Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 3 Episode 16

The Offspring

Aired Unknown Mar 12, 1990 on CBS
out of 10
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241 votes

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Episode Summary

Stardate:43657.0 Data becomes a father when he creates a Soong-type android in the form of a daughter named Lal. Issues are complicated when Lal starts showing signs of a more evolved consciousness, including the ability to feel emotions, which attracts the attention of Starfleet scientists who want to take her away from Data and examine her advanced systems.moreless

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  • contridictory episode

    in season 2 episode 9 the issue that seems to be brought up here i thought was solved this is proven case and point by In "Measure Of A Man," it is established that Data has the right to make his own decisions as much as any other sentient being. If this is the case, and Lal is the same form of life as Data, where in the world does the Admiral get the idea that he can dictate what Lal does? straight from the trivia and quotes of the episode . did they not want to just deal with data being a parent and those issues alone? or is this an indirect way of dealing with women's right issues? but why did they just throw away the decision of the JAG officer? if this is possible could they do something like this to Data? in spite of all this i find it a touching episode and very emotional but it is still good but unfortunately still leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth because of the possible undertones.moreless
  • Not as impressed as other fans....

    Season 3's "The Offspring" seems to hold a strong place in the hearts of many Star Trek: TNG fans. Although I found it to be good overall with many elements to enjoy, "The Offspring" did not leave as strong an impression on me as it seems to have done for others.

    The story goes as follows: Data creates an android in his image with his programing, named Lal; basically his offspring. Starfleet salivates at the android's possibilities and wants to take her (as it ends up choosing to be a "her") away from Data and the Enterprise. Captain Picard has to deal with Starfleet's lack of respect for this new life and tries to find a way to keep Lal with Data. Meanwhile, the basic task of raising Lal proves difficult for Data - as it does for all parents.

    Where "The Offspring" goes right is the way that it depicts the trials of parenting. Lal's development is faster than most human children (mostly because she receives regimented updates of Data's programming, but also because it's only a 45-minute episode) but all the steps are there: motor skill development, social skill development, asking life's little questions, asking life's big questions, gaining an identity and becoming self-sufficient. If "The Offspring" affected me in any way it was reminding me of my own children and how much raising them has been a blessing in my life. Of course, Brent Spiner gives an especially great performance of Data in the episode as well. What really makes this performance stand out is the way that Spiner has to portray an emotionless Data going through things that make an ordinary person very emotional.

    The other way that "The Offspring" works as a good Star Trek: TNG episode is Captain Picard's role in all of this. Picard is put in the difficult, unique situation in having a new android on board with extraordinary abilities put into his care as ship's captain and defending his friend's right to care for that child against the greedy hands of the Federation. Patrick Stewart rises to the occasion and really impresses on screen.

    Unfortunately, I also think that "The Offspring" does not work well as a great episode of Star Trek: TNG. The main reason is how Lal is portrayed. Hallie Todd had the difficult task of portraying Lal but cannot quite make the grade. It takes a great, unique talent to not come off completely awkward as an android - Spiner is great as Data, making the audience like him immediately in just about every scenario. However, Lal comes off as awkward - and not endearingly so. Lal is a very creepy being - I found little to like about watching her; and if you cannot make the most emotional part of the episode work, which I think "The Offspring" does not, it's hard for the episode to be great.

    The other problem with "The Offspring" is the casting of Nicolas Coster as Admiral Haftel. Coster is horrible in the role - overacting completely in every scene. His moments in the final scenes are especially awful. Not only is his scene, describing Data's final acts of love towards Lal, poorly constructed on-screen, Coster garners laughs instead of tears as he describes the depressing scene.

    Overall, "The Offspring" is a good episode because of Spiner, Stewart and some good execution of some of the story points and themes - however, there are too many crucial flaws for me to consider this one of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.moreless
  • Apparently cybernetic females are just as complex to figure out as real ones.

    This bottle episode is superbly directed by Jonathan Frakes, and features four especially strong performances: Brent Spiner (Data) teams with guest star Hallie Todd (Lal), and Patrick Stewart (Picard) shares most of his scenes with Nicolas Coster (Admiral Haftel). Each twosome has chemistry and brings something unique to the table, making this "parenthood" story fresh, funny, and bitter sweet. Spiner, in particular, shines in a role that demands he be unemotional on the outside while going through a rollercoaster of emotions on the inside. Frakes, in his directorial debut, is only seen briefly as Riker, but he sets up the funniest line of the episode: "Commander, I must ask what your intentions are towards my daughter."moreless
  • One of the best episodes in the entire series. Funny, touching and ultimately heartbreaking.

    "The Offspring" is, appropriately enough, the offspring of two season 2 episodes – "The Measure of a Man" (in which Data's rights as individual were questions and established) and "Pen Pals" (in which Data befriended a young girl).

    Data was a fan favorite, and this kind of episode shows why. The character meshed really well with child actors, probably due to the fact that Data himself possessed a certain wide-eyed, childish innocence. There's a sequence in this episode where the android informs Dr. Crusher he is unable to feel love or any other emotion, and the good doctor replies that she has a hard time believing him. So do we, because Spiner's performance here, while understated, is incredibly emotional.

    However, this episode is at least as much about Data's offspring Lal. It's hard to come up with enough superlatives to describe Hailie Todd's performance; she matches her "father" in giving an extremely poignant performance. It's hard to believe that the same actress is playing the robotic Lal of the beginning and the all-too-human Lal of the conclusion. The moments featuring father and daughter alone are among the most intimate of the entire series.

    There are also nice supporting performances by Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg and Marina Sirtis.

    In addition, both the writers and the director should be acknowledged. This episode covers an enormous range of emotional ground – while much of it is lighthearted, it is also often thought-provoking (particularly in Data and Picard's conversations) and eventually tragic. And Jonathan Frakes does a superb job in his directorial debut – it's amazing how many subtleties he manages to sneak in, particularly with the Lal character.

    Highly recommended viewing, even for non-Star Trek fans.moreless
  • For those who like thought-provoking, emotional episodes, you sure will not be disappointed.

    In this episode we get a closer look at the character of Data, one of TNG's fan favorites. We get to see a completely different angle of his pursuit to become human as he creates a "child". But this "child", of course is made of wires and microchips. The battle over control of the new life form, between Starfleet and Capt. Picard adds to an episode that is already filled with plenty of drama. The beauty in the writing of the script is enhanced by a plot building towards a tragic finish. The ending I will not spoil, as it may even bring a tear to you eye.moreless
Patrick Stewart

Patrick Stewart

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes

Cmdr. William T. Riker

Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner

Lt. Cmdr. Data

Gates McFadden

Gates McFadden

Dr. Beverly Crusher

Marina Sirtis

Marina Sirtis

Counsellor/Lt. Cmdr. Deanna Troi

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge

Hallie Todd

Hallie Todd


Guest Star

Leonard Crofoot

Leonard Crofoot

Robotic Lal

Guest Star

Nicolas Coster

Nicolas Coster

Admiral Haftel

Guest Star

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • In "Measure Of A Man," it is established that Data has the right to make his own decisions as much as any other sentient being. If this is the case, and Lal is the same form of life as Data, where in the world does the Admiral get the idea that he can dictate what Lal does?

    • While first discussing parenting with Picard, Data says "I've noticed that...", even though he can't use contractions. Data and Guinan even acknowledge this when they find out Lal has this ability.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Picard: I insist we do whatever we can to discourage the perception of this new android as a child. It is not a child! It is an invention, albeit an extraordinary one.
      Troi: Why should biology rather than technology determine whether it's a child? Data has created an offspring. A new life out of his own being. To me, that suggests a child. If he wishes to call Lal his child, then who are we to argue?
      Picard: Well, if he must. But I fail to understand how a 5' android with heuristic learning systems and the strength of ten men can be called a child.
      Troi: You've never been a parent.

    • Picard: (about Lal) Data. I would like to have been consulted.
      Data: I have not observed anyone else onboard consulting you about their procreation, Captain.

    • Picard: There are times, sir, when men of good conscience can not 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'm his captain.

    • Lal: I feel.
      Data: What do you feel, Lal?
      Lal: I love you, Father.
      Data: I wish I could feel it with you.
      Lal: I will feel it for both of us.

    • Guinan: How are you, Lal?
      Lal: I am functioning within normal...I am fine, thank you.

    • Data: Commander, what are your intentions toward my daughter?

  • NOTES (3)

    • Whoopi Goldberg guest starred as the ship's bartender named "Guinan" who explains the facts of life to Lal. In the original script, the facts of life were explained by Guinan saying, "'When a man and a woman are in love ..." but Whoopi insisted that in the future people would not be homophobic and that the line should read, "when two people are in love." An attempt was also made to have a gay couple in the background while Whoopi was explaining the facts of life. The script was changed, but no gay couple was allowed to exist in the background.

    • This the first of only two times in TNG that we see an Andorian. Lal considers taking the form of an Andorian female (we see a projection on the Holodeck) but Troi comments that there are no Andorians on the Enterprise.

    • This marks the directorial debut of Jonathan Frakes. He would go on to direct many episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and several of the Star Trek feature films.


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