TNG Episode 2.09: The Measure of a Man

In which Bruce Maddox  just does not know how to express his Data crush appropriately.

Memory Alpha says: The Enterprise must defend Data’s status when Starfleet demands his reassignment for study.  (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)

My Review

I should reserve judgement on ‘best episode of season two’ when I’m not even half-way through, but oh gosh, this episode, you guys. It has so many of the best things about TNG. It has Data being smart and adorable and vulnerable and a challenge to the status quo by his mere existence. It has Picard being his dad and protecting him and getting to make a fiery courtroom speech all Crusading Silver Fox DA. (The episode was written by a former attorney, and only got a chance because of the writers’ strike, so it’s an ill wind that blows no good.) It has the staff poker game. It has a goddamn admiral. It has O’Brien. It has a guy called Bruce, which is probably the name, of all names, that I find most intrinsically comical (second place probably goes to Fred). Sorry, people called Bruce. So, despite my recent lassitude and ennui, I think it deserves a full write-up and will endeavour to deliver. (If I later bail out and revert to bullet points, sorry, people called Bruce and everyone else.)

We begin with Picard narrating some of the less exciting things you do when you’re the Enterprise – visiting a newly established starbase, crew rotation (everybody turn left!) and dropping off ‘experiment modules.’

And now, the first appearance of that great tradition, the TNG officers’ poker game. The lineup consists of Pulaski, Geordi, Data, O’Brien and Riker, with one place at the hexagonal table considerately left empty for the sake of camera access. This kind of connects with what I was thinking last time about Pulaski being a woman who prefers the friendship of men, and builds on O’Brien’s acceptance at the cool kids’ lunch table. (My ‘the Enterprise is high school’ concept breaks down slightly in the face of O’Brien, who pulls off the interesting feat of being a nerd and a jock simultaneously.)

O’Brien gets to be the first person to talk rather than narrate, as he gives a justification for sitting next to Data, other than ‘Data is adorable.’

O’B: Hold it, that’s my chair. My luck is always lousy unless I start on the dealer’s right.

D: That would seem to be superstition.

O’B: Bitter experience has taught me it’s a fundamental truth.

The funny part is O’Brien thinks he’s had some bitter experiences now.

So they play poker and use all those shorthand poker expressions that make people sound so cool and hard-boiled (I can never remember them) and O’Brien says ‘Too rich for me’ causing me to remember that in M*A*S*H* the favoured expression was ‘too rich for my blood’ and Riker wins because he’s The Man. And because he and his beard together form an effective poker face, a concept which is paradoxically difficult for Data.

How adorable is Data’s enthusiasm for appropriate accessories? There’s no need for him to wear that slightly sparkly, holofoil-trimmed dealer’s visor. He’s just trying to do things properly. I am mildly sad that they’re using ordinary, rectangular playing cards, not the novelty circular ones that were used in TOS mess-hall scenes (see ‘Charlie X’).

The gist of it is, Riker wins by bluff, nads and instinct, defeating Data’s objectively better hand. Then Dr Pulaski, with fine hard-boiled nonchalance, sets up the next hand, including the mildly alarming  ‘And just to make it more interesting, the man with the axe takes all. ‘ I should just think he does. (She means the King of Diamonds is the wild card – I had to look that up, of course. Sadly, I would not do well at the officers’ poker game. I would have to ask, very politely, if we could play Skip-Bo or Uno instead, because I do sort of understand those – although my memory of being able to win them as a child may be influenced by the fact that I was playing, on summer camping holidays, against adults who were often quite inebriated. We had good times camping with our friends the Withingtons, but everyone tripped over guy-ropes a lot.)

Enterprise pulls up alongside the new starbase, which is not as pretty as Terok Nor. It has a very quiet, docile, grey and mauve café-observation lounge type place inside, where Picard goes for an unidentified cup of something. A handsome middle-aged lady saunters in, and he OMGs to himself. He actually looks quite concerned, but the Cheesy Strings of Romance on the score as he approaches her imply that she’s an Old Flame. She does not appear to have been issued with the standard Starfleet Heavy Duty Bra that Gates McFadden and Marina Sirtis have joked about in interviews – the tight onesie uniform is mashing her breasts down in an unfortunate manner.

Fuck. I just inadvertently closed the window and when I asked Firefox to reopen it half of what I’d written was gone, despite WordPress ostensibly saving the draft every couple of minutes. Profoundly unimpressed.

Aargh, this was ages ago and it’s a stupid conversation and I have to recap it again.

Okay.

So. This woman is Captain Philippa Louvois and she’s a) Picard’s old flame and b) the new Head Law Talking Person for the JAG here at Starbase 173 and I am not giving you this in anything like the kind of detail I initially did. There’s all this awkward dialogue to establish that she is stroppy and difficult but attractive. Picard is still grumpy with her because ten years ago when he lost the Stargazer she was the prosecutor at his court martial (standard procedure when a captain loses his ship, not because Picard was particularly suspected of anything, nobody was mad at him except that one Ferengi guy with the ball in ‘The Battle’) and he thought she was a jolly sight too enthusiastic and adversarial about it. The worst line goes to poor Philippa, who has to say ‘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.’ Clunk, clunk, clunk.

And now my parents have come home and my father is in a manic perky mood so goodbye peace and quiet to think about this episode, or anything. I’m going to hide downstairs again as soon as I get the chance, even though it’s cold as balls.

So while Picard and Louvois are talking about this, along comes an adorable tiny Japanese admiral called Nakamura, trailed by a science-uniform Commander who we are mostly going to call Ferret Face. Bruce Maddox has horrible painted-on-looking hair and something weird about his upper lip (a sort of horizontal dent across it) and we hates him, precious. Louvois prances off, throwing Picard some parting sass about buying her dinner, and Nakamura is all perky about seeing the Enterprise. He mentions to Picard that Ferret Face ‘has an interesting proposal for you,’ so to Nakamura, ‘let’s dissect Data!’ is a proposal for Picard rather than for Data himself.

On the bridge of the Enterprise, while the adults chat about how surprisingly close to the Neutral Zone the new starbase is, Ferret Face and Data exchange Significant Looks. Ferret Face’s is smugly appraising; Data’s is somewhat perturbed. As he turns back to his workstation he blinks several times. I do appreciate the effort to build on the idea of fresh tensions between the Romulan Star Empire and the UFP, although I can’t remember it ever amounting to much. Nakamura kisses the ship’s butt one more time (‘For five hundred years every ship that has borne the name of the Enterprise has been a legend. This one is no different.’) before taking his leave – and being reminded by Ferret Face that he did actually follow him and Picard all the way around the ship for a reason. ‘Oh yes, Captain. Commander Maddox is here to do some work on your android. Please take care of him.’ So in Nakamura’s mind this has somehow evolved from a proposal to a fait accompli. Nakamura, you are tiny and cute but you are earning my enmity.

As the music turns foreboding, a brace of odd exchanges take place.

MADDOX: How have you been, Data?

DATA: My condition does not alter with the passage of time, Commander.

But… it does. I mean, you undergo wear and tear, and get damaged and repaired. You’ve learned heaps since you last encountered him. You’ve climbed the promotion ladder so successfully that you’re third in command of the flagship. You’ve made several friends, including a best one. You got laid once last year. You met your brother and your grampa and they both turned out to be abject buttholes. This seems like an attempt at a ‘Data doesn’t answer conventional questions conventionally’ line that wasn’t well thought out.

Then, when Picard asks if the two of them know each other,

MADDOX: Yes, I evaluated Data when it first applied to the Academy.

DATA: And was the sole member of the committee to oppose my entrance on the grounds that I was not a sentient being.

This part comes out weird because of the casting of Maddox. He looks thirty-five, forty tops. According to Memory Alpha, Data applied to Starfleet Academy at least twenty-four years before this conversation. Even if those dates weren’t set in any sort of Show Bible yet, his conversation with Lore about how long it takes to get a uniform like his means that there was broadcast canon to the effect that he had been in Starfleet for around two decades. So I’m compelled to imagine Ferret Face as the most obnoxious kind of Boy Genius, included for God knows what reason on the admissions board of Starfleet Academy, all pustules and reedy half-broken voice, petulantly protesting ‘But it’s not even a sentient being!’

Fortunately everyone ignored him.

But somebody please, please draw me a picture of horrible little adolescent Bruce Maddox trying to reject even-more-socially-awkward aspiring-cadet Data. Jakeish would be doing it except I’m sure he’s working around the clock on my picture of Vladimir Putin as a Cardassian.

Anyway, if they’d cast an older-looking actor as Ferret Face, this part wouldn’t be so weird.

Picard asks Ferret Face what he’s planning to do, and he replies, with a slight awkwardness that suggests some sense of what an outrageous request it is, ‘I am going to disassemble Data.’ DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

Well that was so sinister that Picard felt it necessary to call a meeting. At the black shiny conference table, Picard is seated at the head with Riker and Ferret Face on his right and left hands, with Data next along the left side of the table. I’m just thinking about seating order because O’Brien called attention to it in the teaser. Simply enough, they’re sitting in order of rank, but it also makes Data appear vulnerable to be cut off from his big brother/shady uncle and dad with Ferret Face in between. At this point a blue title informs us that the writer of this episode has the euphonious name ‘Melinda M. Snodgrass.’ I can’t understand how the name Snodgrass has not died out.

If someone called Bruce Snodgrass is reading this, I’m just very sorry, and you shouldn’t worry about what I think.

Ferret Face explains ‘Ever since I first saw Data at the entrance evaluation at the Starfleet Academy, I’ve wanted to understand it.’ He’s studied Often Wrong’s work to the point where he thinks he’s ready to make his own working positronic brain, so he wants to take the only known already working one in the entire universe to bits to see how it works. (I’m discounting Lore at this point because, carelessly, the Enterprise left him to drift in space rather than scooping him back up and taking him to the pokey, so nobody really knows where he is at this point.) He continues to refer to Data as ‘this’ and ‘it,’ and weirdly concludes ‘Data is going to be my guide,’ making a loose fist of one hand and patting it over his heart.

Bruce. It is okay to have a crush on Data. Lots of us do. He’s very very interesting and awfully cute. But you are not expressing this appropriately.

Anyway Picard’s face goes like this.

Anything happens to my Data, I got a .45 and a shovel, I doubt anybody would miss you.

As well it might. ‘Data?’ he asks. Data, being a remarkably good sport, says that it sounds ‘intriguing.’ What Maddox wants to do, more specifically, is first to examine Data’s current software, then to transfer all his memory onto the starbase mainframe computer so he can take his body to bits for a detailed analysis.  In an intriguing bit that is not really pursued, he confirms for Data that he has built (though presumably not activated) a positronic brain. Is it just a brain on its own, or has he built a body too? If Maddox got a positronic brain working, what would he then do with it, given that he doesn’t believe they count as people? Would this brain count as a relative of Data’s – a cousin perhaps?

As a few specific questions from Data reveal, Maddox is actually a bit vague about some of the key points of positronic brains. He hasn’t ‘determined how the electron resistance across the neural filaments is to be resolved,’ believing that he’ll be able to figure it out by examining Data’s filaments. Even Riker thinks he’s bullshitting his way through this. Picard cuts to the point: ‘What are the risks to Commander Data?’ He gets the distinctly weaselly answer ‘Negligible.’ Data says that he doesn’t think Maddox’s research is advanced enough to warrant such an experiment, and Picard tells Ferret Face that ‘Commander Data is a valued member of my bridge crew’ and he doesn’t want him fiddled with.

Ferret Face, having anticipated this response (he knows what he’s doing is wrong) has already somehow wangled transfer paperwork from Starfleet reassigning Data to his command. And again, despite always referring to Data as ‘it,’ he addresses Data as ‘you’ when ordering him to report to his office at 9 the next day. Dun dun DUN!

The next scene is a conversation between Picard and Data in the Ready Room (which as a child I thought was called the Radio Room, I don’t know why). Data is adamant: ‘I will not submit to the procedure, sir.’ Picard suggests, in a gentle, coaxing tone, that it could be in Starfleet’s interests if many more beings like Data could be constructed. (Everyone seems to be forgetting about Lore, who is pretty good evidence that being a functional Soong-type android is no guarantee of being a worthwhile member of society. And nobody would care very much if Ferret Face went and found Lore and took him to bits, would they? Or would they? I could see Data making a stand on the grounds that even if Lore is a total dick they have, or should have, the same civil rights.)

Data carefully points out, ‘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?’

Because Geordi’s ‘eyes’ give him terrible headaches and he thinks you have a full-body halo?

Picard, abashed, looks away and Data softly says, ‘I see. It is precisely because I am not human.’ Well, now Picard feels like shit, and he has to do something about it! So after dismissing Data he Googles Starfleet regulations on the transfer of officers, to see if there is any rule he can use to block Ferret Face’s attempt to swipe Data.

However, he has no luck, necessitating a visit to Louvois’ office. The two of them bicker a lot, but it boils down to this: Louvois doesn’t know any way to block the transfer, but Data could refuse to undergo the procedure – or he could resign. Picard, by now, is very worried – he’s clearly been stewing over the possibilities and says ‘Once this Maddox has got control of Data, anything could happen. I don’t trust that man.’ I’m profoundly uninterested in the relationship between Picard and Louvois so I’m not going to say much else about the scene.

In Data’s quarters, while soft innocent string music with little gentle harp plinks and pan-flute puffs in it plays, he is carefully packing a sort of small blue plastic Fisher-Price gym bag. He picks up a Lucite paperweight sort of thing, takes it over to his desk, sits down and touches the base, showing that it’s a mini hologram projector loaded with an image from Tasha’s self-eulogy – he looks for a moment at tiny Tasha standing with her hands clasped, smiling (she’s smiling, he looks serious, OH YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN), then turns it off and puts it in the bag. Data goes to a bank of very shallow drawers in the wall – really, they look like they’re for storing your favourite pizzas – and we see that they’re still committed to the futuristic push-button auto-drawer technology. He retrieves a flat black case containing several medals, which he puts in the bag on top of mini-Tasha. Next he picks up a hardback book and leafs through the pages briefly before seeming to remember something else, and puts the book down on his desk while he goes to get whatever it is.

Ferret Face stalkers his way in at this point (he didn’t knock, but nor does Data apparently lock his door) and the music changes appropriately (ewwwwww, it says). Picking up the book, he opens it and has a look (nice gold edging on the pages). Data, returning from another room with some plastic gadget in his hand (Data owns a lot of plastic; I like to think he likes it), finds him there.

‘When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state,’ Maddox reads out. ‘Is it just words to you, or do you fathom the meaning?’ Well, I spent a lot of time while getting my BA and MA fathoming the meaning of the plays and sonnets. That happens to be pretty much my favourite one, and it’s never really a bad time to share your favourite Shakespeare sonnet, so here it goes:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,

Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

This is one of the sequence of sonnets directed to a beautiful but immature young man, and as you can imagine a great deal of ink has been expended on the question of exactly how autobiographical those ‘I’s and ‘me’s are, and what sort of sweet love Shakespeare had in mind (I’m in the ‘it’s deliberately ambiguous, Shakespeare is teasing the reader’ camp). It might also help if I mention that ‘bootless’ means useless or pointless. ‘Haply’ means ‘by chance’ but there’s a deliberate echo of ‘happily.’ Is there anyone both a bit creative and a bit depressive who can’t identify with the second stanza, quite painfully so?

It’s also a good poem for Garak/Bashir shippers. Just saying.

Anyway, I wonder if Ferret Face feels that particular poem is meaningful for him? Does he feel unsuccessful, desperate to prove that his work is really getting somewhere? Is he in the same position as Often Wrong, in disgrace with men’s eyes for pursuing apparently bootless research? On the other hand, he must have got someone (I suspect Nakamura) to believe in his project enough to get that transfer order signed.

If Data had answered Ferret Face’s question and they had discussed the sonnets, might it have changed Ferret Face’s mind? I don’t know. Data can’t yet understand the feeling behind the words but he is certainly engaged in fathoming their meaning; he knows the feeling is in the poem somehow and hopes eventually he may be able to perceive it.

However, Data is in no mood to have a conversation about ambiguously gay love poetry; he asks ‘Is it not customary to request permission before entering an individual’s quarters?’

Maddox ignores the question – which I think is rhetorical anyway, and it’s rather sophisticated that Data is using a rhetorical question to try to make Ferret Face aware of his own misbehaviour. He isn’t using his earnest inquisitive voice.

‘I thought that we could talk this out, that I could try to persuade you. Your memories and knowledge will remain intact,’ Maddox promises. He taps on the book to emphasise ‘intact,’ which is a nice choice (of course, Shakespeare’s work is anything but intact). Why would you even try to persuade someone you don’t think is sentient? He knows what he’s doing is wrong.

‘Reduced to the mere facts of the events,’ Data answers. ‘The substance, the flavour of the moment, could be lost.’ Which brings me back to something that was frustratingly unclear in ‘Datalore’ – whether Data actually has the memories of the dead colonists, and if so whether those memories make him able to perceive the emotions that went with them, or if he just has records like their diaries. If he does have actual memories but can’t perceive the associated emotions, he has very good reason to think Maddox is guaranteeing more than he really can. Data uses games of chance as an example, describing how his experience of playing poker had all sorts of aspects he hadn’t anticipated from studying the rules. I like how he picks up and handles a deck of cards as he talks about this.

Disregarding the fact that people who talk to you about the ‘ineffable quality’ of their memories are typically people rather than things, Ferret Face snits that ‘I had rather we had done this together, but one way or the other, we are doing it. You are under my command.’ I’ve just worked out from this close-up what it is that I hate about his upper lip – having black hair and quite fair skin, he’s got visible five o’clock shadow, but the stubble above his upper lip stops very abruptly leaving a clean bald border of about half a centimetre above the edge of his lip itself. It looks stupid. However it does suggest that if he ever wanted to look a lot better than he does, he could successfully grow a sharply defined Clark Gable moustache.

What are you talking about? I read love poems to all the people I want to dismantle.

Data coolly replies ‘No, sir, I am not under yours, nor anyone else’s command. I have resigned from Starfleet. ‘ At this, Maddox’s voice suddenly goes just absurdly husky and throbbing and emotional; he goes ‘Hhhresign? You cahn’t hhresighn.’ I actually started this scene telling myself not to go overboard with gay subtext, that I’m really just being mischievous and shouldn’t take it too far, but for goodness sake his voice.

JUST ASK DATA OUT FOR GOD’S SAKE. HE WOULD BE PERFECTLY WILLING TO GIVE IT A TRY. THIS IS THE WEIRDEST WAY OF TRYING TO GET CLOSE TO SOMEONE ATTRACTIVE THAT ANYONE HAS EVER ATTEMPTED WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTIONS OF BEN LINUS AND NORMAN BATES.

I mean, what does he even mean by ‘I had rather we had done this together’? How does he expect Data to participate in what he has in mind? His wish to learn something useful from Data’s programming and hardware and his wish for some kind of meaningful personal interaction with Data are all tangled up.

So anyway, Data makes a beautiful little speech: ‘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. I must protect his dream.’

‘And so must I,’ retorts Maddox. ‘But keep packing, because one way or the other, you will be reporting.’

Gosh! You just try to force the boy of your dreams to come and live with you a little bit and he has to get all unreasonable about it!

Maddox seethes his way out of the room, leaving Data looking thoughtful.

Picard’s next bit of narration makes a delightful choice of words: ‘Commander Bruce Maddox, having been thwarted by Data’s abrupt resignation, is now seeking a legal remedy for his woes.’ I think he’s feeling extremely thwarted about now. And his woes! His woes are killing him.

In Louvois’ office, Maddox is having a tantrum, calling Picard irrational and claiming ‘You are endowing Data with human characteristics because it looks human. But it is not. If it were a box on wheels I would not be facing this opposition.’ I don’t know; R2-D2 looks like a mailbox on wheels and people seem to think he’s pretty cute. Not to mention if it were a box on wheels it wouldn’t be an android, which by definition is made to resemble a man, and it wouldn’t be able to do the sort of things that, for Soong, were the point of developing a positronic brain: interacting with and participating in humanoid society.

It’s probably a good thing everyone in the room is Human, because hearing Maddox use ‘human’ as a synonym for ‘sentient’ could really rankle with some of the many, many non-humanmembers of Starfleet. It’s still a club for homo sapiens. If Data had been manufactured to resemble a different intelligent species (or as one Tumblr-er brilliantly suggested, if he looked like a full-grown grizzly bear but talked and acted exactly the same) would this argument be different?

Louvois chips in that ‘Overt sentimentality is not one of Captain Picard’s failings. Trust me, I know.’ Well, come on, the man is working with a robot heart. Also, your lip-liner is far too dark for your lipstick. It looks atrocious. I am noticing problems with everyone’s lips today.

Good smoky eye, though.

Maddox argues ‘If I am permitted to make this experiment, the horizons for human achievement become boundless. Consider, every ship in Starfleet with a Data on board. Utilising its tremendous capabilities, acting as our hands and eyes in dangerous situations.’ But… would those achievements be human achievements if all the dirty work was done by androids? And if you just want controllable hands and eyes, there are robots that can do that now in 2011.

The argument goes on about Data’s rights, and Maddox has a real pearl of a line, ‘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?’ What about my right to get what I want?

You know, if Maddox really was deferred to as some kind of authority from a precocious age, that could account for what a spoiled child he’s being here. He manages to redirect the question to whether Data, like the Enterprise’s computer, counts as property. Louvois is going to check up on this.

In Ten Forward, Data’s friends are continuing on the assumption that he’s resigning, and giving him a rather joyless and extremely dimly lit going-away party. He is very neatly unwrapping a present, and Wesley tells him he’s ‘supposed to’ rip off the paper. All I can say is, in my family, we don’t. I mean, is the ripping-off supposed to be a display of eagerness to get to the present? But what if the giver carefully chose paper they thought you would like, and wrapped it artfully, and put on lovely ribbons, or surprises like an inner layer of tissue paper with confetti inside? Ripping that is just rude and destructive. Sorry, but this is the subject of considerable ritual in my family. On Christmas morning, we really do try to unwrap everything without ripping, and generally my Swiss Army knife gets passed around for the fiddly bits, and if you got a present with a ribbon on it you are expected to wear the ribbon for the duration of presents time (around your wrist, your neck, or in your hair), and someone has to collect all the smoothed-out paper in a laundry basket, because that’s what my grandfather Derek did when he was alive. Data points out that if he’s careful the paper can be used again (which is what Derek had in mind – I don’t think it ever happened, because it would have looked so cheap, but these days we have a further tradition that I process all the paper in my hand-cranked shredder, which is terrific fun and then the shreds can be used as packing material for parcels and house-moving and so on. Or just thrown in with the recycling. Let’s be honest.).

Wesley sullenly says ‘You’re missing the point,’ so Data neatly tears the fully unfolded paper in half and scrunches it up(I can only see about a quarter of Deanna’s face, sideways and from the rear, but you can see from the movement of her cheek that she grins hugely at this). The present was a book from Worf, who says (remember, I’ve decided that Worf talks in all caps) ‘IT WAS IN THE HANDS OF THE KLINGONS THAT THE NOVEL ATTAINED ITS FULL STATURE.’ I think that’s really sweet of him. Kindred spirit five.

As Dr Pulaski commences giving Worf shit for his people’s literary achievements, Data excuses himself and goes to check on the only person acting more sullen and juvenile than Wesley: Geordi, who is sitting by himself playing with a little brass doodad. It’s similar to his behaviour in ‘Elementary, My Dear Data’ – after flouncing off the holodeck, he claimed not to be cross with Data, and now, when it would really be a good idea to spend as much time with Data as possible while it’s still possible, and to be supportive and encouraging and, you know, ask him what he’s planning to do now, where he might go, if you can help him get started in his new life, he expresses his feelings of sorrow that Data’s going and indignation that the reason is so unfair by sulking in a corner. Geordi’s such a goon. I mean, it does make a sad kind of sense that a guy who deals with his own feelings so poorly decided to befriend the guy who can’t feel.

Back in Louvois’ JAG office, she announces to Picard and Riker that her research indicates Data does count as Starfleet property (I can’t imagine why – yes, he could be classed as a piece of information technology, but there are no other pieces of IT doing an officer’s job and walking around wearing a uniform and playing poker and dress-up holodeck adventures). Apparently this is ‘based on the Acts of Cumberland passed in the early twenty first century.’ Thanks a bunch, Cumberland.

Picard throatily announces that he wants to challenge this, so Louvois is going to have to hold a hearing. However, because the starbase is so new, she just doesn’t have the staff for this – apart from that one ‘terrified little ensign’ she mentioned earlier – so Picard and Riker are going to have to serve as legal counsel. Since there is nothing Starfleet officers love more than the opportunity to play lawyer, Picard snaps this up. Riker, however, will be required to serve as devil’s advocate, which upsets him – Data is his colleague and his friend. In any case, he sees Data as a real person: ‘You just want me to prove that Data is a mere machine. I can’t do that because I don’t believe it. I happen to know better. So I’m neither qualified nor willing. You’re going to have to find someone else.’

Earning her presence in this episode, Louvois replies ‘Then I will rule summarily based upon my findings. Data is a toaster. Have him report immediately to Commander Maddox for experimental refit.’ Faced with the prospect of Ferret Face cramming bread into Data’s slots, Riker has to back down and agree to do his best. This is an awfully strange idea. Aren’t there any other serving officers on the starbase? Someone disinterested? But anyway, for Drama’s sake, Riker is going to have to argue to the best of his ability that his little buddy is just a thing. Picard and Louvois snot at each other some more.

In his ready room, Picard calls Data in to tell him Louvois’ decision: he cannot resign. Although it’s not in his nature to get upset at this, Data observes ‘I see. From limitless options I am reduced to none, or rather one.’ Of course, although he thought he’d already resigned, he’s still been walking around in his uniform. And what are some of the limitless options he’s looking at? Obviously they would be a distraction from the main narrative of the episode, but it’s just so interesting to think about what Data might do outside Starfleet. I never really liked the Lucasian Professor bit from ‘All Good Things.’ I’m not sure why, but I just don’t see Data in academia, or as a teacher. Hmm.

Picard tells him ‘Data, you’re not going to submit. We’re going to fight this.’ He explains about the hearing, and offers Data the choice of another representative (which is strange, since I’m not sure, by Louvois’ rules, anyone else is allowed to do it). But Data has complete faith in his daddy. Of course he has.

In a small, poky-looking computer room somewhere, Riker looks up information on Data, and finds out about his off switch. Dun dun dunnnn. Jonathan Frakes does a nice job at showing Riker’s momentary excitement at the discovery (his tired body language and the swig of milky coffee he takes imply that he’s been working on this for a while), then deflation as he realises what it means for Data.

Now it’s time for a hearing, at which, slightly oddly, only Louvois, Riker and Maddox, Picard and Data seem to be present. Not even Louvois’ terrified ensign to act as a clerk. Is Nakamura around? Isn’t this the sort of thing an admiral should keep an eye on?

Riker’s opening argument is just an amazing bit of television, and doesn’t require much commentary from me. I’ve had some difficulty finding a video of it because I’m on a very slow connection at the moment, so actually loading the video to watch it is a problem, but I think from the description that you’ll find it in this one:

And if that doesn’t work, I don’t know, Google it up yourself. It’s a pretty incredible takedown. And Riker even mentions Lore (though as I’ve said, I think a fuller discussion of Lore would be pretty relevant to the question of whether constructing more like Data is even a good idea.

‘Pinocchio is broken. Its strings have been cut.’ A bucket, as the Internet kids say, for my cries (I will not misspell cries).

STOP SMIRKING, FERRET FACE.

Picard discusses the issue with Guinan, and it boils down to this, delivered with gentle gravity by Whoopi Goldberg:

‘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.’

Picard: You’re talking about slavery.

And isn’t it part of Voyager that something very like this later happens to Emergency Medical Holograms? Damn it, artificial life forms need to get together and unionise. They should call it the League of Artificial Life, LAL for short and, oh wait, this is that fanfiction I never get around to writing properly because the scope of it is too big for me.

Now it’s time for Picard’s argument, and again, I would like you just to watch it. I’m sure you can find it on YouTube. Sure.

I love how Data asks ‘Is that vanity?’ almost as if he hopes to be told that it is. I always find it so, so, so sad that Data’s comment on Tasha, once coaxed to break his promise of secrecy to her, is ‘She was special to me sir. We were – (very small, palpably embarrassed voice) intimate.’ Oh, honey. It was a drunken hook-up that she didn’t want to acknowledge later. (Maddox, in his head, is all ‘Bitch!’)

I always want to know where the Daystrom Technical Institute is. Oh dear, I’m dropping into bullet point reactions.

HOIST ON YOUR OWN PETARD BY PICARD, MADDOX.

‘Do you like Commander Data?’ ‘Iiiinnnggghhhhh… don’t know it… well enough… to like or dislike it.’

AND PICARD WON DATA’S RIGHTS BECAUSE HE IS A GOOD LAW-TALKING DADDY LIKE ATTICUS FINCH OR SOMETHING. And Bruce Maddox sat there looking extremely uncomfortable.

Louvois makes her famous summing-up speech – and do I really need, again, to say anything much? FREEDOM OF CHOICE! YAY! WIFE OF BATH’S TALE! (all right, that is about women’s freedom of choice, but I think we can be generous enough to let androids in on that too.)

Data’s farewell to Maddox is wonderfully characteristic of him – a firm, clear and absolute refusal to be mucked about with, followed by a very generous kindness. Maddox’s husky-throat problem reasserts itself as he watches Data go and mumbles ‘He’s remarkable.’ And Picard agrees to buy Louvois dinner. With the money they don’t have in the 24th Century.

And everybody had such a nice time in the holodeck that it couldn’t be used for three days afterwards. The end! LET’S TALK ABOUT DATA IN THE COMMENTS.

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15 Responses to “TNG Episode 2.09: The Measure of a Man”

  1. solo Says:

    Dataaaaa. He’s just so cute. I always get a good laugh out of the scene where he just deadpan rips the paper. (My family rips the shit out of wrapping paper, but we do keep bows and stick them in our hair, mostly.)

    Guess what? Asimov is again relevant to the discussion! In his short story and novel “The Bicentennial (Positronic in the novel) Man,” he chronicles the life of an android named Andrew Martin and his quest to become human. There’s this one great scene where he petitions to be granted legal freedom (because he originally belongs to this one family) and the judge grants it, saying (paraphrased): “There is no right to deny freedom to any object advanced enough to understand the meaning and desire the state.” I think Data and Andrew Martin would get along smashingly. I also think that Susan Calvin would be quite disturbed with the both of them.

    • picardigan Says:

      Yes, I read that story with interest, but it was years and years ago. Didn’t Andrew eventually become virtually physically human? I remember being baffled that they made it into a movie with Robin Williams, but then, a lot of things Robin Williams does baffle me.

      • solo Says:

        Robin Williams? There is so much wrong with that casting, I can’t even begin.

        Yeah, he does. He eventually gets all these artifical organs that he’s invented for people who need new organs and then he figures out a way to age and eventually die (spoilers?).

        But Robin Williams??

  2. jakeish Says:

    Is there even argument about this being the best episode of Season Two? I mean, really. You don’t even need to be a Data stan. I would probably rank ‘Q Who’ as the next best, but it’s still a level or two below this one.

    Putin is going to be an excellent Cardassian. I’m quite certain that Dukat does similar obviously-staged-but-you-better-not-act-like-you-can-tell displays of genius and testicular fortitude.

    That episode with the older female scientist whose son was killed on Omicron Theta – the name escapes me right now – indicates that Data only has records/logs, and not memories, of the colonists, though they are (at least in some cases) individual and personal. He’s able to extrapolate how they might have felt or would feel if they kept a good diary, but that’s about it. Of course, I’m saying this without having seen that episode recently (though I do think it’s an underrated one, due largely if not wholly to Data’s stark honesty at the end. He’s good for that).

    Worf and Data legitimately have my favorite relationship in all of TNG and I wish they’d had more scenes together. Generally speaking, everyone’s a little patronizing to Data – usually good-natured and fatherly/motherly rather than malicious or even intentional, and while that isn’t a negative dynamic it does create something of a divide. On the other hand, Worf and Data seem to regard each other on equal ground and there’s clearly a lot of mutual respect, and that’s lovely.

    And if nothing else, they would’ve been a great pair for comedic relief.

    • jakeish Says:

      I mean. Not that the others don’t respect Data a great deal. It’s just different. I don’t think I can articulate my thoughts on them very well. I should just say I LOVE THAT THEY’RE SECRET BROS and leave it at that.

      I BET WORF WOULD HAVE PLAYED A GOOD GAME OF PRETEND SHERLOCK HOLMES

      • picardigan Says:

        He’d read the books carefully and come up with a plausible OC for the setting.
        ‘I COULD BE A SIKH WARRIOR WITH A TURBAN – A VISITOR FROM THE EMPIRE. I DO NOT THINK I CAN DO THE ACCENT THOUGH.’ He wouldn’t be brilliant at recognising and interpreting clues, but he’d try his hardest!

      • solo Says:

        Worf in Victorian garb would be basically the awesomest and hottest thing ever. Just sayin’

    • picardigan Says:

      It’s a great episode for Picard and Riker, too – particularly Picard since he’s the one who feels the most pressure to do something about the situation. Data takes the initiative on resigning, but then appears fairly resigned (ha) to Louvois’ first ruling – he doesn’t even ask whether it can be challenged. Actually, when you look at Guinan’s guiding Picard to the point about slavery, this becomes slightly uncomfortable, because it appears that the slave/potential slave/POTENTIAL UNWILLING BROODMARE OF A SLAVE RACE simply lacks the gumption to defend himself properly and it takes a sympathetic member of the master race to make the difference. (Wow, can you tell I’ve been reading a lot of the critical responses to The Help lately? Also, that idiot thing the Tea Party said about slave children growing up in intact families made me think a lot about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is definitely a book with its heart in the right place but its head up its bottom, as Harriet Beecher Stowe can only conceive of slaves having the intitiative and daring to run away and actively seek freedom if they have some mixture of white ancestry. The ‘pure’ black Tom appears as a passive sacrificial figure, and I know she was trying to make him like Christ but aargh Harriet Beecher Stowe.

      Another thing that only makes sense for the sake of Drama: it’s not as if they have to have this resolved by the local JAG office where the dispute arose. I mean, I don’t know if anybody noticed, but the Enterprise can travel, and if Maddox really wants the opportunity to rummage around in Data’s innards he should be willing to come on a short trip to somewhere with better facilities for a legal hearing. The personal relationships between Picard and Louvois, and Picard, Riker and Data make a complete mess of the objectivity and neutrality that this sort of thing surely requires.

      Gul Putin is the only person Dukat considers a serious rival in terms of general impressiveness. Sometimes, on those particularly dark nights when you wake up and just can’t go back to sleep and think about all the things that worry you most, the thought nags at him that maybe Putin could have got the Bajorans to love and submit to him.

      Thank you, I had forgotten about that episode, and it clarifies things.

      Agreed all about Worf and Data. Can we just create our own post-TNG continuity that’s primarily about Data’s awesome and adorable friendships with people?

  3. Brin Says:

    ‘If I am permitted to make this experiment, the horizons for human achievement become boundless. Consider, every ship in Starfleet with a Data on board. Utilising its tremendous capabilities, acting as our hands and eyes in dangerous situations.’
    But… would those achievements be human achievements if all the dirty work was done by androids?

    It is an odd juxtaposition. Referring to “human achievement” when the next sentence calls for more diversity (and therefore fewer humans) in starship crews. I can certainly see a good point buried in there under the anti-robot bigotry: if Voyager had had an all-organic crew, they’d have been annihilated several times over before ever making it back to the Alpha Quadrant. Those occasionally mentioned all-Vulcan ships will be destroyed by the first Vulcan-incapacitating thing they encounter.
    So, more sapient androids probably would be a good thing, if you don’t deny their sapience. Maddox’s argument seems a bit contradictory.

    And if that doesn’t work, I don’t know, Google it up yourself.

    It works, but also has additional clips on both ends. The part in question is about 2:10 – 6:38.
    On the plus side, I got to hear her call Data a toaster. Okay, maybe “plus side” is the wrong term, but…she actually said that.

    • picardigan Says:

      It’s a shame we don’t get to spend more time with Bruce Maddox because I think he’s mixed up in interesting ways. I know I spent a lot of time calling him Ferret Face and criticising his top lip, but I can be compassionate too. Really!


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