No! Don't cut open Data!
Summary: Data receives a transfer order from Star Fleet that essentially requires him to undergo brain surgery, performed by a doctor Maddox that doesn't even believe he is sentient, and more importantly, hasn't done enough research to prepare for the operation. Data is worried that the procedure will strip him of his personality, a personality which Maddox does not even acknowledge exists. Picard brings the problem to Starfleet Judge Advocate General Philippa Louvois, who reveals that the Enterprise must prove that Data is not just property, so that Data can legally refuse the order from the Federation. Problem is, Riker must represent Maddox or there can be no trial because the Judge Advocate is currently understaffed. Picard then sets out to prove that Data has more than just strength and intelligence, but also wishes, desires, and many of the same things that humans have. The judge determines that Data is sentient, and therefore cannot be property. Data officially refuses the operation, but promises Maddox that he is interested in his research and may be willing to cooperate in the future, after Maddox has worked out more of the details.
The theme of this episode certainly wasn't unique, but I also feel that it couldn't have been placed earlier, like anywhere in season one. We had to see enough development of Data's character to believe the resolution here, and in that sense it certainly was a success. And, of course, it was a success because it had significant amounts of Brent Spiner's acting. And there weren't any lines that made me groan, so the writers held up their end on the dialogue.
This episode also benefited Picard's character, and was benefited by it. In a way it harkens back to that first episode where Picard was forced to argue on behalf of all humanity in Q's court of law. Except of course with less Q, and more of a stubborn, anal retentive woman that gets along with Picard only slightly better. Something about the court martial of the Stargazer, Picard's old ship. I gather Picard isn't very fond of trials.
But back to Data, since he and Picard are the only real characters in this episode - sorry Riker, but you get the shaft here once more as a second fiddle. Anyway, Data was awesome. The end.