Weekend Trek “The Measure Of A Man”

No less an authority than Patrick Stewart himself has claimed that “The Measure of a Man” was the first great episode of Star Trek the Next Generation.  However, it is worth noting that Jimmy and Tom saw different versions of the same episode.  Anyone with a home video copy, say on a blu-ray set like Jimmy has, got an extended version of the episode.  Tom watches the show off Netflix.  The extended version isn’t available there or any other VOD he looked up, so the guys had some modified results when they each rewatched the episode.

Will that have anything to do with how much they enjoyed the episode?

“The Measure of a Man”

Picard goes to court to protect a valued member of his crew!

jimmy:  Such a great episode.  Before we get started, as I mentioned to you “off camera” I watched the Extended version (and the Extended version with commentary) that is on the Blu-ray set.  Here’s a probably much too long to read review of the Extended cut.

And a more user friendly overview of the added material.

For the most part, the new scenes are mostly character building for Data and the basic arguments about his sentience…and probably created one pissed off Admiral who ended up almost completely cut from the episode. 

tomk:  Yeah, I had heard about the extended cut myself recently and checked to see if I could see it on Netflix or even a VOD but no. I would have to buy the blu-ray set for at least the season if not the series, and I couldn’t justify the cost to myself for just one episode.

For what it’s worth, I found out about it from this video.

jimmy:  The video gives a glimpse and good taste of the extended scenes as well.  It mentions Data’s going away party.

I would think the hardest cut would have been Data dropping by engineering to give Geordi his Sherlock Holmes pipe after he has resigned from Starfleet.

tomk:  The version I saw did show some of Data’s going away party Wesley tells Data how to rip wrapping paper and Pulaski gives some grief…to Worf…

The deleted parts were apparently Riker and Troi’s conversation and Maddox coming in.

jimmy:  Yes, it’s a bit extended with Riker and Troi having a lengthy discussion about Data’s nature. How Troi feels nothing from Data, but there are other life forms she cannot feel either. But also countering with “maybe we are just anthromorphizing Data because he looks and acts human”…but written better than that. 🙂

It ends with Maddox crashing the party and saying Data should join a carnival as “The Walking Encyclopedia” that can answer any questions.

Which brings Worf to Data’s defense and Riker stepping in. Then Riker gets a call from Picard to meet him and there’s a great ending where Riker says “I’m on my way…and you were just leaving.  Let me escort you out.”  As he grabs Maddox and almost literally throws him out the door.

tomk:  Ah, Maddox…the closest thing Roddenberry would allow to show there are still assholes in the 24th century…

jimmy:  As mentioned in the video, the commentary talks about how they had to fight to even get this show made since Roddenberry believed there would be no lawyers in the future.

tomk:  Yeah. The writer herself was a lawyer who pointed out you still need lawyers to settle contracts. Roddenberry believed they’d just brainwash criminals into being better people by then.

Gene had a really warped view of humanity the more I think about it…

jimmy:  At least it was a positive view, unlike a lot of future based sci-fi.

tomk:  Brainwashing criminals to be good sounds downright Orwellian. And he believed kids wouldn’t mourn the loss of parents because circle of life or something.

jimmy:  Hmm..yes…you are right there.  I was thinking more along the lines of it being a bright future instead of a nuclear wasteland like many stories.

tomk:  That’s true. But I was talking about the people. And remember what assholes the crew was being when they found those folks who were frozen from the 20th century?

jimmy:  Also true.  Man, the future is full of jerks no matter what way you cut it!

tomk:  At least some of those jerks can learn. Maddox is a better person at the end of it.

jimmy:  Even Pulaski isn’t on the “Data’s a toaster” train in this one.

tomk:  Instead she tossed them at Worf and Klingon culture. Because those people don’t rival Wookiees for arm removal when pissed.

jimmy:  But that’s a tale for another day.

tomk:  Yes. How did you like the episode Patrick Stewart said was their first great episode and that both Brent Spiner and Marina Sirtis have described as their all-time favorite?

jimmy:  I thought it was awesome.  Bordering on “why wasn’t this made into a movie?”, though it might be a little too low key for that.  I’ve also seen it described as a bottle episode, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

tomk:  Bottle episodes only use existing sets. So, unless the starbase was done in redecorated existing sets (which it could have), then this isn’t one.

And a movie would want more action. This one, at least, partially inspired season one of Picard.

jimmy:  The starbase exteriors were recycled from The Motion Picture.  The “courtroom” was a redressed battle bridge, etc.

Agreed about the movie, especially for a sci-fi tentpole.  And yes, a heavy influence on Picard season one, but a lot of future episodes in general that deal with Data’s humanity and/or Maddox’s attempts to recreate him.

tomk:  All true.

And it is a great episode. We’ve seen the series inching in this direction a bit with the Klingon episode and Moriarty, but this was just proof of what this show could be.

jimmy:  Which I think answers my question of what you thought of the episode.

tomk:  You know what, for me, was the best moment?  After winning his case, Data still offers future assistance to Maddox.

jimmy:  Data’s not a jerk.

tomk:  And Maddox is touched.

jimmy:  And to the point of “winning the case”, he does in the form of getting the choice to decide what he wants to do.  But I don’t think Picard wins in proving Data is alive.  Just muddies the waters enough when Maddox can’t answer how to prove Picard is “alive” (or has a soul) with an answer better than, “because you are”.

tomk:  And that may be enough. At least for Picard’s frenemy on the bench.

jimmy:  I was hoping for a reaction shot of Riker when they agreed to dinner.  And I assume the “who’s buying?” bit was a joke.

tomk:  This was a good episode for Riker, from his incredibly creepy poker face to how bad he feels that he did so much against Data only to see Data didn’t mind.

jimmy:  But as Data explains at the end, Riker doing what he did actually helped Data.

tomk:  Data only said that so Riker can sleep at night. Possibly also so Troi can sleep at night.

jimmy:  And Data’s not a jerk.

tomk:  Someone had to be.

jimmy:  So where do you land?  Do you think Data is “alive”?

tomk:  Yes.

He breathes in every time he starts to say something.

jimmy:  I really think it is hard for viewers and fans of the show to think otherwise.

tomk:  Then why did you ask me?

jimmy:  That’s what I think.  Doesn’t make me right or mean you think the same way.

tomk:  I see.

You get a gold star for that evasive maneuver.

jimmy adds to his collection.

tomk:  Probably next to your hologram of Tasha Yar.

jimmy:  I meant to check and forgot.  Did Denise Crosby get mentioned in the credits? 

tomk:  I don’t think so.

jimmy:  Probably just reused footage from her funeral hologram.

tomk:  Probably.

jimmy:  On the commentary the Okuna’s asked the writer why Maddox didn’t just back Data up so that he could be restored if something went wrong with the experiment?  Her honest answer was that she’s not techy at all and doesn’t know how computers work and never thought of doing that.  Her revisionist answer was, Maddox hadn’t figured out how to do that.

I think they actually touch on it a bit, intentional or not, when Data talks about how downloading his brain would cause it to lose context.  Which we also saw previously after Data’s “grandfather” was downloaded into the Enterprise main computer.

tomk:  Yeah, that would be a good reason not to.

We don’t wanna get all “Spock’s Brain” in this thing.

jimmy:  Or Data mind-melding with Pulaski.

tomk:  Even worse.

jimmy:  You know, Data’s off switch should really be less accessible.

tomk:  There was another moment I dug since you mentioned Data’s off-switch.  I really liked it when Riker was looking over Data’s schematics and he finds the off-switch.  At first, he’s all smiles because he discovered something big.  And then his face immediately falls because he realizes what he has to do with that information

jimmy:  Agreed. Great scene. An excellent job by Frakes.

tomk:  This was a good showcase for Frakes, Spiner, and Stewart.

jimmy:  The commentary was pretty complimentary to the guy that played Maddox as well. Though he was nothing special to me.

I did read or hear along the way (maybe that video you posted) that he didn’t reprise his role in Picard as he had essentially retired from acting.

tomk:  Yes, that is basically true.

Not that Maddox had a whole lot to do on Picard, but it does make a certain amount of sense that Stewart, who helped come up with the story for Picard’s solo show, would go to one of his favorite episodes as a springboard.

jimmy:  Well, it’s also at the core of being Data.

tomk:  And Data is barely in it.  It was more about Picard’s relationship with Data.

jimmy:  Good point. And on the commentary they discussed that it was really a Picard episode, not a Data one. But it’s really both. If not a threesome with Riker. Umm…

tomk:  Riker doesn’t object to those.

jimmy:  Bring on the harp girls!

Speaking of, the writer also talked about the poker scene, the first of many on the show. She hates the holodeck as it seems like people go there to, ahem, play with themselves. Ok, by themselves.

Anyway, the original opening of the show was written as Data learning how to swim…but they quickly realized there was no way they could afford to pull that off.

tomk:  I saw a bit of that in one of the articles you posted–and look at you doing all this research!–and there was another observation I really liked and can’t disagree with:  that TNG was the only Trek series to make the crew into a family.

Wesley is the kid they kick to the curb when he gets experimental in college, and I guess Pulaski is that racist aunt no one really wants to spend time with.

jimmy:  Haha

tomk:  I thought about it since I am also working my way through DS9 and finished TOS and the animated series, and that statement isn’t wrong.

Plus, Data is the only guy who would wear a visor to play poker on any show.

jimmy:  True. And Data losing by playing the percentages is not related to your family point, but a nice human touch.

tomk:  It shows the limits of Data’s processing abilities. And that Riker probably shares his poker face with the harp girls.

jimmy:  We don’t want to think about the other faces he shares.

tomk:  That sounds dirty.

But lacking a good setup, there’s this:

jimmy:  I like his point that a lot of these questions should/would have been answered during the process of Data applying for, being accepted to and graduating from Starfleet.

tomk:  Yeah, but who wants a show about an android going to college?

jimmy:  I think I saw that. Tommy Lee played Data.

tomk:  Was it in Watson’s movie library?

jimmy:  I haven’t looked in there since “The Incident”.

tomk:  Oh.

tomk:  So…O’Brien was at the poker table.

jimmy:  You don’t exclude the guy that descrambles and reassembles your molecules.

tomk:  Yes, but I rather like what O’Brien represents on this show:  he’s the regular guy.  He probably didn’t go to the Academy, he isn’t a bridge officer, and later on we see he has a life away from the others when he meets and marries his wife.

jimmy:  Can he be an officer without going to the Academy?

tomk:  If Starfleet is like real world militaries, probably not.  I think it’s noteworthy on DS9, his title is “Chief,” and not “Lieutenant”.

jimmy:  Maybe he is descended from Native Americans.

tomk:  

jimmy:  You’re right though, he’s more “Everyman” than the bald guy, the android, the empath, the blind guy, the Klingon, the female Bones, the special kid and the unattainable beard.

tomk:  He’s, like, the guy who actually has to do work.

jimmy:  So, is Data more alive than other artificial intelligence?  For example, I dunno, an Emergency Medical Hologram?

tomk:  Or…the Enterprise computer?

What about Moriarty?

Or a pile of goo acting like a space station cop?

What about Ryan?

jimmy:  Liking Krull automatically disqualifies you.

tomk:  That’s what I figured.

jimmy:  A box with wheels is definitely not alive.

tomk:  Star Trek has always thrived on tossing in weird outsider characters.  That could be Spock, Odo, the Doctor on Voyager, or Watson in the porn parody.  On TNG, it’s Data.

In reality, the real outsiders are assholes higher up the command ladder like Maddox and countless commodores and admirals who keep popping up to cause trouble.

jimmy:  Or they end up with alien beings in their stomach and when their heads explode they shoot alien beings at you.

tomk:  So…Data is a robotic Richard Simmons?

jimmy:  He could be. He’s fully functional.

tomk:  Well, it was sweet he still had a memorial to Tasha, and his general reluctance to talk about why.

jimmy:  He didn’t want to betray her.

tomk:  Picard’s reassurance that Tasha would understand was another nice touch.

jimmy:  It also speaks to the emotions Data supposedly doesn’t have.

tomk:  Data’s general decency is one of his best qualities.

jimmy:  They talked about that a bit in the commentary. Data’s childlike wonder and innocence. And also that Spiner would play him as having just a little bit of emotion that Data thought he didn’t have.

tomk:  A completely emotionless character would be very different.

But still, this was a damn good episode.  Did we miss anything?

jimmy:  Probably lots. But nothing comes to mind.

tomk:  Well, we’ve been on quite the upward trend lately.  Ready for what comes next?

jimmy:  Going to be hard to top this one.

tomk:  It will.

Up next:  Wesley falls in love with an alien princess.

jimmy:  Uhhh….

 

Next:  “The Dauphin”

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