Mon
Sep 12 2011 1:02pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Measure of a Man”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Measure of a Man”“The Measure of a Man”
Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Season 2, Episode 9
Production episode 40272-135
Original air date: February 13, 1989
Stardate: 42523.7

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise arrives at Starbase 173 for crew rotation, dropping off of experiment modules, and general relaxation. Riker hosts a poker game that includes Data, O’Brien, La Forge, and Pulaski, while Picard comes across Phillipa Louvoix, who has started up a Judge Advocate General office on the newly established starbase.

Picard then meets up with Admiral Nakamura who introduces Picard to Commander Bruce Maddox. Maddox claims to have constructed a positronic brain, and wishes to disassemble Data and study him. Or, rather, study “it” — for almost the entire episode, Maddox refers to Data with that pronoun. Maddox was the one member of the committee who approved Data’s application to Starfleet Academy who voted against allowing him in on the grounds that he was not sentient.

Starfleet Command has transferred Data to Maddox’s command on the starbase. Not wishing to submit himself to the procedure, or to Maddox, Data resigns. Maddox claims that Data cannot resign, as he is the property of Starfleet.

Louvoix finds legal precedent that supports Maddox, and rules that Data is indeed Starfleet property. Picard challenges the ruling, but as this is a brand-new JAG office, Louvoix has no staff. Picard and Riker must serve as defendant and prosecutor, respectively — which means that Riker has to prove that Data’s not sentient, something he doesn’t even believe.

However, when the hearing starts, Riker does his job. He has Data bend steel in his bare hands (sadly, he does not change the course of mighty rivers), he removes Data’s forearm, and then finally he turns Data off.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Measure of a Man”

Picard counters by asking Data about the items he packed when he thought he was leaving the Enterprise, establishing a pattern of human behavior — sentiment, memory, and so forth.

Then he calls Maddox to the stand, mentioning that he does not believe that Data is sentient. Picard asks Maddox to define sentience — his response is intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness. In short order, Picard proves the first two. Maddox goes on to say that he intends to create “hundreds” of androids like Data, at which point they become a race. The question becomes then, how will humanity treat this race, this product of their genius? And what if Data also has consciousness, in even the smallest degree?

Louvoix says that they’re dancing around the big question: does Data have a soul? She has no idea if he does; she has no idea if she herself does. But he should be able to find out for himself, and so she rules that he has the right to choose. Data formally declines Maddox’s procedure, Maddox says he’ll cancel the transfer, Data asks him to continue his work and stay in touch in case his work actually becomes productive, Maddox calls him remarkable, and Louvoix points out that he finally stopped calling Data “it.”

Can’t We Just Reverse The Polarity?: Apparently, if you don’t know how to maintain the electron resistance across the neural filaments of a positronic brain, you can’t make one. Learn something new every day.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Measure of a Man”

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data plays his first poker game, and is bluffed by Riker. He then has to fight for his rights, starting with Picard. When the captain points out the potential value of Data being experimented upon, Data asks why all officers aren’t required to remove their eyes and replace them with VISORs, since La Forge’s vision is superior to humans’.

Data has been awarded a Starfleet Decoration for Valor and Gallantry, the Medal of Honor with Cluster, the Legion of Honor, and the Star Cross.

His off-switch, established in “Datalore,” is discovered by Riker (who smiles when he first sees it, and then frowns when he realizes how much it helps his argument).

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Data keeps a holograph of Tasha Yar, from the time they were intimate in “The Naked Now.” Louvoix’s expression upon realizing that Data is fully functional is classic.

Speaking of Louvoix, the sexual tension between her and Picard is thick enough to cut with a knife.

Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan helps Picard realize that they’re not really talking about Data — and any other androids Maddox might create as a result of studying Data — being property, they’re talking about them being slaves.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Measure of a Man”

Welcome Aboard: Several truly excellent guest stars in this one, from small — Clyde Kustatsu as a no-nonsense admiral, and Colm Meaney returning as O’Brien — to large — the delightful Amanda McBroom as Louvoix and the snotty Brian Brophy as Maddox.

I Believe I Said That: “It brings a sense of order and stability to my universe that you’re still a pompous ass.”

Louvoix upon being reunited with Picard.

Trivial matters: Data would continue to stay in touch with Maddox—the episode “Data’s Day” will consist of a letter to Maddox describing a day in his life.

In your humble rewatcher’s post-Star Trek: Nemesis novel Articles of the Federation, Maddox is on the other side of the argument, as he defends B-4’s right not to be disassembled before the Federation Council.

Data and Picard will again have to defend android rights when Data creates a daughter, Lal, in “The Offspring.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Measure of a Man”The Stargazer court-martial referenced by Picard and Louvoix throughout the episode is dramatized in Christopher L. Bennett’s novel The Buried Age, which covers Picard’s life between the loss of the Stargazer and the launch of the Enterprise.

Admiral Nakamura will return in the episodes “Phantasms” and “All Good Things...” and would feature heavily in the A Time to... nine-book series by various authors (including myself) and make a brief appearance in the Destiny trilogy by David Mack.

Two other additions to the Trek universe in this episode: The poker game we see in the teaser becomes a recurring event, all the way to the final scene of the final episode. And we get the first of many mentions of the Daystrom Institute, named for Richard Daystrom, from the original series’ “The Ultimate Computer.”

This is the first of a great many episodes written by Melinda M. Snodgrass, who would go on to become a story editor and an executive script consultant for the show.

Make It So: “You wanted a chance to make law — well, here it is, make it a good one.” Quite simply one of Trek’s finest hours. Picard sums it up best during the hearing when he mentions that Starfleet was created to seek out new life, “well, there it sits!” I described “A Matter of Honor” as Star Trek at its Star Trekkiest, but that applies even more so here, as it’s an exploration of the human condition, and a fight for human rights, for all that the person making the fight isn’t actually human. But then, that has been how Trek has traditionally used its nonhuman characters, from Spock to Data to Odo to Seven of Nine to T’Pol.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Measure of a Man”

Ironically, given writer Snodgrass’s legal background, the episode’s sole flaw is the procedure in the hearing. Picard isn’t given the chance to cross examine Data, Riker isn’t given the chance to cross examine Maddox, and Riker never gets to make closing arguments.

But that’s a minor nit in an otherwise brilliant piece that includes some classic scenes: the first of many poker games, Data’s going away party, every spark-filled scene with Picard and Louvoix, both Riker and Picard’s presentations during the hearing, and especially the Ten-Forward scene where Guinan shines a light on the true stakes of this hearing to Picard.

 

Warp factor rating: 9


Keith R.A. DeCandido really enjoyed writing an older, wiser Bruce Maddox in Articles of the Federation, because he really was a putz in this episode. That is but one of his many pieces of Star Trek fiction. His latest books include the fantastical police procedurals Unicorn Precinct and SCPD: The Case of the Claw. He’s working on sequels to both books for 2012 release: Goblin Precinct and SCPD: Avenging Amethyst. For more about Keith, go to his web site, from which you can order his latest books, and check out his blog, his Facebook page, and his Twitter feed, not to mention his twice-monthly podcast Dead Kitchen Radio.

37 comments
Christopher L. Bennett
1. Christopher L. Bennett
Another legal glitch in the episode -- one that gave me a lot of trouble trying to justify in writing The Buried Age -- was the claim that a court-martial is standard procedure when a ship is lost. Actually the standard procedure is a preliminary investigation to determine whether a court-martial is warranted, as with Commodore Stone's investigation in the first act of TOS: "Court-martial."

Still, legal glitches are a tradition of TV legal dramas, and this is still a fine episode. "Prove to the court that I am sentient." I love it. And I love seeing Patrick Stewart drop his "noble captain" mode and adopt a more barrister-ish persona. At times I can practically envision him in black robes and a powdered wig, especially when he says "He seems reasonably self-aware to me."
Sam Mickel
2. Samadai
This is one of the great episodes of TNG. I really enjoyed watching it then and again. Guinan opening Picards eyes to the Federation creating a race of slaves really was a great scene.
Christopher L. Bennett
3. dav
I love this episode. It always stood out to me as one of Frakes' finest hours as Riker, being forced to do something he doesn't want to do and doesn't believe in, but doing it exceptionally well.
David Levinson
4. DemetriosX
This really is one of the best episodes of the whole run. This and the previous episode were when I finally decided that TNG could turn out OK. It really is everything Star Trek aspired to be.

The only problem I had with it is that it seems to me that Starfleet had long since already decided the Data was sentient. After all, they had given him a comission and promoted him. I don't think they would have done that if they didn't think Data was a person. I always had a sneaking suspicion that Maddox hadn't been entirely honest with his superiors about his intentions.
Christopher L. Bennett
5. Marc Giller
As I understand it, a JAGMAN investigation would be initiated to find out the preliminary facts of the case. From there, the matter would proceed to an Article 31 hearing, which determines whether or not there is evidence enough to refer the case to a general court martial.

One thing I enjoyed about Snodgrass's writing was how much more "human" her dialog was. It was a nice break from some of the more stilted stuff we got out of some episodes!
Christopher L. Bennett
6. critter42
Up until this point, I just wasn't quite sold on Guinan (or Whoopi for that matter) - I mean, I knew she liked Star Trek and had asked Gene for a role on the show, but a mysterious bartender - shades of Spider Robinson's Mike Callahan? and the most gawdaful pun in syndicated television "Ten-Forward"? I struggled with it until this episode.

That Ten-Forward scene is absolutely brilliant - this part gets me all the time:
***************
GUINAN: Well, consider that in the history of many worlds there have always been disposable creatures. They do the dirty work. They do the work that no one else wants to do because it's too difficult, or to hazardous. And an army of Datas, all disposable, you don't have to think about their welfare, you don't think about how they feel. Whole generations of disposable people.

PICARD: You're talking about slavery.

GUINAN: I think that's a little harsh.

PICARD: I don't think that's a little harsh. I think that's the truth. But that's a truth we have obscured behind a comfortable, easy euphemism. Property. But that's not the issue at all, is it?
*****************
The dialog is not extensive, but so much happens, especially below the surface: she walks him down the path to the logical conclusion but never says it herself, instead making him say the word - giving voice to private thoughts is very powerful, and she knows this. Then when he identifies it, she pulls back a bit to give him room to see if he'll backtrack - take the easy way out by agreeing with her or take the harder path, accept the reality of the issue and express his moral repugnance. Just brilliant!


The interesting thing is, especially given Pulaski's attitudes toward Data especially at the beginning of the season, why was she not in this episode (except for the poker game and the party, where she had maybe 5 lines, only one of which could be considered pertinent to the episode's them)? Was this a script written pre-Pulaski and adapted? Would it have clouded the issue? Just a few things I ask myself whenever I watch this episode.
Margot Virzana
7. LuvURphleb
Maddox: boo
This episode: awesome. It is my most watched episode of season two and riles me up so effectively. At one point maddox compares datas resignation to the computer not allowing a refit. Phil fran author of nitpickers guide to tng put it best: "star fleet built the computer they did not build data." If anyone can claim data that is noonian soong.
Love the tension between jag phillipa and picard.
This episode also takes place right before the giant novel metamorphosis by jean lorran. ( i hope i spelled that right) which is currently my all time fav tng novel. Its so bittersweet an i think it highlights this episodes affect on data very well.
(no offense krad.)
Scott
8. Shard
Did you give this a 9/10 because Pulaski is in it? If so I understand why you didn't give it a 10.
Steve Hussey
9. deihbhussey
I agree on the awesomeness of this episode. Gives me chills everytime.

The one thing that I always questioned was the quick ruling given regarding Data being the property of Starfleet. That never made sense to me for two reasons, the first of which was mentioned by DemetriosX. The second was how could he be Starfleet's property if Starfleet didn't actually create him. Putting aside the question of his sentience, by that rational, if I "find" a phone on the ground and turn it on it's now mine? Not really so I can either do what is right and call the phone carrier to report the phone as found, or do what is wrong and keep or re-sell the phone. Seems to me Starfleet doesn't generally go for the latter option.

An even better metaphor might be if I found an injured person or animal on the ground and nursed them back to health, do I now own that person or animal? Once again in both circumstances, the answer must be 'No' even should the being decide to stay with me of his/her own volition.
Keith DeCandido
10. krad
Louvoix did cite a legal precedent for Data being Starfleet's property, but the specifics of that precedent were never explained.

And I knocked off one point for the procedural nits, the most egregious being Riker not getting a closing argument. Pulaski being in the episode isn't enough to get that, indeed her entertaining wild-card variant in the teaser was worth her appearing in the episode alone....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher L. Bennett
11. JESilverstein
I always thought that "The Measure of a Man" was when TNG came into its own as quality Star Trek, and my admiration for Melinda Snodgrass is huge. For me, this ep is when I stopped comparing TNG to TOS and started really taking it on its own terms. It was a story that hadn't been done in TOS in quite this way and it started TNG on the road to being its own independent entity in the franchise, rather than TOS v2.0. The dialog with Guinan about the nature of the discussion raises the bar and, in my opinion, is what made this episode transcend merely good Star Trek; it's great Trek in the best tradtion.
Christopher L. Bennett
12. Seryddwr
'Where No One Has Gone Before' and 'A Matter Of Honor' are both excellent, but this stands out as the finest episode of the first two seasons by a country mile - especially when Picard comes over all Atticus Finch towards the end. As with some of the other posts, the procedures of the court could stand a little scrutiny. However, it's a small point, outweighed by fabulous performances by everybody, especially Brophy, whose indignant defence of his right to examine Data in the first act, and squirming under Picard's withering fire in the penultimate scene, provide good book-ends to the episode.
Christopher L. Bennett
13. Pendard
What is there to say about this episode? It's great. In the top 10 of
the whole Star Trek franchise, without a shadow of a doubt. This is
everything that Star Trek is and should be about in one package -- seeking out new life, and exploring the human condition. "The Measure of a Man" has it all. The only episode I can think of that comes close to doing those two things in such a pure way is "The Offspring," which could be considered this episode's sequel in some ways.

As for nitpicking Federation legal procedure: I don't think you can compare it to today's courts. This is the synthesis of the courts of 150 planets. Besides that, Louvoix seems dismissive of the adversarial process in deciding cases, even though she has dedicated her life to it. It goes to figure that Federation law is very different from the American legal system, which delights in rhetoric and procedure to the point that it frequently has very little in common with justice, common sense or reality. It's comforting to know that the Federation uses a model that's stripped of a lot of its formal procedure. (Also, it's very convenient for TV writers who aren't lawyers, so it's win-win.)

@KRAD: You left off the very important qualifying statement from the "you're a pompous ass... and a damn sexy man" quote. Possibly the greatest description of Picard by anyone in the whole show!
Paul Weimer
14. PrinceJvstin
This is the episode, I think, where the Riker-Data friendship bond and friendship (seen back at Encounter at Farpoint) ended, and the Data-Geordi Relationship had room to really get going.
Christopher L. Bennett
15. Mike S.
This one falls somewhere in the 7-10 range with regards to my favorite TNG stories

What I like about it is, that while it is your standard court show, it is done so in a setting that is unique to the "Star Trek" world. No other TV court show, then or now, could do something like this (I'm talking about L.A. Law, Boston Legal, etc... not the reality court shows like Judge Judy). I like "The Drumhead", but a few script changes here and there, and that could be done anywhere.
Christopher L. Bennett
16. Jazzlet
I haven't seen this episode in a while, but I had assumed that we simply didn't see the missing cross-examinations as it would not have made good drama. And good drama we certainly got!
Christopher L. Bennett
17. JasonD
The moment from this episode that always gives me chills, and really showed my Riker's depth of character, was when he flipped Data's power switch and says "Pinocchio is broken; his strings are cut." Then he sits down, folds his hands in front of face, and looks like he wants to vomit. Crazy stuff.
Christopher L. Bennett
18. Chessara
A truly magnificent episode! Superb acting all around, amazing writing, definitely the best episode of Season 2 and in the top ten of all TNG!

I had forgotten Guinan's scene!! Hard to believe! But seeing it now totally blew me away, and like others have said, it was a very well written and acted scene.

Thanks again for this re-watch, I'm enjoying it more than you could possibly imagine! :D
Jenny Thrash
19. Sihaya
I always found Riker's position interesting in this episode. He doesn't just want to avoid prosecuting the case because he believes Data is sentient. He wants to avoid prosecuting the case because he believes he will win. This episode really spells out Riker's massive ego and total need to compete. It also shows that Riker is aware of this flaw. He knows he will do his utmost to prosecute his case, and he can only just allow for the possibility that Picard might win. I think if anybody else were defending Data, Riker would have gone to prison to avoid being in that courtroom. The fact that he thinks his Captain might pull off a Hail Mary shows how much Riker has already grown.
Christopher L. Bennett
20. Jamsco
I've been watching the new Battlestar Galactica series and it's been my thought that the reason many of the humans in that series call the cylons 'toasters' is because the BSG writers had seen this episode (where Data is called a toaster).

If this is correct, there is more than a little irony in it.
Ian Tregillis
21. ITregillis
Jamsco@20: Ron Moore of BSG got his start working on ST:TNG. The story I've heard is that Melinda Snodgrass, who wrote this episode, was the one who read his freelance script, recognized its quality, and passed it up the chain. Wikipedia puts a different (though not entirely contradictory) spin on it.
Christopher L. Bennett
22. Jamsco
Also, of the proported-to-be-official episode scripts I've read, this one was changed the most during the final stages.

http://www.st-minutiae.com/academy/literature329/135.txt

The Guinan scene in particular was changed a great deal.
Christopher L. Bennett
23. critter42
MikeS@15: I kinda have to disagree here -

If you break down what's going on you have 1) A setup for the courtroom case that is just this side (or the other side on occasion) of the bounds of credulity; 2) questionable courtroom procedures, including audacious courtroom displays that you wouldn't see in real courts (ie, pulling off Data's arm and turning him off), and 3) a monologue in the 3rd act by the counsel we're supposed to be rooting for that drives the point of that episode home followed by a monologue by the judge explaining his/her decision. Sounds like a typical David E Kelley courtroom drama to me :)

Heh, trust me, I think Kelley could come up with a setup wacky enough to justify arguing this in the courts of Rome, Wisconsin or Cincinnati, OH
Christopher L. Bennett
24. Anony
Riker's conflict of interest is rather ridiculous here. If he's Data's friend, emotions could weaken his case. If he sees Data as competition, he could abuse the system to get Data out of his way. But once the sides are established, it's a great episode.
Ian Tregillis
25. ITregillis
Jamsco@22:

Interesting link! Also worth comparing are Snodgrass's original script for "The Ensigns of Command" and the final as-shot version. I think her version of the script is posted on her website.
Christopher L. Bennett
26. Slybrarian
Personally, I've never understood how Riker could get away with turning Data off in the middle of a court room. Since when is assaulting another officer a legal arguement? Would it be permissable for a Vulcan to use a nerve pinch to turn a human off? What about a good old-fashioned punch to the face? I'm willing to accept that maybe it's plausible for a Starfleet court to be ruling on this in the first place, at least as the first step in what would undoubtably be string of appeals court cases that would last a decade, but as a general rule outright manhandling the defendant seems like something a court would frown upon.
Jenny Thrash
27. Sihaya
"Personally, I've never understood how Riker could get away with turning Data off in the middle of a court room. Since when is assaulting another officer a legal arguement?"

Well, that's kind of interesting. On the one hand, the court was there to determine if Data was a sentient being or not, and since his status was nebulous, Riker might get away with it. He was essentially arguing that he was simply turning off a computer.

On the other hand, the police in various cities and countries have given their assitance animals some kind of rank for at least a century. People have been convicted of assaulting an officer of the law when they mess with police horses or dogs, haven't they? Though in some cities the charge is specific to interfering with or assaulting a police service animal. Anyway, few people argue that those critters are sentient, but interfering with them is a crime. So you may be right - if Riker fiddles with something/someone who has rank, then he's assaulting an officer, even if it's not sentient.

But I don't think Data's going to press charges.

On another note - in Houston about half a decade ago a prosecutor in a murder case tied her assistant to a mattress in the middle of the courtroom, straddled him, and simulated stabbing him 193 times. Interestingly, the defendent's appeal was not based on the demonstration. Outrageous courtroom antics still happen, and they sometimes work.
Clarice Meadows
28. embereye
I enjoyed this episode far more than I remembered enjoying it before. And Louvoix is just the right kind of sassy for Picard. He needs someone to sass him since Crusher is MIA.

My favorite bit though is during Data's "going away" party when Wes tells Data that he's missing the point of tearing the paper off of his gifts. As Data tears the paper in half and crumples it up, Troi smiles really big and Riker is wiping his eyes while laughing. Something about the eye-wiping made me think this may have been a third or fourth take on this scene and Brent Spiner had been winging it before. :D
Christopher L. Bennett
29. Shawn R.
It's been said by others, but this episode ranks at or near the top of all Star Trek series. I have loved it from the first time I saw it as a younger teenager in 1989. The humanist issues raised are the epitome of Trek. Legal nits aside, the powerful performances by Stewart, Spiner, and Frakes make the episode.

The scene with Guinan and Picard as he comes to realize what is really at stake is amazing. "You're talking about slavery." "I think that's a little harsh."

The guest stars are wonderfully cast; Maddox comes off as arrogant/bigoted, but at least not as completely off base in his research as Kosinki, from “Where No One Has Gone Before."

I wonder what krad has in mind that he is reserving his 10 for? Because I certainly think this is an episode worthy of it.
Christopher L. Bennett
30. Philippe13
@ critter42, what's the pun in Ten-Forward?
Christopher L. Bennett
32. critter42
@Philippe13 - I guess CB Radios were more popular back then :)

ten-four good buddy :)
Ten-Forward
Christopher L. Bennett
33. USER
Unfortunately, the episode's worst line comes at a crucial moment. Contrary to what the JAG says, intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness are not primarily the domain of metaphysics and saints.
Christopher L. Bennett
34. Big Joe S.
Forgive me for being inconsistent, but, this episode is better than The Battle and is the best of both the First and Second Season.
A lot happens in this episode. It's a classic Courtroom drama and there is never a dull moment. We get insights into Picard, Data, and Riker. We are also confronted with profound questions that TNG was loathe to explore, unlike TOS or the movies. The episode delves into the scope of friendship, existence, and civil liberties magnificently.
One of Star Trek's strengths (which shined in DS9) was the ability to present 20th Century conundrums in the context of the 23rd and 24th Century. I always felt though that Star Trek, especially TNG, was at times too perfect. This episode shows that in the 24th Century, there are still serious questions about the relationship of the individual and the State that are unanswered. Is Data a person? If so, does Data deserve individual rights?
I suppose if it were my episode, I would have had Captain Louvois rule against Data and have Picard take a successful appeal. But, the doings of the appellate courts are not necessarily dramatic for television. This trial certainly was.
Well said Keith.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
35. jlpsquared
@26. "Since when is assaulting another officer a legal arguement?"

That's exactly the point Maddox is trying to make. It is not OK to assault an officer, but data is not an officer, he is a machine, a machine owned by starfleet. That is the whole point of the episode.

As eveeryone else has said, this is among Johnathon Frakes Finest episodes, if not his finest. Everyone in this one was incredible.


I have 2 complaints that no-one else has mention.

1. I couldn't stand that the judge has to be an ex-flame of Picards. Everyone that keeps saying this episode really separated TNG from TOS..Really??? A legal ep where Kirk, I mean Picard, is an ex-lover of the judge, come on. And I agree there was chemistry, but every single scene these 2 teenagers were flirting was a scene that could have been dealing with data..

2. Does Starflee not have an appeals process. Looking at this from an outside point of view, Data was prosecutedby, and defended by, his friends. I could see some starfleet higher ups taking exception to the ruling!!!!

All that aside, wonderful episode, absolutely wonderful on re-watches. And god does Picard have one of the greatest lines in Star Trek history...."Our charter is to seek out new life....Well THERE IT SITS!"
Christopher L. Bennett
36. Llama
I have to say, I was pretty disappointed with this (not that it's in any way badly done, it's very well-executed). For an episode that is ostensibly about Data's personhood, it really doesn't do much work to establish it. I mean, I don't need convincing at all and I thought the case was pretty weak.

They leap too quickly and too explicitly from the story proper (Data must prove he's a person) to the larger theme (the implications of incaution when dealing with truly new lifeforms and the possibility of enslaving a sapient race). Maybe this is partly because I care so much more about characters than plot, but it seems to me the overall thrust would have been far more powerful if they'd made a stronger case that this is an individual and dissecting him would be murder before moving on to the broader applicability that others like him would also be individuals and shouldn't be used like tools.

The others and their enslavement are totally hypothetical; Data exists now and is in real, immediate danger. His human rights should be paramount in the discussion and need to be clearly defined before the subject can be closed. How can he have a career in Starfleet (particularly as such a high-ranking officer) when his status hasn't been guarenteed? They didn't even find conclusively that he's not a thing. He therefore still has no protection or recourse if someone else decides he is and can be used like one. Or if enlisted men just don't want to take orders from him on grounds he can't actually be an officer if he's just a computer.

I'm ultimately frustrated Picard didn't hammer the point of Data's personhood home a little more. If feels like he should have his back up on behalf of his friend, personally to a greater extent than having righteous indignation on behalf of hypothetical future android slaves. Less time on Picard's old girlfriend, more time on this; also, more witnesses testifying. Where the hell is the rest of the senior staff during all this?
Christopher L. Bennett
37. Paulito
One the best episodes of anything, anywhere, ever. I realise there are legal nitpicks and soforth, but it's the exploration of the human condition that I find so riveting in this episode. Louvoix sums it up perfectly: "We've all been dancing around the basic issue: does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have!". For we don't truly know how sentient we ourselves are, and we lack a precise, all encompassing definition of sentience. Even an eminent expert in cybernetics can only come up with three vague and ultimately unsatisfactory criteria. So how can we judge, and likely enslave, other life forms based on criteria that centuries of human thought are still yet to resolve? The scenes between Guinan and Picard and then Riker and Data at the end are simply brilliant.
Christopher L. Bennett
38. Tom Green
My biggest issue with the episode is fundamental to the entire plot.

Data wants to resign from Starfleet, but is told that he can't. Maddox argues that Data is Starfleet's property. Data had free will to choose whether he joined Starfleet after he was discovered. He was never "forced" to join Starfleet. If he had free will to join Starfleet, why wouldn't he have free will to resign?

It's always hard for me to forget that, but if I can, this is an excellent episode. I saw the extended version in the theater the other day for the Blu-Ray preview, but I think they picked the right things to cut.

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