“The Offspring” saw Data struck by a fit of reproductive pique. One of the conceits of “Next Generation” is that Data is such an advanced machine that recreating him is a near-impossible task. Only Data’s creator — the presumed-dead Dr. Noonien Soong — had been able to build an android to Data’s exacting specifications. Aiming to defy this notion, Data tries to build an android of his own, effectively constructing a child. Data allows his child to choose its gender and appearance, and he is eager to teach her the ways of humanity. However, Data fines that her brain is not stable and she will break down and die before the episode ends.
“As I get to the third season, though, I see ‘TNG’ finding its own footing. In ‘The Offspring,’ the first episode that Jonathan Frakes ever directed, Data creates an android child whom he names Lal. She assumes the form of a teenage girl, movingly played by Hallie Todd, but she is literally not built to last, and Data musters something close to genuine human emotions as he watches the life drain out of her.”
Lal’s death scene is heartbreaking and made all the more tragic by the fact that Data can’t experience the love a human parent might. An additional conceit of “The Offspring” is that Lal, without Data’s intention, has managed to achieve rudimentary emotions of her own, leading to her eventual mental breakdown as well as a disconnect between Lal and her father. Data managed to make a being that could feel more than he could. How tragic.