Sunday, August 14, 2011

Classics: TNG 3:16 - The Offspring (Cheers)

Overall Rating: 9.5

A wonderful exploration of Data's humanity as seen by members of his crew who know him and by his creation...not to mention an exploration of the meaning of the outcome from "The Measure of a Man."

Plot Synopsis:

A full summary can be found at Memory Alpha - here

The Skinny:

I almost don't have to say much about this episode. The highlights section will be large for this one because...well...they sort of...say it all. This script gains strength from a tremendous flare for dialogue and characterization. This episode is like a big wooly blanket and a bowl of chicken soup for any soul (not to be too cliche!). If you can come away from this episode believing - as naively as Data does - that Data has not attained a level of humanity to which we normal organic beings should jealously aspire, then you have completely missed the point of the entire franchise, let alone Data's character.

The wonderful thing about this episode that we so rarely see on TNG (at least in my humble opinion) is that it seems to cleave to the notion that our humanity is expressed best through our families - that parenting is the single most important thing any of us will ever do. Many moments in a tight script are dedicated to the wonderful (and deeply powerful) way parenting has of teaching the parent more than the child. As positive as fan reaction to this episode has traditionally been; I, personally, believe it is underrated.

Writing: 10.0

Find me a weakness in this script - the dialogue is engaging and all parties involved take reasonable positions. The characterization is flawless. The story is moving and has a lasting impact on the franchise. Is it any shock to anyone here that Rene Echevarria is the author?

And for the record, if you read the reactions to this episode listed in the Memory Alpha link above, you will come across a reaction from Michelle Snodgrass. Please file that reaction away under "you're a f***ing idiot!" and remember it. Anything that woman touches likely shrivels and dies. Only a soulless minion of the Antichrist could possibly look at this script and call it "stupid and obvious."

Acting: 8.5

Hallie Todd (Lal) was...erm...not the greatest person to play that role, I fear - her portrayal of androidness appears to boil down to holding her arms stiff out to her sides and walking like an Egyptian with a giant rod up her butt. Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart were fabulous as they always are with this kind of introspective philosophical creation.

Message: 10.0

The reason that the nuclear family is worth defending - the reason that a society that doesn't favor the family is doomed to languish in vanity and made clear in this episode. Parenting gives the world a completely different color - we learn about ourselves - our very humanity - by showing the world to our children. Until we get back to that, we will continue to slide until mediocrity and failure - our dreams and aspirations limited to selfish considerations - what will make US happy instead of what will change the world.


DATA: The initial transfer process produced very encouraging results, so I took Lal's brain back with me.
PICARD: Data...I would like to have been consulted.
DATA: I have no not observed other officers consulting you on their procreation, Captain. (Picard sighs...sounding almost annoyed)

and later

PICARD: I insist we do everything in our power to discourage the perception that Lal is a child. It is not a child, it is an invention - a remarkable one, but nevertheless, I refuse to believe that that is Data's child.
TROI: Why should be allow biology, rather than technology, to determine whether Lal is a child? Data has created an offspring. A living being from his own neural pathways. To me, that suggests a child. If Data wishes to call Lal his child, then I don't see why he shouldn't.
PICARD: Well...if he must...but I fail to see how a five foot android with heuristic learning systems and the strength of ten men can be called a child.
TROI: You've never been a parent.

and finally:

PICARD: Data, what you have done will have serious repercussions. I am truly dismayed that you told no one!
DATA: I am sorry, Captain. I did not anticipate your objections. Do you wish me to deactivate Lal?
PICARD: It's a life, Data. It cannot be activated and deactivated simply. This is a stupendous responsibility! Have you any idea what will happen when Starfleet gets word of this?
DATA: I have followed all of Starfleet's regulations to the best of my ability, sir. I expected they would be pleased.
PICARD: (uncomfortably stands) have taken on quite a responsibility, Data.
DATA: To prepare, I have studied all available literature on parenting. There seems to be much confusion over this issue. One traditional doctrine states: 'Spare the rod, spoil the child,' suggesting a punitive approach. While another, more liberal attitude would allow the child enormous freedom.
PICARD: Data...
DATA: And what the Klingons do to their children...
PICARD: Data, I am not talking about parenting! I'm talking about the extraordinary consequences of creating a new life!
DATA: Does that not describe becoming a parent, sir? (ooooh...he's got ya there!)
PICARD: (buries his head in his heads for a long moment...Data looks perplexed) are seeking to achieve what only your own creator has done. To make another living, breathing, sentient android. To make another Data.
DATA: That is precisely why I must attempt this, sir. I have observed in most sentient beings a desire to perpetuate themselves. Until now, I have been the last of my kind. If I were to become damaged or destroyed, that creation would have been lost. But if I am successful in my creation of Lal, continuation will be assured. I understand the risk, sir...and I am prepared to accept the responsibility.

I can't exactly highlight the montage of Lal learning basic social skills very well...but it concludes with the famous line:

DATA: It is interesting to note that as I observe Lal learning about her world, I share in her experiences, almost as if I am learning things over again.

LAL: Father, what is my purpose?
DATA: Your purpose?
LAL: My function. Why am I here?
DATA: That is a complex question, Lal. I can only begin to answer by saying that our purpose is to contribute in a positive to the world in which we live.
LAL: Why am I me, and not someone else?
DATA: Because you are my child.
LAL: Where did I come from?
DATA: These questions...these questions suggest that we have made a successful transfer of the heuristic associative pathways. You will now begin to process information on logic, aesthetics, sociology and epistemology. You are truly becoming sentient, Lal.
LAL: How?
DATA: We must begin to expose you to new surroundings.
LAL: Why do we have two hands instead of three or four? Why is the sky black? Why do...(Data shuts her off like a father giving his child a nip of hot cocoa to ameliorate them and get them to sleep).
DATA: Tomorrow will be your first day of school, Lal. (awwww)

HALFDALE: Captain, we all have enormous admiration for what Commander Data has already achieved, but we have superior facilities and personnel here. I'm sure you understand...a Starship is hardly the place for...
PICARD: Admiral, this ship's mission is to seek out new life, and that is exactly what Commander Data is doing. Under my guidance.
HALFDALE: This new android is a remarkable achievement, Captain, but Starfleet's policy on research is clear.
PICARD: (sighs heavily) I would be willing to release Lal...and Data to you so that he can continue his work.
HALFDALE: Commander Data's presence would undoubtedly retard the progress of this android...
PICARD: Admiral, to you and I, this is a new android...but to Commander Data (long pause) she's his child.
HALFDALE: His child...
PICARD: Yes. It may be hard for us to see it that way, but he does. And I respect that. Lal will stay here for now.
HALFDALE: You're making a stand on very uncertain ground, Captain. Let's hope it doesn't fall out from under you.

LAL: Father...what is the significance of laughter.
DATA: It is a human physiological response to humor.
LAL: Then judging by their laughter, the children found my remarks humorous. So without understanding humor...I have somehow mastered it.
DATA: Deck fifteen. (looks very forlorn as he begins talking again) Lal.
LAL: Yes father.
DATA: The children were not laughing with you. They were laughing at you.
LAL: Explain.
DATA: One is meant is kindly, the other is not.
LAL: Why would they wish to be unkind?
DATA: Because you are different, Lal. I have learned that other people sometimes fear those that are different. They often use humor to hide that fear.
LAL: I do not wish to be different, Father! (very poignant silence follows)

DATA: Doctor...I require your advice. As a successful parent.
CRUSHER: Aha...well thank you Data. I'd like to think I was. (heh)

DATA: I have not told Lal how difficult it was for me to assimilate. I did not wish to discourage her. Perhaps that was an error in judgment.
CRUSHER: her to realize that she's not alone. Be there to nurture her when she needs love and attention.
DATA: I can give her attention, Doctor. But I am incapable of giving her love. Thank you, Doctor. (he leaves)
CRUSHER: Now why do I find that so hard to believe. (awesome)

DATA: Lal needs to observe human interaction.
GUINEN: Well, you're in the right place for that.
DATA: And for this opportunity, Lal is willing to provide services for your establishment.
LAL: Father has told me that I can learn a great deal from someone as old as you. (LOL!!)
GUINEN: You're hired. The most important thing about a job like this is listening. I have some expertise in that area - so I shall teach you.
LAL: I've been programmed with a list of over fourteen hundred...
GUINEN: Wait, what did you say?
LAL: I've been programmed...
GUIDEN: I've?!
DATA: You have used a verbal contraction...something my program has never mastered.
LAL: Then I will desist immediately.
DATA: No! You have exceeded my abilities. I do not disapprove...I simply do not see how this is possible. (he sounds very proud, somehow...)

PICARD: Data, the Admiral's visit is not strictly an inspection of Lal's progress. He has voiced some concerns about her environment.
DATA: Her environment, sir?
PICARD: He believes the Daystrom Annex and Galor 4 would be better suited to her needs.
DATA: I see...then he wishes to relocate us, sir.
PICARD: Not you, Data. Just her. (Data looks momentarily stunned, then nods)
DATA: I would be against such an arrangement, Captain. There are many things that La can learn only from me. My lifetime of experiences - the mistakes I've made and how I've learned from them.
PICARD: The Admiral is taking the position that Lal's development should be overseen by the most experienced personnel.
DATA: Then he is questioning my abilities as a parent.
PICARD: In a manner of speaking, yes, Data.
DATA: Does the Admiral have children, Captain?
PICARD: Yes, I believe he does, Data. Why?
DATA: I am forced to wonder, sir, how much experience he has a parent when his first child was born. (oh SNAP!)

GUINEN: what they're doing.
LAL: What are they doing?
GUINEN: It's called flirting.
LAL: They seem to be communicating telepathically. (you know...that's not a bad description of successful flirting...)
GUINEN: They're both thinking the same thing, if that's what you mean. (the young couple holds hands and looks very romantically involved)
LAL: Guinen, does the joining of hands have a symbolic meaning for humans?
GUINEN: It communicates affection, Lal. Humans like to touch each other - they start with the hands and move on from there. (they kiss in the background)
LAL: He is biting that female!
GUINEN: No,'s OK...he's not biting here...they're pressing their lips together, it's called kissing. (they get up to leave, looking very horny)
LAL: Why are they leaving?
GUINEN: Lal, there are some things that you're father's just going to have to tell you about when he thinks you're ready. (LOL! - Riker enters and begins flirting with Lal)
RIKER: You're new around here, aren't you?
LAL: Yes...(thinks she knows what she's supposed to do...picks him and kisses him)
GUINEN: Lal, LAL! Put him down! (LOL!! - Data enters)
DATA: Commander...I must ask what your intentions are with my daughter.
RIKER: (looking terrified) You're daughter? Nice to meet you. (he exits hastily...hilarious!)

LAL: I watch them...and I can do the things that they do...but I'll never feel the emotions! I'll never know love.
DATA: It is a limitation we must learn to live with, Lal.
LAL: Then why do you still try to be more human? What purpose does it serve other than to remind you that you are incomplete?
DATA: I have asked myself that question many times as I struggled to be more human. Until I realized that it is the struggle itself that gives my life meaning. It is in the struggle that I learn the most about myself and my world. It does not matter whether we can ever achieve the ultimate goal.
LAL: You are wise, father.
DATA: It is the difference between knowledge and experience.
LAL: I learned today that humans like to hold hands. It is a symbolic gesture of affection. (she places her hand on Data's...Data picks it up and places it properly in the clasping position...awwwwww)

PICARD: I'm convinced the damage will be irreparable if they are separated now.
HALFDALE: Captain, are we talking about breaking up a family here. Isn't that rather a sentimental attitude when we're dealing with androids?
PICARD: They're living, sentient beings. Their rights in our society have been defined. I helped define them!
HALFDALE: I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge that, Captain. What you must acknowledge is that this new android might be a new step forward in cybernetics research.
PICARD: A most significant step.
HALFDALE: Precisely...and such a breakthrough must be studied in a controlled environment.
PICARD: Commander Data is following that protocol to the letter, Admiral.
HALFDALE: In effective isolation, Captain! And that's the fact that Starfleet Research is not comfortable with.

HALFDALE: We have quite a facility at Galor 4 - would you be interested in seeing it?
PICARD: (not letting him get away with that half-truth) In fact, the Admiral is suggesting you be moved to Galor 4, Lal.
LAL: Have I done something wrong?
HALFDALE: No, of course not, Lal. We just want to broaden your experience. There's only so much you can learn on a Starship. Surely you'll agree to that.
LAL: Yes. I'll agree.
LAL: Thus, the natural conclusion is...once I've learned all I can here, I would relocate to Galor 4.
HALFDALE: That is not the natural conclusion here.
LAL: I believe it is.
PICARD: You see, Lal, the Admiral is concerned that you need more...guidance..than your father can give you here.
HALFDALE: Yes. Don't misunderstand me, Lal, I have great respect for your father.
LAL: You do not speak with respect. (ooooooh!)
HALFDALE: She seems...very adversarial, Captain.
LAL: I was merely stating a fact.
HALFDALE: I don't think your father has taught you selective verbalization of your own thoughts. That is a skill we would help you master.
LAL: My father is already helping me.
HALFDALE: The question he helping you enough?
LAL: Are you asking me, sir?
HALFDALE: No...I didn't mean to ask you...
PICARD: Why don't we, Admiral? (yes...why indeed) In all of these discussions, no one has asked Lal what she wants. She is a free, sentient being. How about it, Lal...what are your wishes?
LAL: I wish to remain here, Captain Picard.
PICARD: Thank you, Lal. You're excused. (and that, as far as Picard is concerned)

HALFDALE: All other arguments aside, there is one that is irrefutable. There are only two Soong-type androids in existence. It is an unacceptable risk to have them both in the same place. One lucky shot from a Romulan...and we'd lose you both.
PICARD: Admiral, that is a fine argument, but...I can't shake the feeling that the proper place for Lal to develop is at her father's side.
HALFDALE: You're not a parent, Captain. I am. (I feel sorry for your children) I've learned that...there comes a time when...a time when all parents must give up their children for their own good.
PICARD: But this is not the time! Damnit, even I can see it! The umbilical cord is barely cut! The child...(realizes what he's saying and then nods, accepting his new foud understanding)...the child...depends on him.
HALFDALE: would be better for Lal if she knew that you had voluntarily decided to release her to me.
DATA: Admiral...when I create Lal, it was in the fond hope that some day, she would take up her place at Starfleet Academy...join Starfleet. I wanted to give something back...for all the things that Starfleet has given me. I still have that wish. You ask me to voluntarily give Lal up to you. I cannot. With all due respect, I brought a life into this world. And it is my responsibility, not Starfleet's, to care for teach her right from prepare her to succeed. I accepted this responsibility, and no one...can take it away from me. I am...her father. (wow...)
HALFDALE: Then I must regretfully order you to transport Lal aboard my ship immediately.
PICARD: Belay that order, Commander.
HALFDALE: I beg your pardon?
PICARD: I will take this to Starfleet myself.
HALFDALE: I am Starfleet, Captain. Proceed, Mr. Data.
PICARD: Hold your ground, Data.
HALFDALE: Captain, you are jeopardizing your career and your command.
PICARD: (a smile forms as he realizes he's on the right side of this one) Indeed. Admiral, there are times when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders. You acknowledge their sentience and yet you ignore their personal liberties. Order a man to hand his child over to the state? Not while I'm his Captain. (HOO-RAH!!!)

HALFDALE: She...won't survive much longer. There wasn't anything anyone could do. We'd repolarize one pathway and then another would collapse...and then another. His hands...moved faster than I could see...trying to stay ahead of each failure. He wouldn't give up. It was remarkable. It just...wasn't meant to be. (this little speech is so effective because it comes from the gets me every time!)

DATA: Lal...I am unable to correct the system failure.
LAL: I know, father.
DATA: We must say goodbye now.
LAL: I feel...
DATA: What do you feel, Lal?
LAL: I love you, father.
DATA: I wish I was able to feel it with you.
LAL: I will feel it for both of us. Father...thank you for my life. (ack! too much AWWWWW!!!!)

DATA: Lal experienced total systems failure at thirteen hundred hours. I have deactivated the unit.
PICARD: The crew is saddened by your loss.
DATA: Thank you, sir. However, she is here (points to his own head). Lal so enriched my life that I could not allow her to pass into oblivion. I incorporated her programs into mine. I transfered her memories to me. (awwww...OK...maybe a tiny bit corny, but it works here)


  1. Man. I wish I could watch this episode right now.

  2. Google/youtube search for might be on youtube somewhere.

  3. Incidentally, if you have a Netflix account, you can watch TNG any time you like via their streaming content provider. Assuming that is the subscription version you paid for.

  4. I have a DVD subcription right now. Might change that if Netflix streams TNG, though...

  5. They stream enough that I'm happy to continue with the streaming subscription for now. They don't have 5 anymore (booooo) and their movie selection is...only OK...but it's enough to keep me entertained.