Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 2, Episode 9

The Measure of a Man (11 Feb. 1989)

TV Episode  |   |  Action, Adventure, Mystery
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Ratings: 8.9/10 from 1,521 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 8 critic

When Data resigns his commission rather than be dismantled for examination by an inadequately skilled scientist, a formal hearing is convened to determine whether Data is considered property without rights or is a sentient being.



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Episode cast overview:
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At Starbase 173, the crew have a bit of leave. Data learns some of the intricacies of playing poker while Captain Picard runs into an old friend of a sort, Captain Phillipa Louvois, who established a new JAG office at the base. She once prosecuted him, unsuccessfully, but there is admiration at least, on both sides. Problems arise however when Commander Bruce Maddox receives permission to disassemble Data to determine how he functions. When Data expresses doubts about Maddox's likelihood of success, he refuses to undergo the procedure and resigns his commission. He soon finds himself the center of a judicial inquiry to determine if he is just a machine and a piece of property or a sentient being who has the right to make his own decisions. Captain Louvois finds herself sitting in judgment with Captain Picard defending Data's claim against Commander Riker who is forced to present the opposing arguments. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

11 February 1989 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title comes from a statement by Plato: "The measure of a man is what he does with power." 18th-century English philosopher Samuel Johnson expanded the saying: "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." The direct source for this episode, however, is most likely Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s version: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Other famous variations of the "measure of a man" line have been created by 17th-century English Bishop Robert South, 19th century British scientist Lord Kelvin, Elton John, Joe Biden, and J.K. Rowling. See more »


During the trial, Riker has Data bend a solid metal bar. Data does this until the ends are nearly touching. Riker then takes the bar and places it front of the JAG officer. Now the ends of the bar are far apart. See more »


Lt. Commander Data: As Doctor Pulaski would at this junction no doubt remind us, life is rarely fair.
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References Battlestar Galactica (1978) See more »


Star Trek: The Next Generation Main Title
Composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Alexander Courage
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User Reviews

What, Indeed, Is Sentience?
6 August 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

So much depends on an arrogant, bigoted jackass. A man who has had failings in the science of cybernetics, gets permission from Starfleet to dismantle Data in order to see what makes him tick. He believes his experiments will be fortified if he can find the missing link that Data's creator has placed in him. This man refers to the Commander as "it," and insists Data is strictly a machine. Since those in a superior position have decided to allow this, a trial ensues, where Riker must take the role on prosecutor and Jean-Luc the defense attorney. Also involved is an old love interest of Picards who finds him a challenge. There are sparks. What happens, eventually, is a moral dilemma as to what constitutes sentience. What is "the measure of a man"? Data's accomplishments, while impressive, don't seem to stand up very well. However, what of his emotional being? One other thing is brought up. If this man, who is insensitive and full of himself, can break through, he plans on making hundreds, even thousands of Data-like creatures. This may constitute a race that is to be used as the slaves were in our early history. The trial and the issues are extremely interesting and would be food for thought when one evaluates a species. A very good episode.

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