Picard Ruins Star Trek’s Most Powerful Moment

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

patrick stewart picard

One of the most powerful moments in science fiction history comes from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Measure of a Man.” In that episode, Captain Picard eloquently defends his android officer Data’s rights as a sentient being by successfully arguing that Starfleet treating him like any other machine means they are sanctioning the creation of a disposable slave race.

This rousing speech has inspired fans for decades; unfortunately, the Paramount Plus spinoff Star Trek: Picard ruins this powerful episode by showing that Picard now seemingly condones android slave labor.

Measure Of A Man

star trek data

The plot of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Measure of a Man” begins with a Starfleet officer named Bruce Maddox who wishes to dismantle Commander Data to better understand how the android’s complex neural net actually works.

His ultimate goal is to learn how to create a Soong-type android of his very own, but Data objects to this dangerous procedure, going so far as to quit Starfleet in an attempt to protect his synthetic life. When Maddox argues that Data is simply Starfleet property and therefore can’t resign, Picard must defend his officer’s rights as a living being in a court of law. 

Captain Picard Defends Data In Court

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Captain Picard is worried that he might lose the case, and he confesses it to the fan-favorite Star Trek character Guinan. She reminds him how worlds throughout history have created “disposable creatures” to “do the dirty work” and that Starfleet clearly wants “an army of Datas” that will become “whole generations of disposable people.” Realizing she is talking about slavery, Picard later argues that the court’s ruling will affect future forms of synthetic life, and he wins the case by asking the Judge Advocate General a simple question: “Are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him, to servitude and slavery?”

The Most Powerful Moment In Star Trek History

Brent Spiner Data Star Trek

It’s one of the most powerful moments in all of Star Trek history, and it reveals the brilliant irony of the episode’s title. In court, Picard and others must grapple with how to measure whether someone as unique as data is more man or machine. By the end of the episode, however, both the characters and the audience realize that their own humanity can and will be measured by how they treat android life forms such as Data in the future.

Picard Ruins The Episode

star trek picard

Unfortunately, the first season of Star Trek: Picard almost immediately ruins this episode by presenting a future in which Starfleet relies on armies of synthetic labor. They only stop doing so when the androids seemingly revolt and kill thousands of people.

This causes Starfleet to ban all forms of synthetic life, and while Picard opposes this outright ban from the beginning, it’s notable that he previously had no problem with Starfleet embracing the dark future he had predicted: countless disposable lifeforms that could be treated as the Federation’s slave labor force.

Star Trek: Picard Upsets Fans But Redeems Itself In Season 3

For longtime Star Trek fans, this was an early sign that Picard didn’t have a great handle on its title character, and it wasn’t until the final season of the show that we got a Picard who seemed vaguely like the inspirational man from The Next Generation.

Unfortunately, none of that changes how thoroughly the show ruined the message of “Measure of a Man,” and even though the rest of that first season focused on Picard fighting for android rights, we won’t forget how he suddenly became cool with Starfleet using an army of slaves for cheap labor while he kicked back at his chateau surrounded by Romulant servants. 

Q was right, Picard: humanity’s trial never ended. And from where we’re standing, you’re guilty of hypocrisy in the first degree.