Plot Synopsis: An elderly Starfleet admiral hides a terrible secret as he leads the Enterprise in a hostage rescue mission.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here seems like it will lead to an original plot: a Federation ambassador and his staff have been taken hostage and they’re demanding a Federation officer to resolve the dispute. The governor of the planet says only one man will do: Admiral Mark Jameson. The dude is 85 and in a wheelchair but he comes on board with his wife and says he’s not just an advisor, he’s been empowered to take direct command of the mission. Plot A here has to do with the hostages and the admiral, there is no plot B in this episode. The governor of the planet doesn’t seem to like the admiral very much, which the admiral attributes to wounded pride in the staff meeting. We get some scenes that show the admiral is having some pain, and five minutes later the wheelchair-bound guy gets up and walks down the bridge. As we find out he took some anti-aging serum on some planet and this is all just a grudge match between him and the governor of the planet. It’s got the elements of a good episode, but the execution just doesn’t work like it should. The story isn’t terrible and the director Rob Bowman does what he can with it but it’s just not enjoyable, probably because nothing really happens until the last five minutes.
Favorite Scenes: A scene that actually works is where Jameson explains his age reversal, with his wife and Picard; our interest is actually kept and some good dialogue occurs. He doesn’t explain why he did it for this mission, and later on when he does it’s just him and Picard, and this scene too seems to work with some good back-and-forth. Finally there are a couple of lines that I remember that James and his wife say to each other at the end of the episode as he’s dying, and that I want to use when I’m older:
Anne: *leaning in* Mark, can you hear me?
Anne: I will always love you.
Jameson: Annie with the golden hair…
Anne: *smiles a little* Flatterer, it’s gray now.
Jameson: I see only the gold…
Use of Cast/Characters: Wil Wheaton had this episode off. Really nobody gets much character development in this one. Picard has the most lines and comes across as looking out for his crew in the presence of his unpredictable and obsessed superior; Troi does try to contribute something in the first 10 minutes, and Crusher fails again to be helpful as the doctor, but at least she gets some featuring here. Riker, Data, Geordi, Tasha, and Worf barely needed to show up. Marsha Hunt, who played Jameson’s wife is a really good guest star. If you watch her, she is authentic throughout and very believable as his wife and as someone who is struggling through what his decisions mean for both of them–she is one of the few bright spots in this episode. Clayton Rohner, who played Jameson, is alright but doesn’t do anything to impress me. Michael Pataki who plays Karnas actually does a good job in his role, his anger is palpable but he comes close to overacting.
Blu Ray Version: Two good-looking planets. A rare complaint: the red beams coming from the opposing soldiers around the 33rd minute during the assault still look pretty cheap. They should’ve been punched-up a bit.
Nitpicks: At about 4:53 and for several seconds after those dang black cards on the back of the bridge make another appearance. Jameson calls Riker number one–dang it dude only Picard gets to do that, he’s not your number one! There’s a strange scene where Dr Crusher is first sharing her concerns about the admiral hiding something and Picard practically insults her in response (which Gates does a good job of reacting to), then seems to offer to have her on the bridge to make sure he stays in good health as if he’s saying “now there’s a good doctor, I’ve given you something to do!” It seems patronizing. Later on Picard accompanies the away team on an armed raid to rescue the hostages?! That makes no sense and places him in danger for no good reason. Later when Karnas meets Jameson wouldn’t he recognize him from when he was younger?
Overall Impression: This is the first of several episodes throughout the series where a visiting admiral comes on board and proceeds to screw everything up for the crew. Sometimes it’s in the context of a good episode, but not in this case. It’s a pretty bad episode, and I’m having a tough time putting my finger on why but I just don’t like this one. Maybe it’s because almost none of the Enterprise crew gets to participate in more than a cameo-type role, or I just don’t enjoy the admiral/governor thing. Then again it could be that nothing actually happens in this episode, 95% of it is just talking. As far as this episode is concerned, I rate it 1 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This episode was the 15th episode aired, but was the 11th episode made. Rob Bowman didn’t like this episode either, saying it was too verbose. In addition the cast didn’t really get along with Rohner, they thought he didn’t mesh well with an ensemble cast. The admiral’s wheelchair didn’t really work at all, it just kinda sat there and became the biggest hindrance in the making of the episode. Evidently the “arms for hostages” element of the story was supposed to mimic the Iran-Contra affair, though I don’t think that would have ever occurred to me. If you take a good look at Michael Pataki you may recognize him, he played Korax in the famous original series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
Missable/Unmissable? Definitely missable. There’s not much here that is really that memorable, and it’s just not a fun episode to watch. The next episode is better, but not by a whole lot.