Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Picard Retcons Classic TNG Episode

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Episode 8

The revelations about Star Trek: Picard's Romulan/Starfleet conspiracy retcons the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation season 2 episode "Measure of a Man". In the TNG sequel series about Jean-Luc Picard's twilight years, the central conflict revolves around the future of artificially intelligent beings in the United Federation of Planets. At the heart of the issue is Soji (Isa Briones), the synthetic daughter of the late Commander Data (Brent Spiner), who was built by Dr. Bruce Maddox (John Ales). However, Star Trek: Picard's story potentially sheds new light on the events leading to the pivotal trial over Data's rights as an artificial lifeform in TNG season 2.

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In "Measure of a Man", Commander Bruce Maddox (Brian Brophy) of the Daystrom Institute intended to have Data declared the property of Starfleet so that he could dismantle the android and potentially create a "race of Datas". Captain Picard defended Data in a trial that would determine whether or not the android was a free and sentient being, with Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) reluctantly serving as Maddox's advocate. Thankfully, Picard won the trial and Data was able to determine his destiny, choosing to remain a Starfleet Officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D. However, Data struck up a friendship with Maddox; the android communicated with the cyberneticist regularly (as seen in the TNG season 4 episode "Data's Day") and he kept Maddox informed of his progress towards becoming more human. For his part, Maddox held onto his dream of one day exceeding the work of Data's creator, Dr. Noonien Soong. By Star Trek: Picard's era over 30 years later, Maddox did just that by creating a race of synthetics superior to Data, including Soji, from one of the android's neurons.

In Star Trek: Picard episode 8, "Broken Pieces", Jean-Luc and his ragtag crew finally cobbled together the full scope of the Romulans' vast conspiracy against Soji, who the alien villains believe to be "the Destroyer" fated to bring about the end of life in the galaxy. As Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd) explained, the Zhat Vash, a synthetics-hating sect of the Romulan Tal Shiar, was behind the attack on Mars by rogue androids in 2385. This led to the United Federation of Planets' permanent ban on all synthetic lifeforms in the galaxy, which, in turn, caused Bruce Maddox to flee to an unknown planet and continue his work, eventually creating Soji. But it was actually Noonien Soong's creation of Data decades prior that set the Zhat Vash's plot into motion and they planted their half-Romulan/half-Vulcan agent, Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), into Starfleet. Oh eventually rose up the ranks to become a Commodore and the head of Starfleet Security, but Oh was already in place when Maddox first met Data in "Measure of a Man" - which means Maddox could have been unwittingly sent to the Enterprise-D by Oh herself.

If Oh was indeed secretly behind Maddox's original attempt to strip away Data's rights and have him declared Starfleet's property, this changes the very nature of "Measure of a Man". The retcon implies that had Maddox won the trial, he might not have been able to create his race of Datas after all because Oh would have seen to it that Data was destroyed so that no more synthetics could be made in his stead. Of course, the fact that Data had doppelgangers like Lore and B-4 elsewhere in the galaxy meant that the Zhat Vash's mission wouldn't be over, but eliminating Data would have meant Maddox couldn't have created even more evolved synthetics in the future.

However, there's no evidence that Maddox was working for Oh or that he was ever aware of Oh's true nature as a Romulan mole during the TNG years; it was only after the synthetics ban in 2385 that the cybernetics genius suspected a conspiracy and he dispatched Soji and her twin Dahj to learn the truth. But since Star Trek: Picard has retconned events so that Oh was already in Starfleet during the Enterprise-D's legendary voyages, it changes the circumstances surrounding why Bruce Maddox wanted to possess Data in the first place. At the very least, it will be hard for Trekkers to watch TNG's "Measure of a Man" the same way again.

Star Trek: Picardstreams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Amazon Prime Video.


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