Half a Life
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
6 May 1991
Season Ep :
In discussing her outfit, Lwaxana says "I am a woman dressing for a man. Something you might try now and then, dear." Um, honey, have you seen how Deanna dresses? Half the time she's about one step shy of walking around in her underwear!
When trying to reignite the star, Geordi refers to the temperature approaching "sixty million degrees Kelvin." The Kelvin scale doesn't use "degrees"; you would simply say "sixty million Kelvin."
Great Moment :
Picard nervously peeking out of the turbolift to make Lwaxana isn't around. Just a funny lighthearted moment.
Body Count :
Nobody dies during the episode, although Timicin almost certainly dies shortly afterwards.
One of the screens in engineering is labelled "composite sensor analysis 4077". This is, of course, a tip of the hat to the series MASH, in which David Ogden Stiers starred.
Also, Michelle Forbes makes her first Star Trek appearence in this episode before returning later on in the series as Ensign Ro Laren.
The Enterprise-D is at Kaelon II, a planet populated by a humanoid species who are traditionally quite reclusive and inward looking. They have recently sought contact with the Federation because their sun is dying. Their scientists believe they may be able to reignite the star, but they lack the technology to exploit the science and hope the Federation will be able to help. The ship is hosting the planet's leading scientist, Dr. Timicin, for an experiment intended to validate his work.
Matters are complicated by the presence of Lwaxana Troi on the ship. She insists on joining Picard to welcome Timicin aboard, appointing herself as the "entertainment director" for his visit and clearly quite taken with him.
Timicin's plan is to modify some of the ship's photon torpedoes to reinitiate the fusion process within the Kaelon star. They intend to test the process on a virtually identical star nearby. However the experiment fails, provoking the star into a supernova. Timicin is especially crushed by the failure since he is approaching 60 - by the customs of his world he is expected to return home and engage in voluntary euthanasia, something all Kaelons do at that age in order not to burden the younger generations. Lwaxana is devastated by the news; she demands that Captain Picard intervene to save Timicin, although he has no legal grounds to do so. She argues the barbarity of the practice to Timicin himself, using an example from Betazoid history in which women wore ridiculous wigs containing small caged animals. The practice stopped when one woman finally took a stand and refused to follow the custom, prompting other women to join her until the custom itself faded away. Although reluctant, Timicin has a revelation when he realises that the data from his failed experiment could be used to correct the scientific model he used, ironing out the flaws and creating a working method - but the catch is, he is probably the only man who could do it, and the process will take considerable time.
This revelation prompts him to request asylum aboard the Enterprise. The planetary government is furious - at first the suspect that Timicin has been coerced, or at the very least influenced. They even threaten the Enterprise with warships. When Timicin tries to transmit his data to the planet, they refuse all communication - even if he has the answer, they will not accept it from him.
After a tense standoff, Timicin's daughter comes aboard to plead with her father to see sense. Although he is torn, ultimately he changes his mind and returns with her to end his life. A sad Lwaxana chooses to go with him, stating that according to the tradition his loved ones should be "celebrating" this custom with him, and she counts herself amongst them.
A decent episode all in all, this one, but it just never really gelled with me. I find myself wondering at the variety of attitudes people must have towards this custom - surely not every single person on the planet goes into it joyfully? If Timicin had returned home and simply refused, what then? Is he just executed out of hand? How does everyone justify that twist, when it happens? The episode never really explores any of this. And yes, it's unfair to criticise an episode for not being about what you wished it was about. I just found the tack they took a bit bland, in the end. Kudos, though, for the fact that they went with the less than obvious ending by having Timicin actually go through with it at the end.
Also, one must give credit to Majel Barret, who is absolutely fantastic as Lwaxana. The character started out as rather broad comic relief, but as time went on one saw the insecurities and fears that lay beneath that front. It made the character rather poignant, and this is a wonderful example of that.