(written from a Production point of view)
|TNG, Episode 3x16|
Production number: 40273-164
First aired: 12 March 1990
|←||63rd of 176 produced in TNG||→|
|←||63rd of 176 released in TNG||→|
|←||170th of 728 released in all||→|
| Written By|
Data attracts new scrutiny from Starfleet when he decides to build a child.
- "Captain's log, Stardate 43657.0. While Commander Riker is away on personal leave, the Enterprise has traveled to Sector 396 to begin charting the Selebi asteroid belt."
Wesley Crusher, Geordi La Forge, and Counselor Deanna Troi are walking to Data's lab, where he has summoned them without revealing to them why. As they are walking, they speculate about what Data might have in store for them. La Forge says that ever since the cybernetic conference Data has been spending every second in the lab. When they finally arrive at the lab, they find out that he has created a Soong-type android and named it Lal. The android greets them and somewhat taken aback, they realize that it calls Data father, upon which Data states that in fact Lal is his child.
- "Captain's log, Supplemental. I have just been advised of a highly unusual project undertaken by Commander Data."
In his lab, Data explains that Lal has a positronic brain which is very similar to his own and that he began programming it at the cybernetics conference. La Forge points out that no one has ever been able to do such a thing, at least not after Data was created. Data explains that there was a new sub-micron matrix transfer technology introduced at the conference which he discovered could be used to lay down complex neural-net pathways. Essentially, he did a transfer from his brain to Lal's.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who is also taken aback by this, tells Data that he would have liked to be consulted. Data is a little surprised at the captain's request, pointing out that he has not ever noticed anyone else on board consulting him about their procreation. Troi asks why he hasn't given it a more Human look, as this model looks androgynous. Data states that he decided to allow his child to chose its own sex and appearance. Picard, whose state of mind borders ever closer to irritation, asks that Data see him in his ready room at his earliest convenience. When leaving, he asks Counselor Troi to accompany him. During their conversation down the corridor, Picard insists that they do whatever they can to discourage the perception of this new android as a child, for it is not a child, to Picard, but an invention. Deanna wonders why biology, rather than technology, should determine whether it's a child for after all, Data has created an offspring, a new life out of his own being. To her, that suggests a child. She thinks that they have no say in Data's wish to call Lal his child. Picard states that he fails to understand how a five-foot android with heuristic learning systems and the strength of ten men can be called a child. Troi responds by pointing out that Picard has never been a parent.
Determined to put an end to this, Picard still has a conversation with Data in his ready room. He tells him that what he has done will have serious ramifications, especially after Starfleet finds out about it. Data apologizes, stating that he did not anticipate his objections and asks whether he should just turn it off. Picard argues that he cannot just turn it on and off like a machine. He tells Data that he has taken on quite a responsibility by creating a new life, which, according to Picard, has nothing to do with the challenges of parenting itself. Data, however, wonders if that itself does not describe becoming a parent. Picard, who is growing increasingly impatient with Data, realizes that he is just not getting through to him like this. But Data tries to make him understand by pointing out that in most species there is a primal instinct to perpetuate themselves and until now, he has been the last of his kind. If he were to be damaged or destroyed, he would be lost forever. But if he is successful with the creation of Lal, his continuance is assured. He understands the risks and he is prepared to accept the responsibility.
Later, Data and Counselor Troi take Lal to the holodeck so it can try on various appearances and genders. After many hours of searching, the choices are narrowed down to an Andorian female, a Human male, a Human female, and a Klingon male. Data's offspring chooses to be a Human female.
Data takes Lal into their quarters and tries to acquaint her with her new life, explaining to her that they are a family now. He teaches her about painting, which she identifies as colors produced on a surface by applying a pigment. He helps her process and understand the sense of touch and explains that there are many experiences that he wishes to share with her. Lal is very enthusiastic about all this and wants to learn more.
- "Second Officer's Science log, Supplemental. Training in social skills at the most elementary level has begun. Lal is progressing very slowly, but is not deterred by early set-backs. While motor coordination has improved 12%, reflexes still need to develop. Visual comprehension is especially difficult for Lal; translating her vast data banks into recognizable applications may improve with additional transfers. She is also learning to supplement her innate android behavior with simulated human responses. And it is interesting to note that as I observe Lal learning about her world, I share in her experience, almost as though I am learning things over again."
Later in his lab, Wes asks Data what Lal does while he is on duty. Data states that she studies in their quarters for she requires very little supervision. Wesley wonders if he has considered sending her to school, but Data responds that she already has full access to the sum of human knowledge from him. Wesley objects that she could still learn a lot by being with children close to her own age. While they are discussing all this, Doctor Beverly Crusher calls in to remind Wesley of his haircut appointment.
After he leaves, Data turns Lal back on and she asks him quite curiously what her purpose is; her function, her reason for being. Data says that their function is to contribute in a positive way to the world in which they live. But Lal wonders why she is needed instead of someone else, she wonders where she came from. Data does not answer her questions directly, but rather moves on to point out that all her questioning is a very good sign, for now she will be able to process information on logic, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology; she is truly becoming sentient by developing the awareness to question and examine her perceptions. Lal, however, carries on by asking a multitude of questions. A little overwhelmed by all her questions, Data just turns her off mid-sentence.
In the meantime, Starfleet, which has gotten wind of the situation, communicates with Captain Picard about Lal. Picard tries to explain that for Data, this android is his child and that he respects that. He is barely able to convince Starfleet to let Lal remain on board for the time being, but is fully aware that the time will come where he has to make that dreaded tough decision about Lal's fate.
Lal's first day at school is not going so well either. She is too smart for most classes and the other children are afraid of her because she appears much older than them. Data takes her out of school and tries to explain certain things to her, such as peoples' fear of things that are different and which are new to them. Lal claims that she does not wish to be different.
A little helpless about how to guide and help Lal in this time, Data seeks out the help of Dr. Crusher, whom he considers to be an example of a good parent. He tells her that Lal wishes to be more like the others and that he doesn't know how to help her. Crusher tells him that when Wes was growing up, he was a very bright boy, but also had a hard time making friends, mainly because the other children were intimidated by him. Crusher approached this by telling Wesley about herself, about when she was younger and unpopular. This made Wes see that she understood him. Data realizes that he has not told Lal how difficult it was for him to assimilate. Crusher suggests that he lets her know that she is not alone and tells him to be there and nurture her when she needs love and attention. Data points out that he can give her attention but that he is incapable of giving her love. Crusher finds that hard to believe.
Later in his quarters, Captain Picard receives the dreaded message from Admiral Haftel who explains to him that he has discussed the situation with Starfleet Command and the Enterprise is to hold position until he joins them to personally review the android's development. He advises him that if he is not satisfied with what he sees, he is empowered to take the android back with him.
- "Captain's log, Supplemental. We are holding position pending the arrival of Admiral Haftel, from Starfleet Research. Commander Data is completing his final neural transfers to the android he has named Lal, which I learned in the language Hindi means "beloved"."
Data decides to leave Lal in the care of the bartender Guinan, who begins to teach her the fundamentals of Human interaction and behavior. Guinan "hires" Lal, and tells her that the most important aspect of working in a place like Ten Forward is the art of listening. All three are surprised when Lal uses a verbal contraction (saying "I've" instead of "I have"), a skill which Data has never been able to master. She has exceeded his abilities.
Captain Picard calls Data to his ready room and explains Starfleet's desire to transfer Lal, and only Lal, to a more suitable environment. Data, who doesn't seem to understand the seriousness of the situation, states that he doesn't agree with that decision because he feels that Lal can learn a lot from his own experiences and that he should not be separated from her. Then it finally dawns on him that the admiral is questioning his ability as a parent when suggesting to take Lal to a different environment. He wonders if the admiral has children and how much experience he had as a parent when his first child was born.
In Ten Forward, Lal, together with Guinan, is observing a couple engaged in typical courtship behavior. When the male kisses the girl, she yells out that he is biting her. Guinan tells her that he is not biting her, but instead is kissing her. However, she leaves it up to Data to explain to Lal what follows after the couple leaves Ten Forward in a hurry.
Commander Riker, returning from leave and unaware of Data's creation, walks into Ten Forward and begins flirting with Lal, asking her casually if she is new around here. She experiments with some of her new knowledge by suddenly grabbing Riker from across the bar and kissing him. At that moment, Data walks in, asking the commander what his intentions towards his daughter are. A shocked and embarrassed Riker hastily excuses himself and rushes out of the bar.
In their quarters, Lal realizes that she will never know love. Data tells her that it is a limitation they must accept, upon which Lal wonders why he is then still trying to emulate Humans. Data replies that it is the struggle itself that is most important; they must strive to be more than they are. It does not matter that they will never reach their ultimate goal, the effort yields its own rewards. Lal then, remembering what she learned about Humans holding hands and it being a symbolic gesture of affection, holds her father's hand in gratitude.
Admiral Haftel finally arrives and the captain realizes that he did not come here to form an opinion, but to justify one. Picard asks for time, patience, and an open mind from the admiral - allowing Lal to stay with Data during her formative years until she is ready to move on to other tasks and challenges. The admiral states that this is not a satisfactory suggestion, because if mistakes are made, the damage might be irreparable. He also wonders why Picard is so insistent about this, asking him whether he seriously believes that they are breaking up a family of some sort. Angrily, Picard states that they Data and Lal are living, sentient beings that have rights in their society; rights he helped define. But the admiral disagrees, stating that Lal might be the next pivotal step towards the development of artificial intelligence and that work like this demands to be done with controlled procedures in effective isolation.
In an attempt to understand what Lal's life and development are like on the ship, the admiral decides to see her and talk to her. He is taken to Ten Forward, where Lal is working as a waitress. Even though Data tries to explain to him the value of letting Lal be in such an interactive environment where she can observe Human behavior, the admiral seriously questions Data's intentions of appropriate guidance. He is indignant to see a being that can run sixty trillion calculations a second working as a cocktail waitress. He is not even convinced that the behavior she observes here will have a good influence on her to begin with. He wants Lal out of there and wants her to report to him for an interview.
Lal goes to see the admiral, who sugarcoats his intentions to her, telling her that Starfleet is very excited about meeting her soon. She wonders if she has done something wrong since they are planning to move her away from her father. The admiral tells her that they only want to take her with them so she can learn more, nothing else, for after all, there is only so much she can learn on a starship. Lal agrees, stating that after she has learned everything there is to learn aboard a starship, she will relocate. But the admiral insists that this is not the natural conclusion here. Trying to ameliorate the situation, Picard tries to point out the positive aspects of her going away and the admiral states how much respect he has for Data. Lal points out that he in fact does not speak with respect. Picard then decides to ask Lal directly what she thinks about her father's ability to teach her and what her wishes are. Lal says that she wishes to remain on board the Enterprise.
After leaving the admiral, Lal, who is very upset, goes to see Counselor Troi. She is distraught and stutters about an admiral from Starfleet coming to take her away and that she is scared. Deanna is startled to realize she can sense Lal's fear. Lal is irritated and clearly frightened, unable to comprehend what she is feeling.
In the briefing room, Haftel orders Data to hand Lal over to Starfleet. He tries to appeal to Data's new-found sense of parenthood, explaining that there is a time where all parents have to let go of their children for their own good. Picard states that this is not the time, however, for the child depends on him. Data says that when he created Lal, it was in the hopes that one day she enter the Academy, that she become a member of Starfleet. He wanted to give something back in return for all that Starfleet has given him. But Lal is his child and he is being asked to volunteer to give her up; something he cannot do, for it would violate every lesson he has learned about Human parenting. It is his duty, and not Starfleet's, to guide this new life through all the steps to maturity, to prepare her to be a contributing member of society, to be there for her when she learns. No one can relieve him from that obligation. He is her father.
The admiral refuses to give in, and orders that Lal be transferred aboard his ship. Picard tells Data to belay that order, stating that he is willing to take this to the highest level of Starfleet himself if he has to. He politely responds that even though the admiral acknowledges their consciousness, he nevertheless still ignores their personal liberties and freedoms. "Order a man to hand his child over to the state? Not while I'm his captain," Picard states firmly. He is about to suggest that the admiral go with him to Starfleet about this, when Counselor Troi calls Data to his lab.
Troi explains what has happened to Lal, how she was very frightened and then walked out of her quarters back to the lab. Lal was programmed to report back to the lab in case of a malfunction – a malfunction which Picard calls emotional awareness. Data states that this appears to be a cascade failure, requiring initialization of the base matrix without wiping out higher functions. The admiral agrees with him and asks Data whether he could assist in his efforts.
Despite working for hours, however, Lal cannot be saved. The admiral emerges from the room, exhausted, and explains to Data's anxious friends that no matter what they did, something else would show up: they repolarized one pathway and another would collapse, and then another. He says that Data just would not give up but that they still were not able to save her.
In the lab, Lal and Data share her last moments together: Data tells her that he is unable to correct the system failure, and that they must say goodbye now. She says that she feels... she tells him that she loves him and that even though he cannot feel it with her, she can feel it for both of them. She thanks him for her life and the things she learned about: flirting, laughter, painting, family, female, Human...
Walking to the bridge, where everyone is gathered and concerned, Data explains that Lal suffered complete neural system failure at 13:00 hours and that he deactivated the unit. Captain Picard tells him how much the crew is saddened by his loss. Data thanks him for the sympathy, but points out that she is there with him: that her presence enriched his life so much that he could not allow her to pass in oblivion. That is why he transferred her memories into himself.
Data takes his station on the bridge; however, as he looks out into space, it is clear that Lal's death has had an effect on him.
- "Captain's log, supplemental. I have just been advised of a highly unusual project undertaken by Commander Data."
- "Second officer science log, supplemental. Training and social skills at the most elementary level has begun. Lal is progressing very slowly, but is not deterred by early setbacks. While motor coordination has improved 12%, reflexes still need to develop. Visual comprehension is especially difficult for Lal. Translating her vast data banks into recognizable applications may improve with additional transfers. She is also learning to supplement her innate android behavior with simulated Human responses... and it is interesting to note that as I observe Lal learning about her world, I share in her experience almost as though I am learning things over again."
- "Captain's log, supplemental. We are holding position pending the arrival of Admiral Haftel from Starfleet Research. Commander Data is completing his final neural transfers to the android he has named Lal; which I have learned in the language Hindi means beloved."
"I have observed that in most species there is a primal instinct to perpetuate themselves. Until now I have been the last of my kind. If I would be damaged or destroyed, I will be lost forever. But if I am successful with the creation of Lal, my continuance is assured. I understand the risk, sir. And I am prepared to accept the responsibility."
- - Data
"Congratulations, Data! It's a girl!"
- - Troi to Data, after unveiling Lal's choice of gender
"I can give her attention, doctor. But I am incapable of giving her love."
(after Data leaves) "Now why do I find that so hard to believe?"
- - Data and Crusher
"He's biting that female!"
- - Lal, seeing a couple kiss
"Why are they leaving?"
"Lal, there are some things your father's just gonna have to explain to you when he thinks you're ready."
- - Lal and Guinan, as the couple leave Ten Forward hand-in-hand
"Commander, what are your intentions towards my daughter?"
- - Data and Riker, just after Riker was kissed by Lal
"There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders. You acknowledge their sentience, but ignore their personal liberties and freedom. Order a man to turn his child over to the state? Not while I am his captain."
- - Picard to Admiral Haftel after Haftel orders Data to turn over Lal to Starfleet Command
"Lal, how are you?"
"I am functioning within normal... I'm fine, thank you."
- - Guinan speaking to Data and Lal as they walk in Ten Forward
"Then he is questioning my ability as a parent."
"In a manner of speaking..."
"Does the Admiral have children, Sir?"
"I believe he does. Why?"
"I am forced to wonder how much experience he had as a parent when his first child was born."
- - Data and Picard
"We just want to broaden your experience. There is only so much you can learn on a starship."
- - Haftel
"I watch them, and I can do the things they do, but I will never feel the emotions. I'll never know love."
"It is a limitation we must learn to accept, Lal."
"Then why do you still try to emulate Humans? What purpose does it serve except to remind you that you are incomplete?"
"I have asked myself that, many times, as I have struggled to be more Human. Until I realized, it is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be more than we are, Lal. It does not matter that we will never reach our ultimate goal. The effort yields its own rewards."
"You are wise, father."
"It is the difference between knowledge and experience."
- - Lal and Data
"She... she won't survive much longer. There was nothing anyone could have done. We'd repolarize one pathway and another would collapse. And then another. His... hands were moving faster than I could see, trying to stay ahead of each breakdown. He refused to give up. He was remarkable. Just... wasn't meant to be."
- - Haftel, close to tears, about him and Data trying to save Lal
"What do you feel, Lal?"
"I love you, father."
"I wish I could feel it with you."
"I will feel it for both of us... thank you for my life."
- - Lal and Data, saying goodbye
"Flirting... laughter... painting family... female... Human."
- - Lal (final words)
Story and production
- "The Offspring" originated in a spec script written by René Echevarria. Michael Piller recalled, "'The Offspring' was a great spec script, except it was, at first, barely about our people. It was really about a very brand-new, exciting female android that Data created out of his own image, and it was all about her. And I said, 'That's great. But it can't be about the guest star. It's got to be about one of our people. It's got to be about Data. It's not about Data's child as much as it is about how Data deals with being a parent. Everybody will be able to relate to that and empathize with the problems he has as a parent of a new child. Especially when that child is threatened by all sorts of outside forces.'" (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission 1st ed., p. 114)
- According to Piller, "It was a concept that I wanted to do, so we sat down with Gene and he came up with a number of suggestions and said this is what would make it fit into the Star Trek bible. Rick Berman added some crucial pieces to the puzzle. We [were] very determined to protect the uniqueness of Data as a character, but at the same time, it seemed to make perfect sense that one of the human traits that Data would have observed and perhaps covet, is procreation and parenting. He would also know that his value to Starfleet was so great that if he were ever in an accident, he's too valuable to end with himself." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 193)
- This episode was the first to be directed by Jonathan Frakes. Frakes recalled, "I went to [Rick] Berman and said I'd like to do a show. He said I'd have to go to school, and so I spent about 300 hours in the editing room and on the dubbing stage learning about that side of it. Editing was the side of things I felt weakest in. I naturally looked over the shoulders of all our regular directors and took some seminars, read textbooks and finally I didn't go away. Rick was kind enough to give me 'The Offspring' and I was thrilled because I got a Data show and those always work." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 193)
- In one of the scenes with Guinan tutoring Lal about Human sexuality, Whoopi Goldberg altered one of her script lines in order to turn a strictly heterosexual explanation into a gender-neutral version: "According to the script, Guinan was supposed to start telling Lal, '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 refused to say that. She said, '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 "someone ran to a phone and made a call to the production office and that was nixed. [Producer] David Livingston came down and made sure that didn't happen." (TNG research assistant Richard Arnold) 
- The original title of this episode was "Bloodlines", which later became a title for an episode in the seventh season. 
- Frakes went on to be one of Star Trek's most acclaimed directors, helming Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection along with several episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.
- This was the first Star Trek episode written by René Echevarria.
- This episode is considered a bottle show. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 193)
- Whereas the Season 2 episode "The Measure Of A Man" dealt with Data and his rights as an android, this episode deals with his rights as a parent toward what would constitute a living being. In both episodes, Picard acts as Data's advocate. Picard reinforces this when, in argument with Admiral Haftel, he states that an android's rights and sentience are well-defined in Federation law, and that Picard himself helped define them.
- The painting Data shows to Lal in his quarters is Tableau I with Red, Black, Blue and Yellow by Piet Mondrian. It can be seen on an easel in his quarters in the episodes "A Matter of Time" and "Hero Worship".
- When Captain Picard and Deanna Troi are discussing the relevance of Lal's status as a child in the corridor, there is a reference to Troi's experience of being a parent from "The Child".
- In this episode, Data incorrectly states that until the activation of Lal, he was the last of his kind. He may have been under the assumption that Lore had been incapacitated in "Datalore". In addition, he did not yet know about the Juliana Tainer and B-4 androids.
- The lift in the science laboratory was later reused in the chamber of the Borg Queen in VOY: "Dark Frontier".
- According to René Echevarria, ""The Offspring" will always have a special place in my heart since it was my first baby." wbm
- This is one of Michael Dorn's two favorite TNG episodes, the other being "The Drumhead". 
- Michael Piller named this episode (along with "The Inner Light" and "The Measure Of A Man") as one of his favorite TNG episodes, "because they had remarkable emotional impacts. And they genuinely explored the human condition, which this franchise does better than any other when it does it well." (AOL chat, 1997)
- Piller elaborated, "The perfect show to follow "Yesterday's Enterprise" and a totally different kind of episode. The script and performances were great, and it was marvelously directed by Jonathan. My taste, it was as good a show as we had all year. When you have good character stuff, you've got my support." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 193)
- In contrast, Melinda Snodgrass commented, "I felt it was fairly obvious and tired and stupid and I didn't want to do it. I did a page one rewrite and Michael did another rewrite. It had a lot to do with "The Measure Of A Man," which I don't think we needed to do again so soon. It was a good show for Jonathan to start with. It was a nice bottle show and he didn't have to cope with alien cultures." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 193)
- According to Jonathan Frakes, "The Offspring" was the best sci-fi episode ever written. (Interview from 2 November 2001, "Mission Overview Year Three - The Offspring", TNG Season 3 DVD special feature)
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 32, catalog number VHR 2552, 6 December 1991
- As part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - Data Box: 6 November 1995
- As part of the US VHS collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Data Collection: 19 August 1997
- As part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition, under the "Data" section, 29 September 1997
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 3.6, 14 August 2000
- As part of the TNG Season 3 DVD collection
- Doug Drexler's blog has tons of info on this episode: http://drexfiles.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/lal/
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
Special guest star
- Judyann Elder as Lt. Ballard
- Diane Moser as Ten Forward Crew
- Hayne Bayle as Ten Forward Crew
- Maria Leone as Ten Forward Crew
- James G. Becker as Ten Forward Crew
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Carrie Crain as Ten Forward waitress
- Leonard Crofoot as Lal-Mannequin
- Kristina Kochoff as Lal as Andorian
- Mark Lentry as science division officer
- Debbie Marsh as civilian
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Michael Moorehead as science division ensign
- Keith Rayve as command division ensign
- John Rice as science division officer
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Unknown performers as
- James G. Becker - stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Jeffrey Deacon - stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt - stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack - stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell - stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Guy Vardaman - stand-in for Wil Wheaton
Andorian; epistemology; Template:ShipClass; Klingon; metaphysics; Otar II; parenting; positronic brain; procreation; Romulans; Sector 396; Selebi asteroid belt; Soong, Noonian; Soong-type android; starbase; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Research; turbolift
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"Sins of the Father"