The Measure Of A Man
If Star Trek: The Next Generation was going to prove to the world that it could be both a Star Trek show while not adhering to the old ways of The Original Series that had plagued it during the first season, "The Measure Of A Man" is undoubtedly the episode that makes that statement.
Melinda M. Snodgrass started her career by studying law and working as a lawyer for many years before she went on into writing. Her first experience in writing for Star Trek came in the form of a 1984 novel, "The Tears Of The Singers"
. So when the time came where she wrote a story set in The Next Generation, she decided to make it a court room drama. Doesn't sound very much like a Star Trek story until, but having Data be the center of attention and asking the questions "Is Data, an Android, his own being or is he property that we can do with as we please?". Well, the results spoke for themselves. "The Measure Of A Man" would become one of TNG's most critically acclaimed episodes in it's entire seven season run and was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for "Best Episodic Drama". Even our "Bane to human existence" Maurice Hurley called the episode "Stunning".
I know there are many who look at this episode as a great tale of what it means to be human, but I personally see it as an episode that explores how we as a race take our own humanity for granted in determining what has rights and what does not. Concluding that an android has no rights is one thing, but this still applies to humans even today. Just look at how America treated woman and other non-caucasion races just a century ago. It's true that "what it means to be human" element plays a lot in Data's stories, but the points that are brought up in this episode aren't points that argue Data is human, but a new form of life. Despite what many episodes would say, Data does display a sense of want, fear and curiosity while at the same time performing feats that a normal human couldn't. In the end, we don't accept Data as human, we accept him for who he is. Picard makes this point clear.
You see he's met two of your three criteria for sentience, so what if he meets the third, consciousness, in even the smallest degree? What is he then?
It's also worth mentioning that the Season 2 BluRay set contains not one, but two versions of the episode. The Extended Edition is so well remastered and re-edited that the new footage look and feel like it was always in the episode to begin with. The new character moments are sincere and in my opinion adds something to this episode. Definitely my preferred version of the episode.
It's comforting to know that Star Trek stories like "The Measure of a Man" are still looked back on with fondness. With new Star Trek material being reduced to one story every three to four years with nothing but wall to wall action stories, it's nice that we can have episodes like "The Measure Of A Man" that can tell a story with no action and no crazy antics while still being a great story that is without a doubt a STAR TREK story.
Your Honour, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits. Waiting.