Star Trek: The Next Generation (1989) – The Measure of a Man, and The Dauphin

Captain’s log: stardate 42523.7

The Measure of a Man, definitely in the top ten Trek episodes of all time, this gem was written by Melinda M. Snodgrass this classic first aired on 13 February, 1989.

Data (Brent Spiner) is on trial for his synthetic life as the debate on whether or not he is a living being, or Starfleet property. Arriving at a newly minted Starbase, Picard (Patrick Stewart), Riker (Jonathan Frakes) find themselves encountering Commander Bruce Maddox (Brian Brophy) and JAG Captain Phillipa Louvois (Amanda McBroom) – who conducted Picard’s trial for the loss of the Stargazer.

Maddox has orders that require Data be turned over for him, so that he can be studied, and perhaps even replicated, a fleet full of synthetic people. Data refuses, and resigns, and ends up in court, as the debate on whether he can actually resign, whether he is actually a person comes under examination.

Picard serves as his defence, while Louvois serves as judge, forcing Riker to take a turn as prosecutor, with orders to win the case.

Strongly written, brilliantly acted, and deals with themes on what life is, what defines it, and also brings into clarity the ideas of slavery and property – in best Trek fashion.

This episode also introduces the beloved poker game, with Data, Riker, O’Brien (Colm Meaney), Geordi (LeVar Burton) and Pulaski (Diana Muldaur). The Starbase is also a reuse of the Regula I space lab from Trek II, which in turn was the orbital office complex in The Motion Picture.

measure-of-a-man

Captain’s log: stardate 42588.8

Sigh. After such a stellar episode, it’s a shame that this one, The Dauphin, followed it up. A Wesley (Wil Wheaton)-centric story written by Scott Rubenstein and Leonard Mlodinow.

Airing on 20 February, 1989, the story follows Wesley’s brush with first love when a young woman, Salia (Jaime Hubbard) who is returning to her home world to assume her role as leader.

The two young lovers fall for one another in a big way, and it’s almost too saccharine sweet, but also elicits a lot of memories of my own youth, and being love struck for the first time.

Things aren’t going to go easily or smoothly for them though, whether her own impending role as leader, her governess Anya (Paddi Edwards), or Wesley’s duties, not to mention the secret she and Anya are keeping.

In the end, it’s a rather simplistic tale, and while it’s often derided by fans, I don’t think any story that they came up with to feature Wesley would have met with fan approval. This is no reflection of Wheaton’s performance, it’s the character, no matter how relatable the actor tried to make him no one wanted or could relate to a super-genius teenager.

The story plays out exactly as one would expect it would, with no surprises except for the fun scene between Riker and Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) in Ten Forward.

Next time, the Human Adventure continues…

dauphin

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