolute gold.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Thu, May 3, 2018, 4:14pm (UTC -6)
"He's biting that female!"

I really enjoyed this one a lot. Great performance by guest star Hallie Todd. Like others said, it would have been nice to see this play out over a few episodes. Next Gen just wasn't at that level of sophistication the way DS9 became.
Dave in MN
Fri, May 4, 2018, 10:18am (UTC -6)
One thing I always wondered about: if Data has his daughter's memories AND imprints of the colonists' memories (from when he was first activated) and the memory of laughing (the gift from Q) and (later) the memories of being angry (from Lore's manipulation), why is later-seasons Data always presented as if he has no idea what emotions are?

Great episode, btw.
Tue, May 8, 2018, 7:49pm (UTC -6)
Mixed feelings about this one -- some wonderful emotional scenes between Data and Lal, and Picard standing up for Lal/Data but the Admiral's unyielding nature to take Lal away for study is total BS (poorly justified and needlessly rigid in not recognizing the sentience of Data/Lal). And then it struck me as a complete 180 when he's willing (and somehow technically able) to help Data try and fix Lal. Was he doing this after implicitly agreeing to let Lal stay on the Enterprise or did he hope to get her fixed and then take her away?

What also weighed this episode down for me was the contrived ending -- reminds me of "Requiem for Methuselah" where the android Rayna "dies" because she can't handle the emotions for Kirk & Flint. It wasn't clear how Lal was developing emotions and saying "I've" but I guess we just accept that these things are set up to have Data "grow" from seeing them.

There were some comical/cute/cliche moments as Lal interacts with the crew and Data tries to point her in the right direction. Definitely one of the series arcs is Data learning about human emotion, wanting to experience emotion -- regardless of the method, and here he learns a great deal from his child. That's worthy Trek. The ending was predictable (emergency surgery that is unsuccessful) but still manages to tug at the heartstrings -- that much was telegraphed.

A huge episode for Data in not checking with Picard, creating Lal (curious as to why he chose a Hindi name meaning "beloved") to ensure his continuance. Data had some wonderful facial expressions like when the children laughed at Lal in school. He's easily one of the best characters on TNG.

2.5 stars for "The Offspring" -- an decent follow up to "The Measure of a Man" and something for all the parents out there. The ending, while contrived, will generate the desired emotions and at least 1 other episode comes to mind that tries to recapture it (VOY "Real Life"). The actress playing Lal did a good job and it was another very strong episode for Picard standing up to the Admiral -- Stewart had some great lines. But this episode just needed more compelling arguments from the Admiral to be anything close to "The Measure of a Man".
Sun, Jun 10, 2018, 6:34am (UTC -6)
So Data is unique in the galaxy, and nobody has any idea how to build an android. Then Data can suddenly do it in 2 weeks.
Mon, Jun 11, 2018, 9:14pm (UTC -6)
@Raphael Bloch

Because I am hearing-impaired, I watch TV with the closed captions enabled. I don't know how these caption are generated, but if the captions can be regarded as a legitimate source of information, Data did *not* use contractions immediately after saying that he couldn't. The director should have asked Spiner to say "I have" more clearly so it wouldn't be mistaken for "I've."
Cody B
Tue, Jun 12, 2018, 9:35am (UTC -6)

I’m sorry you have to use closed captions. I use them a lot because my ocd makes me rewind what I’m watching if I can’t understand something said. From the times I’ve turned on CC while watching television I’ve found the CC to be horrible and not on time. Is that your experience also?
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 5:29am (UTC -6)
The Riker scene was humorous but even if he had been living in a cave for a few days, the first officer should have had knowledge of the new android on the ship.
The child/parent dynamic seemed forced and heavy handed. For an unfeeling android (wink wink) Data's fixation on said dynamic seemed to be more than just the result of logical conclusions.
Interesting plot.
Prince of Space
Thu, Jul 19, 2018, 2:57am (UTC -6)
@ Cody B...

I’m sorry that you are also OCD to the degree where captions are turned on if a line of dialogue is hard to understand. lol

Drives me crazy to not know if the line is important or not.

Since TNG is getting on in years, it only happens occasionally. But with a lot of modern TV episodes and movies it seems to be an increasingly common occurrence. As if the microphone is at the end of the hall covered in a towel and the person speaking has a mouth full of gravel.

I back the show/movie up several times and no matter what, I just can’t make it out. Finally I back it up and turn on captioning and I’m like, “Oh you have GOT to be kidding me!!!” haha
Cesar Gonzalez
Tue, Oct 30, 2018, 11:19pm (UTC -6)
"Father, thank you for my life."

That line. :(
bobbington mcbob
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 3:36pm (UTC -6)
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 12:50am (UTC -6)
If there are only 2 Soong type androids in existence then how has there come to be a team of experts on a starbase?
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 6:56am (UTC -6)
At first I thought that the buffoon caricature of the admiral made the episode heavy handed. Hadn't they just been through the court case? Did one side of star fleet not know what the other side was up to. (Especially by the end when it became apparent the admiral knew something of cybernetics?) But then I thought, yes, human nature being what it is, a grasping ambitious officer (as is found in all of our workplaces) could take this on for their own career.

Data was smart enough to create an android where others had failed, had seen first hand what it was like to join humanity, why wouldn't he be the best guide? And just how did Data assimilate as much as he has to actually complete the Academy? Were there experts working with him? Where are they? All of these questions weakens this episode I think- although I may have missed this back story.

I think Data being able to create an android was not appropriate to his character`s level of expertise. We have seen a little (and I believe more to come) on the difficulty in even understanding how he works. How was he able to suddenly succeed?

7/10 only because it is a Data episode which I always enjoy.
George Monet
Fri, May 24, 2019, 10:55pm (UTC -6)
Another episode ruined by nothing being logical.

It has already been determined that Androids have all the rights of every other sapient species in Starfleet. Starfleet is thus precluded from treating Lol as property it can control. So the entire stupid B subplot about a Starfleet admiral ordering Data to turn over Lol not only makes no sense but is simply a repetition of an earlier episode which suffered from the same problem. And now there have been two rulings that androids have all the rights as every other sapient species. Since Starfleet is a rule of law government then issue preclusion applies.

Secondly if Starfleet really wanted an android to study then Data could have made a second android or simply given Starfleet the plans he used to manufacture Lol and then Starfleet could print all the Lols it wanted.

Thirdly, this episode was the most elementary, basic, and surface level manner of handling Data creating a child android. Especially since Lol was both programmed to think and know perfect English and to be able to analyze and determine which body she preferred but not know something such as basic biology? I was dumbfounded that they would have Lol ask a question involving basic evolution (why do we have two hands instead of three) even though she knew perfect English and already was able to decide which body she preferred and why she preferred it. HUH? WHAT?

Finally, DATA WOULD NOT CREATE AN ANDROID ON HIS OWN WITHOUT PICARD'S PERMISSION. Right from the beginning I knew this episode would not work because this was already a violation of Data's character and how he would act. Especially after the whole Lore episode where Lore almost killed Wesley Crusher and the entire crew of the Enterprise.
Peter G.
Sat, May 25, 2019, 12:09am (UTC -6)
@ George Monet,

"It has already been determined that Androids have all the rights of every other sapient species in Starfleet. Starfleet is thus precluded from treating Lol as property it can control."

Are you referring to Measure of a Man here? If so, the final ruling of that hearing was decidedly not that Data has all the rights of a sapient species. Rather, Picard's final argument, as well as the final ruling, was that they didn't have enough information to conclusively say that Data *did not* have the rights of a sentient. In other words, the prosecution couldn't prove its case, which was that Data was property, even though the other side - that Data was sentient and had rights - would have been as equally hard to prove. Neither side had enough information, but since Maddox needed to definitely show that Data *did not* have rights he couldn't prove it.


Why not? Is he banned from doing technological research? Does Wesley need Picard's permission before doing science experiments?
Joe Menta
Thu, Aug 15, 2019, 7:05am (UTC -6)
Great episode, thoughtful and moving. But to engage in a moment of levity for a moment, not only does Data use contractions in the episode (“I’m” and “you’ve”), but he does so immediately after reminding everyone that he can’t. It’s almost like they did it on purpose to be playful or something.
Fri, Aug 16, 2019, 8:48am (UTC -6)
"But to engage in a moment of levity for a moment, not only does Data use contractions in the episode (“I’m” and “you’ve”), but he does so immediately after reminding everyone that he can’t. It’s almost like they did it on purpose to be playful or something."

Joe Menta, I'm inclined to agree with you. I think they did it as a running gag or Easter egg. The same thing happened in the first-season episode "Datalore." In that show, one of the explicit ways to tell the difference between Data and Lore was that Lore used contractions. It was a plot point in the final act. But at the end of the episode, there's Data on the bridge after Lore had been beamed away, and yes, Data uses a contraction. Amusing!

Of course you could always argue that the final scene takes place after a shift to an alternate universe where Data is able to use contractions as liberally as humans do. Haha.
Fri, Aug 16, 2019, 11:51am (UTC -6)
Actually this episode fixes the contradiction for us. The line in this episode is that Data hasn't "mastered" contractions yet, which means he can use them, but only on a limited basis unlike Lore and Lal who use them freely.
Top Hat
Fri, Aug 16, 2019, 1:57pm (UTC -6)
However, Data also says more plainly "She can use contractions. I cannot" in this very episode. Odd to be inconsistent within a single script.

For what it's worth, the series Bible states that Data "usually avoids contractions." That would be fine except that him not using contractions is a plot point several times ("Future Imperfect" is another example).
Top Hat
Fri, Aug 16, 2019, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
One might suggest that Data gained the ability to use contractions after assimilating Lal's memories, but the rest of the series doesn't especially bear that out.
Fri, Aug 16, 2019, 2:33pm (UTC -6)
@Top Hat

Data may mean “she can use contractions [freely]”. That would still be grammatically correct and convey that he struggles with them.

Out of universe, in interviews Spiner said he’d always hated the contraction bit for Data, so him slipping them in can be seen as a form of peaceful protest. It is pretty dumb, if you’ve taken even beginners’ programming you’d understand that the function for a computer using contractions is really simple.
Top Hat
Sat, Aug 17, 2019, 6:36am (UTC -6)
I gueeess... that would be a bit imprecise for Data.

Agree that the contractions thing is silly. I'm not sure if it's protest so much as just a feature of the production process... picking out every misspoken contraction would be quite a feat. (I've listened to that one at the end of "Datalore" plenty of times and I'm still not sure I hear "I'm fine," versus a very quick "I am fine").
Mon, Oct 14, 2019, 9:27pm (UTC -6)
A solid episode.

I liked the beginning, everyone's reaction when they see The Child, and Picard trying to explain his concern to Data is priceless. Spiner and Stewart are great.

Does the crew generally consult Picard before they procreate? I bet they don't, Data.

Picard and Data reminds me of Janeway and the Doctor - yes, the Captains acknowledge the sentience and indulgence and rights of their non-biological crewmen, but not really. Not completely. Not wholeheartedly.

The Riker business in Ten Forward was a great little lighthearted interlude. Wouldn't want Data to miss out on the "dealing with Lotharios" aspect of raising a daughter.

The ep hammers the importance of relationships, connections, when it comes to "being human/truly alive." At a micro-level, literal connections form in Lal's brain, at a macro level we watch the connections amongst the crew (we open with closed-up-in-his-lab Data finally letting his friends in on his little secret, as doors open and shut. Lal asks about everyone's coverings, and we get repeated references in the ep, to sharing our inner lives, to connecting to others). And we watch the connection form between Data and Lal.

In doing this, the ep also explores the definition of love. Data's attentive, concerned, protective actions toward Lal has Dr Crusher believing he loves Lal. Is love ultimately defined by, expressed by, actions?

There's something else we're hitting on here: What did Worf tell Q, when Q asked what he had to do, to prove he was human? DIE.

A lot of nice little moments, well done. A bit too low key for me to think of it as a classic, but definitely a good one.
Wed, Nov 27, 2019, 6:46am (UTC -6)
Agh, I just wasn't feeling this one. Love Data and love Data episodes, and it *felt* like it should be the sort of episode I'd love, but something about the execution is lacking.

Don't get me wrong: lot of sweet scenes here. Dad Data is great -- his desire to have and raise a child. I'm just not as convinced by Lal, though I can't really pinpoint why that is (might be the acting). Picard also feels off here, and I got sick of the admiral pretty damn quickly. Also having the contractions point be a Big Thing in the episode just feels weak to me, I've never liked that in general.
James G
Thu, Dec 26, 2019, 6:16am (UTC -6)
Brilliant episode this one, albeit one I was reluctant to revisit, after about 25 years - because I assumed I'd find the emotional scenes at the end a bit of a difficult watch. It wasn't that bad.

Really a bravura acting performance by the woman who plays Lal. Odd that Data, incapable of love, should choose the Hindi word for "beloved" for her name.

This episode makes a bit of a feature of Data's inability to use contractions, which I've always found laughable. An amateur programmer could write code to reliably perform contractions of source text on a 1980s home computer.

I was interested to learn that Lal's brain is capable of 60 trillion calculations / second. A mere 30 years after that episode was written, we already have hardware that can do 10 trillion calculations / second. That's not a criticism, of course. Just an example of the unpredictability of technology.

I guess this episode is in part a thematic rerun of 'The Measure of a Man', to which it refers obliquely. It concerns the same question of an android's rights as a sentient being, though that is not the centrepoint of the plot in this one.

Interesting that the term "human" is used as a sort of catch-all term for the sort of emotional / character development that Data and Lal aspire to, when other species also have these characteristics. Guinan, who does more than anyone in this story to guide Lal toward being more "human" and also has them in abundance, isn't human at all.

Anyway - not my favourite but a really good one, one of the memorable, classic TNG episodes.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Tue, Apr 14, 2020, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
During Lal's interview with Admiral Haftel and Captain Picard, they asked her what she wants, and she said she wants to stay on the Enterprise. She then goes to see Troy, scared/panicked, and we cut back to a meeting between Haftel, Picard, and Data where the admiral orders Data to turn Lal over. So what of her choice then? I guess that plays into Picard's speech about their rights, but if she said she wants to stay, how can the Admiral justify taking her? I wish that would've been resolved. I agree with the others that Haftel's obstinance really hurt the episode.

I always loved Lal's "why is the sky black?"
Mr. Peacock
Fri, Jun 5, 2020, 4:05pm (UTC -6)
I was just waiting for Riker to sniff out a new skirt to lift when he busts a move on Lal. I busted a gut when Data asked him what was his intentions with his daughter. Riker, stage left from 10 Forward!
Sat, Sep 19, 2020, 12:34am (UTC -6)
Has anyone ever mentioned how overbearing Beverly Crusher is as a mother?

She has the prodigy child who does everything that is asked of him and outclasses most adults on a regular basis. But she berates him for not getting a haircut on time....

There are other examples, one that i can think of is in the season 2 episode with the nanites. He is working his ass off on a great science project and the only thing she can do is to follow him on the intercom and complain...
Mon, Sep 28, 2020, 11:31pm (UTC -6)
Why the hell is it any business of Starfleet to remove a child from their parent? If Geordi had a kid would Starfleet take them away because he's blind? B.S. amazing how dystopian the Federation is
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Tue, Sep 29, 2020, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
"Why the hell is it any business of Starfleet to remove a child from their parent?"

I think Starfleet's argument would be that she's not a "child" she's an invention/creation. That's why Picard was so flustered by Data in their first meeting in his ready room. Data looks at Lal as a child, as if he has procreated, and he likens Lal to any child birthed by a member of the crew. The difference is that giving birth to children is an innate part of a human's nature. The same cannot be said for Data. He may have the desire, and the ability to build another android like himself, but that doesn't automatically make Lal his child. The implication of Lal's creation that Picard finds so dismaying is the fact that it's so difficult to do and not something that happens naturally. Yet now that Lal exists, and she's both sentient and sapient, her rights become a factor, but they're still quite tentative.

This is where Picard takes something of a 180. Because Lal is a thinking intelligent being, her rights must be respected. Data thinks of Lal as his child, which is made more plausible given that he transferred his thoughts to her, so even if Picard considers that's irrational or sentimental, he must respect those beliefs and do what he can to protect them. Lal is not the property of Starfleet any more than Data is, and that's what Picard is trying to convey to Haftel when he references The Measure of a Man. While that case did not establish whether Data is a person, or necessarily even sentient, it did establish that he's not the property of Starfleet, and he has the freedom to make choices on his own behalf. If Lal does not want to be separated from Data she should not be compelled to.

We as viewers, having spent so much time with Data already, are perhaps too quick to relate to him and take his side. This episode shows us that Starfleet's position is wrong, but considering how uncharted this territory is, I don't think they came into it from a position of malice or bigotry, because they looked at her as an invention, not procreation.
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 2:12pm (UTC -6)
Ok, let’s then look at it from the perspective of Lal just being Data’s invention and not his child.

If she is not a sentient and sapient being, does that not mean that she is Data’s property? If that’s so, then the question becomes not “why the hell is it any business of Starfleet to remove a child from her parent?” but instead “why the hell is any business of Starfleet to confiscate a man’s property, especially when he has nothing wrong?”.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Fri, Oct 2, 2020, 3:30pm (UTC -6)
"...why the hell is any business of Starfleet to confiscate a man’s property..."

I think this is actually an even more difficult one to answer. In many jobs, especially tech jobs like programming and such, you tend to see contracts with this sort of language in them:

"The Company will own any inventions, trade secrets, ideas, original works of authorship or confidential information that Employee conceives, develops, discovers or makes in whole or in part during Employee's employment by the Company that relate to the Company's business or the Company's actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development..."

I.E. anything you invent/develop/produce that's similar to your company's business belongs to them even if you do it on your own time with your own resources. If you assume Data and Starfleet are not really in an employer/employee relationship, Data is definitely using the ship's resources even if he's doing it all on his own time. One could argue that nothing isn't Starfleet's "business" so anything their officers do is under the purview of Starfleet. Plus being in a pseudo-military organization, and living on a ship, the line between duties and personal time are blurred even more. On the other hand this being a post-scarcity, arguably communist society, the notion of personal ownership could be completely different than ours. See how many different angles there are here?
Fri, Dec 25, 2020, 2:30pm (UTC -6)
I’m no Trek expert like most people here, but aren’t emotions supposed to be a huge advancement for androids? Lal’s sudden display of emotions is treated here as a malfunction, something that happened by mistake. Yet in "Brothers", Data is about to receive the great gift of emotions by his creator in the form of a microchip and it’s a big thing. Here in the Offspring, Data "accidentally" creates an emotional android. No I may be missing something here... Data’s brother Lore does seem to have strong (negative) emotions.

Another major annoyance for me was the parent/child angle. I’m sorry, but a newly created android is NOT a human child. The scene in the nursery where Data is told that Lal doesn’t play with the others was laughable.

Will I be the last comment of 2020? :-)
Tue, Mar 9, 2021, 10:17am (UTC -6)
I am puzzled, althoug it has some magnificent scenes I did not really like this episode.

Defienetly the appearence of the Admiral is very disurbing. Not that he is unsympatic, he does not fit in as a hig ranking star fleet and then suddenly he gets very emotional. This was porly written.

The Idea that a psychologial trauma occurs so that the Lal ceaces to function / dies and dissapear from the story is ok. But this couls have happened in another way.
It also contained a lot of good ethics and philsophy.

The topic in it self was defenetly intressting so I am confused why I did not like it.
Wed, Mar 17, 2021, 2:12am (UTC -6)
The Offspring

TNG season 3 episode 16

“I decided to allow my child to choose its own sex.”

- Data

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

There is a great scene when Lal is watching a young couple make-out in the back of 10-Forward and she asks Guinan what it is she is witnessing. Guinan, ever the patient explainer, tells her that when people like each other, they might hold hands, or even kiss. “Why are they leaving,” Lal asks Guinan. “There are some things your father's just going to have to explain to you when he thinks you're ready,” Guinan tells her.

For much of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s run, Data is largely a sexless being. The writers tried an interesting twist in “Naked Now” pairing him up with Tasha, but for all of Tasha’s overt sexuality (see “Justice” and “Code of Honor”), she reacted quite coldly with Data after they has sex: "Data. I'm only going to tell you this just once. It never happened.” Other than an unsuccessful attempt at dating in “In Theory” we aren’t invited to see Data as a sexual being for almost all of the rest of TNG, including the Feature Films, and the spin-off series Picard. In that way, Data stands in stark contrast to Spock and Bashir and even Seven and T'Pol, the other “intellectually superior” beings in the Trek verse.

Spock is a case in point. Nimoy has a sexual energy all his own. And while we might remember it most in Amok Time, Spock actually had many powerfully sexual turns, from seducing the Romulan Commander in The Enterprise Incident, to his turn at romantic happiness in This Side of Paradise, to his haunting ballad sung for the women in Plato's Stepchildren. Spock was allowed to draw upon a raw sexual energy that Data never had. For that matter, T’Pol had quite a meaningful affair with Trip. Seven started with Chakotay, and her sexuality has evolved since then. And Bashir could never get enough of Dax, no matter what body it was in. But poor Data, his dry spell was soooo long he eventually became a cat-hag!

“The Offspring,” then, is a fascinating look into Data’s desire to procreate. In a parallel to the story from the Bible where Eve was created out of Adam’s rib, Lal is created by "a new submicron matrix transfer” from Data. The result is a unique Being, both similar to Data and yet her own person.

As many have commented above, the performance of Lal by the actress is fantastic. In a very short time she is shown to be curious (h/t @Jeffrey Jakucyk, Why is the sky black?), naive (Painting!), awkward (Commander, what are your intentions toward my daughter?), clever (You said I've instead of I have), vulnerable (This is what it means to feel), and loyal (I wish to remain here). Each of these traits has distinct effects on the crew, most of all on her father, Data.

What happens when an autistic asexual man like Data decides he wants to be a father to a daughter? Three words: child protective services.

The role of “society” and “bureaucracy” is personified in this episode - as in so many TNG episodes - by the evil Admiral.

@Jammer wrote, "the whole notion of Lal choosing her species seems to me like an idea that is little ado about nothing”. RotFLMFAo. Care to revise your statement, @Jammer? What ever little arrangements and adjustments the TNG family might have made for Data and his daughter - letting her pick her own gender pronouns - there will always come a point when someone from child protective services thinks they know better than you do how to raise your own child.

For those who might not remember, back in season 2, “The Child” saw a bevy of men opining on what Troi should do,

RIKER: I don't think this is a random occurrence. I think there's a purpose here. A reason. What, I don't know.

WORF: Captain, obviously the pregnancy must be terminated for the safety of the ship and crew.

RIKER: Worf, you can't assume the intent was belligerent.

WORF: That is the safest assumption.

DATA: Captain, this is a life form. Not to allow it to develop naturally would deny us the opportunity to study it.

WORF: If the foetus is aborted, laboratory analysis is still possible.

RIKER: Doctor, is there any health risk to Counsellor Troi if the foetus is aborted?

TROI: Captain, do whatever you feel is necessary to protect the ship and the crew, but know this. I'm going to have this baby.

Interestingly, once Troi had spoken, the matter is closed. It was her decision. In “The Offspring,” while Picard hems and haws a bit more at Data’s actions, in the end, to his credit, Picard stands with Data’s choice just as he had with Troi’s.

In a scene that is obviously tugging at our heart strings, we get to see that when faced with the awesome might of the Federation bureaucracy personified by the evil Admiral of the week (h/t @Luke, @Peter G.), a terrified daughter places her hand on her father’s. A lot is made at the similarity of this episode to “Measure of a Man,” but in so many ways the challenge and fear is so much more for Data here, than it had been back there. Sure, if Madox got his way, Data might have died. But here, if the Federation gets its way, he might lose his daughter. For a parent, the terror of one possibility is many orders of magnitude greater than the other.

Like “The Child” in season 2, the emotional arc here comes to its end with Lal’s death. TNG was never any good at children. They tried with Alexander for a bit, but it wasn't a good fit. Wesley, while a child, was already a uniformed member of the crew within the first 5 episodes of the show. It took two very different iterations of Star Trek - DS9 (Jake and Nog) & VOY (Naomi and Icheb) - to get children done right. So while in some ways, it might have been nice to get a little more from Lal, like Sonya Gomez or Robin Lefler, in another way, like Bashir’s girlfriend in Melora, Lal had a larger than life impact on our crew in a very short time. And that is a remarkable life indeed.

For one so small
You seem so strong
My arms will hold you
Keep you safe and warm
This bond between us
Can't be broken
I will be here don't you cry

What, I’m not crying :’(
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Wed, Mar 17, 2021, 11:23am (UTC -6)
"There is a great scene when Lal is watching a young couple make-out in the back of 10-Forward and she asks Guinan what it is she is witnessing. Guinan, ever the patient explainer, tells her that when people like each other, they might hold hands, or even kiss."

According to Memory-Alpha, Guinan was supposed to say, "when a man and a woman are in love…" and in the background, there would be men and women sitting at tables, holding hands. But Whoopi Goldberg refused to say that line, remarking "This show is beyond that. It should be 'When two people are in love.'" It was also decided on set that the background of the scene show a same-sex couple holding hands, but producer David Livingston put a stop to it. Also, Guinan's actual line is "It shows affection. Humans like to touch each other. They start with the hands, and go from there." Completely watered down. I'd swear Whoopi's "when two people are in love" line was there, but it's not. Mandela Effect perhaps?
Wed, Mar 17, 2021, 5:24pm (UTC -6)
Didn't really care for this one the first time around. I felt the premise to be wildly contrived. Data just sorta created a whole fucking functioning positronic brain with the capacity to develop human feelings and all the while nobody knew about it?

I'm older now and more forgiving about TNG's issues along these lines so I just sort of decided to enjoy it.

I didn't like the writing for the Admiral character here either. He's portrayed as too ignorant until Lal's surgery for my tastes. His point about not wanting to see both positronic-brained androids on the same vessel is stronger than any other point he made and actually is the sort of thing that Data and/or Lal should have agreed with readily but even if you don't want them to agree that's fine it should have been his primary argument but with secondary points such as learning elsewhere to be Lal's benefit etc, allowing for us to not hate the Admiral the entire time.

They also totally drop the ball on acknowledging that it was the Admiral's actions that caused Lal to die. They could have arrived to the same ultimate demise for Lal without it being that the terror she was feeling due to the Admiral's actions causing a cascade of system failures.

Still, I almost sorta choked up at the end which is remarkable considering how little of this show ever gets me on that level. It says something about the writing in this episode that I've never been able to be bothered by Yar's death but actually felt sad for Lal and Data.

Lal kissing Riker
Wed, Mar 17, 2021, 5:49pm (UTC -6)
Lal kissing Riker is the 2nd funniest thing I've seen from this show behind Worf volunteering to tuck Wesley into bed.

PS - texting has totally ruined this episode for me. You know people who will punctuate their own messages to you with 'lol'? In my head I've always read it as sounding like 'Lal'.

So when Data is talking to her he often ends the sentence with her name and all I'm hearing is

It is hard to be a human lol

you are becoming sentient lol

Dave in MN
Wed, Mar 17, 2021, 10:52pm (UTC -6)
@ Jeffrey

I wish I still had my old VCR tapes from when RNG aired.

Some previews for mew episodes had rejected effects shots or they used alternate takes or you can hear certain lines without the normal background music.

I also know for a fact (in another episode) that they changed the pronunciation of one of Riker's line beaten the premiere of episode and when it reaired in summer reruns.

My memory, while not flawless, is nonetheless shouting that you are correct and Guinan did have such a line in the episode when it first was shown.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Thu, Mar 18, 2021, 8:27am (UTC -6)
"My memory, while not flawless, is nonetheless shouting that you are correct and Guinan did have such a line in the episode when it first was shown."

I wouldn't have remembered it from then, I was only 10 years old. I think what's more likely is that the Memory-Alpha information has been circulated around and quoted so much that it makes it seem like it's in episode. I first heard about it in the SFDebris review of the episode, but even there he's talking over the scene so you don't hear the actual dialog. Plus I'd think this sort of thing would be reflected in actual scripts/transcripts, but it's not.

It's like another Guinan scene when she breaks out her huge phaser rifle from Magus III and shoots the ceiling to stop a quarrel in Ten-Forward, "that was setting number one, anyone wanna see setting number two?" Lots of people think it's from the episode Sarek, but it's actually from Night Terrors. These El-Aurians are a wily people, maybe she threw us into an alternate timeline.
Sat, Apr 24, 2021, 6:04pm (UTC -6)
I am extremely uncomfortable with the plot lines in TNG and Voyager to humanize inorganic beings. Data and the Doctor are objects, not subjects, inorganic and unable to transcend the fact they they are programmed, even if that programming is highly advanced and even alterable. They can mimic sentience in a very convincing way, but they can never achieve it.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 9:23am (UTC -6)
@Javier, have you not watched The Measure of a Man? Picard challenged Maddox to show why any human is sentient and Data is not. He (and Lal and the Doctor) are self-aware, able to experience sensations, and even to experience emotions, if on a difficult-to-define level. Regardless, any being so sophisticated that you can't tell the difference between a simulation of sentience and the real thing, or a simulation of emotion and the real thing, should be afforded all the same rights, privileges, and respect as anyone else. Because at that point we can't know that they don't actually feel/experience/desire those things.
Peter G.
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 9:55am (UTC -6)
@ Jeffrey Jakucyk,

Actually, Measure of a Man rested on the argument that Maddox could not prove that Data *wasn't* sentient, and this was based on the premise that it's not entirely clear what sentience is. If it cannot be explained in explicit detail why a human is sentient then sentience is a fuzzy concept, and so there is not enough specificity there to claim with certainty when a being lacks that property. The matter was therefore left open to doubt, which was not enough to enslave a potential 'race'. But Data being ultimately non-sentient is a consistent premise with how Measure of a Man concluded. There was no determination that Data should be afforded the same rights and privileges, but rather that he could not be treated as Starfleet's toaster until more was understood about him. It would still be possible, for example, for him to have the rights of a pet, insofar as he might not be sentient, but might still have to be treated with a certain level of dignity and not be seized from his ship and taken apart.

One thing is for sure, that in TNG they never made a hard claim about Data is or isn't, unlike VOY, which distinctly took the position at a certain point that Doc was a person. I would tend to agree that VOY overstepped in this regard since there's no more evidence that he is as compared with Data. As I recall Andy's Friend was arguing a while back that, if anything, because Data has a physical body this may indicate that he has a greater likelihood of actually having some kind of personhood.
Frake's Nightmare
Mon, May 17, 2021, 4:08pm (UTC -6)
Congratulations to the admiral and starfleet for making a unique life form extinct.
Tue, Jun 22, 2021, 5:02pm (UTC -6)
Another reminder that for all her abruptness and coolness, Admiral Necheyev is the only Starfleet admiral worth a damn.
Thu, Aug 5, 2021, 1:53am (UTC -6)
This is one of the most difficult yet intriguing episodes to comment on. There is much to like and admire about the basic story - which is very much a unique one in Trek terms. However, I’d - sorry, “I would” - want to concentrate on the problems that I have with it.

Starting with a general point: I’ve never understood Data’s difficulty with verbal contractions: if his linguistic programming enables him to have such facility with speech, thought, and languages, then contractions are a simple thing we all learn when very young; it makes no sense that he can’t - cannot - learn them.

Then there was the initial appearance of Lal before she chose her gender and type. Data could easily have made her humanoid but gender-neutral without making her look so ridiculous as her first form.

And why - when she had Data ‘s brain, and was learning so fast - did she always have jerky and unnatural movements? Were the producers afraid that we are so stupid that giving her natural movements we might forget she is an android? Which leads on to another problem; with Data’s brain - and therefore all his knowledge and experiences - she surely wouldn’t be so naive and “childlike”, but would start from the same point Data was at. Yes, that would remove a basic element of the story, but it is nevertheless a problem. In other words, with all his neural pathways, she would start off being exactly like him, and develop separately from there.

The biggest problem I have is one with the concept of “sentient AI”. I understand “sentience” to be consciousness. I don’t believe that to be a by-product of complexity, but to be a property of biological life. Therefore Data can no more be actually conscious than Siri, Alexa, satnavs, or my iPad. Ok, I’m willing to suspend belief for the sake of viewer enjoyment, and am as fond of Data as anyone, but episodes like The Offspring do make me grind my teeth on this whole concept of “sentience”. An android is an android, and that’s all!

For provoking all these thoughts, I must give at least 3 stars.
Thu, Aug 5, 2021, 2:27am (UTC -6)
I think that's right. Modern Trek has multiple episodes that simply take it as read that certain machines are conscious and sentient - but no real explanation is given, just the implication that scepticism shows the sceptic is narrow-minded and limited in their thinking.
Thu, Aug 5, 2021, 2:46am (UTC -6)
"but to be a property of biological life"
Could you elaborate why you think that sentience is limited to lifeforms that came into existence through natural evolution? How would you prove that something does not have sentience?
Thu, Aug 5, 2021, 6:37pm (UTC -6)
Is your clock sentient? Your laptop? Your Alexa? As Tidd says, the Star Trek view seems to be that once technology gets complex enough it somehow becomes sentient. It really doesn't make sense if you think about it.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 5, 2021, 7:02pm (UTC -6)
@Tomalak by the same logic anyone observing single-celled organisms must conclude because they can never be sentient nothing that evolved from them could be either.

Of course that's fallacious just as it is to assume that just because Alexa can't be sentient her distant descendant based on unfathomed future tech can never be either.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 5, 2021, 7:17pm (UTC -6)
As they pointed out in Measure of a Man, it seems a bit over an overreach to say what can and can't be sentient, when we can't even establish whether humans are sentient other than to just assert it axiomatically. Until we know what the term even means (technically) it seems like all Starfleet can do is to evaluate whether a being can think creatively and stop the investigation there. Of course this *might* mean the Voyager's computer with its bio-neural circuitry, or even NCC-1701-D with its dreams in one episode, might be verging on meet that criterion. Whoops.
Fri, Aug 6, 2021, 2:18am (UTC -6)
I just wanted to hear how Tidd came to the conclusion that only biological forms of life can be called sentient.

Tomalak's point is actually hinting at a problem which Peter build upon. So far we have no way of proving that something does not have sentience. How do we prove that an alarm clock is not sentient? First we would need to conceptualize what sentience means. Far easier said than done.
Fri, Aug 6, 2021, 2:24am (UTC -6)

“ How would you prove that something does not have sentience?”

You can’t actually prove it - consciousness is not something that (currently) is susceptible to proof in the way that I believe you mean. However, there is our own intuition , which is a kind of Turing Test - we seem to know the difference between conscious awareness and mere programming. The Measure Of A Man calls into question the fact of human sentience, which makes me uneasy; it COULD be that everything about us is mere programming, but few actually believe that, surely?

One day they may discover the ‘Consciousness Particle’ (even more elusive than the Higgs boson!) but until then it seems to serve humanity to accept the fact of conscious free will and to behave as if that’s not in question. Don’t get me wrong - I do love the character of Data, but only on the level of fiction.
Fri, Aug 6, 2021, 3:11am (UTC -6)
"we seem to know the difference between conscious awareness and mere programming."
I have seen experiments with machine learning where that border seems to crumble. At least in an experiment where the mode of communication is a pc/instant messaging.

"it COULD be that everything about us is mere programming, but few actually believe that, surely?"
I'm certainly open to the suggestion. Maybe we are just beings with a form of reactive programming that incorporates new information to sustain itself and the species as a whole. Of course that would pose the question why we tricked ourselves into thinking that we do have something called sentience? or philosophy and many other concepts that try to make sense of our existence?
Sat, Aug 7, 2021, 3:06am (UTC -6)
I don't think trying to prove a negative is a good starting point? I would start with something like "Is the desk I am using now sentient? Or the Fitbit I have on my wrist?".

Assuming we all agree the answer is no, then Star Trek does seem to be assuming complexity is the missing variable that makes them different from Data or the EMH, as Tidd says. Jason's example is just another way of saying that complexity is what makes the difference. I can't say I find that convincing.

One point worth making is that Measure of a Man is much more modest than later episodes about this question - and probably stronger for it. The hearing definitely doesn't end with Data declared a sentient being. But later TNG episodes like this one certainly have characters asserting it in a way that suggests it's no longer controversial. Voyager even more so with a similar question.
Jason R.
Sat, Aug 7, 2021, 6:42am (UTC -6)
"Jason's example is just another way of saying that complexity is what makes the difference. I can't say I find that convincing."

Well ok if it's not complexity than what do you hypothesize it might be? Why are humans sentient and not single celled amoebas?

Are we both playing from the same materialist deck or are you talking about souls now?

Because if it's materialism then whatever the secret sauce is, there is no logical reason why it shouldn't at least be *possible* to replicate it artificially.

Now I happen to be in the camp that thinks true or "strong" AI is likely alot harder than we thought and may be a long way off in the future but I can't see how a materialist would reject even its possibility out of hand. We are not talking about warp drive or time machines that could be physically impossible for all we know. We *know* sentience exists and have working examples right in front of us.
Sat, Aug 7, 2021, 9:57am (UTC -6)
"Well ok if it's not complexity than what do you hypothesize it might be? Why are humans sentient and not single celled amoebas?"

It's not that complexity is irrelevant. I would have thought we could all agree that complexity is a necessary condition - but the question is whether it's sufficient condition for sentience.

"I happen to be in the camp that thinks true or 'strong' AI is likely alot harder than we thought and may be a long way off in the future but I can't see how a materialist would reject even its possibility out of hand."

There is a lot of space between rejecting it out of hand and concluding that Data, the EMH et al are surely sentient life forms, and I'd locate myself in that space. Materialist or not, I don't think anyone here has rejected its possibility out of hand. The way I would put it is that I don't start from the premise that Data is just a metal version of you or me, so it's reasonable enough to think he is sentient. I start from the premise that he is a more impressive version of Alexa, so if he's to be deemed sentient I want to understand why. The greater complexity point doesn't seem to get you very far towards an explanation.
Jason R.
Sat, Aug 7, 2021, 12:25pm (UTC -6)
Ok Tomalak except Data is a fictional being as is the Doctor. Saying you don't accept their sentience is like saying you don't accept that Thor can survive the power of a neutron star - it is a meaningless claim. We know Data is sentient because that is what the writers ordained, end of story.

The only real question is if you accept the mere possibity that one day technology could somehow produce an artificial consciousness. Whether it would be exactly like Data isn't all that important.

If you do accept that mere possibility, what are we discussing?
Sat, Aug 7, 2021, 5:03pm (UTC -6)
@Jason R

"Are we both playing from the same materialist deck or are you talking about souls now?"

That's rather an extreme choice. I'm with the Buddhists on this particular point, who don't believe in a soul, but are definitely not materialist. I personally believe that one day - and I have absolutely no idea when - consciousness will be explained. However, as 'mind' as we understand it is not material (though the manifestations of thought definitely do have an observable physical effect in the brain, with bioelectrical phenomena across synapses), so how much less so is consciousness?

"The only real question is if you accept the mere possibity that one day technology could somehow produce an artificial consciousness."

That raises a whole can of worms! Can we talk about artificial consciousness? My own view is that we can't. Either something IS conscious or it isn't. For this purpose I'd say consciousness = self awareness, and though you might be able to simulate that (which is why the Turing Test came into being), you can't have an artificial - yet real, factual - version of it. That's what I think, anyway.
Sun, Aug 8, 2021, 7:22am (UTC -6)
Jason, if you think discussing whether fiction makes sense is inherently a waste of time I don't think this is the forum for you, to be honest.

So "We know Data is sentient because that is what the writers ordained, end of story" wouldn't sway me even if I believed it. But if you watch Measure of a Man, the classic episode devoted to this issue, it's not even what happens. The fact they weirdly forgot all nuance later on doesn't, for me, remove the question.

Tidd, yes, I think that's right - there is a difference between a machine convincing someone it is conscious and it actually being just that.
Jason R.
Sun, Aug 8, 2021, 9:39am (UTC -6)
@Tomalak watch Star Trek Picard or probably 100 other episodes since Season 2 TNG. He's sentient.
Sun, Aug 8, 2021, 10:16am (UTC -6)
@Jason R

Define what you mean by "sentient"?
Jason R.
Sun, Aug 8, 2021, 10:24am (UTC -6)

From Wikipedia's entry on Data:

"Data was found by Starfleet in 2338. He was the sole survivor on Omicron Theta in the rubble of a colony left after an attack from the Crystalline Entity. He is a synthetic life form with artificial intelligence, designed and built by Doctor Noonien Soong in his own likeness (likewise portrayed by Spiner). **Data is a self-aware, sapient, sentient** and anatomically fully functional male android who serves as the second officer and chief operations officer aboard the Federation starship USS Enterprise-D and later the USS Enterprise-E."

Whatever it means, he is it. You can't have watched TNG, the movies, Picard and doubted that is what the writers intended.
Sun, Aug 8, 2021, 11:41am (UTC -6)
I think they changed their minds without offering any explanation.
Mon, Aug 9, 2021, 4:07pm (UTC -6)
@Jason R

Within the totally fictional parameters of Trek, then I'm happy to accept Data is sentient. In the real world? No. In the far future though... who knows?
Mon, Aug 16, 2021, 10:23pm (UTC -6)
How about some love for Melinda Snodgrass for overseeing and contributing the turnaround from seasons 2 to 3?
Wed, Jan 19, 2022, 6:19am (UTC -6)
I have always liked this episode, but there is one glaring problem. Android rights and liberties are fully established in the Federation at this time, due to earlier efforts in the series. Picard mentions it and the Admiral even agrees, but he ignores it in the next breath. How was the Federation Council able to grant him powers to remove a sentient being's child for research purposes? It just doesn't make sense. The Admiral is clearly breaking the law, blatantly. I always had a problem with that, since the first time I saw this episode. Also, the Admiral's turnabout at the end of the episode was hollow. He was so one-dimensionally antagonistic the entire time that by the end when he shows empathy you just don't care.

The thing about Data not being able to use contractions makes no sense whatsoever. He is a heuristic marvel and that should be no problem for him. The writers should've come up with something else that Lol miraculously overcame that Data couldn't.

Other than that I really like this episode. I just wished she picked the Andorian female in the beginning. That would've made for much more interesting television. :)
Jason R.
Wed, Jan 19, 2022, 8:00am (UTC -6)
"How was the Federation Council able to grant him powers to remove a sentient being's child for research purposes?"

Because she wasn't his "child" - she was a machine he constructed in a lab.

The legal precedent you mentioned from Measure of a Man was simply that Data wasn't the property of Starfleet. That's it. No ruling that he was even sentient. Certainly no ruling that any machine he created would be considered analogous to his child.

Legal precedent takes years, even decades to develop.
Top Hat
Thu, Jan 20, 2022, 2:22pm (UTC -6)
HAFTEL: All the other arguments aside, there's one that is irrefutable. There are only two Soong-type androids in existence. It would be very dangerous to have you both in the same place. Especially aboard a starship. One lucky shot by a Romulan, we'd lose you both.

Gee, isn't that an argument for not having children on the Enterprise AT ALL?
Sun, Jan 30, 2022, 6:49am (UTC -6)
@Top Hat

"One lucky shot by a Romulan, we'd lose you both."

Just watched it. Picard should have said "Doesn't really cut it admiral, before Lal existed, one lucky shot by a Romulan, and we would have lost the only one!"

Never liked the kids being on board. Every time I see the wall-to-wall carpeting in the hallways, I get a bit uncomfortable about the cushiness of the torpedo-laden Enterprise-D.
Jason R.
Sun, Jan 30, 2022, 8:43am (UTC -6)
"Never liked the kids being on board. Every time I see the wall-to-wall carpeting in the hallways, I get a bit uncomfortable about the cushiness of the torpedo-laden Enterprise-D."

In Heart of Glory one of the Klingons has this idea that they can separate the saucer and fly off with the rest of the ship and go on a rampage. I think one even notes that with the saucer detached, the Enterprise becomes a "formidable weapon" or words to that effect.

I think the original concept was you'd have pretty much two starships: a drive section with weapons and warp capability, basically a warship, and the saucer section, with botany labs, kindergartens and holodeck, basically an exploratory vessel / mobile city. In Encounter at Farpoint, the very first thing they do when confronted with the Q forcefield is separate the saucer section.

All this makes a lot more sense than what they did pretty much the rest of the series, which was keep the ship together while dragging kindergarten playgroups and neo natal intensive care wards into combat with Borg cubes and Romulan Warbirds each week.
Sun, Jan 30, 2022, 7:47pm (UTC -6)
@Jason R "All this makes a lot more sense than what they did pretty much the rest of the series, which was keep the ship together while dragging kindergarten playgroups and neo natal intensive care wards into combat with Borg cubes and Romulan Warbirds each week."

Lol. I shudder to think that in BOBW the Saucer Section was reconnected to the battle section when Riker was saying stuff like "Ramming Speed." I hope that I'm mis-remembering that. :)
Peter G.
Sun, Jan 30, 2022, 8:17pm (UTC -6)
"Lol. I shudder to think that in BOBW the Saucer Section was reconnected to the battle section when Riker was saying stuff like "Ramming Speed." I hope that I'm mis-remembering that. :)"

I assume his concern was losing Earth outright, to the point where any delay would have been too great a risk.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 6:20am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

Putting the kids in "the front line" conflicts with species survival. That's why it's curious to me that the Federation (Roddenberry) would want to do that. More to the point, I recognize now that as a viewer, I basically zoned out on the kids 'up in the saucer' during scores of confrontations.

Do we ever get a line like the following:

Picard: 'Q, please take me, but leave the children alone'

OR: 'Admiral, to do that we would have to let the kids off on Betazed first, before taking the ship into combat'

I think the writers also "zoned out" on the kids much of the time.
Jason R.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 7:27am (UTC -6)
The Ferengi actually called Picard out on this in Rascals where it was pointed out that lugging along your kids on deep space exploration is the real "cruelty". It was a pretty good point.

Regarding BOBW remember by that point the Borg were hovering over Earth so I am not all that critical of the decision to crash the Enterprise into the cube. More worrisome is the fact that civilians were on that mission in the first place. I mean even if you accept that they needed every iota of weaponry they could get and couldn't afford to leave the saucer section behind - how about evacuating your civilians before going into combat with a mother'fing borg cube. Why was Sisko's son at Wolf 359? At least Jadzia got Captain Keogh to offload his civilians before taking the Odyssey into a fight with the Jem'Hadar.
Peter G.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 8:30am (UTC -6)
Let's face it: the only practical reason TNG had for making this families on board policy is to excuse Wesley being there. Later on we do get some scenes with Alexander in school, but overall the "this is a different kind of ship" premise gets the Maquis treatment: good for a couple of episodes and then forgotten about.
Tue, Feb 15, 2022, 7:12pm (UTC -6)
@Tom (2014)

"It also seems forced when the admiral seems moved by her death. It makes no sense that he suddenly has empathy for her."

I agree. The Memory Alpha synopsis of this episode says that when Haftel comes out of Data's lab, he is "heartbroken." I don’t believe it. Even if the scriptwriter or the director told Coster to play it that way, he didn’t do a convincing job of it. Later in the article, Memory Alpha says that Admiral Haftel is "near tears" when he's giving La Forge, Troi, and Wesley the news. That would have been totally out of character, because his character was a dick.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Wed, Feb 16, 2022, 4:12pm (UTC -6)
I suppose you read it as Haftel being upset for losing a scientific achievement, one that he had a personal stake in. I'm not sure that entirely tracks, since he's only known about Lal for what, a few days? A week maybe? Still, there could be some self-pity at play.

Another possibility is that he was greatly moved by Data's attempt to repair Lal. Maybe he realized that Data does really love her as a daughter, even if in his own way what we don't quite understand. That'd at least be more sincere, if still a bit far fetched.
Wed, Feb 16, 2022, 8:25pm (UTC -6)
@Tom 2014: Re.: Haftel
"It makes no sense that he suddenly has empathy for her." quoted by navamske Feb. 15, 2022.

With respect,
To me it makes perfect sense that Haftel is broken up at Lal's demise. He has recognized that he set up the crisis that led to her cascade failure, and feels terribly guilty about it. He furnishes his glowing account of Data's valor in order to be redeemed. He needs to be redeemed by those willing to listen, but knows that is very unlikely to occur.

Geordi, Troi and Wesley have expressions on their faces that reflect the attitude of any sensitive witness to Haftel's interactions with Data, basically saying to Haftel "if only you had been more of a decent human being yesterday, none of this would have happened."
Mon, Apr 18, 2022, 2:57pm (UTC -6)
Okay, so Data created a "child" of his? Well, here's my hot take on this, three minutes in, having went in cold (= didn't read the review or comments).

Oh yeah. This can't miss.

That thing is not going to cause any trouble aaaaaaaaaat aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall...

Surprised that Data would've done something so foolhardy. He is innocent of many things but that wouldn't have foreseen that creating synthetic sentient life is fraught with all kinds of issues? Not buyin' it.

It sure is going to be a fun ride though!
Tue, Apr 19, 2022, 3:00am (UTC -6)
Further to my earlier comment, this was an excellent episode, well worth Jammer's three stars.

The bonehead honcho admiral stereotype was all-too predictable (ah, good old Lionel Lockridge LOLZ!), so much so that you could write the dialog yourself before ever hearing it. He did redeem himself somewhat toward the end so there's that.

Lal's trajectory seemed rushed and perfunctory, although that can be understood in the context of the 45 minutes the episode had. What I really hated though was the resolution: Not only was it rushed but it was deeply unsatisfying and blase. She suffers a neural failure or whatever, Lionel has a change of heart and becomes a good guy, Lal is operated on, prognosis negative, a quick goodbye with papa Data, she "dies," Data informs the crew, everyone is sorry, Data feels nothing but he had transferred some gobbledygook into his memory so she'll live on, oh no how sad never mind, set the course for Beta Dinosauri warp speed 4, engage, see ya!

No bueno. I'd have liked a much more detailed expose of the issues and Lal's own sentiments... - and that coming from someone who hates talkie-talkie personal drama is quite a thing to say!
Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 10:46am (UTC -6)
Every episode dealing with Starfleet just reinforces what an evil organization they are.
Dark Kirk
Sat, Jan 7, 2023, 6:14pm (UTC -6)
Rewatched this last night. Hallie Todd was SO good. I picked up on Lal's subtle emtions much better on rewatch. And here's a fun though - what if Admiral Haftel was a Section 31 asset, consciously or unconsciously? His operation was infiltrated by Section 31 operatives who wanted Lal to develop into an overwhelming fighting force. It's the same motive that slipped in to getting Data. And ever since these episodes, Section 31 has been working to discredit or destroy the Enterprise and Picard, because the ship inadvertently keeps interfering with Section 31 operations. That's what was really behind the Pakleds, The Game, The Pegasus episode....
Dark Kirk
Sat, Jan 7, 2023, 6:15pm (UTC -6)
Scott - like my other comment, I like to think Section 31 infiltrated Starfleet, like Hydra infiltrating Shield in Marvel.
Mon, May 1, 2023, 11:19am (UTC -6)
I think the previous comments about Haftel's emotional reaction to Lal's death may be missing the character growth that is intended to have happened off-camera: He initially offered to take up a technobabble spanner and "assist" in Lal's open heart surgery with the idea of saving a promising piece of technology, but by the time he stumbled out the door, something had changed. Interestingly, he was more emotionally moved by Data's emotionless but dogged efforts to save her than by Lal's nascent emotions. I think we are supposed to take it as meaning that when he watched Data desperately trying to save Lal, Haftel at last perceived him as a father trying to save his child.

His near-tearful line, "It just wasn't meant to be," is a standard statement following a stillbirth or the death of a young infant, someone so early in life that it is impossible to imagine what they might have become. I've never considered that statement a particularly comforting one, but in some circles, it has long been a way of trying to make some kind of sense out of an incomprehensible loss, and perhaps even to push the reality of that loss to arm's length by saying that the lost potential future was nothing to be longed for, because it was not part of the big plan for the universe, whether from God or from some more foggy sense of an ordained meaning undergirding the unfolding of history.

For Haftel to use that expression regarding Lal's cascade failure is an implicit acknowledgment of the event as Data's loss of a child he had barely begun to know.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Mon, May 1, 2023, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
@Trish I think you're exactly right in how the scene is meant to be read, but since Haftel is so hostile and unyielding throughout the episode, his change of heart just seems out of character. Since it happens off-camera too, it doesn't feel earned.
Mon, May 1, 2023, 8:51pm (UTC -6)
@Jeffrey Jakucyk

I agree, having his 180° conversion happen off camera was lazy writing. It could have been a very powerful scene, if we had been allowed to see it.
Mon, Jul 24, 2023, 2:51pm (UTC -6)
Ok, human feet for Lal from the start😂
Sat, Nov 11, 2023, 9:43am (UTC -6)
After a long pause from watching Star Trek, the wife and I returned, and this was next on the itinerary.

And it was boring. The Lal character was not engaging. The actors all were overacting, (except Lal, to the actress' credit). It felt like everybody agreed that We Are Making A Very Important Sequel to Our Very Important Measure Of A Man Episode, So We Must Make the Most Out of Every Scene, Shot and Word.

We fast-forwarded.

1.5 stars.

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