The Measure of a Man
Season 2 Episode 9
Original airdate: February 11, 1989
Data resigns his commission rather than be dismantled for examination by an inadequately skilled scientist.
My Brief Review
This episode has a strong premise, but is hampered by clumsy dialogue and two entirely unlikable guest characters — Captain Louvois, the JAG officer assigned to the new star base Enterprise is docking at (who we are preconditioned to dislike because we’re introduced to her as the prosecutor of a court-martial against Picard several years earlier), and Commander Maddox, a cybernetics researcher who wants to disassemble Data and study “it.” The episode centers on the trial at which Captain Louvois will determine whether Data has rights, or is the property of Starfleet.
As if things weren’t getting heavy-handed enough already, after asking for a recess in the trial, Captain Picard, who is acting as Data’s defense, consults Guinan — in the epitome of her role as the show’s “Magical Negro” (a term I use here reluctantly but with careful intent) — who helps him to see that the vision Maddox has of creating thousands of Datas, all property of Starfleet, is tantamount to slavery.
At the end of the episode, in a final failure of quality writing, Maddox inexplicably has a change of heart after Captain Louvois rules in Data’s favor, and refers to Data as “he” for the first time, instead of “it.” He might has well have handed him a trophy and declared “You’re all right, LaRusso!”
Still, the episode deals with some serious moral and philosophical issues, on a level that would seem elementary to a college freshman but is fairly sophisticated for a syndicated TV series. It’s a strong episode, but it loses marks for the issues outlined above.
There are several memorable moments — Data carefully removing wrapping paper from a gift so the paper can be reused; Data’s reluctant admission during the trial that he and Tasha Yar had been “intimate”; but none can surpass our introduction to the officers’ poker game, where Data wears his ridiculous visor for the first time, and also learns what a “poker face” is when Riker successfully bluffs him, beating Data’s three queens with a worthless hand.
Not really a crew member, but since there are no crew randos to speak of in this episode, the award goes to Commander Maddox, for being one of the few Star Trek characters you wish was a “red shirt.”
Distance Rating: 4K
IMDb score: 9.2/10
(Bonus points for myself: this review contains three 70-plus word sentences.)