Thursday, May 2, 2013

Star Trek: The Next Generation 3x16 "The Offspring"


Like an echo of "The Measure of a Man," one of the defining episodes of the second season and the young series as a whole to that point, "The Offspring" explores the concept of the rights of an artificial lifeform.  This time we're considering the daughter/creation of Data rather than Data himself.

Data is of course the son/creation of Noonian Soong.  I think I would be more interested in that episode, that semi-sequel, in which we see a tad more of Soong than simply his fatherly latterday relationship, and more of what he thinks of Data and how he dealt with the prejudices of others as they faced the reality of having an incredibly human android running around.  (There were nods here and there to that, but I always had the sense that Data's would be another story that could easily carry its own series, or perhaps movie reboot.  As a plus, Brent Spiner could still easily portray Soong.)

Still, I'm here to talk about Lal.  Although in hindsight this is perhaps not the greatest story to tell in a single episode rather than arc (just imagine what Deep Space Nine would have done with it), it's still notable (and in fact might be said to be a kind of basis for a similar Voyager episode, "Latent Image," a classic that sees The Doctor struggling with the very thing that eventually ends Lal's existence).  As a continuation of "Measure," it's worth noting, too.  Most Data episodes about Data himself and the legacy of his creator were about Lore, Data's evil twin (the way that sounds only makes it sound bad).  The last odd thing I'll say is that it's weird that Data apparently gave up making babies (as it were) after this experience, especially after everything the characters talk about in the episode, and his own yearning to keep his kind around should anything happen to him (which would make Star Trek Nemesis and B-4 far better in context than most fans have been willing to admit).

Anyway, so obviously there's plenty to recommend about "The Offspring," even if it's basically a springboard for a lot of nitpicking.  But it's far less creepy than anything Harry Mudd was doing in the original series.

On top of everything else, Starfleet is still obsessed with exploiting the unique breakthroughs that allow Data and Lal to exist.  It's worth wondering why that is, if even in the future devoid of monetary motivation an organization the size of Starfleet thinks that space exploration would be so much easier with the fallible human element.  What's up with that?  By the time of the Emergency Medical Hologram, it's still trying to exploit this concept.  Sure, it's probably a metaphor about our own times and trying to deny basis human rights to a given minority, but it's certainly a shift from the ideals of Gene Roddenberry.  But then again, Spock was always running into subtle bigotry as well.  Is it just a given that we'll never be able to shake that impulse?

Although now that I've thought about it, DS9 did do this episode, and it was better.  It's called "The Begotten."  Watch that and "Latent Image," and that'll be the true worth of this one, its own legacy.

franchise * series * essential * character

notable guest-stars:
Whoopi Goldberg

Memory Alpha summary.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...