When Data returns from a cybernetics conference, he brings a surprise with him – he has started work on a new Soong-type android. Despite Picard’s misgivings, Data brings the new android – Lal – to life, and starts instructing her in the ways of life aboard the Enterprise. But when Starfleet takes an interest in Lal’s development, it seems as if this happy android family may be split up.
How could TNG follow up on The Measure of a Man and its exploration of Data’s sentience and status? As it turns out, The Offspring is an answer, an episode in which Data is able to ‘procreate’ by duplicating his neural pathways to make another being. Lal, like Data, is a marvel, and one that eventually surpasses her father, but what are the moral consequences of creating a sentient, artificial life? Is it really so different from two humanoid crewmembers having a baby? To be fair, both Geordi and Wesley have created sentient artificial life aboard the Enterprise-D, and neither of them got as much censure as Data did in this episode.
Anyway, Data episodes are always a surefire hit – except when they’re on the holodeck or set in the 19th century – and I enjoyed this one. It’s certainly a memorable entry in the series.
The Measure of an Android
- “I am gender neutral – inadequate”. The enlightened 24th century remains firmly glued to the gender binary in this episode, as Troi and Data insist that Lal be like everyone else and choose to be either male or female. Troi also claims that, once chosen, this gender must be retained for life, which is clearly untrue – especially for an android.
- There are no Andorians serving or living aboard the Enterprise. Apparently this might have made Lal isolated if she had chosen the appearance of an Andorian. What happened to all that tolerance and mixing in?
- Lal is able to both use contractions and feel emotions, thus making her more advanced than Data, who cannot do either (see what I did there?).
- Data appears to have a Mondrian hanging in his quarters. It is unclear if it is a replica painted by Data himself.
- Data never again tries to perfect his offspring creation technique. Perhaps the thought of losing another ‘child’ was too painful, or he didn’t want to risk Starfleet trying to take them away again.
Summary – The Offspring: Starfleet admirals are dicks.