The Offspring

The Enterprise is a family ship, and today we welcome the newest addition: a five-foot android with heuristic learning systems and the strength of ten men. Meet Data’s child. She’s Lal, and she’s a chip off the old positronic brain. Starfleet would really like a crack at this technology though, and Admiral Haftel is sent to split father from daughter. This week, The Offspring goes into the Mission Log.

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  1. CmdrR says:

    TNG shows Trek having growing pains. You wondered at Lal being forced into gender-assignment. TNG eventually takes on homosexuality (though certainly not early enough to prevent the departure of David Gerrold) but it does so in an oblique manner. Sexuality in general in Trek is sophomoric. It would be nice to see it handled in a more mature manner. Below: Oooooh, nuditity… Ooooh:

  2. deaddropsd says:

    I think Star Trek did ok but not enough regarding homosexuality issues considering the times and the fact that they did not have major network backing. I felt later in DS9, they did better w Trill issues. Dang CmdrR, you beat me with the FIRST post!!

  3. deaddropsd says:

    I always was disappointed that Data did not just make another android. I know, I know, the series one and done, format is to blame. Ugh, what a bummer. Regarding the jerk Admiral Haftel, I now suspect he was under orders/influence from…..Section 31!! Retcon at it’s finest, but android operatives would be a great asset to Section 31! The gender selection issue to me seems so different now after 25 years have passed. So interesting, as I watched it, I thought, hmmmm, maybe she could stay neutral, but the reality is that even in the 24th century, there could still be feelings of isolation if neutral were chosen. What a shame Andorians, Tellarites and so many others were all but forgotten in TNG. Zakdorns, Bolians, Pakleds, Talerians, so many were just intro’d but not fleshed out adequately in my opinion. Heck even the Vulcans appearances were so few and far between in TNG. This was the first time I saw the episode since becoming a father of a now 3 year old and 1 year old girl. Deep. Never thought about the future implications, this episode would have on me back in 1990. I was sad Data was about to capitulate to Admiral Jerk-Tel. But happy, Picard laid down the law.

  4. deaddropsd says:

    Hallie Todd “Lal”

  5. Troy Brooks says:

    Regarding the unattainable goal, instead of thinking of flying think of if I wanted to run a 4 minute mile. I’m a 49 year old man and haven’t ever ran long distances, so I will never be able to run a 4 minute mile, but I can strive toward doing that. Should I not try because I will never succeed?

    • deaddropsd says:

      nope, you should try! yes, I agree w the effort, the journey being of benefit. Cardio, lower weight, cholesterol etc…As a 17 year old when I saw this episode in 1990, I really took the “purpose of life” definition as so simple yet profound. contributing in a positive way…so many jerks out there just don’t get it…

  6. Lou Dalmaso says:

    I always wait to voice my opinion until after I hear the whole podcast just to make sure the point is never addressed. But now I have to say that the fault in Data’s assertion that he will “never succeed” is a matter of timing.
    It would be more fair for him to say that he cannot succeed based on current circumstances.

    Where the striving comes in is in the chance to gain new programming (he IS a learning computer) or otherwise change his circumstances to the point where he CAN experience the growth he is looking for. (see “emotion chip”)
    If he had given up the fight just because he was sure he had reached the pinnacle of his programming, he would have been better off going with Maddox. As least Maddox thought he still had potential.

    And as barking mad as Haftell was, I always thought he came away at the end of the episode as having more respect for Data after seeing the superhuman lengths he went thru to save his daughter.

    One last thing. I always thought it was really creepy that Data stole Lal’s memories after she was gone. As humans we’re entitled to have our memories of our loved ones. We’re not entitled to their memories of us. This means Data has a memory of kissing Riker. and if the accumulation of memories and experiences are what caused her positronic brain to overload, won’t that now happen to Data?

    • deaddropsd says:

      It seemed like Haftell got away scott-free despite the obvious fact that his threatening to take Lal, caused emotional distress that ultimately killed her. I think Starfleet JAG should be contacted for wrongful death…If Troi had repeated Lal’s statements…”An admiral from Starfleet is going to take me away…”

  7. Wildride says:

    So, does this make Hilary Duff Data’s granddaughter?!?

  8. Chewbacka Grizelda says:

    Whaddya mean Star Fleet isn’t real??? 😉 😛 😀 <3

  9. mephitofthelake says:

    Wow, do you gotta be so pedantic Ken? At a certain. Point you just have to accept what the writers are telling you about Data not having emotion and let it go.

    • deaddropsd says:

      ouch! well, I think I have to be reigned back in sometimes and it is science fiction. When Data’s threw a character (can’t remember what episode) and his facial expression shows concern for injury…I think it was “Contagion” and Geordi got electrocuted…concern seems like an emotion. but oh well…if Brent Spiner had just “Terminator”‘d it, I think the super flat affect would not have gone too long w/o complaints, when in fact that would have been the more accurate way to play Data…

  10. rocketdave says:

    I’m a little surprised that John didn’t mention in trivia that Hallie Todd is the stepdaughter of Guy Raymond, who played the bartender in The Trouble With Tribbles.

  11. Scott Newland says:

    While there were some wonderful moments in “The Offspring”, and it was a real triumph for J. Frakes as a director, I felt that this episode was – overall – a failure. There were many great points about parenting here, and strong arguments about individual rights, but they were too few to offset the shortcomings:
    1. Data created life! This is monumental, and yet the repercussions end with this one episode. His achievement and Lal’s incorporated memories don’t ever mean anything ever again as far as I can remember.
    2. Why was the initial android form so lumpy and angular, and how exactly did the form change so dramatically to something so perfectly human? It made no sense at all.
    3. Haftel’s attitude (to use his own words, “a bit adversarial”) felt contrary to Star Trek’s overall positive message for the future. He seemed written to simply play the heavy. This was bad enough, but his inexplicable attitude change at the end was worse. I thought that his volunteering to help Data was going to be a sinister ploy to get in there are disable Lal so he could take “her” with him, but apparently not. Again, it didn’t make sense. His words to Troi, Geordi and Wesley in the corridor came off as hypocritical given his past actions. Like Lal and Data’s final scene, I thought that it felt bolted on for manipulative emotional effect. That being said, much of their final dialogue was wonderful, and very well acted.
    4. You made a completely great point – why not just adjust Data’s programming to allow contractions?
    I shouldn’t, but I can’t help but compare this 1990 show to episodes that came late. Compare this one to Enterprise’s “Similitude” to see how a somewhat similar story can be done so much better, actually earning its emotional catharsis in the end. Perhaps “The Offspring” got others thinking about that sort of potential, but this one didn’t do it for me.

    • deaddropsd says:

      In retrospect we see the failing of the “one and done” mindset of syndicated television at that time. So compartmentalized. I knew it at the time, but it really was highlighted in this review, when the hosts mentioned it was nice to see continuity between “The Enemy” and “The Defector”…ugh, bummer they were so restrained in storytelling…
      1. Life, yes he did. Yeah, no mention, also of Data, and geez, when they start making more Data relatives, “step mother”? excuse me?? lol- B4 ? ugh, no grand vision….
      2. just limitations of the technology. The “under carriage” or “chasis” I guess….
      3. I think time and time again, I am of the opinion that Roddenberry’s vision for leaving the cradle and exploring after resolving MOST of the big issues of Earth, racism, war for silly reasons, famine- lack of resources is attainable on a small scale, but people can still be colossal JERKS. Retconning, I explained Haftel’s jerk attitude as being influenced by Section 31. lol.
      4. another of the initial writers for “Datalore” lacking vision. They should have ignored that since the writers obviously could not maintain consistency over the long 7 year haul….I tell people that the reason DS9 TRIUMPHS over Trek is CONSISTENT VISION. The start, middle, end had an even hand….TNG definitely lacked this w regard to character development, fleshing out of supporting cast. (i.e. there was none) and story arcs…painful..very painful..”one and done” strikes again

  12. Brian Fleshman says:

    I’m glad the computer said something about the static. The first two times it happened I was coincidentally holding a power cable for a forklift and was concerned that I was about to be turned into bacon.

  13. deaddropsd says:

    the gender identification topic, will be addressed more in the future…but man, at the time I saw this in 1990, I did not think anything of the “need” to choose a gender. How times have changed. Also, in the holodeck, why is Troi slumped on the floor, no holographic chair? oh dear, now I am nitpicking….Data, you shoulda had a backup hard drive brain just in case to save your progress! oh well….next onto Q’onos!! (sp?)

  14. deaddropsd says:

    great point, about the complete neglect of Lore. Rewatching “Datalore” makes you think at the end, what did they think happened to him? scattered across the galaxy by transporter kill? he was adrift in space obviously, but the Enterprise never checked on him? Plot hole! Anyway, when they say, “there are only 2 Soong type androids..” ugh, lack of attention to detail!!

  15. Peter Tupper says:

    A couple of points regarding Data and emotions.

    First, wanting things is not the same thing as having emotions, or rather, wanting things is only a part of having emotions. Data is kind of an existentialist; he knows that he exists, and he has worked out from that a set of goals and ethics and relationships that give his existence meaning. Those include becoming more human, building another artificial being like himself, etc. He wants things and works towards them. However, he also believes that he is currently lacking a key part of the experience of other sentient beings.

    Second, Picard hypothetically ordering Data to act more human would not solve anything, and would make matters worse. We know Data can do things like modulate his voice instead of his usual monotone, and he can make himself change facial expressions, laugh, cry, etc. However, he would only be performing those actions that indicate emotion, even if everybody around him would think it was the real thing. Subjectively, he would be just the same, without the internal experience of emotion.

    There’s a philosophical concept called the Zombie: a being that is indistinguishable in appearance and behaviour from a human being, but is not truly sentient, just acting that way. The question is, is such a being sentient or not? Data would probably say that because the Zombie is expressing emotions that it does not actually experience subjectively, it is inauthentic.

    To me, this is why Data continues to not use contractions, speak in a stilted monotone, etc. He wants to be authentic in his experience of the world and his relations with other sentient beings. He will not feign emotion. He will not laugh or cry until he, to his own satisfaction, finds something funny or sad.

  16. Danielle Porter says:

    I’ve just accepted the fact that Data has desire, which we would consider emotion, but does not (currently) have other emotions, i.e. sadness, joy, etc. Desire was programmed so he can strive for something “greater”. I’ll leave the conversation about the validity of striving for something greater to Ken.

  17. Will Wright says:

    Article by Mark Altman- Fan Club Issue #96: May 1994

  18. Low Mileage Pit Woofie says:

    Another enjoyable podcast discussion, gentlemen; my compliments.
    The talk about whether or not Data has feelings intrigued me, because for a while I would have said that they had onboard a perfect sensor for emotions: Troi. then I began wondering: how exactly does one go about sensing emotions? Is it some pattern of energy that the emotional unknowingly give off? Or does she have some psionic sense of when the limbic centers of a brain are active (and thus cannot sense certain species with different brain configurations)? But then I remembered that she sensed Lal’s burgeoning emotions just before she had cascade failure.

    No, I’m not letting this go. Data could be feeling all this time, and just doesn’t realise it. If it looks like a duck…

  19. Matthew Saxon says:

    I don’t think the Admiral carries any blame for Lals death. Surely the implication in the show is that her inability to handle the emotion is just as emergent from the way Lal is constructed as the emotions themselves. It’s like a major congenital heart defect in a person: They didn’t know it was there until it killed them; Unavoidable

  20. Chris says:

    Two thoughts here:
    1. When Data says that the purpose of life is to contribute in a positive way to the universe, I believe that this statement is a perfect explication of the Humanist point of view. Roddenberry’s vision of the future is steeped in the philosophy of Humanism and I believe that the character of Data lends itself to a further discussion of these humanist ideals. The purpose of life, according to Data, is not to achieve anything higher than contributing positively to the universe. In this way, Data’s search to become more “human” is his search to define what “positivity” is. This idea of “positive” or “meaningful” is not a static concept and thusly provides a constant impetus for Data to continue his search. In the scene, Data is attempting to teach the idea of this search to Lal.
    2. Data also says that the effort “yields it’s own rewards.” This part of the statement aligns strongly with the Bhagavad Gita where it says “be intent on action, not on the fruits of action.” The fruits, in Data’s case, is the actual becoming of himself into being fully human (whatever that means…). Data is saying that the fruits of action (the end goal) is not a motivator for action. What is the motivator? The motivator is the positivity that the action can contribute to the universe.

  21. David Dylan says:

    This is one of those poorly executed Star Trek shows that has incredible ideas, not really expressed. The show would have been a interesting movie if it focused on the usual things that make us interested in androids – what is it to be human? What is love? How can we get along with others if we are too smart? Why would an android choose a gender? What is life? Etc… And then there are all kinds of questions about childhood, growing up, dealing with our emotions.

    Some of this was handled well in the episode. But then the episode veers off and wants to be another Measure of a Man – but then it suddenly realizes it can’t do that again, so, well time’s up and the writers wash their hands of the whole thing. Pity.