Whose Episode Is It Anyway? The Measure of a Man

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Spirit of 73, Dec 3, 2018.

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Who is the principle protagonist of The Measure of a Man?

  1. Data

    40.0%
  2. Jean-Luc Picard

    46.7%
  3. William Riker

    13.3%
  4. Geordi La Forge

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Pippi Longstockings

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. Other

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Spirit of 73

    Spirit of 73 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Sometimes it's hard to decide who the main character of an episode is. The main character is the one who goes through a transformative arc. He's the one who makes decisions that move the plot, solves the problem and even, initially, cause the problem. He probably has the most screen time. He's the one in principle opposition to the bad guy, the bad force, society, whatever.

    Often, it's easy to determine to whom an episode belongs. Remember Me is Beverly Crusher's. The Game is Wesley Crusher's. Future Imperfect is William Riker's. Captain's Holiday is Picard's.

    Other times, it's not so easy to determine. What about an episode like The Measure of a Man? Is this a Picard episode or a Data episode? Or is it someone else's? And if it's a shared episode, who is the senior partner?

    Picard handles Data's defense. He is the one who moves the plot late in the game.

    But Data is the one who moves it early on with his decision to oppose his enslavement.

    But it's Picard who undergoes the character arc, at first being irritated by Data's truculence but then coming to see things his way.

    But it's Data that the story truly centers around. Without Picard, someone else handles Data's defense. Without Data, we just move on to the next episode.

    It seems like a good candidate for a shared episode. But if you had to pick between the two, who would it be? Is The Measure of a Man Data's episode, or is it Picard's? Or have I got it all wrong and it's really someone else's?
     
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  2. smudgietoo

    smudgietoo Ensign Newbie

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    I guess for me the winning argument is that the episode doesn't work without Data. Yes, they could have been discussing any other sentient/non-sentient "lifeform", but if the point of the episode was to involve the audience in a discussion about what counts as sentience then the object had to be someone we either cared about or could relate to (rather than random alien of the week). Picard's role was to emulate the audience's journey from ambivalence to certainty, and while this is necessary both as a plot device and for his character's evolution, if the audience doesn't care about who they are fighting for, then the argument itself is pointless. Plus, Brent Spiner acted the heck out of this episode lol!
     
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  3. Mutai Sho-Rin

    Mutai Sho-Rin Crusty Old Bastard Moderator

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    Don’t forget Guinan who, in a brief moment, shapes Picard’s defense in a fundamental way.
     
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  4. JesterFace

    JesterFace Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Simple.
    Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass. :)
     
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  5. Spirit of 73

    Spirit of 73 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    That's a strong argument. I ultimately voted Data, but it's a close call.

    A good point! I don't think I would vote for her, but maybe I should have had her as an option.

    The protagonist! :-)
     
  6. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Good question! Strictly speaking, Data is the subject. Sort of the way Dustin Hoffman won best supporting actor for the title role in Rainman, which is actually what his name Raymond was pronounced as by the lead, protagonist, his baby brother Charlie.

    Ultimately, the episode is a courtroom drama in which Picard is the protagonist fighting the fight, Data is the victim, who actually wouldn't have even waged the fight, without the protagonist's support, & Riker is the B plot, who's forced into fighting a fight he's opposed to (One of his best parts on the whole show imho)

    I suppose though, it's not as simple as that, & there's a lot of gray area, because it's not just one story, like the movie Rainman, but a serial's one chapter in an ongoing story, & that story is Data's. So Picard is the protagonist of the episode, but Data is the protagonist of the story. Does that make sense?
     
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  7. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Oh... sorry for the double post, but I voted for Picard, because the thread title asked who's the protagonist of the episode, not the story arc
    Or, without Picard, there is no story, because Data doesn't challenge what he's told. (& very nearly didn't) So some guy just came aboard & took him away or experimented on him. This story of challenging a ruling is Picard's. He's the challenger. Data's rights are the challenge
     
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  8. Sareesataka

    Sareesataka Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I voted Picard's episode.

    Data is the same at the end of the episode as he is at the beginning. It is Picard who helps everyone in the court, and ultimately, the viewing audience, understand who Data is. He's the one driver's seat, or maybe more aptly, the helm, guiding and shaping opinion.
     
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  9. Spirit of 73

    Spirit of 73 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Both very strong points. I voted Data but after reading these I don't know.
     
  10. Spirit of 73

    Spirit of 73 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    The following is from www.writingforward.com about how to identify a protagonist.

    • The protagonist faces challenges, particularly the central challenge or conflict within the story. More Picard than Data.
    • The protagonist wants or needs something (has a goal). More Data than Picard.
    • The antagonist’s actions are interfering with the protagonist’s ability to achieve the goal. Both about equal, but maybe a bit more Data.
    • The protagonist makes choices or decisions, which are usually difficult. Both about equal, but maybe a bit more Picard.
    • The choices made by the protagonist lead to consequences, good and bad. Both equally.
    • The protagonist undergoes personal transformation, which is often dramatic, as a result of the events within the story. This is definitely Picard.
    • At its heart, the story is often about the protagonist; it is the protagonist’s story. This is definitely Data.
    I make it a perfect tie based on these criteria.
     
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  11. olysounder89

    olysounder89 Ensign Newbie

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    I was leaning towards Picard based on Mojochi's post since some excellent points were made I never thought about. But Spirit got me to vote Data. The story is ultimately about Data. While there can multiple protagonists in a story, this episode as a whole is more focused on Data rather than Picard.
     
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  12. olysounder89

    olysounder89 Ensign Newbie

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    And I also apologize for the double post but this just hit me that no matter how you look at the episode. Either Picard or Data could be the main protagonist of the episode and the other could be the main protagonist in their own side story (or is that more commonly referred to as a "B story"?). While again, I believe Data is the main protagonist, I think you could get away by saying Picard is and Data could be also with his B Story. Perhaps I'm overcomplicating my thinking and just go back to my first post that a single story can have two protagonist like in Romeo & Juliet.
     
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  13. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This really is the best way to look at it. Like I said earlier, because there is more than one story going on here that are crossing paths, namely the court ruling challenge that Picard fights & the state of Mr. Data's place in the universe, we have 2 protagonists. I put Picard above Data in the specific episode, whereas Data is the protagonist of the overall serial story about him, that includes other episodes like The Offspring or Quality of Life etc... Neither of them are the secondary B story. Frankly, that mantel goes to Riker's lesser parts, which actually finishes out the episode.
     
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  14. JesterFace

    JesterFace Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Can there be more than one protagonist?
     
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  15. HugeLobes

    HugeLobes Commander Red Shirt

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    I don't know about this. The point of a protagonist's goal is that they have to struggle to work towards it. Data is the subject of the trial, but he's actually pretty passive throughout the show. Picard makes more choices, and it's definitely his struggle to overcome, even if the stakes are higher for Data.

    That's kinda the point of the show. Data has to be represented by a human. The fact that he isn't allowed to be the protagonist in this story underscores his uncertain rights and position.

    This is all Picard over Data. I'd say Picard is 100% the protagonist.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
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  16. Spirit of 73

    Spirit of 73 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I agree with the evolving consensus that there are two protagonists to the story. I think it is interesting to talk about which one we think has greater claim to that title, which tells us a lot about what we think makes a protagonist.

    This is an interesting way to look at it. I would say this makes an argument for Data as the protagonist, because Picard's side story, if we look at it that way, depends on the Data story, while the Data story is greatly influenced by but does not depend on the Picard story. The Data story depends on the antagonist, Bruce Maddox.
     
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  17. Beta-Z

    Beta-Z Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think this is clearly an ensemble episode.
     
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  18. Spirit of 73

    Spirit of 73 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    No doubt about it. But if you had to pick...
     
  19. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm not as clear on that, because they often deliberately design episodes for just that purpose, like Disaster, Night Terrors, Emergence, or Conundrum, where there is intentionally nothing close to a focal point character. Everybody in the ensemble is integral at similar degrees.

    That's the thing about TNG's format. It was actually incredibly liberal, because they'd also have an episode like The Inner Light, which nearly excludes all but one character. Then there'd be episodes like Starship Mine, which featured one person above the others, but also included the others in some B plot. Basically, they experimented with everything from straight character-centric episodes, to fully equally distributed ensemble pieces, to every minute degree in between. IMHO The Measure of A Man is in the gray area there. It's certainly not an all encompassing ensemble piece, & even though there's a number of the ensemble involved, it's really just a main plot that involves one helping another, & a third in their own related B plot
     
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  20. HugeLobes

    HugeLobes Commander Red Shirt

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    It's an ensemble show, but Picard is very clearly the protagonist in this episode. He's the one with a task to overcome. He gets the majority of the scenes. It's largely his action that push the story forward. Data is very much a passenger throughout.

    This is from Wikipedia: "She [the writer] said that although most watchers perceived the episode as being Data-centric, Snodgrass felt that it focused on the actions of Picard and referred to Data as taking the role of the catalyst for the plot."
     
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