TNG: S2 – E35: The Measure Of A Man

This episode was significant in its day as a unique story of the value of a character, which Trek audiences had grown to love. Many rank this as the first “great” episode of TNG. But now, thanks to Star Trek: Picard, the story from The Measure Of A Man has a new significance and is now not just a great story, but one that sets the tone for Picard and any series set in the 24th Century to follow.

STARDATE: 42523.7

The Enterprise was on its way to the new Starbase 173 for a port call, crew rotation, and the off-loading of experiment modules. 

The Enterprise and Starbase 173. You may remember this starbase design from The Wrath of Khan. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount
The Enterprise and Starbase 173. You may remember this starbase design from The Wrath of Khan. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

We join members of the crew (Riker, Geordi, Dr. Pulaski, O’Brien, and Data) as they sit down to play cards. As Riker dealt, Data announced how simple the game was and how he would likely win. But, Riker won the hand by bluffing. Data was confounded, and everyone else laughed. 

This illustrated that Data, even though he was a machine and super-smart, could still fall for human-like tricks. He may have been more child-like than computer for that scene.

After the Enterprise docked at Starbase 173 (which was a duplicate of Space Station Regula 1 from The Wrath of Khan — and likely the same model used in the film), Picard met up with an old friend/love interest/rival named Captain Phillipa Louvois. 

They met in the lounge on the station, and when Picard saw her, he rose immediately and said that he wished they were alone. She joked and asked if that meant he wanted to throw a chair at her. 

Ah! This is an excellent backstory for our captain. He’s had other love interests besides Dr. Crusher. 

Anyhow, Louvois told Picard that she was the new head of the 23rd Section JAG (Judge Advocate General) office, which provides legal advice and representation to service members at courts-martial and administrative proceedings. Louvois said that she didn’t have any staff yet because everything was so new. 

Picard with Captain Phillipa Louvois, played by Amanda McBroom. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount
Picard with Captain Phillipa Louvois, played by Amanda McBroom. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

As they chatted, it turns out that Louvois prosecuted Picard for an accident that happened while serving the U.S.S. Stargazer, which was where Picard was stationed before coming aboard the Enterprise. It was aboard the Stargazer, where Jack Crusher was killed. 

Picard argued with her, saying that she enjoyed the process of prosecution more than she did when pursuing the truth. He added that he hoped she had learned some wisdom since those days. She laughed and told him that she was glad that he was still in Starfleet. Louvois added:

“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 — and a damn sexy man.”

Picard looked embarrassed at that comment and was relieved when Admiral Nakamura walked up and interrupted. Louvois excused herself and told Picard to call her so they could have dinner sometime.

The admiral introduced Picard to Commander Bruce Maddox, who had a proposal for him. But before that, Nakamura wanted to tour the Enterprise.

Bruce Maddox, as portrayed by Brian Brophy. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount
Bruce Maddox, as portrayed by Brian Brophy. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

When Picard, Nakamura, Riker, and Maddox got to the bridge, Maddox stared at Data awkwardly. The admiral enjoyed his tour, saying:

“For five hundred years, every ship that has borne the name Enterprise has become a legend. This one is no different.”

After that, Nakamura told Picard that Maddox was there to work on “your android. Please take care of him.”

Data looked stunned and turned to look at Maddox, who asked his condition. Data said that it did not change over time. Picard asked if they knew each other, and Maddox said that he “evaluated” Data when the android applied to Starfleet Academy. 

“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 — and a damn sexy man.”

Data said that Maddox was the only member of a committee, which authorized Data’s entry into the academy, to oppose him. Maddox claimed that Data was not a sentient being. 

Picard asked what kind of work Maddox was planning to do with Data, and Maddox said that he planned to disassemble the android. Maddox told Picard that he had been studying Dr. Noonian Soong’s work, and was very close to replicating his achievements. He just needed to take Data apart to do this.

Oh, and every time he referred to Data, Maddox called him a “thing” or an “it.” 

Maddox wanted to download Data’s memories and files into the Starbase’s main core computer, run a diagnostic on Data, and do an analysis of his construction. He said that he had already constructed a positronic brain of his own for testing purposes, but had not been able to get it to work fully. That was why he needed to take Data apart.

Riker said that Maddox’s plan sounded a little vague on details, and Data agreed. 

Picard told Maddox that Data was a valuable member of his bridge crew, and he could not allow Maddox to take him apart. Maddox then gave Picard transfer orders for Data to Starbase 173 under the command of Maddox. 

“For five hundred years, every ship that has borne the name Enterprise has become a legend. This one is no different.”

“Data I will see you tomorrow at 0900 in my office,” said Maddox.

Later, Picard met with Data and said that they had a problem. Data said he would not submit to the procedure. Picard said that he understood, but also needed to see it from Starfleet’s point of view — what if they could create a whole bunch of androids like Data for the fleet?

Data asked that if Geordi’s vision was superior to standard human eyes, then why not force all officers to have VISORS installed instead? Picard looked away at that question. 

“I see,” said Data. “It is precisely because I am not human.”

Picard dismissed him. After Data left, he pulled all records on the transfer of officers. He then went to see Capt. Louvois in her office, who was thrilled to see him. Picard asked for her help with Data. She said he could refuse the procedure, but they could not stop the transfer.

He told Louvois that he did not trust Maddox. She said that all who joined Starfleet agreed to certain risks. Picard said it was not fair, and that Data had rights. She noted that Data could resign. 

Louvois laughed and said that she was surprised that Picard came to her for help. He bristled and said that she was the JAG, and she was supposed to handle this sort of thing. He grew angry and stormed out. 

In his quarters, Data packed his belongings, including a small hologram of Tasha Yar. As he did this, Maddox walked in, unannounced and uninvited. He picked up a book and began to read from it, and asked Data if he knew the meaning of the words, or if they were just words. Data asked him why he entered his cabin without asking first.

Maddox said that he hoped they could talk it over and promised that Data’s memories would remain intact. Only on disc, Data replied. But no context or “flavor” of those experiences would be retained. Data compared his life experiences to poker — when he started, he knew all the rules and yet still was beaten. 

He explained to Maddox that he knew the memories could be downloaded; Data felt that Maddox did not have the expertise to retain “the essence” of those experiences. 

“There is an ineffable quality to memory, which I do not believe can survive your procedure,” Data said.

Maddox shrugged off Data’s remarks and said that “one way or the other,” he will go ahead with the procedure. Data said that he would not, as he had just resigned. Maddox said that he could not resign. Data said that he regretted the decision, but he must protect the dream of Dr. Noonian Soong.

Refusing to be stopped, Maddox turned to the law to get Data. He said that Data should not be allowed to resign, arguing that “it” was a machine, and property of Starfleet. Louvois said that there might be a precedent for that opinion. Picard asked her to find out if there was.

In Ten Forward, Worf, Wesley, Dr. Pulaski, Riker, and Troi gathered for a little going away party for Data. Geordi refused to celebrate, saying that Data was being forced out. 

Louvois said that she conducted research and found that Data was property and could not resign. Picard challenged the ruling and asked her to convene a hearing. Louvois said that Picard must act as Data’s defender, while Riker would have to serve as prosecutor since she did not have any other senior Starfleet officers available.

Riker refused, but Louvois pointed out that if they could not hold the hearing, the Maddox’s view would win by default. She warned him that if she saw that he was not doing all he could in his role, then she would immediately rule in Maddox’s favor.

Picard called Data to his ready room and told him what was happening. Data was happy that Picard was defending him. I would be too. No offense Riker, but Picard as a defender would probably be pretty fantastic. 

Meanwhile, Riker did a bunch of research on Data’s technical anatomy. He found Data’s “off switch” and smiled. Come on, Riker! What are you trying to do here?

In the courtroom, Louvois called the hearing to order. Riker was up first and called Data as a witness. Data put his hand on the glowing scanner on the desk, which positively identified him. This was almost exactly the same thing that we saw in the TOS episode Court Martial

Data swearing in for the hearing
Mr. Data swearing in for the hearing. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Riker asked him what he was and who made him. Data answered. Riker asked Data about his memory capacity and his ability to process information. Data said that he could store “800 quadrillion bits” and can process at “60 trillion operations per second.” 

Wow. Those are impressive numbers! But, I’m pretty sure the next iPhone will be able to match those stats. 

Riker then asked Data to bend a piece of parsteel, which he did with ease. Picard said that there were many species with “mega-strength,” but Louvois overruled and allowed Data to bend the rod. 

Riker then mentioned that he looked at the specs of both Data and Lore (Data’s evil twin brother), and requested to remove Data’s arm. Picard objected, but then withdrew his objection. Riker apologized to Data as he removed Data’s arm. 

The commander said that Data was a dream, built by a man to serve humanity. He then turned Data off, saying, “Pinocchio is broken. His strings have been cut.”

Riker and Data's arm
Riker holding Data’s arm as evidence. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Maddox gloated and smiled as Riker sat and covered his mouth in anguish. Picard requested a recess.

The captain went to chat with Guinan. Picard told her that Riker’s argument was almost unbeatable. 

“Maddox could get lucky and create a whole army of Datas,” said Guinan.

That army would be valuable to the Federation. She also pointed out that on many worlds, there have been groups of “disposable creatures,” which did the dirty work.

“Whole generations of disposable people,” said Guinan.

“You’re talking about slavery,” said Picard. Guinan said that was a bit harsh. Picard said he did not think it was harsh, and that it was precisely what they were talking about. 

Picard and Guinan
Picard shares his feeling of defeat with Guinan. Courtesy of CBS / Paramount

Back in the courtroom, Picard said that Riker demonstrated that Data is a machine, but humans are also machines, just with a different construction. Picard also said that Riker pointed out that Data was created by a human, as were all humans. Picard called Data to the stand.

Picard asked why Data packed his commendations and metals. They had no logical purpose. Data could not say why other than he “wanted them.” He showed the Tasha Yar hologram and asked why he had a portrait of her and not other crewmembers. Data said she was “special” to him. They had been “intimate.”

Picard called Maddox to the stand. He put his hand on the glowing device. It identified him and read aloud his achievements… “Associate Chair of Robotics, Daystrom Technological Institute…”

Maddox testified that Data was not sentient. Picard asked what was required to be ‘sentient.’ Maddox said intelligence, self-awareness, and consciousness. Picard asked Maddox to prove that he was sentient; Maddox said that was an absurd question. 

“Maddox could get lucky and create a whole army of Datas,” said Guinan.

Picard picked through all the steps of Maddox’s description for being sentient and asked Data questions, which aligned with those definitions — except for consciousness. Picard then asked if Maddox “liked” Data; Maddox said he did not know ‘it’ well enough. 

He asked Maddox if he liked Data and admired him, then why would he want to dismantle Data. Maddox said that he wanted to do this so he could learn from Data and construct hundreds, thousands, or “as many as are needed.”

“A single Data is a curiosity,” said Picard. “A wonder, even. But thousands of Datas… isn’t that becoming a race? And won’t we be judged on how we treat that race?

Picard asked Maddox what Data was. Maddox did not understand. Picard leaned in and asked him if Data was still ‘just’ a machine if he met the third criterion of being conscious. 

“What is he then? I don’t know!” Picard said. He turned to Maddox, Riker, and Louvois and asked if they knew. 

Picard said that sooner or later, Maddox or others like him will figure out how to replicate Data and make more like him. He said that the court’s decision would dictate how people regard “this creation of our genius.”

“A single Data is a curiosity,” said Picard. “A wonder, even. But thousands of Datas… isn’t that becoming a race? And won’t we be judged on how we treat that race?

“Are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him to servitude and slavery?” Picard asked Louvois. “Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life — well there it sits!”

Louvois sighed, and Riker smirked as Picard sat down. 

Captain Louvois said that she must make a ruling to speak to the future. She said that Data was a machine, but he should not be the property of Starfleet. She asked if Data had a soul… she did not know. But she would have to grant Data the freedom to figure that out for himself. 

“It is the ruling of this court that Lt. Cmdr. Data has the freedom to choose,” said Louvois. 

With that, Data stood up and told Maddox that he refused the procedure, and Maddox said he would cancel the transfer order. 

“And commander, continue your work,” Data said to Maddox. “When you are ready, I will still be here. I find some of what you propose … intriguing.” 

“He’s remarkable,” said Maddox of Data once the android left the room. Louvois pointed out that Maddox referred to Data as ‘he.’ 

She turned to Picard and told him that sometimes it does work out. Picard asked her to dinner, and she agreed.

NOTE: That last part made me wonder if Picard’s personal relationship with Louvois may have influenced her decision. Was this a “make-good” move by Louvois for Picard after the Stargazer trial? It could have been a factor that helped push the scales of justice in Data’s favor. Both Riker and Picard’s arguments were outstanding. Picard had a little influence on the judge may have been enough of a factor to change the outcome. 

Later, Data invited Riker to a small celebration on the holodeck. Riker did not want to attend because of his role in the trial. Data countered and said that if Riker had not served, then Data would have been turned over to Maddox. 

“That action injured you, and saved me,” said Data. “I will not forget it.”

Riker smiled and said that Data was wise. Data said that he was not ‘wise’ yet. 

“But with your help, I am learning.”


This story is one where Star Trek shines. No ship battles, no hand to hand combat. No explosions, warp drives, or aliens. It was all about morality and how humans treat one another, what lies in our future, and what we have tried to learn from our shameful past. 

It also set up many storylines that would affect Trek for years to come.

RATING: 5 out of 5


Executive Producer … Gene Roddenberry

Line Producer … David Livingston
Producers … Bruton Armus, Mike Gray & John Mason
Co-Executive Producers … Maurice Hurley, Rick Berman
Written by … Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by … Robert Scheerer

Associate Producer … Peter Lauritson
Story Editors … Leonard Mlodinow, Scott Rubenstein
Story Editor … Melinda M. Snodgrass
Creative Consultant … Tracy Torme
Casting by Junie Lowry
Music by … Dennis McCarthy
Main Title Theme by … Jerry Goldsmith, Alexander Courage
Director of Photography … Edward R. Brown, A.S.C.
Production Designer … Richard D. James
Editor … Bob Lederman


Patrick Stewart
Jonathan Frakes


Levar Burton
Michael Dorn
Marina Sirtis
Brent Spiner
Wil Wheaton

Special Appearance by Diana Muldaur as Dr. Pulaski


Amanda McBroom
Clyde Kusatsu
Brian Brophy

and special guest star Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan


Colm Meaney … Chief O’Brien

Unit Production Manager … Sam Freedle
First Assistant Director … Robert J. Metoyer
Second Assistant Director … Adele G. Simmons
Costume Designer … Durinda Rice Wood
Starfleet Uniforms Created by … William Ware Theiss

Original Set Design … Herman Zimmerman
Visual Effects Supervisor … Robert Legato
Post Production Supervisor … Wendy Neuss

Set Decorator … Jim Mees
Script Supervisor … Cosmo Genovese
Special Effects … Dick Brownfield
Property Master … Joe Longo
Make-Up Supervisor … Michael Westmore
Make-Up Artists … Gerald Quist, Janna Phillips
Hair Designer … Richard Sabre
Hair Stylist … Georgina Williams

Production Associate … Susan Sackett
Senior Illustrator … Rick Sternbach
Scenic Artist … Michael Okuda
Set Designer … Richard McKenzie
Construction Coordinator … Al Smutko

Sound Mixer … Alan Bernard, C.A.S.
Chief Lighting Technician … Richard Crown
First Company Grip … Brian Mills
Costume Supervisor … Janet Stout
Costumer … Charmaine Nash Simmons

Music Editor … Gerry Sackman
Supervising Sound Editor … Bill Wistrom
Sound Editors … James Wolvington, Mace Matiosian, Wilson Syer
Post Production Sound … Modern Sound

Casting Executive … Helen Mossler
Production Coordinator … Diane Overdiek
Casting Associate … Elisa Goodman

Computer monitors … Sony Corp. of America
Lenses and Panaflex Cameras by … Panavision
Special Visual Effects by … Industrial Light & Magic, a Division of Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Additional Motion Control Facilities … Image “G”
Video Optical Effects by … the Post Group
Special Video Compositing … Composite Image Systems
Editing Facilities … Unitel Video

© Paramount Pictures Corporation