Star Trek 171: The Offspring

171. The Offspring

FORMULA: What Are Little Girls Made Of? + The Measure of a Man + The Child

WHY WE LIKE IT: A real heartbreaker. Most of the regulars are wonderful, as is Hallie Todd.

WHY WE DON'T: Starfleet seems to have forgotten all about The Measure of Man.

REVIEW: One of my favorite episodes of all time, The Offspring very much hinges on Hallie Todd's performanc as Lal. And it's top notch. She manages to makes us care a great deal for her character, creating both comedic and tragic moments effortlessly. Her mime work is also good and helps make Lal very believable. And she's well surrounded. Brent Spiner offers some of his better work, despite some redundant dialogue on his part reminiscent of Pen Pals. There's immense subtlety in his final expression at the ops station. Patrick Stewart and Gates MacFadden are very naturalistic in their scenes, and I love their reactions throughout. Crusher's surprise at Data coming to her for advice and Picard's smiling nod when he admits to Haftel that, yes, he's jeopardizing his career, are two of many great character moments. By making Lal a girl, the show seems to have more for the women of the cast to do, with Crusher being joined by a lightly comedic Troi and a totally mischievious Guinan. This was Jonathan Frakes' first episode as director (he certainly pulled a winner script), so Riker isn't in it much. His one real scene ("What are your intentions toward my daughter?") is quite memorable, thank you very much.

Starfleet does come off rather badly here, since they seem to have forgotten about their allowing for android rights in The Measure of a Man, but that's par for the course, and it is revisited differently enough. Haftel, just like Maddox, isn't really a bad guy, and he comes to respect Data by the end. And what an end. When Lal suffers from cascade failure, it's wrenching. A real tear-jerker that doesn't fail to get me to break down every time.

I must take note on the writing, which has a number of wonderful touches, from the childish question "Why is the sky black?" to Lal's last words regressing her through her life lessons. Every scene with Lal has something special about it: Her discomfort after serving a drink (as Haftel watches), her not wanting to be different and Data not really knowing what to say, I could go on and on. A wonderful episode that makes you wish Hallie Todd could have joined the cast right then and there.

LESSON: Data now knows how it feels to kiss Riker.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Funny, touching, well-written, and more than able to overcome it's retread of the android issue. Gushing applause for the guest star.