Saturday, January 1, 2011

Classics: TNG 2:9 - The Measure of a Man (Cheers!)

Overall Rating: 9.5

If I have one complaint about the way in which this script was's that Commander Maddox is a pop-up punching clown...designed to be hated from instant one. I would have preferred a more sympathetic villain. Otherwise, some of the speeches and dialogues were just beautifully written.

Plot Synopsis:

Courtesy of Memory Alpha, a plot blow by blow may be found here.

The Skinny:

Before I get to the deeper issues here, I would just like to say that The Measure of a Man represents the first TNG episode where the broadcasgt presentation elements went from intrusive and melodramatic to fantastic and greatly added to the telling of this story. The score, far from the early days of Trek when music prompted peels of laughter during tense moments, is emotionally gripping. The sequence in ten-forward, in particular, with its' ominous, creeping feel and resolved conclusion was PERFECTLY accompanied as wsa the final scene in the conference room between Riker and Data. Between nearly-flawless acting, fantastic direction and cinematography (I particularly like the lack of excessive two-shots and insane close-ups of Picard's left nostril that completely overwhelmed first season episodes...not to mention the conscious choice of the director and Patrick Stewart to play the final courtroom drama with a gradual escallation in emotional intensity) and a well-crafted script, this episode is the first to sparkle with the professional, modern feel of later Trek seasons and divorce itself from the campy antics of TOS.

As for the meat of this story, I would also note that for all you aspiring writers of television out there, this is a textbook example of how to introduce a one-shot guest-star character that we, in the audience will care enough about to make him or her a crucial part of the drama without turning the show into the "who the hell are you, random star of the day?" disaster. Item one...we, as your audience, do ont give two shits about anyone who is NOT one of the characters to whom we've developed an attachment. The regular cast must not be irrelevant to the telling of the story and the new character must not upstage them. Item two...please do not throw new characters at us without connecting them somehow to the cast we care about. Here, Philippa Louvois is connected to Picard in a way that actually adds to the story and gives us some much-needed humor, as well as having her role in the story be directly crucial to the fate of another character (Data). Give us a reason to care...that's all I'm asking.

On the philosophical and metaphysical front, this episode is a case study in how to drive home a moral/ethical point without bashing us over the head with a painful 2X4 "message episode." Although Maddox comes off as too unsympathetic for 99% of the episode, his case is in fact made with honest skill, so the writers are giving us a fair representation of the issues, rather than pontificating and chest-thumping as we saw through most of the first season.

We also leave the metaphysics unresolved, allowing the audience to make up their own minds about the big question..."does data have a soul?" Most science fiction denies us even the right to believe it possible that the soul is a real and yet intangible part of who we are. But it goes even further...the consequence of Data's belief that he does in fact have a soul (he doesn't say that, but how else do you explain his belief that the summation of his memories does not define him) is that his life has infinite value! And we will always rally behind scripts that deliver a message so important as that one.

Writing: 9.5

Characterization for Louvois and oru regular cast members is undeniably brilliant and the speechifying and courtroom drama is absolutely compelling and great television storytelling. The only thing that really holds me back from giving this script a perfect 10 is the unfortunately abrasive and condescending attitude of Maddox. The director may have some responsibility for this as well, since he defines Maddox as evil before he even speaks with the danger music, but we would have prefered a more well rounded adversary to Data.

Acting: 9.0

Maddox was also not all that well acted, and I thought Frakes came across a bit awkwardly in some of his line readings, especially at the moment when he refused to prosecute the hearing, but Spiner, Goldberg and Stewart were at the tops of their respective games and Louvois was well-portrayed as well...she and Picard seemed to have some real chemistry...a rare thing in Star Trek one-time romances.

Message: 10.0

The double-whammy of goodness here must be praised fully. We've got an episode which stresses that, if there is ANY doubt about whether a life form is sentient, we must give it full rights lest we bring back an age of servitude and slavery...the infinte value of sentient life at the forefront...Trek is at its' best when it deals with this topic. But at the same time, we've got an episode unafraid to postulate that life is more than a collection of experiences stored in brain cells...that a soul may indeed be an integral part of humanity...that's a rare and wonderful thing in TV sci-fi.


(Another deal. Riker is showing the ten, Jack and five of hearts. Data has two Queens and an Ace)
DATA: I bet five.
O'BRIEN: Same.
RIKER: Your five. And five.
(Data sees the bet)
O'BRIEN: Too rich for me.
(Final card)
RIKER: No help.
(He gives himself the four of hearts. Ooo's all round)
DATA: I bet ten.
RIKER: Your ten and ten.
(We discover that Data has a third Queen. He looks at Riker)
DATA: Is that what is known as a poker face?
RIKER: Are you playing or not?
DATA: I fold.
(Riker's hole card was the two of spades. Busted)
DATA: You had nothing!
LAFORGE: He bluffed you, Data.
DATA: It makes very little sense to bet when you cannot win.
RIKER: But I did win. I was betting that you wouldn't call.
DATA: How could you tell? (you know...I like the way this game is structured...but I find the concept of bluffing extremely logical and find it hard to believe a supergenius android wouldn't figure it out before his first game by reading all the poker literature...him having to ask why Riker would bet in this situation strikes me as goofy)

PHILLIPA: They forced me out.
PICARD: No. That was your own damn stubborn pride.
PHILLIPA: When I prosecuted you in the Stargazer court martial, I was doing my job.
PICARD: Oh, you did more than your job. You enjoyed it.
PHILLIPA: Not true! A court martial is standard procedure when a ship is lost. I was doing my duty as an officer of the Judge Advocate General.
PICARD: You always enjoyed the adversarial process more than arriving at the truth. Well, I hope you've learned a little wisdom along the way.
PHILLIPA: You know, I never thought I would say this, but it's good to see you again. It brings a sense of order and stability to my universe to know that you're still a pompous ass. (LOL!!!) And a damn sexy man.( killed it...)

PICARD: Data, please sit down. Well, we have a problem.
DATA: I find myself in complete agreement with that assessment of the situation, sir.
PICARD: Your service to this ship has been exemplary. I don't want to lose you.
DATA: I will not submit to the procedure, sir.
PICARD: Data, I understand your objections, but I have to consider Starfleet's interests. What if Commander Maddox is correct, there is a possibility that many more beings like yourself could be constructed.
DATA: Sir, Lieutenant La Forge's eyes are far superior to human biological eyes. True? Then why are not all human officers required to have their eyes replaced with cybernetic implants? (Picard looks away) I see. It is precisely because I am not human.
PICARD: That will be all, Mister Data. (BURNED!)

DATA: Is it not customary to request permission before entering an individual's quarters?
MADDOX: I thought that we could talk this out, that I could try to persuade you. Your memories and knowledge will remain intact.
DATA: Reduced to the mere facts of the events. The substance, the flavour of the moment, could be lost. Take games of chance.
MADDOX: Games of chance?
DATA: Yes, I had read and absorbed every treatise and textbook on the subject, and felt myself well prepared for the experience. Yet, when I finally played poker, I discovered that the reality bore little resemblance to the rules.
MADDOX: And the point being?
DATA: That while I believe it is possible to download the information contained in the positronic brain, I do not think you have acquired the expertise necessary to preserve the essence of those experiences. There is an ineffable quality to memory which I do not believe can survive your procedure. ( artificial man...seems to believe in the existance of a cool is that?)
MADDOX: Ineffable quality. I had rather we had done this together, but one way or the other, we are doing it. You are under my command.
DATA: No, sir, I am not under your nor anyone else's command. I have resigned from Starfleet.
MADDOX: Resigned? You can't resign.
DATA: I regret the decision, but I must. 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, (nice!)

MADDOX: Data must not be permitted to resign.
PICARD: Data is a Starfleet officer. He still has certain rights.
MADDOX: Rights! Rights! I'm sick to death of hearing about rights! What about my right not to have my life work subverted by blind ignorance? ('s all about you, Maddog...there's this guy you shold meet...I think his name was Adolph...)
PHILLIPA: We have rule of law in this Federation. You ca not simply seize people and experiment with them to prove your pet theories.

DATA: Is something wrong?
LAFORGE: Of course there is. You're going away.
DATA: No one regrets that necessity more than myself. You do understand my reasons?
LAFORGE: Sure, I understand. I just don't like your being forced out. It's not fair.
DATA: As Doctor Pulaski would at this juncture, no doubt, remind us, life is rarely fair.
LAFORGE: Sorry, that just doesn't make it any better.
DATA: I shall miss you, Geordi. (aaawwwww)

PICARD: Data, Captain Louvois has issued a ruling. You are the property of Starfleet Command. You can not resign.
DATA: I see. From limitless options I am reduced to none, or rather one. I can only hope that Commander Maddox is more capable than it would appear.
PICARD: Data, you're not going to submit. We're going to fight this. I challenged the ruling. Captain Louvois will be compelled to hold a hearing. She may be overly attached to the letter of the law, but I suspect that she still understands its spirit. We will put to rest this question of your legal status once and for all. Now, I have been asked to represent you, but if there is some other officer with which you would feel more happy?
DATA: Captain, I have complete confidence in your ability to represent my interests.

COMPUTER: Verify. Lieutenant Commander Data. Current assignment, USS Enterprise. Starfleet Command Decoration for Valour and
RIKER: Your honour, we'll stipulate to all of this.
PICARD: Objection, Your Honour, I want this read. All of it.
PHILLIPA: Sustained.
COMPUTER: Valour and Gallantry, Medal of Honour with Clusters, Legion of Honour, the Star Cross. (nice)

RIKER: Your Honour, I offer in evidence prosecution's exhibit A, a rod of par-steel. Tensile strength, forty kilobars. Commander, would you bend that?
PICARD: Objection. There are many life forms possessed of mega strength. These issues are not relevant to this hearing.
PHILLIPA: I'm afraid I can't agree, Captain. Proceed with you demonstration, Commander.
(Data bends the heavy rod neatly into a U shape)
RIKER: Drawing on the log record of the construction of the prototype android Lore, also constructed by Noonien Soong, I request to be allowed to remove the Commander's hand for your inspection.
PICARD: Objection! (changes his mind) It doesn't matter. Objection withdrawn.
PHILLIPA: Proceed, Commander.
RIKER: I'm sorry.
(Riker twists and pulls off Data's left forearm and hand)
RIKER: The Commander is a physical representation of a dream, an idea conceived of by the mind of a man. It's purpose is to serve human needs and interests. It's a collection of neural nets and heuristic algorithms. Its responses dictated by an elaborate software programme written by a man. Its hardware built by a man. And now. And now a man will shut it off.
(A flick of the hidden off switch, and Data slumps across the table - OUCH - though...Riker did sort of...miss the point)

PICARD: Riker's presentation was devastating. He almost convinced me.
GUINAN: You've got the harder argument. By his own admission, Data is a machine.
PICARD: That's true.
GUINAN: You're worried about what's going to happen to him?
PICARD: I've had to send people on far more dangerous missions.
GUINAN: Then this should work out fine. Maddox could get lucky and create a whole army of Datas, all very valuable.
PICARD: Oh, yes. No doubt.
GUINAN: He's proved his value to you.
PICARD: In ways that I cannot even begin to calculate.
GUINAN: And now he's about to be ruled the property of Starfleet. That should increase his value.
PICARD: In what way?
GUINAN: Well, 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 to 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. (aaawwww snap!)
PICARD: You're talking about slavery.
GUINAN: I think that's a little harsh.
PICARD: I don't think that's a little harsh. I think that's the truth. But that's a truth we have obscured behind a comfortable, easy euphemism. Property. But that's not the issue at all, is it?

COMPUTER: Verify, Maddox, Bruce, Commander. Current assignment, Associate Chair of Robotics, Daystrom Technological Institute. Major papers
PICARD: Yes, yes, yes. Suffice it to say, he's an expert. Commander, is your contention that Lieutenant Commander Data is not a sentient being and therefore not entitled to all the rights reserved for all life forms within this Federation?
MADDOX: Data is not sentient, no.
PICARD: Commander, would you enlighten us? What is required for sentience?
MADDOX: Intelligence, self awareness, consciousness.
PICARD: Prove to the court that I am sentient.
MADDOX: This is absurd! We all know you're sentient.
PICARD: So I am sentient, but Data is not?
MADDOX: That's right.
PICARD: Why? Why am I sentient?
MADDOX: Well, you are self aware.
PICARD: Ah, that's the second of your criteria. Let's deal with the first, intelligence. Is Commander Data intelligent?
MADDOX: Yes. It has the ability to learn and understand, and to cope with new situations.
PICARD: Like this hearing.
PICARD: What about self awareness. What does that mean? Why am I self aware?
MADDOX: Because you are conscious of your existence and actions. You are aware of yourself and your own ego.
PICARD: Commander Data, what are you doing now?
DATA: I am taking part in a legal hearing to determine my rights and status. Am I a person or property?
PICARD: And what's at stake?
DATA: My right to choose. Perhaps my very life.
PICARD: My rights. My status. My right to choose. My life. It seems reasonably self aware to me. Commander? I'm waiting.
MADDOX: This is exceedingly difficult.
PICARD: Do you like Commander Data?
MADDOX: I don't know it well enough to like or dislike it.
PICARD: But you admire him?
MADDOX: Oh yes, it's an extraordinary piece of
PICARD: Engineering and programming. Yes, you have said that. Commander, you have devoted your life to the study of cybernetics in general?
PICARD: And Commander Data in particular?
PICARD: And now you propose to dismantle him.
MADDOX: So that I can learn from it and construct more.
PICARD: How many more?
MADDOX: As many as are needed. Hundreds, thousands if necessary. There is no limit.
PICARD: A single Data, and forgive me, Commander, is a curiosity. A wonder, even. But thousands of Datas. Isn't that becoming a race? And won't we be judged by how we treat that race? Now, tell me, Commander, what is Data?
MADDOX: I don't understand.
PICARD: What is he?
MADDOX: A machine!
PICARD: Is he? Are you sure?
PICARD: 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? Well, that's the question you have to answer. Your Honour, the courtroom is a crucible. In it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product, the truth for all time. Now, sooner or later, this man or others like him will succeed in replicating Commander Data. And the decision you reach here today will determine how we will regard this creation of our genius. It will reveal the kind of a 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 and all who come after him to servitude and slavery? Your Honour, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits. Waiting. You wanted a chance to make law. Well, here it is. Make a good one. (just...wonderfully written...awesome)

DATA: Sir, there is a celebration on the Holodeck.
RIKER: I have no right to be there.
DATA: Because you failed in your task?
RIKER: No, God, no. I came that close to winning, Data.
DATA: Yes, sir.
RIKER: I almost cost you your life!
DATA: Is it not true that had you refused to prosecute, Captain Louvois would have ruled summarily against me?
DATA: That action injured you, and saved me. I will not forget it.
RIKER: You're a wise man, my friend.
DATA: Not yet, sir. But with your help, I am learning. (what a great way to end this episode!)

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