Star Trek: The Next Generation: Episode 2.9 “The Measure of a Man” is the first perfect episode of TNG that I’ve watched. This comes on the heels of Episode 2.8 “A Matter of Honor” which I considered the first “very good” episode.
I’ve been grading these episodes on a 5-point scale as I’ve watched them. “A Matter of Honor” was the first 4-point TNG episode I’ve watched, and it was immediately followed by the first 5-point episode, “The Measure of a Man.”
This episode is the distillation of what Star Trek is all about. At its core, Star Trek has always been about ideas, not events. This episode showcases that perfectly. There is not a single false note in this episode. My sincere wish is that this is what all episodes henceforth will be, but, sadly, that is not true. But, it is the first example of what The Next Generation can be, and we will see that again. Oh, yes. I have faith.
What makes this the perfect episode of TNG?
None of the characters act out-of-character. This is largely a Picard-Data-Riker story. None of the other characters are featured prominently. However, no character acts in a manner inconsistent with previous demonstrations of their character. Even Riker in the prosecutor role is consistent with his character, and he almost wins the case. Almost.
The story’s goal is explicitly stated, and none of the action which follows detracts from this. The question is whether or not Data is a sentient being and does he has the freedom and rights of a person. Every scene in this episode supports the main story.
“Measure of a Man” has the first poker scene in TNG. When I think back on Next Generation, I remember the poker scenes fondly, and this was the first one. And, yes, it supported the main story since Data references his experience learning about poker later.
Guinan appears in this one. I love almost every scene Whoopie Goldberg is in, and this one is no exception. Picard-Guinan scenes are always my favorite.
The conclusion of the story is not only appropriate, it also sets a precedent. Never again will Data be considered Starfleet property. He is his own being. Plus, it makes a callback to Data’s intimate relationship with Tasha Yar. The show is beginning to have more serialized elements, a sense of history, rather than having every episode be easily exchangeable.
After being so impressed with “A Matter of Honor,” I didn’t expect to have another episode eclipse it so soon. I had forgotten that “The Measure of a Man” was in season two.
As I continue watching TNG, I’m going to keep a personal Top 10 List. So far, there are only two shows that have made the cut. And this one is #1.
I can’t wait to see which episode, if any, knocks it out of this spot.