The Rewatch 111: The Measure of a Man

Series: Star Trek The Next Generation
Episode: 2.09 The Measure of a Man (02-13-89)
Rating:   5/5
Redshirt Status: 0/0/3

Notable Guest Stars:
Amanda McBroom – Captain Phillipa Louvois. McBroom has a musical career as well, and was the songwriter for Bette Midler’s hit The Rose.
Clyde Kusatsu – Admiral Nakamura. He was a reoccuring actor (although not character) of MASH during the seventies. He is also part of the leadership of SAG, the actor’s trade union/guild.

Review:

Whether you like this episode or not, this episode is very important to the series, particularly for Data’s ongoing development as a character. Depending on how you look at it, this is either a Data-centric episode, or perhaps an character essay on Picard and how he views life.  Either way, this episode sets in stone the idea that Data is considered able to make his own decisions.

This episode has gotten much attention because of its subject matter.  Several essays on law have been made about this episode.  Essays in general have been made about what it says about personhood, slavery, cybernetics and the rights of ‘others’. There seems to be a lot out there if you want to look.

Another element of this narrative is that it develops several characters and the Federation in one go.  It continues to expand on the Federation system of law that begin with Spock’s Courtmartial in season 1, and was equally featured with Kirk’s courtmartial hearing in season 2.  In fact, there are some elements of this episode that remind me of that season 2 episode, particularly in regards to Picard’s relationship with Phillipa.

It has developed the characters of Picard, Riker, and Data.  Picard gets to do a lot of monologuing and Patrick Stewart is amazing at that.  Probably comes from the amount of Shakespeare he has done.  But Picard is a great orator, perhaps even better the Kirk.  He feels strongly about Data being a person and makes sure to use all the tools at his disposal to make sure he defends that.

Riker also gets developed a bit.  He is willing to do his duty if he must despite not wanting to.  He wants to refuse, but he can not because that means Data would be considered property which goes against what he believes.  So he has to shelf his personal beliefs and become an advisory for a time being.

One of the scenes that stood out for me with Riker was when he was reviewing Data’s information and you could see he found something he could win with – and he’s happy about it, but almost instantaneous its clear that he followed that throught through and is sorrowful for it.  It was just a few seconds of film, but Jonathan Frakes did a lot with it.

Data gets developed perhaps the least amount of the three, but in important ways.  The show up to this point always goes with the idea that as an android he as no emotion.  And he has no major expressions of it.  But its clear in this episode that he does have some.  Brent Spiner did a lot with his eyes in this episode, despite the yellow contacts.  His face remained the same, but you could tell he was worried when he saw Maddox, concerned when it came to Tasha’s secret, which he has kept till now.  I’m not sure why Picard knew about it, unless Tasha decided to add it to her report.  I can’t imagine how that review went. Unfortunately for Data, I don’t recall him having a major love interest over the course of the show, so I think Tasha may have been his only relationship, and its clear he holds it close to him.

Perhaps Data’s low emotionalism makes McCoy’s comparison to Vulcan’s more ampt.  Vulcans suppress their emotions, but they still have them.  Data has emotions, but he doesn’t feel them as strongly or as expressively as humans normally do.  Not until he gets the chip that allows him to feel more freely.

As a side note, from what I have heard about Picard, this episode is very important to theme in that show, so its definitely important to the franchise for that reason as well. 

Interesting Notes:

  • Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
  • Directed by Robert Scheerer
  • First Crew Poker game scene, which would become a regular appearance on the show (including the finale)
  • The author considered this a Picard episode, with Data as the instigator of the action rather then the subject of the episode.
  • Apparently, Gene Roddenberry had to be convinced that there would still be lawyers in the 24th century. I think he tried perhaps too hard to create an ultimate utopia.
  • There is an extended cut of this episode with 13 additional minutes.

Pros:

  • This episode shows how much the crew has developed respect and familial love for Data.
  • Picard’s oratory.
  • Data/Tasha.  I know its shown as a mistake on Tasha’s part, but I like the idea that Data at least had one love affair in his life.

Cons:

  • I find it interesting that Data has gone through the academy and has risen through the ranks to Lt. Commander without this ever coming up before.
  • The court style seems situated like an US one, which means this is not quite the same  set up.  This could of course be dramatic liberty, or perhaps the Federation has more relaxed style court procedures that don’t require end arguments or a period of consideration. I also am less familar with the court systems of other nations that might have influenced the Federation’s justice system.
  • Did Picard know somehow that Tasha & Data were together during “A Naked Now” or did he think it was something else?  I don’t think either Tasha or Data would have included it in their reports on the incident, especially since Tasha was embarrassed by it and it had no consequence on the rest of the ship.

screen capture via CygusX1

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