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Old 03-16-2020, 12:52 AM
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Nate the Great Nate the Great is offline
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March 12th, 1990, "The Offspring"

Fiver (by saxamaphone)
Transcript
Memory Alpha

I'd never heard of saxamaphone. Apparently he was around in the early days, but mostly stuck to the game threads which I avoided. This was probably also before Marc took over NextGen.

Oh, and I'll be chainsawing this thing apart as usual, but most of it is the Treknobabble stuff, there are good performances here.

The Episode

Captain's log, Stardate 43657.0 While Commander Riker is away on personal leave, the Enterprise has travelled to sector three nine six to begin charting the Selebi Asteroid Belt.

This is extremely petty, but I don't like it when the flagship is given this type of mission. This is what small science vessels are for, or the Excelsior class at most. I understand that this episode is about character work and not action, but at least think of something that needs the resources of the flagship!

Furthermore, an asteroid belt? You don't even need a starship for that sort of thing, just send some probes! At least toss in a line that justifies why this asteroid belt needs a bigger ship. Maybe it's near the Romulan border, maybe it's a known hiding place for Orion pirates, something!

TROI: It's not like Data to be so secretive.
WESLEY: And cautious. He kept the lab locked every minute.

I guess we're supposed to chalk this up to pre-emotions on Data's part. It's definitely been implied by previous events that finding a way to make working sentient androids is a matter of utility and not fame (except for Maddox, of course). Why wouldn't Data share his project, at least with Geordi? Surely by now he knows that from time to time a second set of eyes (no joke implied) are important in problem-solving.

I admit to being curious as to the level of "lockness" that Data is using. Surely the writer is implying something beyond the usual "the doors won't open unless you're an authorized user or allowed in by an authorized user." The easiest answer would be an extra external lock applied to the door by Data himself, but that doesn't seem likely. Equally implausible is that he is working from an external "public" lab and not his own personal lab, a lab that isn't supposed to be locked under normal circumstances.

LAL: Purpose for exterior drapings, Father?
WESLEY: (mouthed only) Father?
DATA: It is an accepted custom that we wear clothing.

Ugh! Repeat previous comments about memorizing all of Earth knowledge if not all of Federation knowledge here. Lal must have an interior dictionary to know what words are and how to use them, the interior dictionary would be connected to an interior encyclopedia for deeper knowledge. You can't do this sort of thing! Lal clearly has access to an English dictionary because she doesn't have to be taught how to speak!

You could easily turn this topic in a slightly more thoughtful direction by having Lal remark that the reasons that humans use clothes don't apply to androids as they don't need clothes and don't have sex drives or get embarrassed. Data can then explain that this doesn't matter, humans get awkward around naked people and wearing clothes makes it easier to interact with them.

DATA: True, but here was a new submicron matrix transfer technology introduced at the conference which I discovered could be used to lay down complex neural net pathways.

I get what they're going for, but the problem as I saw it wasn't making the positronic brain more complicated across the board, it was making it sentient! In addition, how did Data get the plans for these "complex neural net pathways"? Did he tell the computer to deactivate him, do the scan, and then activate him? Can Data move all of himself from RAM into ROM? That seems doubtful. Could he temporarily move himself into the ship's computer to free up his positronic brain to be scanned? Equally doubtful.

PICARD: Data, I would like to have been consulted.
DATA: I have not observed anyone else on board consulting you about their procreation, Captain.

Whether Data or Picard is right depends on your interpretation of Federation humanity's ideals. A big landmine is whether or not you can call what Data is doing true procreation in a sense that's legally defendable.

Then again, there must be Federation members that are truly asexual (in the physiological sense) and depend on external mechanisms (no matter how primitive) to procreate. There's a discussion to be had here.

TROI: Why didn't you give it a more human look, Data?
DATA: I decided to allow my child to choose its own sex and appearance.

Another philosophical and religious minefield. Let's skip to the chase: for androids wouldn't this sort of thing be easy enough to mod via refit? The notion that this is a one-time deal that can't be changed later is absurd.

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 is 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?

Given the events of "Measure of a Man", Picard's opinion here seems unusual. Couldn't we have brought in a minor character (one of Crusher's nurses?) who could've been the scapegoat?

PICARD: Well, if he must, but I fail to understand how a five foot android with heuristic learning systems and the strength of a ten men can be called a child.

Ten men? I think Data's stronger than that. And the last time I checked, "child" wasn't a definition based on ultimate mental or physical potential.

PICARD: Have you any idea what will happen when Starfleet learns about this?
DATA: I have followed all of Starfleet regulations to the best of my ability. I expected they would be pleased.

There are Starfleet regulations for this? Surely this would fall under "there aren't Starfleet orders about it because we didn't expect anyone would do it!"

LAL: I am gender neuter. Inadequate.

Oh boy, another minefield! Seriously, this is the wrong word to be using here. "Incomplete" would even have been a better word. Surely Data's plan to let her choose would've been in her initial programming.

LAL: I choose your sex and appearance.
DATA: No, Lal. That would be confusing.

And illegal, as I'm pretty sure the "no holograms of real people without permission" thing extends in more directions, just like our laws about using the images of others today.

DATA: We are taking you to the holodeck to show you several thousand composites I have programmed.

That's one thing that will get (even more) annoying in the future: so many options that you get paralyzed.

DATA: An Andorian female.
TROI: Interesting. You'll be the only one on board the Enterprise, Lal.
DATA: That could make socialisation more difficult.

Ugh. You can only be close friends with people of your own species? That's absurd and completely Anti-Federation thinking. Also, 1012 people on board and not one Andorian? They do remember that Andor was a founding member, right?

DATA: A human male.
TROI: Very attractive. There's no problem with socialisation here.

Seriously, physically attractive=socially active? Yikes is there a lot to unpack in that single sentence. I'm getting flashbacks of "Is There in Truth No Beauty" here...

DATA: A Klingon male.
TROI: A friend for Worf.

More racism? And for Worf? Have we ever seen him have trouble making friends (higher lifeforms, body-swappers, and Romulans don't count)? Of course not, he believes in the Federation ideals that Troi is throwing out the window for this entire scene!

DATA: I have completed the assembly of the replicated anatomy. I was able to provide Lal with more realistic skin and eye colour than my own.

Is Data's skin not replaceable or modifiable? First Contact suggests otherwise. This line implies that Data is displeased with his appearance, but it would be easy to fix!

LAL: Home. Place of residence. Social unit formed by a family living together.
DATA: Yes. We are a family, Lal. Chair. To sit in. Sit. Good. Painting.
LAL: Painting. Colours produced on a surface by applying a pigment.
DATA: Yes. I will teach you to recognise the artistry in paintings.

Lal's habit of defining everything she sees was never funny. (Neither was Data's, to be honest) Oh, and Lal didn't define "painting" correctly. You aren't applying a "pigment" to the surface (or even producing colors i.e. a chemical change to the surface), you're applying a material that contains pigment to a surface. Hey, if she's going to parroting dictionary entries at me I want them to be accurate!

DATA: No, that is a flower, Lal. Inhale.

I hope Data kept a live flower around to show her, because he wouldn't need one otherwise.

WESLEY: What does Lal do while you're on duty?
DATA: She studies in our quarters.

Does she read PADDs or just jack herself into the wall?
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