In addition to being a fanatic “runner”, I’m also very much a Star Trek devotee – The Next Generation series in particular. Recently I watched (..for the n’th time) the episode “The Measure of a Man” (Season 2, episode 9). This is truly one of my favourite season-2 episodes. For those not acquainted with this specific episode, I’ll give a brief summary of the plot.
Starfleet Command has given Commander Bruce Maddox, the holder of Daystrom Institute of Technology’s Chair of Robotics, premission to reallocate Lt. Commander Data (the android aboard U.S.S Enterprise) to a laboratory to conduct experiments with him. Maddox believes he will be able to duplicate the technology that is Data and provide each Federation Starship with a copy of the android. Data refuse to comply, but is overruled by a local J.A.G. officer who based her decision on Maddox’s statement that Data is not a person with rights, but property of the Federation. Captain Picard challenges this ruling which is only supported by an old twenty-first century precedent, and a formal hearing must be conducted. The focus of the hearing start with whether or not Data has rights and are the property of the Federation, but the focus quickly changes to whether or not Data is sentient. Before Picard holds his closing arguments, he has a discussion with Guinan (a wise old alien, who is currently employed as a bar keeper aboard the Enterprise). She makes a subtle comment that the Federation’s desire to create and own a race of disposable androids is the recreation of slavery.
Every time I watch this episode, I’m intrigued with the similarities between this plot and the struggle of the replicants in Blade Runner. Obviously we have something to learn from both perspectives, even though in one hand we’re dealing with a pure technical entity, whilst in the other a genetically engineered entity. In the Star Trek episode, the problem is solved before it became a possible disaster, by ruling that Lt. Cmdr. Data was to be granted full rights equal to those given to humans. However in Blade Runner, the problem has manifested itself in a replicant rebellion against its creators, and is being subdued by implementing the four-year life span. A solution that only inflames an already critical situation.
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