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|Index||11 reviews in total|
Too many people look at the Trek stories and shows as "just science
fiction" but Gene Rodenberry had much more in mind. This episode stayed
true to Rodenberry's vision and made us think and question. It looked
at themes of Civil Rights and Slavery.. it looked at ethics, morality
and science all intermingling.
There was some excellent acting in this one. Whoopi Goldberg, Diana Muldaur, Patrick Stewart & Brent Spiner all played their prospective roles particularly well. But, in my opinion, it was the character of Riker that played the most difficult role in this story and Jonathan Frakes pulled it off excellently!
The character of Lt. Commander Data, the android crew member, was an ingenious invention of the Next Generation writers. Each time they explored his character the more interesting he became. This story, by Melinda M. Snodgrass, however, is the best of those explorations of character. It could be used in an ethics class! It is a definite "must see!"
Of all the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, this is the
episode that I consider, without hesitation, to be the best episode of
the series. Its brilliant writing explores many facets including the
right to choose your pathway in life (be you android or not), what
makes a "sentient being" ("Does Data have a soul?"), the ethics of
robotics (do we have the right to make slaves out of them?),
friendship, camaraderie, and other factors.
As MTDAVIES mentioned, this is the type of storyline that Gene Roddenberry wanted for "Star Trek". By the time this episode came along, most of us who watched the series were already attached to the Enterprise crew, and especially to Data as he was the foil for exploring ourselves and the human condition. To have Data be told that he didn't have the right to choose for himself was inconceivable. The resulting JAG case was riveting as well as emotional.
You just can't ask for better Star Trek than this. This also ranks very highly in the "Best Science Fiction ... period" category.
This episode does a great job of exploring the nature of humanity and freedom. But there's always been one thing that bothered me about this episode as it relates to the whole Star Trek universe. Commander Maddox makes the statement that Data is a piece of machinery, no different than the ship's computer. However, Data is COMMANDER Data, a commissioned Starfleet officer, who graduated from Starfleet Academy. The ship's computer can make statements and recommendations, which crew members can evaluate, then either accept or reject. As a command officer, if Data gave an order and a crew member chose not to obey it, that crew member risked a court martial. This directly implies that Starfleet recognized Data as a sentient being, and not a "calculator" to be experimented upon. In all fairness, I also realize that by using this argument, Gene Roddenberry would have ended up with a very short episode.
From the setup to the finale, this is a well paced, well acted and well
plotted drama. There are moments of humor amid a true detailed
exploration of the meaning of humanity, reminiscent of the works of
Guinan is never used more effectively, and Whoopi's performance is uncannily nuanced, dripping with the precocious wisdom that defines her character. Shows what a strong dramatic actor Whoopi is, and makes me wish the character was used more with this level of effect. The best ethicist on a ship full of them.
Falters a little with Riker's reticence and feelings of betrayal, Frakes just can't deliver the internal pressure at the same level as his peers though he does his best and it's not offensive.
Ending is predictable but satisfying nonetheless, with an epilogue that caps the affair nicely. On par with the best television has to offer, and certainly the best episode of the season if not the series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the start of this, trivia buffs should know, we get to see the first poker game seen. Shortly later an Admiral comes aboard and brings a cybernetics expert on board who wishes to disassemble Data and fit him with an experimental new positronic brain. Data asks a few questions about the procedure and Commander Maddox is a little vague and Data declines and is then handed reassignment orders to Starbase 173 under Maddox's command. Picard tries to block these orders and the whole thing eventually ends up in a court. Is Data person or property? Riker is ordered to prosecute and Picard to defend. This courtroom drama is brilliant character stuff and Frakes puts in one hell of a performance. Stewart puts on almost as good a show and is crushed as Riker begins to prove a better case. Guinan puts Picard on the right track and it is about Maddox eventually creating a entire generation of slaves to be used at mankind's discretion. After winning the case Data goes to Riker and asks him to join the celebration. Riker declines as he almost won his case against him. Data tells Riker flatly, that had he not prosecuted, Captain Louvois would have ruled against him. By prosecuting, he actually saved him. Riker smiles and leaves with Data in the final uplifting scene. This is what Star Trek is all about. Equality and character definition.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ST:TNG:35 - "The Measure Of A Man" (Stardate: 42523.7) - this is the 9th episode to air in the second season of The Next Generation. This is one of the more intelligent of the TNG episodes dealing with an ethical and moral dilemma - what is the measure of a man, is Data just the property of Starfleet to do with whatever they want just because he's an android (and therefore has no personal freedoms) - would that border on slavery as Whoopi Goldberg (in another appearance as Guinan) points out? Also, Picard meets someone from his past - Judge Advocate General, Phillipa Louvois who was at Picard's Stargazer court martial hearing. Trivia: this is the first time you see the Enterprise crew playing poker together (including Data, Geordi, Riker, Pulaski, and O'Brien) - Data learns the meaning of bluff and what a poker face really means. This is also the first of 3 appearances by Clyde Kusatsu as Admiral Nakamura and a hologram appearance by Tasha Yar. VERY intelligent writing in this episode which makes it one of my favorites.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Data is forced by Starfleet regulations despite his rank of Commander
to take part in a refit that has been ordered by Maddox a cybernetic
expert from Starfleet. Data questions Maddox's proposals and "decides"
to retire his Command. However Maddox goes to the JAG Officer Louivois
who prosecuted Picard in his Stargazer Trial where the end result left
the two with bad feelings. Maddox goes to the JAG and gets he to see
his side of the story and she then orders Data to the refit and voids
his retirement request. Picard then intervenes and has Loiuvois call
for a trial board where Picard will defend Data and Riker, by order of
the JAG will prosecutor for Maddox & Starfleet. Riker does his diligent
research and when he discovers Data's "off" switch he is initially
proud that he found an important piece if evidence to help his case and
quickly realizes the damage he will do to Data and turns sad at the
prospect of using it. Meanwhile Picard & Guinan are talking about the
case and how Starfleet decided that Data is a machine with no rights.
Now able to build a race of Disposisable creatures to do the work that
corporeal beings can not due to the danger involved. Guinan forces
Picard to see that a race of Data's doing the dirty work that no one
else is willing to do (as in slaves, illegals, etc.) is wrong and when
the court reconvenes Picard uses he newly gained knowledge to gain Data
a victory for self awareness and for self decision.
In the end Riker & Data meet up where Data asks Riker why he isn't at Data's victory party. Riker tells Data I came this close to winning. Yet Data reminds Riker that he was an unwilling participant by the courts order since if Riker refused to prosecute then the JAG would have ruled summarily that Data is a "toaster" send him to Maddox for an experimental refit. Data recognized that Riker was put in a "no win scenario." 11 of 10 actually
A Starfleet officer, Commander Maddox, has a plan--to take Data apart
in order to learn how he works and so he can make more. However, the
Commander's competence is questionable and Data is worried that he
won't be re-assembled properly and will, in effect, die. So, in order
to avoid this possible fate, Date decides instead to resign from
Starfleet. However, the Commander contents that Data is NOT a living,
sentient being and cannot have the right to refuse to his disassembly.
So, it's up to Picard to represent Data at a hearing in which his fate
will be in the balance.
The questions as to what constitutes life, the rights of the individual and many other ethical considerations are discussed and made for interesting viewing. While I was NOT as bowled over by the episode as some (one considers it the best show from the series), it was a very good episode. Well crafted and worth seeing.
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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