Series: The Next Generation
Air Date: February 13, 1989
Written by: Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by: Robert Scheerer
Data's personhood is put to the test after another douche-bag scientist wants to strip him for parts and study his insides.
It starts off with Data dealing in a poker game among the senior staff and O'Brien. Turns out Data has done a lot of studying on the game and is confident that he will play it well. But Riker beats him with a bluff and he's confused. He totally wasn't expecting that. Meanwhile, the Enterprise pulls up to the newly built Starbase 173 where Captain Picard meets Captain Phillipa Louvois who he had known from that one time she prosecuted against him for the loss of the Stargazer. While they reminisce Commander Maddox comes up and says "Hey, here's a wacky idea. Let's disassemble Data since he's not a sentient life form."
Obviously, this doesn't go over too well with Picard, but Maddox goes on. He says he wants to study the positronic brain that Noonian Soong created to put in Data's head. Data's intrigued by the idea until he learns that Maddox wants to dump all of the information in his brain into a computer and deactivate Data in an attempt to create more Soong-type androids. He would basically be killing Data. And that's the real issue here - would he be killing Data if Data wasn't alive to begin with? Is he alive? Is he sentient?
|Look at that face! How could you disassemble that face?|
Riker does all he can to study up on Data's technical specifications and prove that he's just a machine. It is, however, difficult when you consider the machine to be your friend. When they start the hearing, Riker takes Data's hand off and shows it to the court. He submits that he is a machine, made by a man and able to be turned off by a man. In a dramatic gesture, he flips Data's switch and Data is turned off. Cut to commercial.
|"I'll just wait here, then."|
Picard goes on to make a grand speech that sooner or later Maddox, or someone like him, will create more Soong-type androids whether Data submits or not. The question, are we prepared to make these androids into a slave race? He says that Starfleet's mission is to seek out new life, and, pointing to Data, there it sits! Louvois finds in Data's favor saying that they have delved deep into metaphysics in this hearing. The real issue is whether Data has a soul. She doesn't know if he does, but she doesn't even know whether she does herself. And that Data should live his live in the pursuit of the answer to that question, just like every other sentient being.
|"I formally request for you to 'frak off'."|
So Data is now officially recognized as sentient. This is good news for Data fans. And if you're a fan of The Next Generation and not a fan of Data, what kind of Trekkie are you? This is a pretty interesting courtroom drama because, as opposed to normal courtroom dramas, it actually delves into the personhood of a machine. There's nothing wrong with a normal courtroom drama, but this one steps it up to another level, and I love it. Especially since it gives so much screen time to Data. Thumbs up on this one!