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Define Life. What counts as life? Can a machine be considered life? 

This is the question that this episode sets out to answer. Data is the perfect analogue through which to answer this question. Data throughout the show, is on a quest to discover and grow his humanity. He spends much of the show’s length trying various things. 

The idea of Data’s humanity is never put to a question until this episode. The scientist Maddox wants to study data, learn more about him by means of disassembly. He believes that the information gathered this way will help him recreate data and ultimately replicate him. This purstit is deemed to be a noble one and Maddox requests Data submit to the procedure.

Data, inquires and is ultimately not convinced the procedure is safe to the essence of data’s memories. While the technical aspects of the information will remain the same some part could be lost. Data asserts his perceived humanity and refuses to be part of it. Maddox then reveals that Data is to be transferred to Maddox’s control and is left with the option to either submit or resign.

Data then formally resigns from Starfleet and is stopped when Maddox declares Data as Property of Starfleet, not as a member of it. Picard then declares that the ruling in unjust and challenges it. Sparking a trial to discover the humanity of data. This trial Is the crux of the episode.

Picard has to prove that data is not a piece of hardware like the ship’s computer. This sparks the debate about what should be considered life. Is Data a toaster? Do toasters have rights? In the trial Maddox defines life as 3 fold; Intelligence, Self-Awareness, and Consciousness. 

Picard then opens the box on the idea that, one data is a curiosity, but a thousand, is a race. And how we treat a race different from our own defines how we are as humans. What is determined is that the issue that is being danced around is slavery. Weather data is human or not, he is designed to become a slave to the whims of humans. And all that come after him are doomed to the same fate.

This episode really cuts to the heart of the issue and very definitely takes a stance that data is in fact more than the ship’s computer  and deserves the rights of a hum