Measure of a Man is an incredibly important episode for TNG because of the focus on classifying who or what Data is. For the whole series, Data is an integral character, and to accept him as a character, the question between man and machine had to be addressed.
The episode is structured in a way that allows us to think our way through the question with Picard. We had considered Data to be interesting and entertaining up until this point, but was he the equivalent of a human? We had been positioned to believe so by the series, but could we prove that to be the case? It was only Picard\'s gut feeling that felt Data to be a \"self,\" an independent being. How could feelings stand up in a court of law?
Giunan\'s allusion to slavery was effective and placed in the correct portion of the episode. We had been considering the question for 40 minutes, but hadn\'t considered what it would mean for Data to be property and infinitely reproducible. The culture of Slavery viewed their slaves in the same way that we had been viewing Data; they were a fixture of the environment, but separate from us and useful only for maintaining society\'s present condition. With the hindsight of 150 years, we can say that that thinking was fallible, tragically so. Picard is given the opportunity to stop it before such a system comes into place. And we, knowing the consequences, are cheering for him to succeed. It\'s a very engaging episode, to say the least.
My only question: How could Star Fleet ever have considered someone who willingly entered its organization to be its property? Would they have gone after Data for research if he hadn\'t have been in Star Fleet at all?