Episode: "The Offspring"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 16
Original Air Date: March 12, 1990
Data becomes a father. He has built an android with a positonic brain like his own, transferring some of his own neural pathways to the new entity. He names her Lal and he claims her as his daughter.
The news is shocking to Data's friends. Picard is initially appalled that he wasn't consulted before Data embarked on the project. Data defends his rights as a sentient being seeking to procreate and in time, the captain accepts Data's point of view. The higher powers at Starfleet take a bit more convincing.
"The Offspring" is my favorite episode. Lal's lightning quick journey from birth to emotional being to demise is amusing, touching, frustrating, inspiring and ultimately heart-breaking. The final exchange between Data and Lal is one of the most moving passages in the entire franchise:
Lal: I love you, father.
Data: I wish I could feel it with you.
Lal: I will feel it for both of us... thank you for my life.
Data stories tend to do well in best episode rankings. I have to admit they don't always work for me. No matter the shifting dynamics around him, Data is a static character. Others grow from the experience. He learns but is ultimately unchanged. "The Offspring" is an exception. Data is always reaching to be more human and this is the story in which I feel he comes closest to reaching it, or at least appreciating the value in the aspiration itself. Are wishing to love and loving really so different? Yes, they are. But the wish is a huge step forward. In the end, Data physically embeds aspects of Lal's experience into his own brain. In effect, he grows.
The episode is important for a couple of behind the scenes personnel reasons. It is the first episode directed by Jonathan Frakes. While I like to poke fun at Frakes's handsome woodenness on-screen, he has been both successful and effective behind the camera. He is one of only two people - and the only cast member - to direct both a TV episode (22 of them, actually) and a movie (2). "The Offspring" was an awfully good start.
"The Offspring" is also the writing debut for Rene Echevarria. It was the beginning of a long association for Echevarria, a writer, producer and story editor for numerous TNG and DS9 episodes. Not coincidentally, he has written several of the episodes I like best. He brought a broad emotional range to Star Trek with ripples felt well into the current century.
Hallie Todd (Lal) was born Hallie Jane Eckstein, January 7, 1962 in Los Angeles, California. She was born into a show biz family. Her mother, actress Ann Morgan Guilbert, would be familiar to fans of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
In fact, mom was pregnant with Hallie during filming of the show, the physical manifestations cleverly hidden through costuming. Todd's father, George Eckstein, was a writer and producer. Todd got her training at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.
Most of Todd's credits have been on television. She had principal roles on Brothers, Going Places, Life with Roger and Lizzie McGuire. In addition to Trek, she made guest appearances on Growing Pains, The Golden Girls and Murder, She Wrote. More recently, she makes films with her husband and daughter, both writers, for their family-owned production company: In House Media Film Partners.
She has also written two books: Being Young Actors and Parenting the Young Actor.