While the Enterprise is docked at Starbase 173 for routine maintenance, cyberneticist Commander Bruce Maddox comes aboard to pay Lieutenant Commander Data a visit, wishing to better understand how Data's creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, was able to overcome certain problems in designing and constructing Data's positronic brain. It quickly becomes clear that Maddox has an ulterior motive of transferring the contents of Data's memory to the starbase mainframe computer and shutting down and disassembling him to learn how to recreate Soong's technology. Though Maddox promises to restore Data following his analysis and assures him his memories will be intact, Data is concerned that the procedure is riskier than Maddox is letting on, and argues that while the factual details of his memories will be preserved, the nuances of his experiences may not be. Data decides, in order to preserve himself as "the culmination of Soong's dream", to refuse to submit to Maddox's procedure, causing Maddox to turn to Starfleet to order him to comply. Picard supports Data's position, and is advised that the only way for Data to evade the order is to resign from Starfleet, which Data does. Maddox, however, argues that Data is Starfleet property, not a sentient being, and as such does not have the right to choose to resign.

The presiding Starfleet Judge Advocate General for the sector, Captain Philippa Louvois, initially rules in favor of Maddox, so Picard requests a formal hearing to challenge the ruling. Louvois agrees, but as her office is understaffed, to guarantee due process, she compels Enterprise First Officer Commander William Riker to represent Maddox in the dispute, and Picard to represent Data, as if they do not, she will issue a summary judgment in Maddox's favor. Riker's arguments portray Data as merely a machine constructed by man, and no more than the sum of his parts, and in a striking final demonstration, switches Data off, claiming "Pinocchio is broken: its strings have been cut."

Picard calls for a recess, during which Guinan suggests that regardless of whether Data is a machine or not, Maddox's plans for reproducing him would lead to a situation tantamount to slavery. Picard uses this to defuse Riker's arguments, and turns the discussion to metaphysical matters of Data's sentience. Picard points out that Data meets two of the three criteria that Maddox uses to define sentient life. Data is intelligent and self-aware, and Picard asks anyone in the court to show a means of measuring consciousness. With no one able to answer this, Louvois acknowledges that neither she nor anyone else can measure this in Data ("We're all dancing around the basic issue here, does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have.") and, as such, Data, as a matter of law, is a sentient being. She therefore rules that Data has the right to choose. Upon the court's ruling, Data formally refuses to undergo the procedure.

After the hearing, Data tells Maddox that his research remains intriguing to him and offers to help Maddox understand his workings better after Maddox has had more time to study and perfect his techniques. Maddox, for his part, refers to Data for the first time as "he" rather than "it". Later, in the Observation Lounge on board the Enterprise, Data finds Riker, who is ashamed of having had to argue against his friend in the hearing. Data cheers him up by telling him that his action was an act of self-sacrifice that gave Data the chance to win his freedom, as had Riker refused to participate, Louvois' original judgment in favor of Maddox would have been final. Data concludes, "That action injured you and saved me. I will not forget it." [N 1]

Errors and Explanations

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Next Generation Trekkers
Volume 2

Plot Oversights

  1. Looking approximately thirty-five years old, Maddox claims to have evaluated Data on the android's entrance to Starfleet Academy. in Redemption II, which takes place approximately two and a half years after the events here, Data states that he has twenty six years of service. This means that, at the time of this episode, Data has served in Starfleet for twenty three and a half years, after spending four years at the academy, as stated on his file in Conundrum. For his age to match his appearance, Maddox would have had to be seven or eight years old when he helped to evaluate Data.Like Graves in The Schizoid Man, Maddox could be older than he looks.
  2. The trial computer stating that Data was still assigned to Enterprise. Data's transfer to Maddox was halted for the duration of the trial.

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Character error

  1. Louvois tells Picard "call me". However, a later episode established that the phrase "to call" someone is no longer in the vernacular. Maybe she's a tradionalist!

Plot holes

  1. Data tells Picard that Maddox was the only dissenting member of a screening committee that approved his entrance into Starfleet. This implies that the majority approved him. Since only sentient beings can take the oath of a service personnel officer, this would be the grounds for Data's status as a living being, but this is overlooked at the trial. Maddox may have thought that the rest of the committee were wrong to approve Data's application, and is determined to finally prove it.
  2. When Riker calls Data to the stand, the computer reads out Data's medals and commendations. Riker tries to skip the reading, but Picard objects and insists the full record be read, and the judge sustains the objection. Later, however, when Picard calls Maddox to the stand and the computer begins to read out his accomplishments, Picard tries to skip the reading, and Riker does not object. The judge had already warned Riker that any laxity on his part in prosecuting the case would result in a summary judgment against Data, and this would seem to qualify. Maybe Maddox's accomplishments would take too long to read out![2]


  1. Subsequent broadcasts of the episode on BBC America have omitted the events which occur after the end of the hearing and the events which follow, instead cutting to the end credits immediately after Data refuses formally to undergo Maddox's procedure once the court rules in his favor. No reason has been given for this.[1]


  1. The Measure of a Man at Wikipedia
  2. IMDB entry tt0708807

The Next Generation Season 2
The Child I Where Silence Has Lease I Elementary, Dear Data I The Outrageous Okona I The Schizoid Man I Loud as a Whisper I Unnatural Selection I A Matter of Honor I The Measure of a Man I The Dauphin I Contagion I The Royale I Time Squared I The Icarus Factor I Pen Pals I Q Who I Samaritan Snare I Up the Long Ladder I Manhunt I The Emissary I Peak Performance I Shades of Gray
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