Saga of the Jasonite

The continuing adventures of that eternal man of mystery…

Review of Episode 95: Half a Life

Enjoy it while you can!

Plot Synopsis: Lwaxana Troi causes trouble when she finds out that a scientist she has fallen in love with is due to commit ritual suicide.

Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser gives us little insight into the episode. Lwaxana Troi is on board, and drapes herself all over Picard, who’s greeting the leading scientist from a “rather reclusive race” with whom they are having their “first real contact.” Of course Lwaxana commandeers the greeting and hits on the guy. Plot A is about Timicin (the scientist) and Lwaxana and a dying star, there is no plot B. In a nutshell, the sun of Timicin’s planet is dying and it’s been the work of generations to find a way to revitalize it. They plan to test his solution on an identical star in another system. The plot is mostly about Lwaxana putting the moves on Timicin and the crew trying the special torpedoes on the star. Then in the 14th minute things go wrong when they make the star supernova. Whoops. After this occurs the heart of the episode’s conflict reveals itself: when someone from Timicin’s planet turns 60, they are expected to euthanize. The rest of the plot debates this from every angle, and Timicin himself is affected, swinging first one way then the other. The episode resolves in a way that we may or may not agree with, but one that we do understand.

Favorite Scenes: Even though Lwaxana has a reputation for being annoying, she does infuse her character with a lot of character, and her relationship with Deanna can be enjoyable to watch. There’s a nice little exchange with her and Deanna in her quarters:

Lwaxana: I am a woman dressing for a man, something you might try now and then, dear. I wonder if Timicin likes green?

Deanna: That’s not very telepathic of you.

Lwaxna: Oh, I tried telepathy on him. He’s the wrong species. Right species for everything else, though! You might try that once in a while too…

Deanna: You know, you’re not just incorrigible. You’re insatiable.

*Lwaxana laughs*

Makes me wonder what Majel Barrett had to deal with, being married to Gene Roddenberry, who Marina Sirtis and others have referred to as a “dirty old man.” Another scene that occurs later has stuck with me. Lwaxana and Timicin are debating his world’s policy, he characterizes the deaths of those turning 60 as a benefit, passing on the responsibility of life from one generation to the next. The whole conversation is maybe the best scene of the episode:

Lwaxana: What about the responsibility of caring for the elderly?

Timicin: That would place a dreadful burden on the children.

Lwaxana *scoffing*: We raise them, we care for them, we suffer for them, we keep them from harm their whole lives. Now eventually, it’s their turn to take care of us.

Timicin: No parent should expect to be paid back for the love they’ve given their children.

Lwaxana *somewhat indignantly*: Well why the hell not?!

The debate ends when she concludes talking about their sun: “Ah, well, if that’s the way it is, I don’t know why anyone’s bothering to try to save your planet at all. If its time has come, let it die. Where’s the difference, Timicin? Where?”

Oh yeah, there are other people in this episode. Some of whom are pregnant.

Use of Cast/Characters: Picard, Riker, Data, Worf, Geordi, Beverly (who only has one line) and even Deanna are mostly just placeholders, and take a backseat in this guest-character-driven episode. I really like David Ogden Stiers’ performance. Maybe he pauses a bit too much while delivering his lines, but one can feel a weight burdening him that infuses his character, which upon a second viewing is more rewarding than the first. The weight of his burden is initially trying to save his world, and later of considering fighting against his own culture. He says it himself: “Alive, I am a greater threat to my world than a dying sun.” Michelle Forbes has only one brief scene but she gives an excellent, persuasive performance; she’s so good that she was offered the part of ensign Ro Laren next season largely because of it. Majel Barrett does a good job in this episode, giving my favorite performance since Haven, and possibly is my favorite appearance of her in the series. The plot here is miles above Haven, and she gains greater depth as a character: she’s warm, caring, sensitive and strong in a good way. And she gets to have sex.

Blu Ray Version: If you look at the planet in the opening shot, it’s pretty clearly showing the continent of Australia. Take a look at 40:25. If you watch the top right of the screen as Lwaxana leaves the mirror and walks to the right, you can see the shadow of the boom mike as it follows her to catch her dialogue. At 34:32 you can see the reflection of another boom mike above the Enterprise graphic to the left of Picard as he enter the Bridge. Also, if you pause at 30:42 or so you’ll see the shot is clear enough for us to read Composite Sensor Playback 4077, a nod to David Ogden Stiers having played Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H for years.

Aww, who can say no to those eyes and that hair?

Nitpicks: You know, I can only think of one. It’s a rare criticism of Patrick Stewart. In the opening scene he is hesitantly coming out of his quarters, trying to avoid Lwaxana. I wasn’t a fan of his performance during the whole scene where they walk to the turbo lift. I know it’s supposed to be him feeling awkward, uncomfortable, etc, but I didn’t like the way he played it. I could see him acting that way, as an actor, instead of genuinely feeling that way as a character. I wish they’d done a couple of more takes and used one of those. I’m also not sure how I feel about the title of this episode, either.

Overall Impression: This is an episode that looks at a couple of social issues related to age: euthanasia and the worth of older adults. One the one hand you have the right to ‘die with dignity’ and on the other the devaluation of the elderly in western society. Whichever side you come down on there are thoughtful, well-reasoned arguments delivered to represent it in this episode. It’s not preachy, and both guest stars give very good performances. It’s not among the very best of Trek, but I think it’s well-written and acted. There’s not much here for those that don’t like when the episode isn’t about the main cast, however. To me, this episode still holds up and I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Off to my death now,. Talk to you…uh, later?

Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is the first episode Peter Allan Fields wrote. He’ll go on to write two more TNG episodes (including my favorite Star Trek episode of all time) and 10 DS9 episodes, one of which is frequently cited as the greatest DS9 episode (In the Pale Moonlight). Not bad.

This is the only episode where Deanna has the opening log entry for an episode. This episode was nominated for an Emmy in Music Composition. Take a look at the table at around 7:30 when Lwaxana clears all the PADDs off of it; a second after she does it we see it’s back on the table again. Hmm. Take a closer look at the dresses Lwaxana is trying on at about 10:30. The blue and red dresses were worn in Manhunt, and the green one was given to her in Menage a Troi. If you take a look at Beverly around 34:45 you’ll see she is visibly pregnant at this point in the season. This might have something to do with her tiny amount of screen time.

Missable/Unmissable? Missable but I like it, and it can be thought provoking for those who watch it. The next one takes on another social issue that’s particularly relevant nowadays.

Previous:  The Drumhead                                                Season Four Menu                                          Next:  The Host