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Star Trek TNG - Season 2 - Episode 09

Star Trek TNG - 2x09 - The Measure of a Man

Originally Aired: 1989-2-13

Synopsis:
Picard must defend Data against being disassembled. [DVD]

My Rating - 10

Fan Rating Average - 7.8

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# Votes: 49 4 4 5 2 2 3 8 17 28 202

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode is a candidate for my "Best Episode of TNG Award."
- This is the first Poker game episode.
- Data's total memory is somewhere around 90 petabytes with "a total linear computational speed of 60 trillion operations per second."

Remarkable Scenes
- It's nice to learn more about Picard's past through Louvois. That, and it's nice to get more small tidbits of info regarding Dr. Noonien Soong.
- Got to point out the beautiful model used on that space station.
- Data tearing down Maddox' argument (on many occasions in this episode).
- Data suddenly ripping the gift wrap.
- Pulaski to Worf in a happy tone: "I couldn't disagree more! We'll save that argument for another day." Regarding the novel gift from Worf.
- Riker objecting to prosecute Data. The whole adversarial scene is awesome.
- Riker gets a look of such profound happiness when he realizes that he has a good argument against Data. Then a look of such profound sadness when he realizes that using it may kill his friend.
- Picard's argument is that much better though.
- All of the dialog in this episode is articulate and well placed.

My Review
At what point does artificial intelligence become "alive" with the same rights and responsibilities as any other "real" person? This is a very high brow science fiction question but in very few places is it examined as eloquently as here. This episode is a TNG classic and one of the best Trek episodes ever written.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From DSOmo on 2007-06-23 at 8:39pm:
    Data: "That action injured you and saved me. I will not forget it." (Great line)

    - Data tells Picard that Maddox was the only dissenting member of a sceening committee that approved his entrance into Starfleet. Maddox did this because he did not believe that Data was sentient. It seems reasonable that Starfleet would allow only sentient beings to attend the academy. However, since the rest of the members of the committee disagreed with Maddox's position, didn't they already imply that Data is sentient? If so, when did Data lose that label?
    - Maddox asks the JAG officer if Starfleet would let the computer of a starship refuse a refit. But the comparison doesn't match up at all. Starfleet built the computers on starships. They did not build Data. If Data belongs to anyone, he belongs to Dr. Noonian Soong. All Starfleet did was find him.
    - JAG officer to Riker if he doesn't prosecute: "Then I will rule summarily based on my findings. Data is a toaster." A toaster? That seems a little antiquated for the twenty-fourth century. Wouldn't a person in the twenty-fourth century illustrate their point using an everyday item for them - something like a food replicator, a tricorder, or a communicator?
  • From TashaFan on 2008-09-28 at 7:34pm:
    I LOVED the reference to Data being "a toaster"... because "toaster" is what the Colonial warriors in "Battlestar Galactica" called the Cylons, who are also a mechanized artificial lifeform. I wonder if Ron Moore, who went to spearhead the "reimagined" Battlestar series, had anything to do with this reference?
  • From Razorback on 2009-06-25 at 9:26pm:
    A shocking episode.
    They have stripped away all of the trappings of a normal star trek episode, and done away with the sense of intergalactic exploration that gives me a reason to continu watching.

    Istead, they have created this terrible episode.

    You ask me to justify this?

    It has ruined me for the rest of star trek.
    No oher episodes will have even the slightest chance of ever living up to this one, seemingly set up to allow patrick stewart to prove exactly why he is seen as one of the greatest actors of all time. Brent spiner and Jonathan Frakes also outdo themselves - the dialogue is wonderful, the character's magnificent, and the whoe issue outstanding - leaving us with the question are we not all man made machines?

    I would also like to note the look on maddox's face at the end of the episode, as he relises that Cmr Data is far more wonderful than he'd ever imagined.

    Definately a 10 rated episode - a wonderful example of exactly why star trek is more than a sci-fi show.
  • From Ching on 2010-04-05 at 11:38pm:
    Thoroughly moving episode, but there are two things I question. One is to do with Picard's speech being, perhaps, unrealistically effective. I think I received it as one of those fictional events that has a perfect effect in it's story, but realistically would be questioned or perhaps a bit unprofessional (with Picard being so intimidating and emotional). But I'm much hazier on whether I find that an issue (and it wouldn't be a huge one) or not. I'm also not exactly well versed in court procedures to begin with.
    The second issue is with Riker's role in the story. I know the episode makes it clear why he was unfit to have taken the prosecution role, but does anyone know why there's a rule that the next most senior officer of the 'defendant's' ship becomes 'prosecutor'? I know, at least, that a jury is chosen specifically as an impartial body of people, so why chose a prosecutor who's in agreement with the defender? Makes no sense to have your opposing forces biased in the same way, but it certainly created an interesting drama. And like I said before, I really liked this episode on the whole, despite some confusion about common sense.
  • From tigertooth on 2011-03-23 at 10:12pm:
    I agree that the episode was great. My quibble: the first thing Riker does is call Data to the stand as his witness. Would he call a tricorder to the stand? Or the ship's computer? No, you call *people* to the stand as witnesses. If I was Picard, I would have said "There you go! Case closed!"

    But anything that gives Picard (Stewart) a chance to go off on a righteous monologue is pretty much guaranteed to be great.
  • From CAlexander on 2011-03-28 at 10:13pm:
    This is a fine episode. I especially love the way Picard starts his speech by dismissing the opposing arguments as irrelevant. The only caveat I have about this episode is that it portrays Starfleet's judicial system as oddly primitive and arbitrary.
  • From Jeff Browning on 2011-09-23 at 7:24pm:
    Agree with CAlexander's comment about how crude the Federation legal system appeared. As an attorney, I found it embarrassing. Several obvious issues:

    1. Data can't choose his own counsel? He is told that Picard will represent him. Picard offers to replace himself, but Louvois makes no such offer. The choice of defense counsel is totally in the control of the defendant in all civilized legal systems.

    2. The notion that Riker has to prosecute is absurd. He has a strong personal relationship with the accused. He is obviously not qualified. He would have to recuse himself.

    3. Why didn't Maddox appeal? You're telling me that a ruling by a mere JAG officer in a remote star base is final?

    You get the idea. Anyone with any legal training can find holes big enough to drive a truck through on this one.
  • From One moon shirt on 2012-02-26 at 10:56pm:
    I would give this episode 100 if there was such a rating. This is some of the best Trek out there. The issue of slavery and human rights is classic, this is an episode that will always endure the test of time, people will be watching this one in the 24th century :)
  • From Rick on 2012-10-10 at 12:11am:
    This may well be the quintessential star trek episode. How do we treat new life forms?

    A commenter above notes that this episode may be flawed because Maddox already made the argument that Data was not sentient and he lost. This point of view is flawed, however, because although Maddox made the argument that Data is not sentient, the Board may have ruled that Data could be admitted to Starfleet on alternate grounds. This is a technical legal point but it is certainly plausible. The board simply couldve punted on the sentience issue and ruled that Data was admissible to Starfleet for whatever reason.

    The rest of Maddox's argument is rather poor upon further examination, as other commenters have noted. His entire reasoning is based upon analogy to other types of machines. Fatal flaw? No other type of machine is capable of or would refuse his examination. It seems pretty obvious to me that as soon as a being is capable of refusing to be destroyed (albeit potentially), it has earned the right not to be.
  • From Rick on 2013-11-11 at 12:19pm:
    One more thing. Even if Data is ruled to be property why would he be Starfleet's property? Isnt he still his creator's property? Maddox would have a tough time explaining how he was against Data being able to join Starfleet while also believing that Starfleet owns him. If I were the judge it wouldve been an easy ruling to say even if Data is ruled as property Starfleet has no ownership so the whole case is irrelevant.

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