This week’s Spotlight on Star Trek we look at The Offspring. This one I think is gaining relevance in the wake of the trans hysteria gripping the west. While I never had a problem with someone wanting to transition, the craziness of this fad has become a social contagion and is affecting minors and children.
So much so that divorces are happening and those parents who want to stop their former spouses from trying to experiment on little Johnny are getting blocked by the state. You can read stories here and here.
Data has a kid. Well, he’s an android so the birthing process is much different than humans. The “child” starts out as a mostly formed biped, with the ability to speak but no real definable form. Neither human nor alien, not man or woman, it simply is. It must choose its final form.
This is where many might think this is an endorsement of this movement but couldn’t be further from the truth. This is part of the natural birthing process for androids. Once the form is picked, it cannot be changed and will become a part of the being. It will have to deal with society in the form picked from then on.
Could it be changed later? Possibly, this is Star Trek. But Data is pretty clear on how this will go for his child. Even though it gets to choose, Data remarks “It’s a big decision.” This infers a sense of permanence. While we don’t get to pick, we do have to adapt to our sex and physicality. Lal will have to do the same.
The child is named Lal, which means “beloved” in Hindi. An interesting choice since he cannot love. Lal chooses the form of a human female. She then begins learning the ins and outs of human and social interaction. There are some setbacks as one might expect but she learns quickly.
Starfleet has other ideas, however, seeing Lal as an amazing leap forward in Android technology. Admiral Haftel shows up to take Lal to a Starbase for study. Picard at first has trouble accepting this new being as Data’s child but having worked in the past to establish Data’s rights as a sentient being, he cannot in good conscience allow Admiral Haftel take Lal from Data as if she and Data have no liberties.
Lal, confronted by the possibility of being taken from her father becomes afraid. A real emotion that even Troi can sense, even though it causes a cascade failure in her positronic brain. Haftel offers to help Data repair the damage but it is too late and Lal experiences total system failure. Data is able to download her memories into his own neural net so that she would not pass into oblivion.
Admiral Haftel’s willingness to simply take Lal was astonishing given how Data’s rights have clearly been established. But his heel turn at the end attempting to save Lal’s life and was deeply moved with Data’s perseverance in the face of certain failure affected him. I appreciated that, an Admiral that wasn’t a complete dick.
But it should never have been that way in the first place. Picard himself is initially aghast at Data having created another Android and can’t understand why everyone is calling her a child. But as the story progresses he begins to understand that life as we know it can be strange and mysterious, but it is life nonetheless. And life propagates.
When the story comes to a head with Haftel ordering Data to turn Lal over to Starfleet, Picard puts his foot down.
There are times, sir, when… men of good conscience cannot 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.
“Hand a child over to the state.” At the time, this kind of thing seemed nearly impossible in this day and age and yet we now have that exact sort of thing happening. Terrifying. The state and those who support it are perfectly fine with this course of action if it supports their fetishes. Yes that’s what I’m calling it.
Once again Star Trek sounded the warning and once again, we aren’t listening.
I’m of two minds of the quality of this episode. I think the ideas are superb and Lal gaining emotions, essentially exceeding Data’s capabilities, was probably the thing I focused on more due to my affection for the characters, rather than the broader implications. I still find it heartbreaking at the end when Lal finally dies.
But I also feel this is a missed opportunity. I have been critical of the over arching storylines and would like to see more episodic stories but this is where that format is a detriment. Lal continuing, maybe becoming a regular character would have had a lot more implications for the show moving forward. Killing her, while done extremely well, still was just a reset button in a lot of ways. She was only mentioned once more that I recall. (Correct me in the comments.)
Of course in Picard, Soji bore a strong resemblance and we saw how making androids was abused by Kurtzman and company.
A somewhat underrated episode, not at the heights of The Inner Light or Best Of Both Worlds but solid nonetheless.
See my previous Spotlight On Star Trek The Drumhead.
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