The Offspring

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Mojomoe, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Mojomoe

    Mojomoe Commander Red Shirt

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    So, I just watched The Offspring for the first time in probably ten years. Huge TNG fan, just managed to skip it repeatedly in viewings. The first time I saw it I was younger, and taken with the "hey neat, he made an android!" sci-fi factor.

    This time, I was able to watch it as a morality play. And I have to say, I'm absolutely disgusted. I'm a SUPER liberal fella, and it takes a lot to get my ire up, but this one really just rubbed me the wrong way, so much so that I felt compelled to post here and see what you all think. Specifically, the Admiral's intention of, "hey, an officer who we've granted sentience under Federation law has had a child - I'ma take it, and Starfleet Research is behind me!"

    See, I understand the basic morality play at work here, and the dramatic/production need to create a foil and a danger for the heroes, namely one presenting a threat to the continued family unit of the Datas (is that right? I guess it's his last name too). But the Admiral's position just struck me as so incredibly offensive, pigheaded, inflexible, and borderline racist that I have to wonder how an asshole like that MAKES Admiral. Take even his reaction to Picard asking for an escalation, taking the matter to Starfleet (which is his RIGHTFUL action in any chain of command!), the Admiral yells "I AM Starfleet!" ...Seriously?!

    I guess this one just bothered me more than I expected. With all the talk about "evolved humanity" (which, dramatic deathknell aside, I've always subscribed to fully - humanity CAN get better!), I don't understand how such a system can create and sustain petty, hateful asshats like Admiral McBroken Home and still function as a society.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Coronacopia

    Coronacopia Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    As a morality play, it's The Measure Of A Man redux, but this time with the dramatic freedom to lose the android. Hallie Todd's magnificent performance, in bringing Lal to life, makes The Offspring incredibly moving, and it's among my very favorite third season episodes. I also find the epilogue to be almost as dramatic as Lal's death scene.
     
  3. Cyke101

    Cyke101 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Admiral Haftel himself comes across as a bit uneven when he's barking orders, that much is sure, but his efforts to help Data in trying to save Lal, and the Admiral's subsequent heartbreak when they fail, redeemed him a a bit in my eyes (as was the writers' intention, no doubt). The death of Lal could be the very thing that enables the Admiral to change his attitudes about positronic lifeforms. With that said, as bigoted as he is when he first comes on board, his initiative in helping Data kind of ensures that he's not a villain, either, but someone we the viewer disagrees with.
     
  4. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    On occasion, we have seen his credentials listed on a computer display, and apparently Starfleet considers him "(Lieutenant) Commander No First Name, No Middle Initial Data". So yes, Data would be the traditional surname.

    Whether Starfleet would believe in the existence of a "Data family" is a somewhat different issue. That Data built a new android in his workshop doesn't make it "his child", and there is no known precedent of Starfleet respecting child rights when, say, deciding what to do with the latest ship-in-a-bottle built by Chief O'Brien. In this sense, our guest star is in line with reason and verisimilitude when refusing to even consider applying the term "child" to Data's hobby project. Picard throwing the word at him shouldn't necessarily warrant any reconsideration of Data's or Lal's position - just a reconsideration of Picard's sanity. Which is probably what Admiral Haftel is more concerned about than Lal's future.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  5. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    Starfleet apparently never really gets over its bias against artificial lifeforms. Just look how they treat the Doctor in Voyager.

    Maybe this is lingering M-5 bitterness. Or perhaps bias rejuvenated by the Borg.
     
  6. Brikar99

    Brikar99 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'd consider it a natural human tendency to consider anything technological to be a tool, no matter how sophisticated. I've always considered one of the themes of 'Star Trek' to be along the lines of "humans have evolved, but still have a long way to go" and Starfleet's treatment of Data and the EMHs fits pretty well into that.
     
  7. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I've always considered him a Soong. He considers them his family, & they consider him part of theirs. Mother, Father, Brother, child. Since the name wasn't specifically given to him, I'd not add it where it doesn't belong, but in reference to the family, I'd still say the Soong line

    I don't really agree. Data certainly has every reason to expect that as he considers his creator a father, so then should his creation of a sentient life be considered his child. Especially since the Soongs have given plenty of accounts of believing that the androids are their children, & as his form of sentient life has been recognized by Starfleet, it too must respect its unique conditions.

    The fact is, their creations are people, which should certainly be taken into account when interacting with them. So though what you're saying may very well be an excuse to why the admiral thinks as he does, it's still a poor one, or a suspiciously convenient one which allows him the flexibility to violate people's rights
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    But does anybody share that view? Starfleet certainly hasn't expressed sympathy for the idea.

    Yet "Measure of a Man" suggests that Starfleet doesn't necessarily recognize forms of life before allowing them to enlist. And in that episode, the judge made it clear that the ruling was of the "I know this will set a precedent but I want to ensure the precedent is a muddy and ambiguous one" type; there was no recognition of "Soongian androids" as a lifeform, merely a ruling for Data to be allowed to choose whether to participate in Maddox' experiment or not.

    But there is no violation of rights if a Starfleet officer is denied custody of a civilian child, not when the issue of parenthood is far from settled and indeed unprecedented. Data could no doubt try and adopt Lal, but his own personhood is still very much in doubt so the process would be a long one; we don't see it attempted in the episode.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It possible that despite the court decision, the Admiral (and others?) still considers Data to be a piece of equipment.

    Lal was constructed with materials out of a Starfleet replicator, tools aboard the ship, and this might have added to the perception that the resulting "machine" was just another item on the inventory list.

    :)
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's possible that even the judge still considers Data a piece of equipment, too. After all, she never suggests otherwise. The entire process boils down to a one-sentence ruling:

    This doesn't necessarily mean that Data is declared a sentient being, or an independent nation, or a non-person who happens to have all the rights and freedoms of a person. It just means Data has this single freedom, which he subsequently exercises. Presumably, the judge could grant that freedom to Picard's pet fish or to his Collected Works of Shakespeare if she so wanted.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. wdsa85

    wdsa85 Guest

    and the Admiral's subsequent heartbreak when they fail, redeemed him a a bit in my eyes (as was the writers' intention, no doubt). The death of Lal could be the very thing that enables the Admiral to change his attitudes about positronic lifeforms. With that said, as bigoted as he is when he first comes on board, his initiative in helping Data kind of ensures that he's not a villain, either, but someone we the viewer disagrees with. [​IMG]
     
  12. Mojomoe

    Mojomoe Commander Red Shirt

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    It's certainly interesting to see the different viewpoints represented here. I'll admit myself that I had just assumed (from memory) that Data was declared sentient in Measure of a Man, but Timo has rightly pointed out that such a ruling never took place. The show does, however, attempt to make it LOOK as though that was the ruling (sentience for Data, but not for other androids), mainly through the color of dialogue that takes place in The Offspring between the Admiral and Picard, the captain saying something to the effect of "I helped make that ruling." At least that was my interpretation.

    On a side note, as I'm re-watching the entirety of Voyager with my fiancee, I'm struck by just how racist, bigoted and closed-minded the Federation is toward artificial life. I took the Doctor as being sentient from day one, that much was made obvious - he was a hologram who knew he was a hologram. Despite Picard's impassioned speech of "we seek out new life, well there it sits!", Starfleet has managed to ignore or sidestep the rights of technological beings at every turn.

    Indeed, what was supposed to be a turning point in Voyager's view of holograms - the episode where the Doctor has a breakdown from losing a patient and is subsequently lobotomized - felt like such a gross violation that it made me nauseous. The crew - and the CAPTAIN! - spent the hour's drama coming to the conclusion, "hey, maybe he IS a person." These are our protagonists?
     
  13. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    As ridiculously ambiguous as her language was, it did rule something, & I expect that even those who would be against the ruling must still recognize that it extends beyond just this one circumstance of being forced into Maddox's experiment. In fact, it's not about the experiment at all. The ruling is about whether he's the property of Starfleet, thereby prohibiting him from resigning his commission, which is how he intended to ultimately refuse the experiment. Once that freedom was granted by law, Maddox withdrew his transfer orders, choosing to not force Data to resign, just to escape the experiment. The ruling however carries with it broader implications

    Basically, as a ruling that defines him as a being who has the right to choose his fate in Starfleet, just as anyone in Starfleet can, it is ultimately recognizing he is equally due every liberty that is afforded to all other Starfleet personnel. The judge acknowledges that she is not ruling on his sentience, by pointing out that she is unable to define sentience well enough to support or dispute that he has any less of it than anyone else, including herself

    My point is that by giving him "The right to choose" his fate in Starfleet, she has ruled him as an equal being among all those in Starfleet. He is a race/culture of one (Also mentioned on TNG). That is not entirely the case though. He has a family. He has a lineage, & when he carries on that lineage, by creating others like him, by the same fashion in which he was created, the law has made it such that it is not their place to judge it lesser than that of others in Starfleet, & that all declarations of that lineage or family must be respected as it would be for anyone else in Starfleet, because he possesses due equality

    Data's father is Noonien, his brother is Lore, & his daughter is Lal

    Had Lal lived, this is the protest that Picard would have brought before Starfleet, & in all likelihood had supported, in the end, because it's fair & just
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  14. Worf'sParmach

    Worf'sParmach Commander Red Shirt

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    I agree. It was always my understanding the "The Measure of a Man" simply established that Data was not Starfleet's property, nothing more. Soong built him outside of starfleet and Data chose to join Starfleet of his own free will. Because of this he could leave it freely as well and if he were to be forced to part in the study that's what he planned to do.

    "Admiral McBroken Home" could take Lal on the grounds that she was Starfleet's property. Data built her in a Starfleet lab using Starfleet resourses and materials. Now, Data could argue (and rightfully so, IMO) that using that logic anyone who was conceived, gestated and born on a Starfleet ship using Federation food and medical resources would also therefore be property of Starfleet.
     
  15. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I might agree if it weren't for the fact that by ruling Data as not property, then they are essentially ruling him as a being in Starfleet, accorded all the rights of any being in Starfleet. I believe they call it Ipso Facto, but I could be wrong about that

    Lal, being constructed by the very same method Data was, would subsequently also be regarded as a being, & thereby still not property, & by all rights, akin to his lineage

    He could try to take her on those grounds, but it would ultimately fail
     
  16. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    Lionel Lockridge always was a bit of a jerk.

    Bad guy in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Olympiad) as well.
     
  17. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Been thinking about that admiral as well. I'm starting to look on him as not really redeeming himself all that much. Sure, this incident may have smacked some sense into him by the end, but in a way, his involvement was somewhat of a catalyst that negatively disrupted Lal's development, & in some way played a part in her breakdown

    Sure it's likely the cascade failure might have happened eventually anyway, but even if it had, Lal would have more than likely had a longer life, had that admiral not come in, threatening to tear apart her family. Perhaps she might have even had a life where she could have averted the cascade failure altogether, with careful study, & aid from Data, instead of it all coming crashing down on her at once. At the very least, she probably wouldn't have broken down on the day she did. Another day would have been another wonderful day of being alive. Thanks a lot, Admiral Ass-hat

    For a guy who was so concerned about her development, That admiral sure didn't seem to give a crap about what effect his actions would have on it. I can actually respect Maddox more. At least he's wearing a blue suit, which says to me that he's at least more of a scientist than a bureaucrat. Starfleet research can just shove it, & be thankful Data continues to be loyal to & respect them enough to keep them in the loop at all. Soong sure as hell wouldn't have & didn't
     
  18. Worf'sParmach

    Worf'sParmach Commander Red Shirt

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    The ruling wasn't that Data isn't property, it's that Data isn't Starfleet's property and as a result has the right to choose whether or not to participate in a Starfleet experiment. It therefore could be argued that Lal is indeed Starfleet's property as she was created on a Starfleet ship using Starfleet resources and doesn't have that same right.

    (I personally don't think either of them are property, just playing Admiral's Advocate)
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2012
  19. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ah, but if he isn't property of Starfleet, then what is he? Property of himself? & also an entity or being in the service of Starfleet, with the freedom to choose his own fate as a free being would?

    If Data were a property, then by all logic, he would be Starfleet's property. They could claim a sort of finders rights, even though he had come to them willingly by joining. As he is not Starfleet's property, then logically, he is respected as not a property by Starfleet

    As Lal is just like Data, & in fact a successor of his lineage even, because he formed her being from his own downloads, then she is entitled that same respect

    Picard is not wrong when he says "They have rights" he helped form the basis for their equality. It might still need more proper wording, because that judge is a moron, but it is still law

    :guffaw:
     
  20. Dr. San Guinary

    Dr. San Guinary Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    If there was ever a possibility that Data could, conceivably, be viewed as property, then why was he allowed to enter Starfleet in the first place? I can't shake the feeling that the very fact that Data IS in Starfleet, is automatically proof that he is a fully sentient being and is no one's property.

    It should never have been an issue once Data successfully entered the Academy. All questions regarding Data's sentience should, at that instant, be rendered moot. I mean, surely it's a condition of admission to Starfleet that all applicants must be sentient (I can't even consider why they would allow a being to serve in Starfleet if it was NOT sentient). So if Data is allowed in, therefore he must, by definition - and retroactively - BE sentient. Right?

    The logic being thus:

    - Data is a Starfleet officer.
    - Therefore, Data must have completed Starfleet Academy studies.
    - All applicants to Starfleet must be sentient.
    - Therefore, Data (as an Academy graduate) must be sentient.
    - A sentient being cannot, under any circumstances, be property.
    - Data, being sentient, therefore is not property. End of episode.