Star Trek: The Next Generation "Measure of a Man"- Season 2, Episode 9 Review
I picked this episode to review because it's one of my favorite episodes that does a good job of exemplifying the show over all. It also has a good lesson that applies to humanity, and concept of being accepting of other forms of life.
The episode begins with the enterprise visiting a Starbase for crew rotation. Picard runs into an old friend who is currently assigned as a law-enforcement officer for that sector. Commander Maddox and an admiral bump into the two of them during this conversation. Cmdr. Maddox asked to see the enterprise. Then he springs a surprise on Capt. Picard when he makes a forceful request for the transfer of Commander data under his direct command at that Starbase to reinforce that request. Commander Maddox brings orders from Starfleet Capt. Picard is conflicted because he looks to Data like friend, not a machine. He goes to his friend to ask if she can assist him in this endeavor, and the only advice she can offer him is that Data can resign from Starfleet. Capt. Picard does not agree with this. So he asks for a court hearing to determine Cmdr. Data’s right to choose his own fate.
Capt. Picard’s friend is the judge in his trial. Capt. Picard acts as his defense lawyer, and Cmdr. Riker on the other hand, is chosen to speak for the opposing side. Cmdr Riker is conflicted about being the prosecution, but he decides he has no choice. Cmdr. Riker makes some good arguments on the ways that Cmdr. Data is simply a machine. One is by telling the court that Data actually dpes has an off switch. Also, he states how fast they can calculate numbers. He also removes one of his arms to show that certain parts of him are detachable and that he feels no pain.
Capt. Picard argues that no machine would keep the items that Cmdr. Data keeps. An example of these items are his medals for his exemplary service. He still holds onto a deceased officer's image because she is important to him. He also has a pet cat that he cares for a lot. He also argues that Data has plenty of friends, and has a love for painting and making music and exploring his creativity. Capt. Picard's final argument is that Cmdr. Data is the kind of lifeform that Starfleet was created to look for. He also makes the argument that human beings are nothing but biological machines themselves, that there isn’t too much difference between them and Cmdr. Data himself. He also states that the Federation was created for the sole purpose of discovering different forms of life, not just humanoid versions, but all different kinds. He says that Data is simply another form of life that human beings don’t quite understand yet. The point of the episode is to show that Data is artificial life, but still is life nonetheless, and because of that Data deserves all the rights accorded to any citizen of the Federation. The captain's impassioned speech reaches his friend and she declares that Data is a lifeform with all the accompanying rights of any citizen of the Federation, so he has the right to choose his own fate. In this case, it would be whether to be transferred not, and Data kindly refuses to be transferred.
I think this is one of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation because it explores the kind of moral questions that we will have to ask ourselves when we do discover a another form of life that operates differently than us. I hope that humanity as a culture eventually grows wise enough to accept different definitions of what life is.