I had the opportunity last night to attend the Fathom Events Celebration of Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 movie event. I attended the first season event as well, but wasn't terribly impressed with what I saw other than the simple nostalgia factor. I'm not a huge fan of the first two seasons of Next Gen, but I was really looking forward to the season 2 event because Fathom and Paramount chose my two favorite episodes from the season: "Q Who" and "The Measure of a Man".
In addition, the version of "The Measure of a Man" being shown was actually an extended cut of the episode. According to the behind-the-scenes featurette, the original script was very dialogue-heavy, and the producers underestimated how long the episode would end up being. The original version ended up being too long for network TV and was cut in editing by about 13 minutes. The full version of the episode, however, was retained on a VHS cassette given to the writer, and is going to be included on the Season 2 blu-ray.
"The Measure of a Man" is easily (in my opinion) the single, best episode of the first two seasons of Next Generation, and is arguably one of the best episodes of the entire series. It marks the point at which the show really started to turn a corner and elevate its storytelling and presentation. Seeing an extended cut (that I'd never before seen) on the big screen was a real treat!
I was very ambivalent about purchasing the Next Gen blu-rays. I had initially expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the packages, but was later informed that some special effect shots were replaced and/or augmented with CGI. I purchased the blu-ray sample disc, and was not terribly impressed with what I saw. The visual quality didn't seem all that much better than watching the regular DVDs on my PS3 (which has a pretty good upscaler). The only real positive points for the blu-ray sample disc was that colors were a bit more vivid, and sound quality had increased dramatically. So I wasn't totally sold on the new blu-rays, especially since I already have the full DVD collection and seasons one and two don't impress me all that much anyway. I was kind of in a position of waiting to see if seasons 3 and 4 would impress me.
But then I saw the extended cut of "The Measure of a Man", and now I am considering picking up the season two blu-ray (and possibly even the season one set). Since I don't already own a copy of the extended episode, that means that the blu-ray collection now has something extra that I don't have but want. 13 minutes of additional footage is a lot for a TV show! On top of that, the additional footage was almost all good stuff! It's a shame that it had to be cut because there are some good scenes in the extended material.
Two scenes stood out to me as being very positive additions to the episode:
First, is an extended version of Picard's initial conversation with Data regarding his transfer to Commander Maddox. At this point, Picard had not yet taken up the mantle of defending Data's rights, and even tries to tell Data that it is his duty as a Starfleet officer to undergo the procedure.
The other sequence that I particularly enjoyed was a conversation between Riker and Troi, in which Riker asks Troi if she senses anything from Data's mind (Troi being partly telepathic). Troi confesses that she doesn't, and conceded that it may be very possible that Data is nothing but programming and code, but also states that there are some biological species whom she can't read either.
Both of these scenes add an extra bit of depth to the characters and their relationship with Data. It's really the first time that they all have to stop and wonder if Data is "real" or not, and even they can't say for sure that he is.
Picard defending Data's right to chose in the TNG Season 2 masterpiece "The Measure of a Man"
There was one scene, however, that I thought probably did deserve to be cut. It was an extension to the scene at Data's going-away party after Data decides to resign. In the extension, Maddox himself shows up to ask Data what he's going to do now that he will no longer be in Starfleet, and Data says he will probably teach. So far, so good. But then Maddox goes a bit off the rails and comments that perhaps Data should join a circus and be a sideshow that people can gawk at. The group doesn't like this comment, and Worf even steps forward and would have beat Maddox to a pulp if Riker hadn't stopped him and dragged Maddox out of the lounge himself.
I like Worf's reaction to Maddox's comment, and it shows the strong bond between the characters, but I was a bit put off by Maddox's actual comment. Not just because it's mean, but because I thought it was the only example of bad writing in the episode. It felt out-of-character. Perhaps Maddox was just frustrated that he wasn't getting what he wanted, but I didn't like how mean-spirited this comment makes Maddox seem. Maddox clearly does not respect Data as a person, and this is clear by the way he constantly refers to Data using the pronoun "it" instead of "him" or "he", and by the way that he rarely looks at Data when conversing with or about Data. The episode does have a strong racism and slavery theme in it, but Maddox, as a character shouldn't be depicted as being "racist" against Data in the traditional sense. Maddox's treatment of Data always seemed to me to be more of a professional detachment in the same way that a pharmaceutical researcher would be professional detached from test animals. Maddox doesn't think of Data as being "human", but his treatment of Data isn't intentionally cruel.
Maddox's comment in this scene is outright intentional cruelty. Furthermore, since Maddox doesn't think of Data as human, and doesn't think that Data has any feelings to hurt, then he would know that the comment won't hurt Data. This would mean that it would have to have been intended to provoke Data's friends. This sort of cruelty isn't something that would seem to have been in Maddox's character, and seems like an unnecessary attempt to arbitrarily villainize Maddox.
This one scene with Maddox ended up being my only complaint with the extended cut. The rest of the new scenes made an already great episode even better.
Based on the preview of season three that was shown at the end of this episode, I expect the next Fathom Event to feature the classic episodes "Yesterday's Enterprise" and "The Best of Both Worlds, Part I". And season three is where the show finally started to really look pretty, so we'll finally see just how good the improved visuals can get. I can't wait!