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

The Measure of a Man (11 Feb. 1989)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
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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:
Amanda McBroom ...
Brian Brophy ...


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?


Data's storage capacity is stated as 800 quadrillion bits. In modern terms, this equates to 88.818 pebibytes (PiB), or more simply, 100,000 terabytes (TB). See more »


Data tells Picard that Maddox was the only dissenting member of a screening committee that approved his entrance into Starfleet. This implies that the majority approved him. Since only sentient beings can take the oath of a service personnel officer, this would be the grounds for Data's status as a living being, but this is overlooked at the trial. See more »


[Picard activates Data's hologram of Tasha Yar]
Capt. Picard: You have no other portraits of your fellow crew members. Why this person?
Lt. Commander Data: I would prefer not to answer that question, sir. I gave my word.
Capt. Picard: [softly] Under the circumstances, I don't think Tasha would mind.
Lt. Commander Data: She was special to me, sir. We were... intimate.
See more »


References Battlestar Galactica (1978) See more »


Star Trek: The Next Generation Main Title
Composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Alexander Courage
See more »

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User Reviews

Where is the line drawn?
21 January 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The usual reaction from the uninitiated when you tell them you like Star Trek is, why? Some people will just never get it, and while I concede that some people are also in danger of getting it a bit too much, classing Star Trek as just sci fi can mean you miss out on some real gems. I have to confess I'm a sci fi fan, conventions attended by uniform wearing devotees is not really my bag but what I do think is that the genre has offered some of the most profound work that has ever been put on film. The original series suffers a great deal from parody and the fact that like any vision of the future it doesn't age well, but it was a real envelope pusher in it's day, a black female regular cast member at a time of palpable racial tension in the United States is a bold move, having her perform the first interracial kiss on network television is not only bold it's historically important. Using science fiction as a metaphor for relevant issues of the day worked very well, and people dig funny aliens and scantily clad green women. Though far from perfect the series never shied away from a hard story line or controversial character and managed to break barriers on the screen and off it. The two decade interval between the cancellation of the original television show and the revival of the franchise with the Next Generation and it's subsequent off shoots meant that the real world was given a bit of time to catch up to Star Trek's ideals if only in spirit than real action. The producers of the new show (which for a time included Star Trek deus Gene Roddenberry until he went on to the greater adventure) did an amazing job with casting. The original crew had long since been elevated to the pantheon of sci fi gods due to syndicated repeats and the successful movie spin offs and they left some pretty big moon boots to fill, but the newbies were up to the job and within a short time they had amassed their own cult following. In fact the antecedent had a far shorter run and after birthing the superfan it soon ran out of steam. It was then drip fed in to pop culture with animation and feature films. By the end of the eighties the well oiled machine that is American television production focused grouped together a superior sequel. The superior part is of course just my opinion. Most of the aliens were still rather obviously guys in rubber suits, and a shaky camera more than often doubled up as a strike from an enemy vessel. In both series the main cast was anchored by the captain, in the original series William Shatner played Kirk as a louche man of action, who would usually get himself in trouble by disregarding orders and not keeping it in his space trousers. The decision was made for the next captain to be less kinetic and more cerebral and Patrick Stewart was able to imbue Picard with an air of Shakespearean authority. While a classic Kirk episode would involve a punch up, a neurotic but deadly cosmic female in not much clothing and a gorn, Stewart's theatre background allowed classic Picard episodes to become more talky affairs. "Measure of a man" is an almost perfect vehicle to show this off. At the start the Enterprise and her crew are visiting a nice big space station for some essential maintenance, little aware that some old flames and new slimeballs are waiting to disrupt the interstellar harmony aboard ship. In a moment that has viewers thinking that they should just get it on and get it over with, Picard meets up with Captain Phillipa Louvois, a blast from his pre Enterprise past who is now the senior legal officer in that neck of the galaxy and it is established that much tension, sexual and otherwise still exists. Elsewhere an Admiral getting a tour of the federation's flagship nonchalantly gives a transfer order to Brent Spiner's Commander Data, ordering him to report to the robotics laboratory of Brian Brophy's awfully greasy Commander Maddox. When pushed for a little more detail Maddox reveals to Picard that the transfer will involve the dismantling our favorite android with little or no hope of putting the tin man back together. How outrageous. With any serial the writers are able to present us with different scenarios for our fave characters to be tested with each week while staying true to the core themes. A sci fi show can just as easily take the form of a detective drama, or as in this case a courtroom debate. The problem is having a cast talented enough to pull this off and with Star Trek TNG we are very lucky to have justthat. Brent Spiner will forever be in the hearts of innumerable geeks(myself included) as the pale faced golden eyed metal man who wants nothing more than to be what we take for granted, human. He lives life cut off from emotion but manages to teach lessons to one and all from the morally superior high ground one gains through the inability to feel anything.Patrick Stewart is a stage animal, give the man the words and he will make them seem as sent by god, have him argue that an artificial life form is as sentient as you or I and you might not hit your toaster with the same venom you used to next time it burns your crumpets. Add to this the ever classy Whoopie Goldberg drawing some parallels from history to the debate raging today, and a show about aliens becomes an impeccably presented morality play, asking where does the line between service and slavery fall? And they are doing all this on a wicked cool space ship. Awesome.

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