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The Measure Of A Man (episode)

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"The Measure Of A Man"
TNG, Episode 2x09
Production number: 40272-135
First aired: 13 February 1989
34th of 176 produced in TNG
34th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
140th of 728 released in all
Data takes the stand
Written By
Melinda M. Snodgrass

Directed By
Robert Scheerer
42523.7 (2365)
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Starfleet must determine if Data is a sentient life form when transfer orders demand his reassignment for study and disassembly.



Data poker face

"Is that what is known as a poker face?"

Four of the senior staff and Chief Miles O'Brien sit down in Commander Riker's quarters for a game of poker. Lieutenant Commander Data explains the game, in detail, as the cards are dealt. Doctor Pulaski announces a bet, which the rest of the staff calls. Data bets ten, as he holds the highest hand, whereas Pulaski and Lieutenant La Forge fold. The cards are dealt, and Riker's new card is the five of hearts, as we see three hearts, compared to Data's pair of queens, ace high.

Data bets five cautiously, whereas O'Brien calls, but Riker raises to five. Data calls, but O'Brien folds. The cards are dealt a final time, but a four of hearts comes down, which causes a moan from the others - Riker may have a flush. Data bets ten, but Riker raises another ten. This causes Data to peek at his face-down card, which is a queen, indicating he has three of a kind. Data comments about Riker's facial expression being a "poker face", but Riker asks if Data is "playing or not?". Data hesitates and then folds. Riker reveals his face-down card as the two of spades, which raises a resounding groan from the table. Confused, Data doesn't understand how Riker could have won - as he had nothing toward a winning hand - but La Forge points out to Data Riker's valid play, in bluffing Data.

Act One

Louvois and Picard reunion

"Ain't love wonderful?"

Upon arriving at the newly-built Starbase 173, Captain Picard encounters Captain Phillipa Louvois, a longtime friend who had previously prosecuted Picard with zeal during the court martial following the loss of the USS Stargazer. While they reminisce, the pair is approached by Admiral Nakamura, accompanied by Commander Bruce Maddox, a Starfleet cyberneticist. Maddox was the sole member of a Starfleet special admissions panel to oppose Data's admission to Starfleet, on the basis that Data was not a sentient lifeform - and he wishes to disassemble the android.

Commander Maddox explains that he wants Data to help him understand better how Dr. Noonian Soong was able to overcome certain engineering challenges in designing Data's positronic brain. Data is intrigued, until he discovers that it is Maddox's intention to "dump" Data's memories from his positronic brain into the Starbase 173 main computer, then deactivate and disassemble Data in hopes of deriving enough technical knowledge to construct more Soong-type androids.

Maddox reveals his plan

"I am going to disassemble Data."

After a brief interview in the Enterprise's wardroom, Data concludes that Maddox lacks sufficient technical knowledge to carry out the procedure safely, and declines to participate. Maddox, prepared for this eventuality, produces orders from Starfleet Command separating Data from the Enterprise, transferring him to Starbase 173, and compelling Data to submit to the procedure.

Act Two

In private, Picard, recognizing Starfleet's inherent interests in the creation of more Soong-type androids, attempts to persuade Data into submitting to Maddox's procedure. Despite Picard's approach being the opposite of Maddox's - with the application of much more carrot than stick - Data counters, intimating that asking him to submit to a dangerous and potentially destructive experiment for the benefit of Starfleet is tantamount to compulsorily requiring all Starfleet officers to have their biological eyes replaced with cybernetic implants, such as the type utilized by La Forge.

Picard asks Louvois for help

"It's unjustified. It's unfair."

Swayed by the gravamen of Data's argument, Picard turns for help to the Starbase 173 office of Starfleet's Judge Advocate General, headed by Captain Louvois. Louvois contends that while Data can refuse to participate in the experiment, the transfer itself cannot be stopped. Picard articulates his concern that once Maddox has Data in his clutches, as it were, anything could happen; Louvois therefore suggests, alternatively, that Data could resign his Starfleet commission. Rather than risk his memories, Data chooses resignation to participating in the experiment.

Maddox learns with displeasure of Data's impending resignation, and angrily counters that Data is the property of Starfleet - not an individual, sentient being with rights within the Federation - and is no more able to refuse his procedure and resign from Starfleet than the Enterprise's computer is able to refuse a refit.

Act Three

After announcing his resignation, Data's shipmates throw an impromptu going-away party in Ten Forward. Worf presents him with a copy of The Dream of the Fire, a classic Klingon novel. Across the room, Data sees Geordi La Forge sitting alone, and he approaches his friend. La Forge tells Data that he's upset about the android being forced out of Starfleet, and the two express that they will miss each other.

Data going away party

Gifts and goodbyes

Surmising that there might be established law to support Maddox's position, Captain Louvois, after some research, initially finds for Commander Maddox's position "based on the Acts of Cumberland passed in the early 21st century." Picard requests a formal hearing to challenge the ruling; however, because the Judge Advocate General's Office staff on Starbase 173 consists of only Captain Louvois and "one terrified little ensign," Louvois convenes a hearing on condition that Enterprise personnel serve as legal counsel during the proceedings: Captain Picard is to defend Data - and a reluctant Commander Riker is pressed into representing Commander Maddox's position. Riker initially refuses to prosecute on the grounds that he considers Data a comrade and friend; however, since Data's position is at peril of Louvois' preliminary ruling, Riker finds himself compelled to.

Act Four

Riker removes Data's arm

"...hardware, built by a man."

Riker, as prosecutor, demonstrates that Data is, in fact, a man-made, constructed being; after compelling Data to bend a rod of parsteel - despite Picard's objection, based on the fact that many creatures in the Federation are possessed of mega-strength - Riker removes Data's left hand for Captain Louvois' examination. Riker then abruptly deactivates Data, proclaiming "Pinocchio is broken; its strings have been cut."

Act Five

Guinan and Picard (2365)

Picard and Guinan discuss Data's rights

During a recess, Captain Picard recounts Riker's devastating prosecution to Guinan in Ten Forward. Guinan aptly observes that were Maddox to prevail in the proceedings and go on to become successful in replicating Data - despite the value this would represent to Starfleet - Maddox's success would almost certainly result in the creation of an entirely new race of "disposable creatures;" beings whose welfare and needs would not require consideration.

Picard quickly concludes that victory for Maddox would have far more sinister repercussions throughout the Federation; that this fledgling race could potentially become a race of slaves. This grim realization strengthens Picard's resolve and inspires him to take a new approach in the defense phase of the hearing.

Back in the courtroom, Picard begins Data's defense by quickly dismissing Riker's arguments that Data is a constructed being:

"Commander Riker has dramatically demonstrated to this court that Lieutenant Commander Data is a machine. Do we deny that? No, because it is not relevant - we too are machines, just machines of a different type. Commander Riker has also reminded us that Lieutenant Commander Data was created by a Human; do we deny that? No. Again it is not relevant. Children are created from the 'building blocks' of their parents' DNA. Are they property?"

Picard then calls Data to the witness stand and shows the court some of the android's personal belongings: a plaque of his Starfleet medals, a book that was given to him by his captain, and a holocube portrait of Tasha Yar. Picard asks Data, what purpose do any of these articles serve him? Of the Starfleet medals, he answers that they serve no purpose other than that he simply wanted them, wondering if that demonstrates vanity. Of the book, Data says that it is a reminder of his friendship and service with the captain.

Picard displays Data's medals

Data's medals

When Picard questions Data about the holocube of Tasha Yar, Data replies that he would rather not comment, as he had given his word to not speak about the matter. After Picard tells him that under the circumstances that "Tasha would not mind", Data says that she was special to him and that they were intimate, which makes Captain Louvois raise her eyebrows in wonder.

Picard goes on to expose and impeach Commander Maddox's views about Data. In doing so, Picard maneuvers Maddox into conceding that Data fulfills most of the cyberneticist's own criteria for sentience - intelligence and self-awareness - and dramatically coerces the scientist into admission that the remaining criterion, consciousness, is too nebulous a concept to precisely determine whether the android is in possession of it or not. Having cemented his argument for Data's sentience, Picard summarizes his final contention that to create a sentient race that is considered "property" is to sanction slavery - a profound violation of the basic principles and ideals of the United Federation of Planets:

"Your honor, the courtroom is a crucible; in it, we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a purer product: the truth, for all time. Now sooner or later, this man [Commander Maddox] - or others like him - will succeed in replicating Commander Data. The decision you reach here today will determine how we will regard this creation of our genius. It will reveal the kind of people we are; what he is destined to be. It will reach far beyond this courtroom and this one android. It could significantly redefine the boundaries of personal liberty and freedom: expanding them for some, savagely curtailing them for others. Are you prepared to condemn him [Commander Data] - and all who will come after him - to servitude and slavery? Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life: well, there it sits! Waiting."

Ultimately, Captain Louvois rules in favor of Data:

"It sits there looking at me, and I don't know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I am neither competent, nor qualified, to answer those. I've got to make a ruling - to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We've all been dancing around the basic issue: does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have! But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose."
Data refuses Maddox

"I formally refuse to undergo your procedure."

Data formally refuses to undergo Maddox's procedure after Louvois' ruling is entered, and Maddox, in turn, declares he will see that Data's transfer orders is rescinded. Data encourages Maddox to continue his work; Data says that he remains intrigued by some of what Maddox is proposing, and suggests he might agree to the procedure at some point in the future, once he is certain Maddox can perform it safely. Captain Louvois notices that Maddox at this point no longer refers to Data as an "it" but as a "he", regarding him as a person and not as a machine.

After the victory, Riker, deeply affected by the gravity of nearly costing a friend and colleague his life, prefers the solitude of the Enterprise's bridge boardroom to Data's victory celebration on the holodeck. However, Data reminds Riker that had he not agreed to serve as prosecutor, Data would not have been afforded the chance to defend himself, and expresses his gratitude at the ignominy Riker had endured, but that had, in its effect, saved him.

Extended edition

A significant amount of original footage was cut from the episode during editing, but was restored for the TNG Season 2 Blu-ray release. [1][2] The 'extended edition' features an 57-minute version of the episode, containing approximately 13 minutes of restored scenes and visual effects, including:

  • Act 1, Scene 5 - Picard, Nakamura, and Maddox beam aboard the Enterprise; Picard and Nakamura reminisce about their days aboard the USS Reliant.
  • Act 2, Scene 14 - Picard confronts Nakamura about Data's transfer by way of his Ready Room desktop monitor.
  • Act 3, Scene 11 - Data presents Geordi with his Sherlock Holmes pipe in engineering; they discuss life outside of Starfleet.
  • Act 3, Scene 13 - A extended version of Data's farewell party in Ten Forward. Pulaski gives Data advice on where to live after leaving Starfleet; Riker and Troi privately discuss their feelings about Data; Maddox crashes the party and insults Data; Picard summons Riker to the transporter room.
  • Act 3, Scene 17 - Riker interrupts the fencing match between Picard and his fencing partner. Riker warns Picard that he will do everything in his power to win the coming legal battle - and Picard warns Riker that he will do the same.
  • Act 3, Scene 18 - Picard and Data review their legal strategy. Picard attempts to guide Data's testimony to a more favorable position, calling it "a bit of legal fiction"; Data cites "kill all the lawyers" from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part II.
  • Act 5, Scene 23 - An extended version of Data and Riker's post-hearing conversation in the observation lounge; Data tells "Will" that he has learned from Riker's sacrifice in prosecuting his friend.

Log entries

Memorable quotes

"It's been ten years, but seeing you again like this makes it seem like fifty. If we weren't around all these people, do you know what I would like to do?"
"Bust a chair across my teeth."
"After that."
"Oh, ain't love wonderful."

- Jean-Luc Picard and Phillipa Louvois

"It brings a sense of order and stability to my universe to know that you're still a pompous ass... and a damn sexy man."

- Louvois, to Picard

"My God..."

- Picard, upon seeing Louvois again

"You're a little vague on the specifics."

- William Riker, to Bruce Maddox

"'When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes / I all alone beweep my outcast state.' Tell me: are these just words to you? Or do you fathom the meaning?"
"Is it not customary to request permission before entering an individual's quarters?"

- Maddox and Data

"I am the culmination of one man's dream. This is not ego or vanity, but when Doctor Soong created me, he added to the substance of the universe. If, by your experiments, I am destroyed, something unique – something wonderful – will be lost. I cannot permit that. I must protect his dream."

- Data, to Maddox

"You are imparting Human qualities to it because it looks Human – but I assure you: it is not. If it were a box on wheels I would not be facing this opposition."

- Maddox, to Picard and Louvois

"...and the unenviable task of prosecuting this case would fall on you, Commander, as the next most senior officer of the defendant's ship."
"I can't! I...I won't! Data's my comrade. We have served together. I not only respect him, I consider him my friend!"

- Louvois and Riker

"Consider that in the history of many worlds there have always been disposable creatures. They do the dirty work. They do the work that no one else wants to do, because it's too difficult or too hazardous. And an army of Datas, all disposable? You don't have to think about their welfare; you don't think about how they feel. Whole generations of disposable people."
"You're talking about slavery."
"I think that's a little harsh."
"I don't think that's a little harsh, I think that's the truth. But that's a truth that we have obscured behind a... comfortable, easy euphemism. 'Property'. But that's not the issue at all, is it?"

- Guinan and Picard

"I would prefer not to answer, sir. I gave my word."
"Under the circumstances, I don't think Tasha would mind."
"She was special to me. We were... intimate."

- Data, to Picard when asked about his connection to Tasha Yar

"Now tell me, Commander, what is Data?"
"I don't understand."
"What is he?"
"A machine!"
"Is he? Are you sure?"
"You see he's met two of your three criteria for sentience, so what if he meets the third, consciousness, in even the smallest degree? What is he then? I don't know, do you? (to Riker) Do you? (to Phillipa) Do you?"

- Picard and Maddox

"Your Honor, a courtroom is a crucible; in it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product: the truth, for all time."

- Picard, in his summation

"... Starfleet was founded to seek out new life – well, there it sits! ...waiting."

- Picard, in his summation

"You wanted a chance to make law, well here it is; make it a good one."

- Picard, before Louvois hands down her ruling

"I formally refuse to undergo your procedure."

- Data, to Maddox after he is declared to not be property

"That act injured you and saved me. I will not forget it."
"You're a wise man, my friend."
"Not yet, sir. But with your help, I am learning."

- Data and Riker, regarding the latter's prosecution of the former

Background Information

Story and script

Robert Scheerer Data's Arm

Director Robert Scheerer examines an arm prop



Stewart and Spiner

Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner on set

  • The episode was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award in the category of "Best Episodic Drama". (The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
  • Entertainment Weekly ranked this episode #6 on their list of "The Top 10 Episodes" to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. [3]
  • Producer Maurice Hurley commented, "Stunning. That's the kind of show you want to do...It just worked great, everything about it. And it dealt with an issue in a very interesting way. I thought Whoopi's place was good in that. She's a wonderful actress." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Director Robert Scheerer called the episode one of the best of The Next Generation. He explained, "It has to do with the content, what it had to say, how it deals with it, the depth that it goes and the way it's resolved. I love that show. It is indeed my favorite show. I guess you would have to say that what I enjoyed is the dilemma that they're put in to, especially Jonathan and Patrick having to deal with Brent not as a dear friend but as someone whose worth has to be resolved. And Jonathan had to take the other side. It was all just beautifully crafted. It was not typical episodic television and had a great deal to say about man, humanity, what our problems in the world are today and hopefully what we can do about it in the future." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Scheerer also states, "That was a wonderful show. But no thanks to me especially. It was based on a book the young lady - [screenwriter] Melinda Snodgrass - has done. She was brought out because of it and wrote the episode. She was a lawyer, I think. That was where the book 'Measure of a Man' came from. It was her first writing experience, as I understand it. She quit [her law position] and came out here to write for Next Generation, and served as story editor. Very impressive." (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 20, p. 30)
  • Rick Berman cites this episode, along with "Yesterday's Enterprise", as one of his favorites. (TNG Season 3 DVD)
  • Michael Piller named this episode (along with "The Inner Light" and "The Offspring") as one of his favorite TNG episodes, "because they had remarkable emotional impacts. And they genuinely explored the human condition, which this franchise does better than any other when it does it well." (AOL chat, 1997)
  • The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • A mission report for this episode by Robert Greenberger was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 8, pp. 5-10.
  • First UK airdate: 29th May 1991

Continuity and trivia

Nakamura, 2365

The rarely seen "interim uniform" worn by admirals in the 2nd season

  • This episode contradicts a statement made by Pulaski in "Where Silence Has Lease" that Data is listed as alive in his Starfleet Personnel file.
  • This episode features the first appearance of the officers' regular poker game, with Data, Riker, La Forge, Dr. Pulaski, and O'Brien.
  • The episode features the rare "interim" pattern Starfleet admiral uniform which was only seen twice in the second season of TNG. The uniform departed from the first season "pip triangle" admiral insignia and introduced the "boxed pip" version which would be the standard Admiral insignia for the rest of Next Generation and all subsequent series. The second season pip insignia was worn vertical while later seasons showed the insignia flat against the collar.
  • The restoration of the scene mentioning Picard's service aboard the USS Reliant means that he and Pavel Chekov have each served on a starship named Reliant and two starships named Enterprise.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references


Also starring

Special appearance by

Guest stars


Special guest star


Uncredited co-stars

Archive footage



2355; Acts of Cumberland; android; As You Like It; court martial; cybernetics; Daystrom Institute; Dream of the Fire, The; emergency manual control; Federation; Irish coffee; Judge Advocate General; K'Ratak; kilobar; Legion of Honor; Lore; Medal of Honor; megastrength; metaphysics; neural net; parsteel; Pinocchio; poker; positronic brain; Reliant, USS; Romulan; Romulan Neutral Zone; rule of law; Sector 23; sentience; Shakespeare's sonnets; slavery; Soong, Noonian; Starbase 173; Star Cross; Starfleet Academy; Stargazer, USS; tensile strength; Ten Forward; Transporter Room 3; Watson; Webster's 24th Century Dictionary

Library computer references

External links

Previous episode:
"A Matter Of Honor"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 2
Next episode:
"The Dauphin"

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