Episode Overview – A Starfleet scientist comes to the Enterprise with the intent to disassemble Data so that he can build more androids. Picard and Data embark on a legal battle to define the rights of the Federation’s only mechanical officer.
Episode Score – 9/10. A solid courtroom battle episode. Great drama and suspense without the action sequences or special effects. Great performances by Patrick Stewart, Johnathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner. This episode is one of the earliest episodes to show what this new Trek series could do. I think it is one of TNG’s defining episodes.
Relevance – 3 points. Commander Maddox is the officer that Data is corresponding with in the episode “Data’s Day”. We see the first of many crew poker games. Data’s “encounter” with Tasha Yar is mentioned as a part of Data’s defence (I liked how Picard said that even though Data had promised Tasha that he would never reveal that they had been intimate together, she would not have minded it, given the circumstances). The Daystrom Institute is mentioned for the first time as a tribute to Richard Daystrom from the Original Series episode “The Ultimate Computer”. The outcome of this trial would be tested again when Data constructs a daughter (“The Offspring”), and will impact future TNG episode “The Quality of Life”, as well as the Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager. The space station on which this story happens was said to have been built by the Neutral Zone incidents mentioned in the last Season 1 episode. Lots of relevance to Trek in this neat little episode.
Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity gets a check, as all the main players are in line with what we have come to expect from them. Storyline continuity is a check (although if Data had promised to not reveal his sexual encounter with Yar to anyone, how did Picard know? The captain might have figured it out, so I can overlook that). Universe continuity, check. Nothing is out of place here.
Character Development – 3 points. Data and Picard get a great treatment in this episode and grow a lot, but I would have to give a tip of the hat to Riker. When commanded to serve as the prosecutor in the trial, Riker finds himself in the toughest of situations. He has to do everything he can to win the case, or Data will become property of Starfleet. The risk is that in doing so he almost wins the case, which would again make Data property of Starfleet. It’s one of the most difficult stories for Riker and with the exception of Data he seems to have the most to lose: his friend and comrade and his self-respect. The scene where he is researching and finds his “coup de grace” that almost wins him the case, he shows excitement, followed by shock as he realises what this may mean to his friend. Powerful acting on the part of Frakes.
Social Commentary – 3 points. The rights of individuals has always been relevant in Trek’s history. In today’s world we are still trying to identify what “basic rights” are, and to whom they apply. One would think that by the 24th Century we would have figured it all out, but we have a whole new batch of ideas in this as we look at the case for artificial life forms. Guinan also has a great moment when she helps Picard realize that what is being proposed by Maddox could easily become a form of slavery. Very astute commentary.
Cool Factor – 2 points. OK, the first poker game? Cool! Picard’s epic closing argument? Extremely cool! Beyond that, there is not much else that is cool. Again, Picard’s ending argument is full of coolness, and one of my favourite scenes in the series.
Rank – Admiral (23 points). As I said before, this episode is one of the gems in the second season. Give it a watch and you will not be disappointed.