(written from a Production point of view)
|"The Measure Of A Man"|
|TNG, Episode 2x09|
Production number: 40272-135
First aired: 13 February 1989
|←||34th of 176 produced in TNG||→|
|←||34th of 176 released in TNG||→|
|←||140th of 728 released in all||→|
| Written By|
Melinda M. Snodgrass
The Enterprise must defend Data's status when Starfleet demands his reassignment for study.
Four of the senior staff and Chief Miles O'Brien sit down in Commander Riker's quarters for a game of poker. Lieutenant Commander Data explains the game, in detail, as the cards are dealt. Doctor Pulaski announces a bet, which the rest of the staff calls. Data bets ten, as he holds the highest hand, whereas Pulaski and Lieutenant La Forge fold. The cards are dealt, and Riker's new card is the five of hearts, as we see three hearts, compared to Data's pair of queens, ace high.
Data bets five cautiously, whereas O'Brien calls, but Riker raises to five. Data calls, but O'Brien folds. The cards are dealt a final time, but a four of hearts comes down, which causes a moan from the others - Riker may have a flush. Data bets ten, but Riker raises another ten. This causes Data to peek at his face-down card, which is a queen, indicating he has three of a kind. Data comments about Riker's facial expression being a "poker face", but Riker asks if Data is "playing or not?". Data hesitates and then folds. Riker reveals his face-down card as the two of spades, which raises a resounding groan from the table. Confused, Data doesn't understand how Riker could have won - as he had nothing toward a winning hand - but La Forge points out to Data Riker's valid play, in bluffing Data.
Upon arriving at the newly-built Starbase 173, Captain Picard encounters Captain Phillipa Louvois, a longtime friend who had previously prosecuted Picard with zeal during the court martial following the loss of the USS Stargazer. While they reminisce, the pair is approached by Admiral Nakamura, accompanied by Commander Bruce Maddox, a Starfleet cyberneticist. Maddox was the sole member of a Starfleet special admissions panel to oppose Data's admission to Starfleet, on the basis that Data was not a sentient lifeform - and he wishes to disassemble the android.
Commander Maddox explains that he wants Data to help him understand better how Dr. Noonian Soong was able to overcome certain engineering challenges in designing Data's positronic brain. Data is intrigued, until he discovers that it is Maddox's intention to "dump" Data's memories from his positronic brain into the Starbase 173 main computer, then deactivate and disassemble Data in hopes of deriving enough technical knowledge to construct more Soong-type androids.
Data concludes that Maddox does not posses sufficient technical knowledge to carry out this procedure without to great a risk to Data, and therefore Data refuses to undergo it. Maddox, prepared for this eventuality, produces orders from Starfleet Command separating Data from the Enterprise, transferring him to Starbase 173, and compelling Data to submit to the procedure.
In private, Picard, recognizing Starfleet's inherent interests in the creation of more Soong-type androids, attempts to persuade Data into submitting to Maddox's procedure. Despite Picard's approach being the opposite of Maddox's - with the application of much more carrot than stick - Data counters, intimating that asking him to submit to a dangerous and potentially destructive experiment for the benefit of Starfleet is tantamount to compulsorily requiring all Starfleet officers to have their biological eyes replaced with cybernetic implants, such as the type utilized by La Forge.
Swayed by the gravamen of Data's argument, Picard turns for help to the Starbase 173 office of Starfleet's Judge Advocate General, headed by Captain Louvois. Louvois contends that while Data can refuse to participate in the experiment, the transfer itself cannot be stopped. Picard articulates his concern that once Maddox has Data in his clutches, as it were, anything could happen; Louvois therefore suggests, alternatively, that Data could resign his Starfleet commission. Rather than risk his memories, Data chooses resignation to participating in the experiment.
Maddox learns with displeasure of Data's impending resignation, and angrily counters that Data is the property of Starfleet - not an individual, sentient being with rights within the Federation - and is no more able to refuse his procedure and resign from Starfleet than the Enterprise's computer is able to refuse a refit.
After announcing his resignation, Data's shipmates throw an impromptu going-away party in Ten Forward. Worf presents him with a copy of The Dream of the Fire, a classic Klingon novel. Across the room, Data sees Geordi La Forge sitting alone, and he approaches his friend. La Forge tells Data that he's upset about the android being forced out of Starfleet, and the two express that they will miss each other.
Surmising that there might be established law to support Maddox's position, Captain Louvois, after some research, initially finds for Commander Maddox's position "based on the Acts of Cumberland passed in the late 21st century." Picard requests a formal hearing to challenge the ruling; however, because the Judge Advocate General's Office staff on Starbase 173 consists of only Captain Louvois and "one terrified little ensign," Louvois convenes a hearing on condition that Enterprise personnel serve as legal counsel during the proceedings: Captain Picard is to defend Data - and a reluctant Commander Riker is pressed into representing Commander Maddox's position. Riker initially refuses to prosecute on the grounds that he considers Data a comrade and friend; however, since Data's position is at peril of Louvois' preliminary ruling, Riker finds himself compelled to.
Riker, as prosecutor, demonstrates that Data is, in fact, a man-made, constructed being; after compelling Data to bend a rod of parsteel - despite Picard's objection, based on the fact that many creatures in the Federation are possessed of mega-strength - Riker removes Data's left hand for Captain Louvois' examination. Riker then abruptly deactivates Data, proclaiming "Pinocchio is broken; its strings have been cut."
During a recess, Captain Picard recounts Riker's devastating prosecution to Guinan in Ten Forward. Guinan aptly observes that were Maddox to prevail in the proceedings and go on to become successful in replicating Data - despite the value this would represent to Starfleet - Maddox's success would almost certainly result in the creation of an entirely new race of "disposable creatures;" beings whose welfare and needs would not require consideration.
Picard quickly concludes that victory for Maddox would have far more sinister repercussions throughout the Federation; that this fledgling race could potentially become a race of slaves. This grim realization strengthens Picard's resolve and inspires him to take a new approach in the defense phase of the hearing.
Back in the courtroom, Picard begins Data's defense by quickly dismissing Riker's arguments that Data is a constructed being:
- "Commander Riker has dramatically demonstrated to this court that Lieutenant Commander Data is a machine. Do we deny that? No, because it is not relevant - we too are machines, just machines of a different type. Commander Riker has also reminded us that Lieutenant Commander Data was created by a Human; do we deny that? No. Again it is not relevant. Children are created from the 'building blocks' of their parents' DNA. Are they property?"
Picard then calls Data to the witness stand and shows the court some of the android's personal belongings: a plaque of his Starfleet medals, a book that was given to him by his captain, and a holocube portrait of Tasha Yar. Picard asks Data, what purpose do any of these articles serve him? Of the Starfleet medals, he answers that they serve no purpose other than that he simply wanted them, wondering if that demonstrates vanity. Of the book, Data says that it is a reminder of his friendship and service with the captain.
When Picard questions Data about the holocube of Tasha Yar, Data replies that he would rather not comment, as he had given his word to not speak about the matter. After Picard tells him that under the circumstances that "Tasha would not mind", Data says that she was special to him and that they were intimate, which makes Captain Louvois raise her eyebrows in wonder.
Picard goes on to expose and impeach Commander Maddox's views about Data. In doing so, Picard maneuvers Maddox into conceding that Data fulfills most of the cyberneticist's own criteria for sentience - intelligence and self-awareness - and dramatically coerces the scientist into admission that the remaining criterion, consciousness, is too nebulous a concept to precisely determine whether the android is in possession of it or not. Having cemented his argument for Data's sentience, Picard summarizes his final contention that to create a sentient race that is considered "property" is to sanction slavery - a profound violation of the basic principles and ideals of the United Federation of Planets:
- "Your honor, the courtroom is a crucible; in it, we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a purer product: the truth, for all time. Now sooner or later, this man [Commander Maddox] - or others like him - will succeed in replicating Commander Data. The decision you reach here today will determine how we will regard this creation of our genius. It will reveal the kind of people we are; what he is destined to be. It will reach far beyond this courtroom and this one android. It could significantly redefine the boundaries of personal liberty and freedom: expanding them for some, savagely curtailing them for others. Are you prepared to condemn him [Commander Data] - and all who will come after him - to servitude and slavery? Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life: well, there it sits! Waiting."
Ultimately, Captain Louvois rules in favor of Data:
- "It sits there looking at me, and I don't know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I am neither competent, nor qualified, to answer those. I've got to make a ruling - to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. 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! But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose."
Data formally refuses to undergo Maddox's procedure after Louvois' ruling is entered, and Maddox, in turn, declares he will see that Data's transfer orders is rescinded. Data encourages Maddox to continue his work; Data says that he remains intrigued by some of what Maddox is proposing, and suggests he might agree to the procedure at some point in the future, once he is certain Maddox can perform it safely. Captain Louvois notices that Maddox at this point no longer refers to Data as an "it" but as a "he", regarding him as a person and not as a machine.
After the victory, Riker, deeply affected by the gravity of nearly costing a friend and colleague his life, prefers the solitude of the Enterprise's bridge boardroom to Data's victory celebration on the holodeck. However, Data reminds Riker that had he not agreed to serve as prosecutor, Data would not have been afforded the chance to defend himself, and expresses his gratitude at the ignominy Riker had endured, but that had, in its effect, saved him.
A significant amount of original footage was cut from the episode during editing, but was restored for the TNG Season 2 Blu-ray release.  The 'extended edition' features an 57-minute version of the episode, containing approximately 13 minutes of restored scenes and visual effects, including:
- Act 1, Scene 5 - Picard, Nakamura, and Maddox beam aboard the Enterprise; Picard and Nakamura reminisce about their days aboard the USS Reliant.
- Act 3, Scene 11 - Data presents Geordi with his Sherlock Holmes pipe in engineering; they discuss life outside of Starfleet.
- Act 3, Scene 13 - A extended version of Data's farewell party in Ten Forward. Pulaski gives Data advice on where to live after leaving Starfleet; Riker and Troi privately discuss their feelings about Data; Maddox crashes the party and insults Data; Picard summons Riker to the transporter room.
- Act 3, Scene 17 - Riker interrupts the fencing match between Picard and his fencing partner. Riker warns Picard that he will do everything in his power to win the coming legal battle - and Picard warns Riker that he will do the same.
- Act 3, Scene 18 - Picard and Data review their legal strategy. Picard attempts to guide Data's testimony to a more favorable position, calling it "a bit of legal fiction"; Data cites "kill all the lawyers" from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part II.
- Act 5, Scene 23 - An extended version of Data and Riker's post-hearing conversation in the observation lounge; Data tells "Will" that he has learned from Riker's sacrifice in prosecuting his friend.
"It's been ten years, but seeing you again like this makes it seem like fifty. If we weren't around all these people, do you know what I would like to do?"
"Bust a chair across my teeth."
"Oh, ain't love wonderful."
- - Jean-Luc Picard and Phillipa Louvois
"It brings a sense of order and stability to my universe to know that you're still a pompous ass... and a damn sexy man."
- - Louvois, to Picard
- - Picard, upon seeing Louvois again
"You're a little vague on the specifics."
- - William Riker, to Bruce Maddox
"'When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes / I all alone beweep my outcast state.' Tell me: are these just words to you? Or do you fathom the meaning?"
"Is it not customary to request permission before entering an individual's quarters?"
- - Maddox and Data
"I am the culmination of one man's dream. This is not ego or vanity, but when Doctor Soong created me, he added to the substance of the universe. If, by your experiments, I am destroyed, something unique – something wonderful – will be lost. I cannot permit that. I must protect his dream."
- - Data, to Maddox
"You are imparting Human qualities to it because it looks Human – but I assure you: it is not. If it were a box on wheels I would not be facing this opposition."
- - Maddox, to Picard and Louvois
"...and the unenviable task of prosecuting this case would fall on you, Commander, as the next most senior officer of the defendant's ship."
"I can't! I...I won't! Data's my comrade. We have served together. I not only respect him, I consider him my friend!"
- - Louvois and Riker
"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 too 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."
"You're talking about slavery."
"I think that's a little harsh."
"I don't think that's a little harsh, I think that's the truth. But that's a truth that we have obscured behind a... comfortable, easy euphemism. 'Property'. But that's not the issue at all, is it?"
- - Guinan and Picard
"I would prefer not to answer, sir. I gave my word."
"Under the circumstances, I don't think Tasha would mind."
"She was special to me. We were... intimate."
- - Data, when asked about his connection to Tasha Yar
"Now tell me, Commander, what is Data?"
"I don't understand."
"What is he?"
"Is he? Are you sure?"
"You see he's met two of your three criteria for sentience, so what if he meets the third, consciousness, in even the smallest degree? What is he then? I don't know, do you? (to Riker) Do you? (to Phillipa) Do you?"
- - Picard and Maddox
"Your Honor, a courtroom is a crucible; in it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product: the truth, for all time."
- - Picard, in his summation
"... Starfleet was founded to seek out new life – well, there it sits! ...waiting."
- - Picard, in his summation
"That act injured you and saved me. I will not forget it."
"You're a wise man, my friend."
"Not yet, sir. But with your help, I am learning."
- - Data and Riker, regarding the latter's prosecution of the former
Story and production
- "The Measure Of A Man" was writer Melinda Snodgrass's first television credit. She drew from her own experience as an attorney in writing the episode. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Snodgrass's spec script was "discovered" as a result of the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike and the consequent need to use existing scripts. (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission)
- Snodgrass commented, "Everyone seems to view [the episode] as a Data script, but it's really a Picard script. Data is the catalyst, but the stress is all on Picard." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- The Daystrom Institute, first mentioned here, was a homage to the character of Richard Daystrom from TOS: "The Ultimate Computer". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Data's rights as a sentient being would again be challenged a season later, in "The Offspring". There, the issue was whether Data could assert parental rights over his "daughter," Lal. In both episodes, Picard acts as Data's advocate.
- After his trial, Data showed Commander Bruce Maddox that he nonetheless remained open to future collaboration with him. He would indeed collaborate with Maddox by recording a log of a day in his life in "Data's Day".
- The court room set is a redress of the battle bridge set. The set features a map of the galaxy previously seen in "Conspiracy" and a chart which shows the current location of 24 starships.
- This episode features the first appearance of the officers' regular poker game, with Data, Riker, La Forge, Dr. Pulaski, and O'Brien.
- The episode features the rare "interim" pattern Starfleet admiral uniform which was only seen twice in the second season of TNG. The uniform departed from the first season "pip triangle" admiral insignia and introduced the "boxed pip" version which would be the standard Admiral insignia for the rest of Next Generation and all subsequent series. The second season pip insignia was worn vertical while later seasons showed the insignia flat against the collar.
- The model of Starbase 173 is a reuse of a model best known as space lab Regula I from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. For more information, see Studio models.
- The episode was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in the category of "Best Episodic Drama".
- Entertainment Weekly ranked this episode #6 on their list of "The Top 10 Episodes" to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. 
- Producer Maurice Hurley commented, "Stunning. That's the kind of show you want to do...It just worked great, everything about it. And it dealt with an issue in a very interesting way. I thought Whoopi's place was good in that. She's a wonderful actress." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Director Robert Scheerer called the episode one of the best of The Next Generation. He explained, "It has to do with the content, what it had to say, how it deals with it, the depth that it goes and the way it's resolved. I love that show. It is indeed my favorite show. I guess you would have to say that what I enjoyed is the dilemma that they're put in to, especially Jonathan and Patrick having to deal with Brent not as a dear friend but as someone whose worth has to be resolved. And Jonathan had to take the other side. It was all just beautifully crafted. It was not typical episodic television and had a great deal to say about man, humanity, what our problems in the world are today and hopefully what we can do about it in the future." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Rick Berman cites this episode, along with "Yesterday's Enterprise", as one of his favorites. (TNG Season 3 DVD)
- Michael Piller named this episode (along with "The Inner Light" and "The Offspring") as one of his favorite TNG episodes, "because they had remarkable emotional impacts. And they genuinely explored the human condition, which this franchise does better than any other when it does it well." (AOL chat, 1997)
- The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- A mission report for this episode by Robert Greenberger was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 8, pp. 5-10.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 18, catalog number VHR 2471, 12 August 1991
- As part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - Data Box: 6 November 1995
- As part of the US VHS collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Data Collection: 19 August 1997
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 2.3, catalog number VHR 4739, 3 May 1999
- As part of the TNG Season 2 DVD collection
- As part of The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation DVD collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
Special appearance by
- Amanda McBroom as Captain Phillipa Louvois
- Clyde Kusatsu as Vice Admiral Nakamura
- Brian Brophy as Commander Bruce Maddox
Special guest star
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Unknown performers as
- Archive footage
- James G. Becker - stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris - stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay - stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon - stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt - stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack - stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Guy Vardaman - stand-in for Wil Wheaton
2355; Acts of Cumberland; android; court martial; cybernetics; Daystrom Institute; Dream of the Fire, The; emergency manual control; Federation; Irish coffee; Judge Advocate General; K'Ratak; kilobar; Legion of Honor; Lore; Medal of Honor; megastrength; metaphysics; neural net; parsteel; Pinocchio; poker; positronic brain; Romulan; Romulan Neutral Zone; rule of law; Sector 23; sentience; Shakespeare's sonnets; slavery; Soong, Noonian; Starbase 173; Star Cross; Starfleet Academy; Stargazer, USS; tensile strength; Ten Forward; Webster's 24th Century Dictionary
Library computer references
- Federation Star Chart ("The Explored Galaxy"): Aldebaran; Alfa 177; Alpha Carinae; Alpha Centauri; Alpha Majoris; Altair VI; Andor; Ariannus; Arret; Babel; Benecia; Berengaria VII; Beta Aurigae; Beta Geminorum; Beta Lyrae; Beta Niobe; Beta Portolan; Camus II; Canopus III; Capella; Daran V; Delta Vega; Deneb; Eminiar; Fabrina; First Federation; Gamma Canaris N; Gamma Trianguli; Holberg 917G; Ingraham B; Janus VI; Kling; Kzin; Lactra VII; Makus III; Marcos XII; Manark IV; Memory Alpha; Mudd; Omega IV; Omega Cygni; Organia; Orion; Pallas 14; Phylos; Pollux IV; Psi 2000; Pyris VII; Regulus; Remus; Rigel; Romulus; Sarpeid; Sirius; Talos; Tau Ceti; Theta III; Tholian Assembly; Vulcan
- The Measure of a Man at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- The Measure of a Man at Wikipedia
- The Measure of a Man at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
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