The Shuttle Pod Crew Assesses “The Measure Of A Man” With Four Picard Episodes Of ‘Star Trek: TNG’

Shuttle Pod 78 – ‘Next Generation’ Picard Episodes


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With Star Trek: Picard premiering this week, the Shuttle Pod crew thought it would be valuable to do a deep dive into Next Generation episodes they think (or hope!) will inform the new series. Brian, Jared, and Kayla discuss “The Measure of A Man,” “The Offspring,” “The Drumhead,” and “Devil’s Due.”

Picard faces off with Vice Admiral “Jerkface” Haftel in “The Offspring”

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What time does Picard drop on the 23rd, midnight or 5:30pm PST like with Disco?

midnight PT, like they’ve been doing with the Short Treks

Awesome, thought so, thanks!

which midnight? You mean 12:01am 1/24 or 1/23? [or you could just say in EST to avoid ambiguity] [I understand there’s only one midnight but some ppl might be confused]

The first episode will be released on 1/23 on All Access.

12AM PT / 3AM ET Jan 23rd. So the very early morning of the 23rd.
Hopefully this helps:
https://twitter.com/TrekMovie/status/1219707502427811841

8am my time tomorrow morning. .
How will I be able to stay off the internet for 24hrs?

I’m looking forward to Picard on the 23rd. My CBS All Access subscription is ready.

“The Measure Of A Man” is one of the best TNG episodes hands down. That episode is about human rights. Should artificial life forms like Data have the same rights as organics? It raises important ethical questions about our society and culture. How should we treat others who are different from us as citizens.

Without looking… I recall two of those titles. Measure of a Man, which I felt was fantastically overrated. Data is the property of the Soong family I should think. I recall Devil’s Due because I recall how weak an episode it was. I actually do not recall The Offspring or Drumhead. Which is weird because I’ve heard Drumhead mentioned from time to time but I don’t recall what it was about.

Starfleet found Data abandoned on a deserted planet. They could claim him as salvage.

I suppose a case could be made for that, too. Perhaps since it seems there are no members of the Soong family around to make the claim.

Data is not anyone’s property. He’s not a slave. Data is his own person. I don’t know who Drumhead is and I don’t care.

Well, obviously he isn’t property, but that question was still up in the air in Measure of Man. Maddux was trying to make the claim that Data was Starfleet’s property. ML31 was suggesting that even if Maddux was able to persuade the court that Data was property, then Starfleet would still have no claim to him because the Soongs would be his owners.

The Drumhead is the episode where an insane admiral is convinced that there is a spy on the Enterprise, and ruins the career of a doctor who claimed to have a Vulcan grandfather when he really had a Romulan grandfather.

in fairness to norah satie, she does not start off insane but crosses the line over the course of the ep.
and ironically she is kind of right about a brewing romulan plot as we see later in ‘the mind’s eye’.

Except, Captain Crunch, I would argue Data is not a person at all. Since he was built by a person. If I made a car, that car would not have the same rights as a human being I have just because I gave it the ability to drive itself. And if I were to drive the car I created, that does not make me a slave owner. I’m simply using a tool.

Drumhead was the name of one of the episodes mentioned in the podcast. An episode that after given the reminder I still only vaguely recall.

You really need to watch the episode again. It explains why Data is much more than a tool.

I’ll get to it eventually. I’m rewatching TNG for the first time since it aired. I’ve just finished the first season. Maybe my mind will change seeing it again decades later.

Follow up. I saw the episode this weekend. While Picard makes a passionate plea and there is a reasonable line of thinking on his side I am forced to conclude that Riker made the more persuasive argument. It was all the more convincing as he personally did not buy into it while Picard’s argument contained hints of hyperbole and emotion.

Also while the subject matter was very much a Trek subject the episode suffered from a weak presentation. A lot of court things that just made no sense unless one says that in the future the way the law is handled has changed for the worse. The main thing, of course, is that not only are Picard and Riker not qualified to be advocates or lawyers, but Riker even more so has no business being a part of the prosecution. Tremendous conflict of interest obviously and I would think that this hearing would not have even taken place until satisfactory legal teams were in place and had time to prepare their cases. Also, even though Riker was on the side of the prosecution presenting very good arguments, his heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t believe it. In fact, none of the main characters did and the only one who didn’t was presented as an incompetent A-hole. It was awfully one sided and it was pretty obvious what the writer and director wanted the the audience to think. The best Treks are ones where the audience is not told what to think. So even after 30 years I still consider this episode overrated.

Where you come from doesn’t define what you are. Data was created by a person, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a person. He completely meets Maddux’s definition of life, and I think he would meet most people’s definitions of personhood.

Correct. What you are defines what you are. Data is a machine.

So are we, we are just made of organic parts. We were also created by humans. Your point?

I’ll repeat what I wrote below… “ when you can back up your child’s memory and everything that makes him what he is into another child then you might have a point. Until then, it is difficult to see data as anything more than a machine.”

Also further down Cygnus makes a good case here as well. Far better than I could make.

If your car reveals it once had an intimate relationship with your deceased coworker, then you might want to reconsider the nature of your car.

I would question the judgment of my deceased co-worker in that event.

Oh, and if your car keeps a picture of her in remembrance. And keeps medals it’s been rewarded by the government. And paints.

@ML31 You seem to have almost no understanding of AI or the ramifications of AI, based on your comments equating Data to a car that can drive itself. I wonder if you actually ever watched TNG or the movies, since Data’s existence as a person is a huge part of the show and a fundamental aspect of the character.

By your logic (such as it is), parents own their children since they “made” those kids.

As Calvin says, the episode explains quite clearly why Data isn’t just a tool to be owned. Rewatch it. Or are you simply too dogmatic to ever consider that you could be wrong or ill-informed about the concept of AI and the basic nature of the character Data?

Paul, when you can back up your child’s memory and everything that makes him what he is into another child then you might have a point. Until then, it is difficult to see data as anything more than a machine.

Data was created to serve the same function as Spock. An outsider to observe the human condition. The difference is that the Spock character did a vastly superior job of it.

ML31 – “Data was created to serve the same function as Spock. An outsider to observe the human condition. The difference is that the Spock character did a vastly superior job of it.” Um…okay. Yeah. So what? Were you trying to make a point with this obvious information?

“when you can back up your child’s memory and everything that makes him what he is into another child then you might have a point.” Actually, my point remains untouched by your reply. You are now adding qualifiers to your claim. You initially equated Data to a self-driving car, but now you are equating him to a hard drive that can be backed up. Changing your argument this way shows that you know your original claim to be weak.

“Until then, it is difficult to see data as anything more than a machine.” There is no rational basis for this claim. You are merely pushing your dogmatic belief. As I said, you seem ignorant about AI and the ramifications of artificial intelligence/life. Your bias against Data despite everything TNG established about the characters shows lack of learning on your part.

“Um…okay. Yeah. So what? Were you trying to make a point with this obvious information?”

I was pointing out the function that data served. Which is important to the discussion whether you choose to disregard it or not.

“Actually, my point remains untouched by your reply.”

Incorrect. You say “qualifiers” and I say “added information because you were failing to understand the point.” Again, one does not get to disregard responses designed to help one understand a position just because one fears it undermines their own.

“There is no rational basis for this claim.”

On the contrary. It is 100% rational. Just because you disagree with the assessment does not mean your position on the matter is factual. Dogma has nothing to do with my position here. The fact that you pulled that out of thin air suggests how tenuous you feel your position is. Also, I am not ignorant to the theoretical concept of AI’s. Once again, that was something you again pulled out of thin air only because my conclusion differed with yours just so you can feel better about your own take. In fact, it seems that the bulk of your response had not logical or reasonable connection to what I said. I actually had more info in preparation to a well thought out counter argument but it seems that was not necessary. I’ll just end by saying that IDIC applies to more than just AI’s and organics. It applies to ideas as well.

That’s quite a lot of words to change nothing. I didn’t pull anything out of thin air. I replied to your lack of comprehension about Data’s nature. My response was DIRECTLY connected to your nonsense.

Data is a person within the Star Trek universe. Nothing you’ve written affects that in the slightest. Thus, everything you’ve said remains irrational and pointless.

You’re funny. It’s amusing seeing you try to condescend from such an intellectually inferior position. Oh well. LL&P!

You just did it again. You claimed I had a lack of comprehension of Data’s nature when the fact is that is not the case at all. The mere fact that you called a diverging viewpoint to your own “nonsense” tells me you have no interest in a reasonable or enlightening discussion on the matter. It strongly suggests you are extremely closed minded on this subject and possibly others. At any rate, you had no real interest in an honest discussion here so I will oblige.

Good day.

I 100% disagree with you about Data being a sentient life form. “Measure of a Man” basically proves it.

“The Inner Light” could be termed ‘over-rated’ if you think about it, in the sense that the episode doesn’t really have any meat to it. Its 40 minutes when really it need to be at least a good 100 minutes to really explore the characters and in particular for us to really feel invested in Picard and how this affects him. The episode to me feels like a clip show and goes at lightspeed, kind of like a low budget version of The Rise of Skywalker come to think of it lol. I totally understand why fans say the episode is one of TNG’s best, but personally I always feel a bit underwhelmed by that particular episode and for me it’s not one of my favourites.
I can sit through almost all TNG to be honest, though a handful are painful; “Shades of Grey” and “Code of Honor” come straight into my head!

I can understand why you might say that. They did blow through the life span pretty quick but even still it managed to be effective in spite of that. Which I think is a credit to the director, editors and actors. But I disagree with the overrated comment. My only thing about that episode is such an experience would totally change a person and Picard seemed unchanged by any of it down the line. Perhaps he was an “old soul” already?

To be fair, “Admiral Jerkface“ would be a fitting name for almost any admiral.

I haven’t seen any of the shorts but if they are calling a group “synths” it feels like they copied that show Humans where the robot servants were called synths. They achieved sentience through programming. It’s a great sci-fi question. Even though I earlier said Data ought to be the property of the Soong family I admit it is not a cut and dry thing. But it seems at this point the best decision is to let the Soong’s decide. He was created by their family member afterall.

Sorry to be the party pooper but after being reminded of the Offspring episode I recall it not being a very good one. Mainly because I found the Data-centric episodes to be pretty weak. I never bought that Data had the ability to build a sentient robot that actually surpasses him in abilities. It was just too much. As a result, I felt nothing for the situation. The bulk of it was eyeroll worthy. A solution to the both on one ship thing is to just have Data build a bunch more. Problem solved. The clip was a bad argument. It only works if you buy into the idea that Data is not a machine but rather a man. Which I would argue he isn’t. Therefore, Picard’s comment, as passionate as it is, completely falls apart.

Funny… Even with the recap of The Drumhead I just don’t recall the episode. I guess it just didn’t resonate with me one way or the other. Which meant it was probably a mediocre and literally forgettable episode. At least I don’t recall it for being terrible! Picard had a nice little speech there in the clip. But the outburst pretty much took everyone out of the moment. She sounded like she may have been unhinged from the start. Which has the potential to undermine the solemness of the moment and the seriousness of the episode.
I actually liked Conspiracy. It was perhaps 2nd best episode of the first season. Yes, that is not a very high bar but I liked it. Was sorry they didn’t follow up on it.

Wait… I want to hear more about this Data was supposed to be the antagonist for Insurrection thing! I don’t recall hearing that before either.

I was going to say that I thought Devil’s Due felt like a Scooby Doo epsiode. That was what I recall from it. And I never liked Scooby Doo. Going way back to when I was a small tyke I hated Scooby Doo because the ghosts were always fake.

I guess all these shows had passionate Picard speaches. My favorite Picard speech was in Who Watches the Watchers, for the record. One of the superior TNG episodes in my book.

In addition to Who Watches the Watchers, the other Picard speech that comes to mind is his one in First Contact to Lily. When he was justifying stopping the Borg. Before he was made aware of his Ahab complex. In fact, that very well could be my favorite Picard moment in all of Picard driven Trek.

Wow, I think that FC speech is one of Stewart’s most embarrassing moments ever, up there or down there with his lamentable sobbing in SAREK. Even though i don’t agree with his position in the scene, I think his speech to Dougherty in INSURRECTION is prime Stewart — something that happened a lot more frequently for me BEFORE he started playing Picard.

To each his own. I felt the insurrection speech felt like they were trying to have their own First Contact moment. It just wasn’t as effective at all. I think what make the FC speech memorable is because Picard was pontificating on the wrong side of the issue. Which in and of itself made it memorable.

Good grief, not liking Scrappy Doo I can understand, but that original Scooby Doo show was classic stuff.

The Soongs weren’t available to be asked. Noonien had long since disappeared, and nobody knew that Juliana had anything to do with him at that point.

Data was legally recognized as a man after Measure of A Man. Arguing that Data was “just” a machine wouldn’t have gotten Admiral Jerkface anywhere.

If no family is around to make the claim then I guess as was said earlier since starfleet found data then salvage rights would go to starfleet. Regardless of the verdict in the episode. It would seem the decision would be rife for an appeal.

I rewatched all these episodes in the last two weeks as part of my Picard watch and yes they are all still fantastic! TNG just did amazing and very thoughtful stories. I would hope we get something like that with Picard. Not holding my breath too much lol, but maybe I will be surprised? At least a little more character driven which does seem to be the case and not just gogogo like Discovery.

Picard and Discovery are two completely different Star Trek shows and that’s a good thing. I’m glad Star Trek: Picard is a more character driven show unlike Discovery. Discovery is a symptom of the current age of TV. The age of Netflix and Game of Thrones, some people call “peak TV”. Picard is a return to high quality Star Trek storytelling again. I rewatched some Picard episodes so I’m good.

Indeed, that IS a good thing! I been super excited about the show since that very first trailer. I don’t expect perfection as Seven would say but I do hope we get a show where both character and plot matters while delivering a good story. And yes, can slow down a bit. Since we know this show is based around Picard then I know it’s going to be a bit more introspective at least, while still kicking ass whenever needed lol.

And I’m just excited to be back in the 24th century again!

Tiger2 I been excited about this show since it was first announced all the way back at Star Trek Las Vegas a few years ago. Picard is almost here. I can feel it in my bones. Star Trek is back!

I’m burning with excitement. I’m excited to be back in the 24th century too. I’m looking forward to the 25th century and what that brings in mind.

Oh yes, me as well! Don’t get me wrong, that day Stewart came out and announced Picard was back was probably the happiest day of my life as a Trek fan since literally the 90s lol. I been on board for it since then BUT yes I was also cautious (and still am) what we were going to actually get, especially since they kept pounding away it wasn’t going to be TNG 2.0 and that Picard would be in a very different place in his life.

But that first trailer relieved a lot of my fears as I think many judging by all the excitement over it in the fanbase. It looked like it was back in the world we know, but same time felt a bit different in a good way. And once we saw who was coming back with him like Seven and Data, (sort of ;)) I was even more excited.

Again it can still suck! We all know this, especially if you’re not super happy with DIS but so far it looks like they learned lesson with Discovery and didn’t just redo the era and kept to how it looks and feels. Hopefully the show itself will be just as good.

Either way from this point on the 24th century is back and heading into the 25th for good now!

I hope your right, but I’d wait until we’ve actually seen the series first before we assume this is a more ‘character driven’ show. They still have to make this show appeal to the current generation of tv viewers or else the show won’t make enough money surely?
I’m hoping a balance can be struck though. It’s nice and fairly unique to see an actor of Stewarts age basically be the anchor for a series, as often its much younger actors who take the centre stage.

“Picard is a return to high quality Star Trek storytelling again.”

Arent we a tad overly optimistic here? Picard IS being made by the very same people who brought you Discovery, from the head down to the guys who design the starships and composes the music (incredibly). I don’t buy this notion of “every Trek a different tone”. Maybe thats what they want to believe. But there’s something important missing to pull this off: different people.

VS,
You’re probably right, but I think a lot of folks here are invoking a misheard version of the theme to TV’s EIGHT IS ENOUGH to justify their anticipation: Chabon is enough to fill our hearts with joy.

Maybe it’s my personality type but authority never impressed me; we are obviously not living in a meritocracy and the cultural sphere / Hollywood with its unabashed conformism, nepotism and favoritism is the farthest from it. So when they fawn about Pulitzers here or titles of nobility handed down by unelected monarchs (the same people who will rail against monarchy otherwise), I say, show me the goods. Chabon did impress me negatively so far by abandoning the showrunning of Picard right before its premiere (his kind cares so much about tone and good behavior; how does that look like?), but let’s see the show now and judge it on its own merits!

Excellent point, VS.

Do you really have to watch TNG? I don’t think I need to.

Honestly after watching “Measure of a Man” you kind of hope that super androids end up superior to humans in all ways just to confirm:
a) How boring the TNG future is – let’s have thousands of indestructible super datas that can do it all that no humans can qualify to serve in the Starfleet that Picard is put out to pasture.
b) Wouldn’t it be funny if these super androids decide to force the humans into the ultimate socialist collective just to demonstrate the law of unintended consequences?!!? The Borg have voted and the majority say join the collective for your own good lol

I think with the benefit of hindsight at this point we can say Trek, and especially the 24th century Treks, have less to say and mirror about our current world than TPTB liked to claim (and actors currently like to claim with near religious zeal).

It’s a post-scarcity society for crying out loud with infinite resources, infinite class M planets and a humanity escaped from the brink of extinction during WW3, and been admitted to a club of intergalactic alien species. NONE of this applies to us today; we live in a zero-sum world where all resources are finite, not just ecologically, but economically too, so apart from the quintessential champagner socialist who always preaches wine while spending other people’s money, nobody really has anything to learn from this future which should be treated as strictly fictional, escapist “what if” scenarios. The “elites” will see it as confirmation in their echo chamber, preaching to the choir essentially, while the large rest of society knows their reality and life is profoundly different, and either watches while shaking their head or having moved on already.

As such, out of all Treks DS9 maybe had the most relevant things to say about the 21st century struggle, and the most self-critical messages for the intellectually homogenous group that now leads and acts in Trek: it’s easy to be a saint in paradise. And boring.

I’m surprised you didn’t bring up Lal’s choice on gender. That’s pretty topical now.

Wow so true! Another great example of how Trek was ahead of its time.

I didn’t think of that VZX.

It was definitely ahead of it’s time for the early 90s.

That said, our middle-grade kids’ reaction seeing it for the first time a couple of years ago was “So, why did Lal have to make a choice?”

But they’d been primed by Pal in the children’s series Annedroids, who at the end of the series, admonishes the 3 main characters for pressuring them to make a choice among genders.

(Fun Trek tie-in: Raven Dauda played the mum of one of the main characters in Annedroids, and her character had a key role in the series finale.)

“I’m surprised you didn’t bring up Lal’s choice on gender. That’s pretty topical now.”

Last time I checked Lal was an android and we were a biological species defined by sexual dimorphism? So if you suggest the poor confused tiny minority with gender dysphoria or genetic mutations are androids – pretty topical indeed ;)

Hopefully Picard will have something more relevant and meaningful to say about AI than Discovery season 2 (this may also be one of the few non-partisan issues left, so big chance here to unite rather than divide!)

I can get behind this one VS :)

The Control plot-thread was definitely a missed opportunity.

The “Evil AI wipes out all biological life” concept is such a bore; it should be clear as always Man is Man’s greatest foe and AI just the newest tool to aid the neverending quest to construct and destruct, manipulate and conquer :p

Didn’t AIs just kill a bunch of people on Mars?

i watched Devil’s Due with the Senate version of the impeachment hearings on. Where is Picard now? now when we NEED him?

When you need him he is generally Locutus of Borg.

Amanda McBroom wrote the song ‘The Rose,’ which played non-stop on the radio one summer in my youth.

Knew there had to be something I didn’t like about her. Frederick Forrest was a fave of mine at the time, and even so I missed that movie because I was so sick of hearing the Midler song. It’s down there with WE ARE FAMILY and all Barry Manilow in terms of unlistenability.

Devil’s Due is fantastic. Why wouldn’t it be worth discussing?!?

As the podcasters pointed pout, all these “great Picard moments” are in courtroom-like scenes because he can give a speeches there. But what about non-courtroom scenes? Some of my favorites:
In “Family,” the argument plus walk&talk and then fist fight with Jean-Luc and his brother. Great scene. When Picard finally broke down so did I.
In “The First Duty,” the scene when Wesley gets a big talking-to by Picard in the Ready Room about the principles of Starfleet to the truth.
In “Sarek,” a very emotional scene when Picard has to contain himself after the mindmeld with Sarek. That was some hard core acting, reminded me of when Spock tried to contain himself in “The Naked Time.”
Finally, basically the entire episode of “All Good Things…” Stewart has some great range in that episode and it really is my favorite Star Trek of all time.

I’ve been doing my own little TNG walking-down-memory-lane screenings, but only found Measure of a Man to be overly-compelling from the list above. On the other hand, I have recently watched each of those episodes you named, VZX, and find them each excellent as well. I truly hope this show hits it out of the park. It’s all about the writing.

I have not seen Picard yet (of course I wasn’t at the premier event), but I’ve seen enough press, interviews and clips to be able to author this question/thought.

Last night Patrick Steward on the late show brought a new clip that has him saying outright he resigned from Starfleet because Starfleet is no longer Starfleet (https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/patrick-stewart-debuts-picard-clip-explains-jean-dog). This confirms everything I have been hearing about Starfleet and the Federation going in the wrong direction.

Stewart himself has spoken about the fact that he wanted to use Star Trek to mirror our society today, particularly using as examples Trump and Brexit. Okay, so on the surface this makes sense in that Star Trek has always been a mirror to our society and really helped us all point out our faults, making them look ridiculous.

But this is what really bothers me because it is DIFFERENT… While Star Trek always held the mirror up, they used alien cultures as the reflection in the mirror and we (the Federation) were above all of that. I can point to dozens (maybe hundreds) of episodes that show this, but the two I will highlight here are “Private Little War,” and “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”

In Private Little War, it was an alien group that mimicked Vietnam, not the Federation. In Battlefield, two alien races showed us just how stupid prejudice is, Earth colonies didn’t reflect this. In both and all cases, we as humans and the Federation stood above that and Star Trek has always had US standing ahead.

Now with Picard, the mirror we are looking at is not an alien society, but a reflection of the human culture going bad. So while I hear people talking a lot about how Star Trek always reflects current events, this is so different. These current events are changing the Star Trek we know and love. We are no longer the perfect group, but reversing direction on where we came from.

While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the Gene Roddenberry perfect 24th century, I do subscribe to the fact that we were able to look at Star Trek and see that we found a way out and are better. It seems that now we are no better 500 years from now then we are today.

That is a shame!

I’ll add one more thought… I am sure that whatever story they spin in this show could have been written in such a way that Picard looked to help save an alien culture going bad – maybe the Vulcans with Romulan influence turned back to emotion, had a questionable leader (Eg Trump), looked for isolationism, and split from the Federation (Eg Brexit). The humans with the remaining Federation members would stand above all of that, led by Picard and the same message could be conveyed, the same reflection on current events would be clear, but we wouldn’t move us (humans leading Starfleet) in a bad direction.

I cannot subscribe to your interpretation of “A Private Little War”.
Yes the low technology alien culture on the planet was was Vietnam (split between the South and North) but the Federation was clearly the United States (providing weapons to save the free south) and the Klingons were clearly the USSR (providing weapons to the communist north) having their general cold war being fought by proxy in a limited hot war. I’m Canadian and even I got that in the 1986 at an age of 6.
Note that this is an example of where in TOS they didn’t invent magical “everything is perfect because we have free unlimited energy and everyone agrees” scenarios which is why TOS was so much more exciting and relevant than TNG despite the passage of time and circumstances.
You might be right on the irrelevance of TNG with looking in the mirror (perfect humans that have no worries), but the TOS Federation was clearly modern day humans in the future (yeah, they might not be starving or dying of illness, but they have a lot to learn).

We agree Bremmon, that is exactly what we “were.” My point is that we saw ourselves in a culture that mirrored the way we used to be. We evolved past that and are looking to help them, knowing what we did wrong.

We didn’t become the bad ones in current day, their culture was.

We evolved passed what? Helping a primitive species fight advanced alien species? Is that “evolved” to you? So if North Korea invades the free South Korea you’ve “evolved” to the point you aren’t going to help the South Koreans?!?!?
This might be a chance to really look in the mirror – would the TNG Federation have left that culture to the Klingons because they are the USSR now / racism and/or lazyness masquerading as “progressiveness”?

All due respect, you’re missing my point. But that’s okay.

David Moss did you forget about Patterns of Force by any chance? Where it was someone from the Federation and Kirk’s old Starfleet professor who literally imposed Nazism on a planet because he that thought was the best direction go in?

Yes it wasn’t Starfleet as a whole obviously but it directly showed a human doing the bad stuff too and imposed his will on an alien civilization. No one in their right mind would think fascism is the way to go today, it would seem nuts to think 300 years from now someone would think that was the right course for ANY society when the Federation is utterly the complete opposite of that. But the issues of fascism was still something people thought about in that era since WW 2 was only twenty years prior and that other countries could be corrupted by it.

And I get so sick of hearing the 24th century was ‘perfect’. No, it wasn’t perfect, its IDEALS were just like many can argue are the ideals of America and the EU are today, but they are far far from perfect societies in practice. By the time we see the Federation in the 24th century its more ideal than the 23rd century, but there were still plenty of bad Starfleet people doing things they shouldn’t be doing just like we saw in TOS like example above. I always go to Sisko’s saint in paradise speech that it’s easy to be one on Earth but things are very different in the universe itself regardless if you are part of the Federation or not. That’s basically what Star Trek values are in a nutshell. When life is good it’s easy to strive for utopia but that can crumble once an actual crisis takes hold and shed our values in an instant. And then we saw a direct example of that happening on Earth itself when the fear of the Dominion became an issue and we saw Siko’s own Starfleet mentor trying to seize control of Earth and tried to militarize it. That didn’t happen in the 23rd century or an alien planet, it happened here in the 24th century.

So no, there were plenty of examples where we weren’t always above all of that in Federation history.

Obviously in Picard it sounds like things take a different turn as a whole and why Picard left but we seem to forget it was PICARD who was the one who had to constantly remind Starfleet brass of their own values over and over again from Drumhead to Insurrection. This isn’t exactly a new idea for him lol. But it does sound like it’s gone a direction he couldn’t course correct this time and my guess is due to what happened on Mars combined with the Romulus explosion. It doesn’t mean it never will though and my guess will by the end of it.

Tiger2, I agree. TNG showed us as “more perfect” but not yet there. It’s always a struggle for our characters to live up to their ideals, just sometimes it is harder than at others. DS9 cranked up the contrast a little, so it is clearer, but it was always there.

I think this all ties into Stewart’s mentioning that they want to show (again) the kind of leadership that is lacking on the US and the world right now. If, after 3 seasons, Picard has set the Federation back on it’s proper course, I will be very pleased (even if I don’t like the idea of the Federation losing its way more than it has in the past – little bits at a time).

It would be an interesting capper to Picard’s story, that more than just saving the Federation from some threat like the Borg yet again, that this time he saved it from itself and is seen as a new hero/Father-of-the-Federation figure.

But here is my input. Who says Picards view is the correct one? I’d really like to see him be on the wrong side of this. Maybe in the end he changes his mind or realizes that his way of viewing the universe isn’t the ONLY way to view the universe. I’d like to see him grow and learn something. Something that only seemed to happen once in the course of 7 tv seasons and 4 films.

As much as I’ve always appreciated “The Measure of a Man” for its strong thematic development — and I would still cite it as an excellent example of science fiction storytelling that keeps with many of the artistic values and sensibilities of TOS — TNG and Berman Era Trek in general missed a great opportunity to explore the issues raised in “The Measure of a Man” in a more mature, more intellectually honest, even-handed way. I would cite TOS “The Paradise Syndrome” for some of the dramatic and intellectual ideals that “The Measure of a Man” fails to live up to, specifically intellectual honesty and even-handed treatment of ideas.

“The Paradise Syndrome” seems to push a certain opinion — i.e. that being happy and comfortable all the time and having all of your needs provided for without having to work toward anything amounts to a cultural stagnation that is tantamount to death. The episode pushes this message right up until its epilogue, when a regretful Spock remarks that living in that cultural stagnation was the only time that he (Spock) had ever been truly happy. The story strongly pushes one point of view and then throws us for a loop at the end by presenting the opposing point of view in a manner that is equally compelling, if not more so.

“The Measure of a Man” strongly pushes the point of view that machines which can convincingly replicate the behavior, mannerisms and speech patterns of humans should be ethically and morally regarded as equivalent to humans. But, why should it be so? Even if Data is actually conscious (whatever consciousness is), he still lacks the fundamental attributes that motivate much, if not all, of human morality: feelings and emotions. Humans who lack the ability to empathize with other humans are referred to as sociopaths and regarded as morally inferior. And, for all of Data’s mimicry of human behavior, he lacks the ability to truly feel anything (certainly without his emotions chip, if not also with it). Data’s morality derives from his ethical programing, not from empathy. And the prospect of being disassembled and effectively put to death didn’t cause Data to feel sorrow, mental anguish or pain of any kind as it would a human. So, if Data can’t feel anything, then why should he be regarded as the equal of humans?

I would argue that the ethical problem with Maddox’s designs on Data is not that it might cause Data or future androids the sort of pain that racial discrimination can cause humans, but rather that the removal of Data from the lives of the human Enterprise crew would cause them professional hardship (Data’s talents are unique and irreplaceable) as well as emotional hardship (they’ve grown emotionally attached to Data). And, make no mistake, the emotional attachment of the human Enterprise crew to Data does not imply that Data is their equal. Humans get emotionally attached to all sorts of things that have no feelings, including cars, houses, and TV shows. So, the real moral dilemma in allowing Maddox to have his way with Data concerns the feelings of the human Enterprise crew and not Data with his inability to feel anything nor a hypothetical, future race of androids that Picard inaccurately likens to a “race.” A race implies evolution by natural selection — to wit: a race for survival. And while androids might be programmed to mimic the biological drive to survive, they could never really feel it if they lacked the components necessary to feel anything (an endocrine system, neurotransmitters, and who knows what else).

Instead of exploring both sides of the AI/sentience issue, TNG and Berman Trek (in episodes of VOY, for example) merely pushed a rather orthodox and conformist equality position that falls short of even-handedness and intellectual honesty; and in doing so, they did Trek a disservice by ignoring a dramatically rich and intellectually stimulating area of thought.

Riker, in his prosecution, represents the point of view that Data is merely a machine and, as such, not the equal of humans with regard to matters of ethics and morality. But, Riker’s position is framed in the story as one that is morally inferior. Indeed, Riker only grudgingly presents that point of view because his hand is forced by the judge. Even so, Riker’s argumentation is conspicuously weak and terse. We can all but see Riker wearing a black hat and twirling his mustache as he presses Data’s off button and likens him to a wooden marionette. Nowhere in Riker’s argument does he explore the meaning and condition of humanity and that, by his design and construction, Data fundamentally lacks them. The plot device of the trial is meant to push a message from the show’s writers and producers — equality is the morally superior stance — rather than present the issue in the most thought-provoking way.

Even so, “The Measure of a Man” is a great episode — one of Trek’s best, in my opinion. But, exploring both sides of an ethically and intellectually challenging issue in an even-handed way tends to make for richer, more compelling drama than merely pushing a message. Being told what to think isn’t as intriguing or thought-provoking as being presented a moral dilemma and left to figure out how you feel about it.

“ Being told what to think isn’t as intriguing or thought-provoking as being presented a moral dilemma and left to figure out how you feel about it.”

Very well said. Contrary to what some might say I feel Trek was at its best when they did not tell the viewer what to think.

The case isn’t about establishing Data as equal to humans. It’s about establishing his sentience and free will as an individual life form. Emotion isn’t necessary for those things. Clinically diagnosed sociopaths (who haven’t been convicted of crimes) are still considered citizens with the freedom to choose how they live their lives, and even those in prison still have the right to deny being subjected to scientific experimentation.

TechNoir

The purpose of establishing Data’s sentience is to grant him equal rights as people. The trial is over whether data is a person or property. If Data is a person, then he gets the same rights as every other member of the federation.

I made the analogy to sociopaths to illustrate the relevance of a key difference between Data and people. Though sociopaths lack the ability to empathize by definition, they still experience feelings and emotions to other stimuli in life. Data experiences no feelings or emotions at all.

In my original comment, I should have said “people” instead of “humans,” as there are people of other species aboard the Enterprise and in the Federation. I didn’t mean to be homocentric.

I guess the fact we’re still arguing this case 30+ years later underlines the importance of the episode.

TechNoir

I agree. It’s a rich area for Trek to explore. A Trek show could easily do an entire season treating both sides of this issue in an even-handed way. Imagine “The Measure of a Man” meets EX MACHINA. And this issue is only going to become more relevant in the coming years, as we get closer and closer to AI. Humanity needs people to explore this issue.

Re: the same rights as every other member of the Federation.

Well, not all members of the Federation value emotions as humans do, like the Vulcans. And yet Vulcans are people. So, as Spock later points out, Data could be considered the perfect Vulcan.

TechNoir

Re: Well, not all members of the Federation value emotions as humans do, like the Vulcans. And yet Vulcans are people.

True, but Vulcans still experience feelings and emotions. Feelings and emotions influence Vulcan development. They just have a different way of dealing with them. A Vulcan can still be hurt. Data can’t be. That’s the difference.

TechNoir

Thanks for reading my long comment!

You’re welcome. Thanks for the polite conversation.