Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, March 6, 2017

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Nine "The Measure of a Man"

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Nine "The Measure of a Man"
Production Order: 35
Air Order: 35
Stardate: 42523.7
Original Air Date: February 13, 1989



Picard's Log 42523.7: "Heading to starbase 173, which is new. Random rambling about the crew and what stuff we're  taking on board while there."

We start out this week with a friendly crew poker game - four of the senior staff and O'Brien. This is our first poker game. I love these. No poker so much, but I love that they get together like once a week to play.
This is also Data's first game. He's pretty stoked because he's certain that the game will be easy. He points out that there's a limited number of combinations that can be played, and it makes sense that he would know them, as he has the capacity to memorize them all. Dude could easily count cards if he wanted to, but Data is lawful good, so you know he won't.
Data's friends remind him that it's about more than the cards, but he cheerfully goes along with everything, and he ends up in the game with just Riker.
At one point, he scrutinizes Riker's blank look and asks, "Is that a 'poker face'?"



"Are we playing or not?" Riker demands.
They continue, and Riker wins with shit cards.
The others inform Data that Riker was bluffing, which Data does not quite get, because again, lawful good.
"I bet that you wouldn't call," explains Riker.
"But how did you know?" Data asks.
"Instinct, Data. Instinct," Pulaski replies.
I hold my breath, and... nothing. No further robophobic comments. No smart-ass mansplaining from the doctor about how Data is an android, and will never understand such things because they're human qualities. She just deals the next round.
You guys, I actually like this Pulaski. Sure, she's brash and opinionated, but lacking the blatant rudeness to Data, I'm really okay with her. Is it annoying that she's a female McCoy clone? Yeah, a bit. But if she can make it work in this cast, then I'm fine with it.
Three minutes in and you're doing okay, Pulaski. Don't fuck it up.



Ooh, cool model alert!



Picard is sitting in the starbase at what I guess is some kind of cafe or cafeteria, and he spots someone entering the area. He gets up and goes to her.
"Phillipa Louvois," he greets her warmly. "I haven't seen you in ten years. Feels like fifty."
"You wanna break a chair across my teeth?" she laughs. "Ain't love wonderful?"
Aw, man. A Picard romance? Those never go well. Sometimes they get the banter right, like they do here, but Picard romances are so freaking awkward.

Anyway, some music! Opening credits break!

Whoa, an Antican!


When we return, Picard and Captain Louvois (Loovwah) are having a drink and catching up. Apparently, Louvois had prosecuted Picard's court-marshal when the Stargazer was lost. Looks like he came out on top, but he accuses Louvois of having enjoyed her job too much. At some point, she left Starfleet ("I was pushed out," she argues), but has now returned, as she thinks Starfleet is still worthwhile. She's now the head of the JAG (Judge Advocate General, maritime... space law) office in this sector. They bicker for a moment over the Stargazer affair, then she rolls her eyes.
"It brings a sense of order and stability to my universe to know that you're still a pompous ass," she tells him.




Damn, this is great conversation. Writing? Acting? A combination of both? Let's say both.
She calls him sexy, but she's cockblocked by an admiral showing up, and excuses herself.
The admiral has a blue shirt in tow, Commander Maddox, and he says that Maddox has business with the E, but first the admiral wants a tour of the ship.

The admiral is wearing the rare second-season  admiral uniform with the vertical boxed pips.
It looks like 80's girl punk fashion.

Picard and Riker exit the bridge onto the lift with Maddox and the admiral. Maddox stares at the back of Data's head like a rapist sizing up a victim from across the bar. Sensing someone staring at him, Data gives Maddox an extended stare back.
The group walks around the bridge looking at stuff, and Picard and the admiral discuss how the starbase being so close to The Neutral Zone means that they can keep an eye on things while screwing with the Romulans' heads.
Maddox reminds the admiral that he doesn't have time to chit-chat and the admiral says, "Oh, yeah. Maddox is going to work on your android. Cool? Cool." And he takes off because they don't need him on-set anymore.
Maddox greets Data as though they might be acquaintances, and when Picard asks about it, Maddox says that he evaluated Data for entrance to Starfleet Academy.
"He was the only person on the committee to refuse me entrance because he said I wasn't a sentient being," Data corrects.
Although he speaks to Data directly, Maddox calls him "it" instead of using the correct male pronoun. Picard looks mildly disturbed, which makes sense, because WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ROBOPHOBES IN STARFLEET?



"WTF do you plan on doing with my second officer?" demands Picard.
"I'm going to take him apart!" says Maddox excitedly.

Suspicious music!

Even Riker's reflection thinks that Maddox is a little bitch.

Picard drags Maddox, Data and Riker into the observation lounge.
"Okay, what the hell are you doing again?" asks Picard.
"So when I saw Data at the Starfleet hearing, I knew I wanted to study it," explains Maddox. "I started looking at Dr Soong's work. I think I can make a bunch of androids, but I need to take it apart first."
He gestures at Data and refers to him as "this."
And holy shit, he does the smile!
The smile that lets you know that a character is crazy and trying to hide it behind a wall of "nice."




Then he starts telling them how he's going to run diagnostics on Data's programming, and dump what is essentially "Data" into a computer core.
Data is curious, and asks a few pointed questions about Maddox's method and findings so far. Dude has built a positronic brain, but he can't get it to work. He wants to take Data apart so he can check out his insides and examine his brain to get the answers.
"I don't think you have your shit together enough to take me apart," says Data.
"I don't either," replies Picard. "Data is a valued member of my crew, so you and your experiment can go to hell."
"Ooh, not what I wanted to hear," says Maddox. He attempts to look sad, which doesn't get him very far, as he's a giant egotistical twatwaffle. "I had orders drawn up to transfer Data over to my command, so it needs to report to my office tomorrow morning."
Data looks surprised. Picard pulls out his best WTF face.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!





Picard is in his ready room when Data rings the doorbell.
The captain tells his android officer that his work is awesome, and that he doesn't want Data to leave the ship.
"The guy is a charlatan," Data replies. "I'm not doing his experiment."
"Yeah, but what if he's right, and he can make a bunch of you?" asks Picard.
Data pauses. "Geordi's eyes are considered better than regular human eyes, right?" Picard agrees. "Okay, so why aren't all Starfleet officers required to remove their eyes and replace them with cybernetics?"
Picard looks away and doesn't say anything. He looks uncomfortable.
"Ohhhhh," says Data. "It's because I'm not human."
He leaves, and Picard, now pissed as hell, demands that the computer system give him information about transfer orders.



Picard takes Data's transfer orders to Louvois' office.
"I can't make heads or tails of this legal shit," he says, dropping the device on her desk. "You're the JAG officer in this area - my android officer is being transferred to some dipshit who is going to take him apart for some ill-conceived experiment."
She's pleased that he's come to her for help, and teases him about it, but he quickly moves it back to a serious note - Picard does not have the patience to screw around right now.
"We accept risks when we join Starfleet," she reminds him.
"Yeah, but not SS-bullshit experiments," he counters. "WTF are my options?"
"He can resign," she replies. "We can't stop the transfer."
"That's it?" he demands. "Are you shitting me?"
"All this passion over a machine?" she purrs, amused.
"Oh, fuck you, Phillipa. This is important to me." He gathers up the transfer device and goes to leave.
She stops him. "I'm glad you felt you could... well, come to me."
His response is not so much a Sassy Moment as a third-degree burn: "The word "trust" just isn't in your vocabulary, is it? Good try - nine out of ten for effort."
Dayum.
She calls out that she wishes things were different, but he barks back that he wishes he could believe that, and leaves.



Data is in his quarters, packing a small bag. He considers each of the items before placing them in the container, then walks into the next room to get another object. While he is away, Maddox strolls in and picks up a hard-cover book off his desk.
He reads the opening line from Shakespeare's Sonnet 29: "When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state."



Data returns. "Excuse much, rude or anything? You just walked into my private quarters without ringing the door chime."
Good point, Data. Vampires must be invited in. Everybody knows that.
But instead of apologizing, or even addressing Data's concern at all, Maddox just continues on about the sonnet, because he's a complete dickhead:
"Is it just words to you? Or do you fathom the meaning?"
Data gets straight to the point, ignoring Maddox's rude questions. "I think you have the knowledge to download things from a positronic brain, but you'll be losing the essence of what you're downloading. It'll record the basic facts, but not what happened. Memory is fragile, and I don't think you have the ability to save it properly. Poker, for instance."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" scoffs Maddox.
"I read every book available about poker," says Data. "So I thought I was prepared. But then when I played, it was completely different. Reading about it and experiencing it are two different things. I don't think you're able to capture the essence of things, and when you do this crap procedure, it will be lost."
"Look," says Maddox, ignoring the fact that Data pretty much called him a fraud, "I wanted us to be a team, but we're gonna do this whether you like it or not."
"Not happening," replies Data. "I resigned. I didn't want to, but you backed me in a corner."
"What?" demands Maddox. "You can't resign!"
And Data says something here that's pretty logical:
"I am the culmination of one man's dream. This is not ego or vanity, but when Dr 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."
"And so must I ," growls Maddox. "But keep packing, because one way or another, you will be reporting to me."
And the asshole storms out.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!



Picard's Log, supplemental: "Maddox, who can't take Data by force because he resigned, ran to Louvois like the little bitch he is. She wants me to mediate."

Picard and Maddox are in Louvois' office. Picard tells Louvois again, that Data is a valued member of his crew. Maddox argues that Picard is being sentimental and assigning human qualities to Data when there are none.
"It may look human, but it's not."
"Yeah, well, I know Picard, and he's not the sentimental type," Louvois interrupts.
Maddox then decides to use Picard's description of "outstanding bridge officer" to his benefit, and describes to Louvois his vision of seeing "an android officer on every ship, being the hands and eyes in dangerous situations."
Sure, asshole. How about, from now on, no humans go out into space, and Starfleet will be populated by only Soong-model androids? They can do alllll of the dangerous jobs! I burned my hand on the toaster oven last week - should an android be handling my hot pizza as well?
"Get to the point," says Louvois.
"We can refuse to let Data resign," Maddox says.
"That's a violation of his rights!" interjects Picard.
"Rights! Rights! I'm sick to death of hearing about rights!" shouts Maddox.
YOU KEEP HEARING ABOUT THEM BECAUSE YOU KEEP TRYING TO VIOLATE THEM.
"What about my right not to have my work subverted by blind ignorance?" he adds.
That's not a right, you dumbfuck. If someone's civil rights impede your ability to work, then oh-fucking-well.



"We have a rule of law in this Federation," points out Louvois. "You cannot simply seize people and experiment with them to prove your pet theories."
"Thank you, Phillipa," says Picard.
THANK YOU, PHILLIPA, I scream at the screen.
"Allowing it to resign would undo years of work in robotics," argues Maddox.
Says fucking who? You've come this far without taking someone apart, there's no need to do it now.
"Starfleet is not an organization that ignores its own regulations when it becomes inconvenient," snaps Picard.
(Okay, that's a shaky point, because we've seen Starfleet do some shady shit when it's convenient, but we've also seen some IRL governments do the same because all of these organizations are run by people, and people are not infallible.)
Then that shitstain Maddox says something that gives Louvois pause:
"Would you allow the Enterprise computer to refuse a refit?"
"The Enterprise computer is property," she reasons. "Is Data?"
"Of course," says Maddox, in a tone that says, "what kind of rhetorical question is that?"
It's also a tone that makes you want to slap a bitch.
Louvois thinks and turns to Picard. "He might have legal standing for that."
"Then you need to find out," says Picard fiercely. "Because we have to settle this now, when we have one android, and not later, when we might have five hundred."



Data's friends are hosting a going-away party for him in Ten Forward. There's a cute Data moment here where he's carefully extracting a gift from some shiny wrapping paper, and Wes encourages him to rip it. Data explains that it can be reused if he does it right, and Wes says that's not the point, so data rips it up, much to the amusement of his friends.



Worf gives him a Klingon novel.
"Klingons are the best novel-writers," rumbles Worf.
"I couldn't disagree more," says Pulaski cheerfully.
Bated breath...
"...but we'll save that for another time," she finishes.
Whoa.
You guys, I really like this Pulaski. Twice now, she's had the opportunity to be a total asshole, and didn't take it either time. In the first place, she merely made an observation and left it at that. Now, instead of spoiling for a fight, she's hinted that she'd like a lively debate in the future. Pulaski without the blatant robophobia is actually interesting and funny. It could be that they dropped it this episode because Maddox is such an enormous disco stick, and it wouldn't do to have two robophobes, but I hope not. We're not even half-way through this season, and not having to write about robophobic Pulaski would be such a gift.
Data steps away from the party to talk to Geordi, who is sitting by himself at a table nearby. He's understandably upset because Data was forced out, and now he has to leave. He finds it unfair. Data reminds him that life is rarely fair, and Geordi pats him on the shoulder and tells him to take care of himself.
It's a lovely friend moment.



Picard and Riker go to Louvois' office again.
She's gone over the legal stuff, and found that Data has no rights and is property, based on some laws that were passed in the early twenty-first century.
(Dammit, who is making legislature now that's screwing with my favorite android in the future? If I found out it was over some POS iPad or something...)
Data must report to Maddox for the refit.
"Bullshit!" roars Picard. "How do I challenge this?"
"With a hearing?" she shrugs.
"Fine! Get me a hearing!"
She snorts. "Are you kidding me? This is a brand-new base. I don't have any staff yet."
"Make it work!'
"Okay, protocol in this instance says that officers from the defendant's ship can serve as counsel. You're the most senior officer, Picard, so you're Data's defense lawyer,"
He nods.
"Prosecution has to be Riker, then," she finishes.
"Oh, fuck that shit!" says Riker. "Data's my friend, and I refuse. I can't argue that he's property, because I don't actually believe it."
They get up to leave.
"Fine," snaps Louvois. "Then I'm making a ruling based on the current laws. Data is a toaster, and now the property of Starfleet, in command of Maddox."
Riker is disgusted. "So because I'm the next most-senior officer, I have to argue that Data is property, or he definitely becomes property?"
"Yep," says Louvois. "And you better make me believe it, too. If I think you're doing a crap job, I'll shut it down and ship Data off to Maddox's lab."
"Screw it," says Riker. "I'm in."
He stomps out of the office.
"Don't fuck this up," Louvois tells Picard.
"Don't you fuck this up," he replies.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!



Picard calls Data to his ready room.
"Okay, so we got the ruling back, and you're the property of Starfleet, and you can't resign," he tells Data.
"Oh. That sucks. I guess I hope that Maddox isn't as big a dipshit as everyone thinks he is," says Data.
He turns to leave.
"What? No!" calls Picard. "We're gonna fight this. We'll have a hearing. I've been appointed your lawyer. Do you want someone else instead?"
"No. I think you will do an outstanding job," replies Data.



Riker is in some place where he has a bank of computers to work with, and he's got that look on his face that you get when you're having to research some bullshit assignment and you know you can't procrastinate forever. He pulls up schematics for Data and begins reading them. He smiles at one point, but we don't know if he's smiling because he's looking at the schematics for his android friend and feeling good about his connections with Data, or because he's found something that he can use in the hearing. Given how he acts throughout the rest of this episode, it's the former rather than the latter. His face falls, because he knows that he still has to come up some convincing arguments to just hand Data over to Maddox, and he probably thinks, like the rest of us, that Maddox is a huge piece of shit.



Everyone is in the JAG court room, ready for the hearing. Louvois gives the date as 42527.4, which means that it's actually only been a day since Maddox rolled up and claimed that Data belonged to him now.  She announces that the JAG office has found that Data is property of Starfleet and that there has been a challenge for his legal status.
Riker is up first. He calls Data to the stand.
As we've seen in past proceedings, Data puts his hand on a machine which reads out his name, current rank, and any commendations.



Riker starts to gloss over the commendation part, but Picard objects and says he wants to hear all of it. Data is pretty decorated.
Riker asks what Data what he is, and Data replies that he is an android. When pressed further, he gives the Webster 24th Century Edition definition of an automaton that is created to look like a human being. Then Riker asks who built him, and again when pressed, Data says that it was Dr Noonien Soong, the foremost expert in cybernetics, a human.
Riker's point is that androids like Data are used to serve and assist humans.
Then he pulls out a thick-ass bar of steel and asks Data to bend it.
Picard objects, because lots of species have super-strength.
Louvois overrides him, because who doesn't want to see someone bend a thick-ass metal bar?
Riker enters the bar into evidence. He then asks Louvois for her permission to remove Data's hand and give it to her for inspection.
Picard can't get out of his seat fast enough to object, because removing someone's hand for inspection is super fucked-up. But then he sinks back into his chair and withdraws his objection, muttering how it "doesn't matter."



Riker, leaning down to take Data's hand and arm off, whispers "I'm sorry," to Data, before twisting the arm and disconnecting it from his body. Riker carries it carefully over to Louvois and describes how Data is the physical manifestation of one man's dream, and that he's a collection of neural nets and heuristic algorithms.
"And now," announces Riker dramatically, "a man will shut it off."
And he reaches through the back of the witness chair and flips the switch which Data had so closely guarded, but which Lore blabbed about to the ship.
Data crumples over at the waist.



"Pinocchio is dead," says Riker. "Its strings have been cut."
Silence in the courtroom. Louvois looks disturbed. Picard looks disturbed. Riker returns to his chair and looks absolutely horrified at own actions. He basically killed a man in front of them.
Picard weakly asks for a recess. Louvois quietly grants it. Everyone needs to leave the courtroom to regroup.







Oh, wait. Everybody but this smiling psychopath. This guy can't wait to get his hands on Data, to take him apart in just such a way in his own laboratory. Fuck this guy and his Martin Shkreli smirk.



Anyway, dramatic music and commercial break, because fuck this guy.
Fuck him some more.



Picard goes back to the Enterprise to drown his sorrows in a drink in an empty Ten Forward.
He admits to Guinan that Riker's argument was so good that he almost believed it himself.
Ginan points out that his argument will be more difficult because Data has no problem admitting that he's a machine. She asks if he's worried about where Data will end up.
"Not really," he says. "I've sent other crew members on much more dangerous missions. But Data's been very valuable to me as a bridge officer, way more than I could account for."



And paraphrasing Guinan's response is no good, so here's the conversation verbatim:
Guinan: "And now he's about to be ruled the property of Starfleet. That should increase his value."
(Picard pauses and looks at her)
Picard: "In what way?"
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 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."
(A long pause.)
Picard: "You're talking about slavery."
Guinan: "Oh, 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 that we have obscured behind a comfortable, easy euphemism - property. But that's not the issues at all, is it?"



Back in the courtroom, Picard has begun his argument. He immediately dismisses the fact that Data is a machine that was built by a human as irrelevant. He calls Data to the stand and literally begins unpacking Data's case.
He pulls out a small display box of medals and asks why Data has them.
"I don't know. I just wanted them." Then sweet, sweet Data leans forward and asks uncertainly, "Is that vanity?"
Picard pulls out the book of sonnets. "What is this?"
"A gift from you, sir. It reminds me of friendship and service."
Lastly, Picard pulls out a little clear geometric shape and sets it on the desk in front of Data. He pushes a button, and a tiny holographic image of Tasha Yar appears.
"Okay, and who is that?" asks Picard. "You don't have any other portraits of your fellow crew members - why her?"
Data pauses. "I promised her that I wouldn't say."
"I don't think she'd mind," says Picard kindly.
"She was special to me. We were... intimate."
Squirms in the courtroom. No one expected this.



Picard is finished, Riker has no questions, so Data steps down.
Picard calls Maddox a hostile witness.
Maddox gets up and does that hand-on-the-box thing and we find out that he's Assistant Chair of Robotics at the Daystrom Technological Institute. The box starts to list off papers he's written, and Picard interrupts.
"Yes, yes, you're very smart."
Also, notice: Data only took up as much room in the chair as he needed. Maddox does the arm equivalent of man-spreading, making himself look bigger and more menacing. Or trying to, anyway. Mostly he just looks like some giant douche who is sitting uncomfortably for the sake of posturing.



"So your view is that Data is not sentient, and so not entitled to the rights given to every life-form in the Federation?" Picard asks.
"Yeah, he's not sentient," answers Maddox.
"Okay, so what's required for that?"
"Intelligence, self-awareness and consciousness," Maddox replies.
"Prove to the court that I am sentient," challenges Picard.
Maddox scoffs at the idea.
"Fine, let's figure out why Data is not," Picard suggests. "The first criteria is intelligence. Is he intelligent?"
"Yes," replies Maddox. "It has the ability to learn, understand, and cope with new situations."
"Okay, so, one box checked," says Picard. "What do we need for self-awareness?"
"You have to be aware of yourself and your ego and your actions."
"Oh, okay." Picard turns to Data. "What are you doing, right now?"
Data: "I am taking part in a legal hearing to determine my rights and status - am I a person or property?"
Picard: "And what's at stake?"
Data: "My right to choose. Perhaps my very life."
"Seems pretty fucking self-aware to me," Picard says to Maddox.
Maddox looks like he's panicking a bit. Riker, in the background, is trying to keep from grinning.



"Do you like Data?" asks Picard.
Maddox falters. "I... don't know it well enough to like or dislike it."
"You think he's awesome, though?"
Maddox agrees, coming off as a sweaty stalker caught in the bushes outside some girl's house.
And now we get down to the nitty-gritty.
"But you want to take him apart?" asks Picard.
"To make more," insists Maddox.
"How many?"
"As many as we need. Hundreds? Thousands?" He falters. "There is no limit."
Annnd the trap is sprung.
"Oh, thousands," repeats Picard. "Isn't that a race? And won't we be judged by how we treat that race?"
In the background, Louvois sits up a little straighter. What was that, now?
Picard is pissed off now. He leans on the desk to yell at Maddox. "Data has met two of your criteria for sentience. What if he meets that third, consciousness? What is he then? I don't know. Do you?"
Maddox flounders. He has no answer.
Picard turns on Riker. "Do you?"
And to Louvois: "Do you?"
A pause.
Picard starts his closing argument. "Eventually, Maddox or someone like him will succeed in making more Datas, maybe a lot more, and the decision you make here today will determine how we treat others like Data in the future."
He lays it all out for Louvois.
Picard: "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, and all who come after him, to servitude and slavery? You Honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits!"
(He points at Data)
"Waiting."
He moves to sit down, but not before murmuring to Louvois not to fuck it up.
And you'd think that she'd call a recess to think, but she doesn't. She gives a verdict then and there with no closing from Riker.



Louvois: "This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I'm neither competent nor qualified to answer those. But 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'e 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."
Data gets up and goes to Maddox.
"Go fuck yourself."
Naw, that's what I want him to say.
He's much nicer and sticks to protocol:



Maddox looks down and though I can't see his feet, I feel like he maybe shuffled them like an uncertain kid in dirty sneakers.
"I'll cancel the transfer."
Data encourages Maddox to keep on keepin' on with his work, and that he's available for things that do not involve systematically taking him apart and literally picking apart his brain. He finds Maddox's work interesting. Data leaves.
Louvois approaches Maddox, and Maddox murmurs "He's remarkable," like an awkward teenager admiring a self-confident cheerleader.
She smiles. "You didn't call him it."
He smiles, then also leaves.
She goes to leave but Picard calls her back and invites her to dinner. They slip back into their easy banter from yesterday and agree to have dinner.



Riker is standing in the dark in the observation lounge, staring out the window.
Data comes in and asks why he isn't at the party on the holodeck. Riker says the party isn't really for him, and when data asks if it's because he lost the case, Riker replies that it's because he almost won. Dude feels bad for doing a good job.
Data does not feel this way.
Data: "Is it not true, that had you refused to prosecute, Captain Louvois would have ruled summarily against me?"
Riker: "Yes."
Data: "That action injured you and saved me. I will not forget it."
(Riker smiles)
Riker: "You're a wise man, my friend."
Data: "Not yet, sir. But with your help, I am learning."
They head off to the party.


You know what makes good Star Trek, you guys? Really, really good Star Trek? It's the ability to tell a story honestly without being preachy. To get at the heart of the matter, in such a way that you pull your audience along with you, so that they too feel as your characters feel.
This is one of those episodes that stands out for me. We've had some pretty good episodes this season, but they're not even close to "The Measure of a Man." I've watched this episode maybe half a dozen times over the last week, some of it bit by bit, a few minutes at a time, memorizing some parts by accident, yet it never failed to not catch me by surprise.
Maybe it's the timing. I've been thinking a lot lately about second-class citizens and disposable people. Those stuck in the cycle of slavery and the strange sort of near-slavery that both is and isn't. They are people and not commodities... unless you are a Bruce Maddox, and there are so, so many Bruce Maddoxes.
The fact of the matter is, we are assholes. We, as a race, suck. We have always found ways and reasons to subjugate one another to torture each other because it makes it feels powerful or special to shut others down. Will we ever reach a point, collectively, were we hold each other in equal stance? I want to hope so. But this episode says that on some level, even in the twenty-fourth century, we still do not. Humans hold each other up as equal, yes. But others? Outsiders? Not-humans?
Sometimes we do it unintentionally. We are unaware that we do not hold others up the same as ourselves. But the more we recognize it, the more we correct it, and the more we self-police. We retrain ourselves to think differently. And we can work together for the betterment of everyone.

So how did we get this episode? Production was still being affected by the writers' strike of 1988, so they couldn't write anything new. Along comes Melinda Snodgrass, and she has a dynamite story that was already written and can be adapted. Who's this new girl? A lawyer. A lawyer with no writing credits to her name, but who quit her legal job to work as an adviser on this episode, which is part of the reason why it rings so true. An interesting take on this - Snodgrass has noticed that most people consider this to be a Data episode, because Data wins his right to choose his own life path; however, she insists that this is actually a Picard episode. Picard struggles with the idea that data might be a modern-day slave within the Federation, and when he realizes this, fights against it with all of his might.


I would give credit also to Riker here, who must take the opposing argument, despite the fact that his views coincide exclusively with those of Picard. Riker is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't, because any of his actions might doom Data to a life of servitude.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Louvois as well. I genuinely like her character, the military lawyer out in the middle of nowhere who runs into an old flame and finds herself in the middle of a case as soon as she steps of the boat. Her attitude throughout most of the episode is that this is kind of funny, that this old boyfriend is stubbornly holding onto a crew member and doesn't want him transferred out of, what? Pigheadedness? Favoritism? It then becomes a question of property/not-property, and there are some moments when I'm sure she wished she could go with the ol' Solomon Solution, and just cut the android in half. It isn't until Picard's argument comes up that she realizes just how far-reaching this decision could be. She is making law that could potentially affect others for hundreds or thousands of years, and that thought is sobering. She admits that she was unprepared and is possibly not the best person for the job. Sometimes that is how it goes with law - you walk into something unprecedented and must decide if the law is ultimately wrong. And she gets it completely right when she mentions as part of her decision that the real question was not one of property or sentience, but that of souls - if we put so much importance on the worth of a soul and of having a soul, should we not extend that same worth to others?
Last but not least: Guinan. She's only in that one short scene near the end, but that scene is the turning point for Picard. We may not know what his previous argument was (possibly just of Data's worth to Starfleet as a whole, unbroken android), but Guinan flips on the light in the room and shines it exactly on the spot that had been gnawing at the edges of Picard's conscience: that the treating of Data as less than human was wrong. She's pretty blunt about it too. She lets him come to the conclusion, but it was one he just wasn't quite seeing. Could this role have been fulfilled by another character, like Troi, whose part was mostly cut from this episode? Yes, as ship's counselor, she would have fit the bill nicely. But for twentieth-century humans watching this show, it needed to be Guinan. Guinan, the alien who watches and gives out quiet advice. Guinan, who always seems to get straight to the heart of the matter, even when you didn't want to approach the subject yourself. Guinan, who is played by a Black woman.

Is this episode the best Star Trek of them all? I don't know. We have a lot of Star Trek to get through, and there are so many really fantastic episodes. But I don't feel hesitant in saying that this represents some of the best that Star Trek has to offer.



Red deaths: 0
To date: 1
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
To date: 1
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
To date: 2
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
Sassy Riker Moments: 0
To date: 4
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
To date: 7
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date: 3
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: Pretty much this whole episode
To date:16
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 0
To date: 9
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 1
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 0
To date: 11


Episodes Left Until We Get Rid of Pulaski:




Fun Facts: 

- The courtroom is a redress of the battle bridge, and features the star chart from "Conspiracy."
- The model used for Starbase 173 is the same model used for the Regula I space lab from Wrath of Khan.
- This episode was nominated for a Writer's Guild Award.
- Thirteen minutes of extra footage ended up on the cutting room floor, but was restored to the episode on the Season Two Blu-Ray set. Those minutes include:
      - Picard and the admiral talk about their time on board the USS Reliant. This means that Picard             and Chekov have both served on the Reliant and ships named Enterprise.
      - Picard discussing the transfer of Data with the admiral, by way of his desktop computer.
      - Data gifts Geordi with his Sherlock Holmes pipe.



      - An extended version of the farewell party in Ten Forward. Pulaski tells Data about some good             places to live; Riker and Troi quietly discuss their feelings about the situation with each other;             that complete dick Maddox crashes the party and insults Data.



      - Riker interrupts a fencing match between Picard and some other crew member to tell Picard that         he plans to do a good job on this hearing. Picard promises the same.
      - Picard and Data discuss their legal strategy. Data quotes Shakespeare's "kill the lawyers" bit               from Henry VI.
      - A extended scene of Riker and Data's discussion in the observation lounge.
- Maddox is Assistant Chair of Robotics at Daystrom Technological Institute. (You remember Richard Daystrom, right? That was a great TOS episode.) This is the first time the institute has been mentioned.
- This is not the last time we will hear about Data's rights, sadly.
- This episode actually contradicts something mentioned in "Where Silence Has Lease:" Pulaski, in fine robophobic form, sighs and says that she must get used to him being referred to as a person, because his Starfleet personnel file lists him as being "alive."
- Maddox is unaware of Lore, which is, in part why he goes after Data. He is not aware of other Soong-model androids. Though, do any of us really believe that Lore would cooperate? Actually, I kind of ship that working relationship - Maddox and Lore deserve each other.
- Phillipa Louvois is one of the rare instances we get to see a staff captain.
- The Shakespeare Sonnet 29 is actually fairly appropriate to the situation. In it, the bard describes feeling badly because of critics and people having ill-will toward him. he is cheered up by the company and support of good friends. Scholars argue that the poem might be autobiographical, as Shakespeare was going through rough times when the poem was composed.



My fire brings all the cats to the yard.



1 comment:

  1. Sorry, been busy with work and writing and haven't had time to do much reading. This is the first of your reviews that I'm catching up on.

    I love this episode. It always makes me cry, and I started doing so again just by reading your review.

    I haven't seen the extended edition. Interesting that they chose to do that with this episode and not others (such as "The Wounded").

    ReplyDelete