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Star Trek: TNG's Sentient Being Scene Stands The Test Of Time Among Fans

When does a machine become a conscious, self-aware entity? As far as a fan-favorite episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is concerned, when that machine is Lt. Commander Data. Played for over 170 episodes by Brent Spiner, Data is a Soong-type android whose human qualities, or lack thereof, are a consistent theme and source of both conflict and occasional comedy throughout the series' life time.

The question of Data's true nature is most movingly debated in the episode "The Measure of a Man," airing during the show's Season 2 in 1989. An argument over whether the android is actually sentient comes about when a visiting scientist wants to examine Data in a way that involves disassembling him. When Data resigns from Starfleet to prevent this, a hearing is held to decide if he in fact has the right to resign, or is instead simply property and thus without any rights to self-determination. 

For fans viewing a YouTube clip of the scene where Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) successfully defends Data's contention that he is indeed sentient during a crucial hearing on the matter, the moment hasn't aged a bit. In fact, for "TNG" fan Auror Jeffrey commenting recently on the clip, it's "Among the greatest scenes of all time, from any genre and in any medium." Other "Star Trek: The Next Generation" aficionados seem to agree that Picard's performance in confirming Data's sentience is a stellar example of the show's timeless appeal.

Fans simply can't speak highly enough about this standout Star Trek: TNG moment

Other loyal viewers of "Star Trek: TNG" also single out the Picard-defending-Data moment in "The Measure of a Man" as one of the enduring highlights of the show. Reacting to the YouTube clip noted above, series' fan MrKajithecat cited the Picard actor's well-known classical stage background saying, "Patrick Stewart bringing Shakespearean training to Star Trek and just home running it every time." For commenter BigBrotherMateyka, the interlude represents peak TV in general, saying "This scene was so far ahead of its time, it's staggering. It's mature, humble, and thought-provoking: the finest in television entertainment."

Also focusing on the scene's undiminished appeal, viewer BanjoFrog tied their remarks into the current debate about today's rapidly advancing field of Artificial Intelligence. Praising the series overall, they add that "This episode is a pinnacle, especially in our modern age. The closer we get to AI, the more poignant this episode becomes." And the same apparently goes for "Star Trek: TNG" fan Jason Stiles, who says they saw the Sentient Being scene as a teenager; the scene gave them goosebumps then, and continues to do so today.