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 complete credited cast:
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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1.33 : 1
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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 »


When Riker calls Data to the stand, the computer reads out Data's medals and commendations. Riker tries to skip the reading, but Picard objects and insists the full record be read, and the judge sustains the objection. Later, however, when Picard calls Maddox to the stand and the computer begins to read out his accomplishments, Picard tries to skip the reading, and Riker does not object. The judge had already warned Riker that any laxity on his part in prosecuting the case would result in a summary judgment against Data, and this would seem to qualify. See more »


Captain Phillipa Louvois: [to Picard] You know, I never thought I would say this - but it's good to see you again. It brings a sense of order and stability to my universe to know that you're still a pompous ass... And a damned sexy man.
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Referenced in Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Quality of Life (1992) See more »


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