Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Quality of Life

TNG Season 6 Episode 9
Air Date: November 16th, 1992

This episode is a parallel to Lt. Cmdr. Data's ongoing fight to have the same freedoms and rights as every other living being in the Federation. In this episode the Enterprise is inspecting a new mining laser that can drill from space and suck the rocks up without having to land or have people in mines. But it is having problems. The projects leader Dr. Farallon invented a kind of robot that can fit into tight spaces, replicated the tool need for the job and learn from each repair it does. She calls them exocomps. But when one exocomp doesn't perform the task which leads to a conduit exploding, Data realizes that it isn't a malfunction but rather self preservation.

Dr Farallon argues that the exocomps are just tools so she can wipe their memory and keep using them as tools, whereas Data believes they are alive and deserve protection by the Federation. In the end, Data is able to prove that they are indeed self aware which leaves Cmdr. Riker with a tough situation. Lt. Cmdr. La Forge and Captain Picard are stuck on the drilling platform which is about to explode and it is either Geordi and Picard that dies or the exocomps. Data forces Rikers hand but Riker suggests letting the exocomps decide if they want to go.

The exocomps, knowing the drilling platform better then anyone come up with an alternative that saves the platform at the cost of just one exocomp.


"Doctor, what is the definition of life?" - Lt. Cmdr. Data
"That is a big question. Why do you ask?" - Doctor Crusher
"I am searching for a definition that will allow me to test an hypothesis." - Lt. Cmdr. Data
"Well, the broadest scientific definition might be that life is what enables plants and animals to consume food, derive energy from it, grow, adapt themselves to their surroundings and reproduce." - Doctor Crusher
"And you suggest that anything which exhibits these characteristics is considered alive?" - Lt. Cmdr. Data
"In general, yes." - Doctor Crusher
"What about fire?" - Lt. Cmdr. Data
"Fire?" - Doctor Crusher
"Yes. It consumes fuel to produce energy, it grows, it creates offspring. By your definition, is it alive?" - Lt. Cmdr. Data
"Fire is a chemical reaction. You could use the same argument for growing crystals, but obviously we don't consider them alive." - Doctor Crusher
"And what about me? I do not grow. I do not reproduce. I am considered to be alive." - Lt. Cmdr. Data
"That's true, but you are unique." - Doctor Crusher
"I wonder if that is so. " - Lt. Cmdr. Data

"Something more, Mr. Data?" - Captain Picard
"Yes, sir. I thought you might want to know why I was willing to risk your life for several small machines." - Lt. Cmdr. Data
"I think I understand the predicament you were in. It could not have been an easy choice." - Captain Picard
"No, sir, it was not. When my own status as a living being was in question, you fought to protect my rights. And for that I will always be grateful. The exocomps had no such advocate. If I had not acted on their behalf, they would have been destroyed. I could not allow that to happen, sir." - Lt. Cmdr. Data
"Of course you couldn't. It was the most human decision you've ever made." - Captain Picard

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