When Data refuses to undergo a procedure that could cost him his life, it is claimed that he is the property of Starfleet and has no choice in the matter. Unwilling to accept this, Picard decides to challenge the decision, leading to a hearing in which Picard must prove that Data is a conscious, living being, whilst Riker must prove just the reverse.
As a fan of legal stuff and courtroom dramas, I’ve always rated this episode highly, and it still stands the test of time (as I already knew, having rewatched it a year or two ago). Not only does it pose a very good question – is Data genuinely a living being or merely a toaster – but it has Picard and Riker set against each other. Patrick Stewart is of course excellent whenever he’s allowed to speechify, and Jonathan Frakes does well as “evil, prosecuting Riker”. This is a standout episode amongst the 178 slices of TNG on offer, and one well worth watching. The blu-ray edition even features a special extended edition of this episode – I haven’t seen this yet, but I will report back when I do.
Bits and pieces
- The Daystrom Institute is of course named for Dr Richard Daystrom, who we saw back in The Ultimate Computer.
- Riker knows about Data’s off switch – was this from the schematics? Presumably so, since Beverly wouldn’t have spilled the secrets.
- In the absence of actual Starfleet lawyers, command level officers are able to act as legal counsel.
- This episode marks the first time that the named crew sits down for a poker game. Like most TV poker games, string betting abounds, which would never be tolerated in a proper poker tournament. And besides, what are they betting with? There’s no money, so is it duty shift time? Chores? Holodeck hours?
- When Louvois tells Picard that he’s buying dinner, it hardly matters – there’s no money in the Federation.
- Data has a small holographic reproduction of Yar. He considers her special, since they were intimate in The Naked Now.
Summary – The Measure of a Man: Wouldn’t a Star Trek: JAG spinoff be great?