While Data attended cybernetics conference, he learned of a newly-developed submicron matrix transfer technology. Using his own positronic brain as a template, Data created Lal for two purposes – to attempt to re-create the work of his "father", Noonian Soong; and to experience the act of procreation, and of having a family. Data chose the name for his offspring from the Hindi word meaning "beloved".
Originally genderless and possessing a very basic humanoid appearance, Lal was allowed to choose its own gender and appearance. After narrowing the choices to four – an Andorian female, a Klingon male, and a Human male and female – Lal chose the Human female form. Additionally, she was given a skin pigment and eye type like Human females, as opposed to Data's. She was capable of more than sixty trillion calculations per second.
Data wanted her to learn about "being Human", and entered her in the ship's school. Unfortunately, other children were afraid of her. As a result, Data decided that allowing Lal to work in Ten Forward would give her more valuable insight into Human social interaction. Unexpectedly, Lal began to improve on her father's original specifications, soon becoming able to use verbal contractions and even, eventually, to feel emotions.
When Lal's creation was learned by Starfleet Research and Development, Vice admiral Anthony Haftel attempted to separate Lal from Data in order to study her closely, believing the Daystrom Institute annex on Galor IV would be a better environment for her. Lal was interviewed by Haftel, and agreed that his facilities would be beneficial to learn, but only after having completed her learning on the Enterprise with her father.
The situation caused Lal distress, and while speaking with Deanna Troi, she began to feel emotional anxiety. Her programming perceived a malfunction, and so she returned to the Enterprise lab. Upon running diagnostics, Data identified the problem as a symptom of a cascade failure in her neural net. With the assistance of Admiral Haftel, he attempted to repair the damage. However, despite their best efforts, the effect was irreparable, and Lal's neural net failed, causing her to shut down permanently. As a final act, Data transferred Lal's memories and experiences into his own brain, ensuring a part of her would live on.
Interestingly, the symptoms of Lal's shutdown achieved something Data had been trying to achieve for many years: basic Human emotions. It would be five more years before Data would achieve the same results in himself, and this he only did with a new chip from his "father". He, too, suffered from a neural net failure, but recovered and was able to function normally afterwards, even able to toggle the ability to feel emotion on and off at will. (TNG: "Brothers"; Star Trek Generations)
Understandably, Lal remained in Data's thoughts for many years after. During his experimentation with painting, Data painted a portrait of Lal, which he later showed to Juliana Tainer – essentially, Lal's 'grandmother' – when she visited the USS Enterprise-D in 2370. (TNG: "Inheritance")
Lal's potential bodies Edit
Background information Edit
In the short story "The Embrace of Cold Architects" by David R. George III (collected in the Star Trek: Myriad Universes anthology Shattered Light), Lal's creation was delayed after Data missed a vital scientific conference until the return of the Borg, allowing Picard to 'distract' the Borg by focusing on Lal and the long-term implications of her existence after he became Locutus of Borg, allowing Riker time to give the order to destroy his Borg cube and kill Locutus before the Borg could find and adapt to their attack. Lal's subsequent breakdown was then averted by the intervention of Doctor Noonien Soong when he 'summoned' Data to him, Soong's expertise allowing him to repair the damage to Lal's neural net. With the information of how to create stable androids, the Federation began creation of a new race of android soldiers intended to fight the Borg, but Data is able to destroy their prototypes.
In the novel Cold Equations: The Persistence of Memory, it is revealed that Lal's remains are kept at the Daystrom Institute, along with the remains of her 'uncles'; Soong's three original prototypes, B-4, and Lore. She is briefly stolen by the Breen, but is recovered thanks to the Enterprise-E and Doctor Soong – still alive after transferring his mind into an android body – who subsequently manages to restore Data. Data then resolves to find the mysterious immortal known as Flint – based on reports that Flint was responsible for reactivating Juliana Tainer after her positronic net shut down, hoping that Flint will be able to help him restore his daughter.
Although stated in the episode (TNG: "The Offspring") that Lal means beloved in Hindi (a derivative word of Persian and Urdu), it does not. Lal actually means 'red', in the Indo-Iranian context. However in the Indian context, it means child or beloved. The context in the episode is correct.