Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 3, Episode 16 – “The Offspring” – Data’s Daughter and the Rights of Androids

The Offspring"... 26 Years Later

   “The Offspring” is the sequel to “The Measure of a Man” as we see Data create a child. The story that is explored from this premise is great and I can see this story living on in “Star Trek: Picard.” I won’t say more than that as I recommend the show and think you should see it for yourself if you are a fan of Data’s story. This was Jonathan Frake’s first time directing and he does a wonderful job of capturing the the fears and joys of being a new parent. Without going into spoilers, I recommend this story to anyone who loves “The Next Generation.”

The episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes and written by René Echevarria.

The story follows Data after he crafts a child he names Lal. From here her future is thrown into flux as Starfleet wants to take her away and study her at the Daystrom Institute.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Data Learns Parenting – The process of Data learning to parent is quite wonderful. He talks to Dr. Crusher about raising Wesley and also to Guinan as his daughter grows up. We see him introduce her to the different aspects of what it means to be human…from smelling a flower and is proud when she asks the big questions about purpose and existence. Brent Spiner does a fantastic job in this role and is his daughter’s defender against Starfleet when they try to take her away.

Picard and Android Rights – Picard is Data’s defender through this entire episode, even though he wished he’d been consulted about Data creating Lal. We can see how the events in “The Measure of a Man” have shaped his philosophy and he brings up that case with Starfleet. It is beautiful to see and I’d say this Picard

Admiral Haftel – The Admiral is a character in the same vein as Maddox. He’s driven to protect Starfleet interests and comes to sympathize with the very people he is making it difficult for. His final acts are working with Data to save Lal…I just wish he’d admit he caused her panic attack and is the reason she died. Great complicated antagonist to say the least. He brings up his own experience as a father and having to let go as his kids grew up. He respects Data even as he is driven by duty.

Lal – Lal is Data’s daughter and this episode we see how that process takes place. She chooses to take on the form of a human woman and over the course of the episode we see her go from basic experiences, questioning her own existence and experiencing emotion. Hallie Todd is fantastic in the role and I love how you can see aspects of Data in her as it was him as he transferred his brain into the one he crafted for her. Her last emotion is sorrow and love of her father Data as she experiences sadness for both of them. It was touching and powerful. This episode has a powerful core and Data and Lal are the heart of it.

Data – Data is an awesome Dad. In this we see him stand up against Starfleet and the rights of himself and Lal and guide Lal through the process he’s been going through for years. It is beautifully done and heartbreaking when she dies as she takes her program into his memory and she mourns for both of them as Data at this time…cannot mourn. He drives this episode from the beginning and his and Lal’s relationship is what truly makes the episode great.

The Cons:

Starfleet Ignoring Prior Cases – The Admiral follows the evil Admiral trope that we often see in “Star Trek.” He ignores everything that Data, Lal or Picard say and that was really a disservice as he is an interesting character. Sadly it is his giving Lal a panic attack that leads to her death. If the Admiral was not here chances are she would have survived. This is never directly addressed, which I feel like was a mistake. She was fine until her choice was taken away by the Admiral and she panicked.

This is a great sequel to “The Measure of a Man” as it further develops both Data and Picard and shows that Starfleet is still adversarial to Androids and them existing as beings with their own autonomy and rights. Lal is a fantastic character and I would have enjoyed this story being a two-parter, just to see more of her journey of growing up and becoming more human. Sadly this was not the case. Still, this is a great episode and well worth your time.

Final Score: 9 / 10 If Haftel and Lal had both received more development I’d rate it higher. Episode is still great, just needed that final bit of character development.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 7, Episode 1 – “Descent, Part 2” – Finding Freedom in Self

Brent Spiner in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

“Descent, Part 2” has many of the same problems as Part 1. There are many good ideas here that really aren’t explored to their full potential. The whole motivation beyond Lore and the Borg is base and isn’t well thought out. What it means to be Data isn’t even really fully explored either or the Borg concept of individuality. There are enough decent plots present though, that I did enjoy this as well as Part 1. I wouldn’t call either good, but there are enough interesting plots present to keep things enjoyable once more.

The episode was directed by Alexander Singer and written by René Echevarria.

The story picks up where we left off with the reveal of Lore leading this new Borg Faction. Dr. Crusher must face the Borg Ship above the planet as Riker and Worf seek Picard and the others. Picard, Geordi and Troi seek an escape as well as possible solutions to free Data from the control of Lore.

SPOILER warning

The Pros:

Captain Crusher – Dr. Crusher is in charge of the ship and successfully defeats Lore’s Borg ship after using shields from a prior episode that protect from radiation from the star and ends up destroying the ship. I really liked seeing her train up the recruits and get a working up dynamic going on between them, given Picard stupidly left her with a skeleton crew with so much at stake. I really liked her as Captain and wish she’d gotten more leadership opportunities like this in the series.

Escape from Lore – It was great seeing Picard and Troi work with an injured Geordi to free themselves and Data. I can’t think of a time we’ve had this specific team-up, but I liked their dynamic…even if they failed in the end. Geordi is always fighting on, Troi is trying to be supportive and Picard is always in problem solving mode. You can see how in many ways he is like Data. His problem solving place is where he is most comfortable.

Hugh’s Borg – Hugh’s Borg are refugees from Lore who leave after they see that his experiments are destroying them. The empathetic Hugh from “I, Borg” is still very much present and I appreciate that at the end of this episode he is leading the free Borg. That should have been more explored, he was with Riker and Worf who have both lead people and that leadership role was not discussed or explored at all.

Data’s Choice – Data gets back his morality core after Geordi, Troi and Picard tech some Borg tech causing Lore’s hack to stop working. After this it is only a matter of time before he switches sides. Given I was invested in Data and he drives both plots this was a plus. I wish it had been more of his free will, but I also get the writers were working with him still as a programmed machine. No matter how great his technology is, it can still be hacked.

The Cons:

Riker and Worf Wander – We have two interesting characters who wander until Hugh’s Borg capture them. After that they go to end up in the final battle and take part. There was no reason they couldn’t have been a more active part of the story. They do nothing to convince Hugh to join them. Did the writers just forget they had two awesome characters with Hugh to work with?

Lore and the Borg’s Goals – I guess they are going for conquest…but Lore is killing his own soldiers in experiments. The experiments like the point of them is pointless. They have one ship that doesn’t even survive the episode, so what was Lore and the Borg’s plan again?

Why is Geordi Always Tortured? – Why is Geordi always being tortured? This time it is his friend Data too. I get Data apologizes after, but given how many times this has happened to Geordi it exists as a trope. The writers should have stopped this. They do their best to show Data has an understanding of guilt after the fact and Data still says he should keep the emotion chip, but it would have meant more if this hadn’t been a go to trope on how to use Geordi in the plot so many times prior.

This episode was better than “Part 1.” I think this is largely due to Hugh’s faction and the B Plot with Dr. Crusher. Those had more inventiveness and weren’t dependent on Data plot device. This was also enjoyable but did not rise to good. I wish the writers of both episodes had got together to write a fully coherent story. You have Lore, you have the Borg, you have Hugh…how could you not make this great? If you want to see how these stories end in “The Next Generation” you should still watch both these episodes though.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 This episode was potential and managed to do more at least than “Part 1.”

“Descent Part 1 and 2” Final Score: 7.2 / 10 Weighing it more against because it never reached good and missed so many opportunities to explore Soong’s sons and the Borg.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 23 – “I, Borg” – Discovering Individuality and Value

Image result for I, Borg

     “I, Borg” is such an amazing episode. We see a return of the Borg with Hugh and an exploration of the consequences of the Borg on members of the crew. This is also an episode that provides a moral conundrum too. What should be the ethics of war? This and the theme of PTSD are explored in the episode beautifully. This is easily one of my favorite episodes of “Star Trek” and I’m glad Hugh will be back in “Picard.” Suffice to say, I highly recommend this episode.

“I, Borg” was written by René Echevarria and directed by Robert Lederman.

When a Borg Drone is rescued, Picard must wrestle with what will become of it as he and other members of the crew face what the Borg Collective has done to them.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Dr. Crusher – This is a surprisingly good Beverly Crusher episode. She is the first to advocate for saving the Borg drone. She demonstrates her oath of the sacredness of all life beautifully and her empathy is what made La Forge and Hugh’s friendship possible and Guinan and Picard’s eventually coming around to seeing Hugh’s humanity. I wish she got more episodes like this. She is the moral center of the episode and the episode is stronger for it.

Geordi La Forge – As Geordi is the one studying Hugh in order to weaponize him against the Borg he becomes friends with him. It is Geordi who gives Hugh his name and teaches him about consent and individuality. This friendship goes so far that Geordi advocates directly to Guinan and Picard that he thinks the plan is a mistake. In the end his advocacy for Hugh’s humanity wins out and Geordi is the one who says good-bye to his friend before the Borg take him back.

Guinan – Guinan’s people were destroyed by the Borg and she confronts Hugh about this. She is the one who is at first against Picard’s growing empathy, given the destruction of her people…but Geordi changes her mind. After talking to Hugh and hearing him speak of his loneliness and empathy for her she realizes Hugh is not her enemy. Hugh is just a scared lonely kid. After this she advocates for Picard to not use Hugh as biological weapon against the Borg.

Hugh – Hugh is the I in “I, Borg” as this episode is about him developing a sense of self. As far as we know he has always been a drone within the Collective and because of this never had the chance to learn empathy or self and this episode is where he learns all of this. In the end he sacrafices himself so the Borg won’t target the Enterprise and to protect his friend Geordi. Jonathan Del Arco does such an amazing job in this role. He is the drone becoming an individual and it is his performance and relationships Hugh builds in the episode that make it so great.

Captain Picard’s PTSD – Picard’s PTSD is a major theme of the episode. The Borg mutilated his body and mind and because of this he understandably does not see any humanity within them. We see how deep this is as he pretends to be Locutus to test Hugh and it is in this test when Hugh denies to assimilate the crew and the Geordi is his friend that he sees the plan to weaponize Hugh is immoral and wrong.

An Exploration of War and Morality – The main moral issue being wrestled with in the episode is whether to use Hugh as a biological weapon against the Borg. He would be used a virus to shut them down. When the show starts out Dr. Crusher is the only one against this but slowly as Geordi becomes friends with Hugh and Picard talks to Hugh they see the humanity of the drones and that in committing genocide they would be acting like the Borg. It is handled really well and they take time to explore this over the course of the entire episode.

The Cons:

Borg Indifference – Geordi is able to go down to the planet where Hugh was found to say good-bye to him as the Borg pick him up. The thing that bothered me with this is the Borg not recognizing his role in their destruction prior. The Borg are a threat to the episode but they have no tactical sensibilities it felt like. The reason that is given is that they don’t notice individuals (as seen by them being able to free Picard in “Best of Both Worlds”) but shouldn’t they have adapted to that by now? It was one of the reasons for their defeat.

This is one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and shows just how strong the show could be when it focused on character and themes. This isn’t the last time we see Hugh and what is done in this episode has consequences for the Borg we see later. This episode is a great a example of structure working really well too. Dr. Crusher’s empathy leads to Geordi and Hugh becoming friends, which leads to Guinan getting to know Hugh and finally Picard giving Hugh a chance after Guinan admits her hate and rage against Hugh was wrong. This is powerfully done and creates an unforgettable story.

Final Score:

9.8 / 10 The strengths of this episode outweigh the flaws.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 6, Episode 14 – “Face of the Enemy” – Romulan Politics and Troi’s Potential

Face of the Enemy

       Counselor Troi was really shafted throughout the entire run of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” When she was wrote it was largely romance plots or her stating the obvious on the bridge. She has extra-sensory empathy, but that is never really used in any interesting ways most of the time. This episode is an exception in regards to that. It is a good episode and a great Troi episode as we see her under pressure from being undercover and also how committed she is to her role as a Starfleet officer. This is an episode that gives us great exploration of the tension between the Tal Shiar and military and is well worth checking out for any fan of the Romulans on “Star Trek.”

The episode’s story was by René Echevarria with teleplay by Naren Shankar and directed by Gabrielle Beaumont.

The story follows Counselor Troi who has been surgically altered into Tal Shiar Agent Major Rakal. She must figure out the reasons why while facing a crew that distrusts her very presence on the ship.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mystery and Trust – The main mystery of why Troi was turned into a Romulan by Commander N’Vek and The Enterprise-D as they work with a former Federation Ensign DeSeve who defected to the Romulan Star Empire, returning to help them find a ship going at the fastest speed. Both Picard and the crew don’t know whether they can trust the defector and Troi is in the same situation, even as she sees that the cargo they are transporting are government officials trying to get safely over to the Federation. It is powerfully done as both N’Vek and Ensign DeSeve slowly reveal more of the truth and have to give more and go against the distrusting nature instilled in them by the Empire. It is powerfully done and through it you get to see Troi come into her element as a leader.

Relationship Between Tal Shiar and Romulan Military – In this episode we get the military perspective (and from it the view of the Romulan populace) of the Tal Shiar. Everyone fears them. Commander Toreth mentions how every person on her crew has lost someone to the Tal Shiar, but in the end they still follow orders. The fear is so great that the most that can be done is verbal protest.

Commander Toreth – Commander Toreth’s father was a man who spoke up for freedom for Romulans and was killed by the Tal Shiar for it. This in many ways makes her sympathetic to N’Vek’s plot but her duty overrides all else and because of how Troi is being used, Troi can’t sympathize or help. She was a moral commander and anytime N’Vek or Troi did something she disagreed with, she’d document it and she was not afraid to confront the Tal Shiar with her disagreement over their actions, even as she continued serving the Empire. Carolyn Seymour was amazing in the role.

Counselor Troi – This is an episode where Troi gets to shine. She has to play the role of the enemy to both the Romulans on the ship and later towards her own crew in order to save innocents. The entire episode is a tightrope walk for her and Marina Sirtis does a fantastic job acting that walk. Troi’s arc in the episode involves her speaking up for herself and taking charge. First against Commander Toreth and later against N’Vek when his plans fail.

The Cons:

The Ending Actions of the Romulans – Commander Toreth’s original plan was to destroy The Enterprise-D after they learn how to track their cloak, but after getting command back from Troi she completly forgets her original aim and instead thinks that she’ll just bring Troi in for questioning. It isn’t handled well and feels rushed and sudden. The Romulans just leave and the Federation gets the escapees and no knows another way to track cloaks. Given how effective we see Commander Toreth is, this made no sense and felt like they just wanted to end the episode.

This is a good episode and one I’d recommend to any Romulan fan. You get to see how complicated relationships are between the Tal Shiar and military, Toreth is a wonderfully compelling character and the mystery plot is strong enough to keep one engaged. Marina Sirtis has to carry this episode and she succeeds in doing so. Her Troi is vulnerable but firm and adapts to the predicament she is in. I wish she had gotten more episodes like this.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10