The Measure of a Man (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

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"The Measure of a Man"
Star Trek: The Next Generation episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 9
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Featured music Dennis McCarthy
Cinematography by Edward R. Brown
Production code 135
Original air date February 13, 1989 (1989-02-13)
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"A Matter of Honor"
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"The Dauphin"
List of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

"The Measure of a Man" is the ninth episode of the second season of the syndicated science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 35th episode overall, first broadcast on February 13, 1989. It is written by Melinda M. Snodgrass and directed by Robert Scheerer.

In the episode, the android officer Lieutenant Commander Data must fight for his right of self-determination in order not to be declared the property of Starfleet and be disassembled in the name of science. This is also the first TNG episode to have a scene with the ship's crew playing poker.


While the Federation starship Enterprise, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, is docked at Starbase 173 for routine maintenance, cyberneticist Commander Bruce Maddox comes aboard to pay Lieutenant Commander Data a visit, wishing to better understand how Data's creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, was able to overcome certain problems in designing and constructing Data's positronic brain. It quickly becomes clear that Maddox has an ulterior motive of storing Data's positronic brain in the starbase mainframe computer and shutting down and disassembling the android to learn how to recreate Soong's technology. Though Maddox promises to restore Data after the analysis is complete and assures him his memories will be intact, Data states the substances and flavors of the experiences he gained with them could very well be lost. Data, aware of the delicate nature of this procedure and to prevent damage to himself thus protecting "the culmination of Soong's dream", refuses to submit to Maddox's desires, forcing Maddox to turn to Starfleet to order that Data submit himself to "experimental refit". Captain Picard stands up for Data, and Picard learns that the only way to avoid the order is for Data to resign from Starfleet. Maddox, however, argues that Data is the property of Starfleet and not a sentient being and as such Starfleet need not permit him to resign.

Picard requests Starfleet Judge Advocate General for the 23rd sector, Captain Philippa Louvois, to hold a hearing to determine Data's legal status. Louvois agrees. However, as her office is understaffed at the moment, she drafts Enterprise First Officer Commander Riker to represent Maddox's interests, and the position that Data is the property of Starfleet and therefore without the broad array of human rights accorded in the United Federation of Planets, and Picard to represent Data's interests, that Data is a sentient being with the choice to resign from Starfleet and to refuse to undergo Maddox's procedures. Riker, forced to argue against Data to prevent a summary ruling against him (to ensure the issue is accorded due process of law), enters the same argument Maddox had made years before, where Maddox was the sole dissenting vote as to Data's petition to attend Starfleet Academy and pursue a Starfleet commission.

Picard initially finds Riker's prosecution difficult to challenge: on the account of Data being a human(oid) being, Riker, while apologising, hits Data's off-switch, causing him to go numb; "Pinocchio is broken: its strings have been cut.", being the most challenging part. However, during a recess, Picard talks to Guinan who suggests that regardless of whether Data is a machine or not, Maddox's goal is tantamount to sanctioning slavery. Picard uses this to defuse Riker's arguments when the court reconvenes. The discussion of Data's sentience turns to metaphysical matters. Picard points out that Data meets two of the three criteria that Maddox uses to define sentient life. Data is intelligent and self-aware, but Picard asks anyone in the court to show a means of measuring consciousness. With no one able to answer this, Louvois acknowledges that neither she nor anyone else can measure this in Data (nor in any other person present) and, as such, Data, as a matter of law, is a sentient being. She therefore rules that Data has the right to choose. Upon the court's ruling, Data formally refuses to undergo the procedure.

After the hearing, Data tells Maddox that his research remains intriguing to him and offers to help Maddox understand his workings better after Maddox has had more time to study and perfect his techniques. Maddox, for his part, refers to Data for the first time as "he" rather than "it". Later, in the Observation Lounge on board the Enterprise, Data finds Riker, who is ashamed of having had to argue against his friend in the hearing. Data cheers him up by telling him that his action was an act of self-sacrifice that gave Data the chance to win his freedom, and stated that had Riker not done so and refused to participate, Louvois would have been forced to render a summary judgement in favor of Maddox. Data summed it up by stating, "That action injured you and saved me. I will not forget it."


For the season two Blu-ray set, CBS decided to include a special "Extended Cut". This included thirteen minutes of additional footage, most of which only existed in the episode writer's (Melinda Snodgrass) hands. All that existed was a VHS videotape of it, but CBS was able to pull off the extended cut with them finding the original filmed segments. It was released in theaters with "Q Who?" on November 29, 2012.[1] The difference in the running time was attributed to "small personal moments" by Snodgrass, but also added that Riker wanted to beat Picard although he cared for Data. This was emphasised in one particular scene, which Snodgrass was pleased had been restored to the episode.[2]


Entertainment Weekly named this episode the sixth best of the series.[3] Director Robert Scheerer called it his favorite show, adding:

I guess you would have to say that what I enjoyed is the dilemma that they're put into, 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.

Series writer Maurice Hurley called the episode "stunning", and lauded Whoopi Goldberg's role.[4]

Cast member Brent Spiner (Data) identified this episode as his favorite TNG episode.[5] In an interview, fellow cast member Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard) concurred that this is "the first truly great episode of the series".[6] On Twitter in April 2013, Marina Sirtis (Troi) named this as her favorite episode.[7]

In the wake of discussions regarding the ethical and moral dilemmas of computer scientists, the episode also received attention amongst academia and was used as lecture material, e.g., in a course on Computer Ethics at the University of Kentucky.[8]


  1. ^ "Extended cut of TNG Season 2's "The Measure of a Man" may finally sell me on the blu-rays". November 30, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2014. 
  2. ^ ""The Measure of a Man" -- 26 Years Later". February 13, 2015. Retrieved February 14, 2015. 
  3. ^ "'Star Trek: The Next Generation': The Top 10 Episodes". Entertainment Weekly. September 19, 2007. Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  4. ^ Captains' Logs (Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman) 1995
  5. ^ Spiner, Brent. "Brent Spiner on Reddit AMA". Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ Stewart, Patrick (December 4, 2012). "Patrick Stewart on 'Star Trek: TNG,' returning to 'X-Men,' and Wil Wheaton's beard". Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  7. ^ Marina Sirtis (@Marina_Sirtis) on Twitter, April 26, 2013
  8. ^ [1]

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