Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 35 (The Measure of a Man)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Data always was a little different. Certain things, such as emotion, always eluded him. The episode begins with Riker, Data and a few others playing poker. It ultimately comes down to Riker and Data. It appears that Riker has a good hand, but there’s still one card that Data can’t see. Thinking that Riker has a flush, Data folds, only to find out that Riker’s hand is worthless. Data can’t understand why Riker would play a hand that he couldn’t possibly win. So begins “The Measure of a Man”.

The Enterprise docks at Starbase 173, where Picard meets Captain Phillipa Louvois, whou prosecuted Picard at his Stargazer court marshal. (When Captain Picard lost the Stargazer, a court marshal was held. It’s standard procedure, but apparently, Picard never really got over it.) Later, on the Enterprise, Data is visited by Commander Bruce Maddox, who wants Data to come with him so that Maddox can do research on Data. It involves moving Data’s memories to a computer and disassembling him so that Maddox can see how Data was made.

Data and Picard initially protest, but Maddox has legitimate transfer orders. Data resigns his commission, but Maddox has Data ruled to be the property of Starfleet and thus incapable of resigning. (It also turns out that Maddox was on the review board to admit Data into Starfleet in the first place; he was the sole dissenting voice.)

Data officially files complaint, not wanting to submit to Maddox’s tests. Captain Louvois, being the Judge Advocate General officer, holds a hearing, placing Captain Picard (the highest ranking officer available) as his defense council. Commander Riker (the next highest ranking officer) is put in charge of making the case against Data and in favor of Commander Maddox. Riker doesn’t want to have to argue in favor of the death of his friend, but Louvois tells him that if he doesn’t, Data will automatically lose.

So, the trial goes on with Riker making a very convincing argument that Data is little more than a machine. Picard feels overwhelmed, realizing that Data might very well have to submit to the tests. Upon talking to Guinan, Picard realizes that there’s more at stake than just Data. (Yes, that really is Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan.) Picard comes back with a vengeance and helps Data win his case. He’s officially deemed to not be property.

I wasn’t too fond of the second season. “The Measure of a Man” was one of the few redeeming episodes of the season. (Actually, it’s the only one that comes to mind at the moment.) Some of it has to do with the acting. Brent Spiner has to play the emotionless Data, who walks among those that feel emotion and understand things like bluffing. Then, there’s Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker, who knows Data and feels for him, but has to put those feelings aside to help Data. (Ironically, he has to help data by trying his best to hurt him.)

I think that the strongest point is the storyline. It’s a very simple premise: Is Data sentient? Data has to wrestle with the nature of his existence throughout the series. This episode, however, attempts to deal with it only in a legal context. Does Data have the right to determine his own future? Of all the second season episodes, I’d have to say that this is the most memorable. It’s definitely five-star material.

IMDb page

No comments :