Thirty-two years ago, the best episode from season two of Star Trek The Next Generation and without a doubt a top five episode of the entire series aired on this date February 13, 1989, “The Measure of a Man”.
The rights of Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) are put in jeopardy when cyberneticist Commander Bruce Maddox comes aboard the Enterprise with transfer orders for Data to report to Starbase 173 so Maddox can begin disassembling Data in order to recreate thousands like him.
In order to evade Maddox’s orders Data resigns from Starfleet. When Maddox hears of this, he argues that Data is the property of Starfleet and not a sentient being and therefore does not have the right to resign.
Captain Picard requests and is granted a formal hearing, but due to a shortage of legal staff on the Starbase it forces Riker the unenviable task of having to represent Maddox. Riker’s arguments portray Data as merely a machine constructed by man, and no more than the sum of his parts. In a striking final demonstration, Riker activates Data’s “off switch”, causing the android to shut down.
During a recess Picard talks with Guinan in Ten Forward who suggests that Maddox’s plan for reproducing thousands of androids like Data would be equivalent of slavery. Picard uses this and points out that Data meets two of the three criteria Maddox uses to define sentient life and asks the court what if Data meets the third, consciousness in the smallest degree. The court then rules that Data has the right to choose and formally refuses to undergo the procedure.
Star Trek The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man” is the ninth episode of the second season.
Star Trek The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man” is in my opinion the best episode of season two and a top five episode of the series. Having said that I want to give honorable mentions to a couple of other episodes from season two.
“Q Who” and “A Matter of Honor” would round out my top three episodes from season two. Some may see “Q Who” as the best from season two for the fact that Q sends Picard and the Enterprise D to the Delta quadrant where we meet the Borg for the first time. Yes “Q Who” is an important episode when it comes to the series as it introduces the best villain of the TNG series and to Star Trek as a franchise, but I don’t see it as the best episode of season two.
“The Measure of a Man” is a prime example of the complexity and depth of what a Star Trek episode can bring by using the rights of artificial lifeforms to condemn slavery and what could happen to a race, even if that race is artificial in nature. It is a simple episode with a powerful message done in a very Star Trek way.
For those who own season two of Star Trek TNG on Blu-ray you can find an extended cut of “The Measure of a Man” under the special features section. The runtime is 57 minutes, 13 minutes longer than the original broadcast version.
Categories: The Next Generation