I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
“Half a Life”
The Enterprise is to help the people of Kaelon II try to rejuvenate their sun and so continue surviving. Dr. Timicin, a leading scientist from the reclusive people, comes aboard. As he conducts experiments, Lwaxana Troi, aboard for other reasons, quickly falls for him (and he for her). However, after the experiment ultimately fails, Dr. Timicin is recalled. It turns out he is to die, because he has reached the traditional age at which the people of Kaelon II euthanize the eldest generation. After seeking asylum, Dr. Timicin is ultimately convinced by his daughter (and others) to return home, despite not having finished his life’s work. Lwaxana Troi disagrees with the custom but utlimately returns with him.
The first line of this episode is from Deanna Troi and ends with: “My mother is on board.” It is at this point I knew this episode would probaby be super hard to watch. But honestly, the shortcomings (i.e. the continued existence of Lwaxana Troi) are in part overcome by the episode itself.
The problem is that this is the kind of story which the writers apparently think is the only possible one for Lwaxana Troi–a parade of failed love interests. I caught myself thinking: Oh look, Lwaxana Troi throws herself at another man and something causes an epic failure in the relationship.
Yeah, big surprise right? It’s unfortunate because if the previous episodes with the elder Troi had been able to establish any kind of decent rapport with her character as opposed to being utter drivel, it would be easier to sympathize with her and perhaps overlook the rehash of her story.
The main plot, however, is intriguing enough to cover some of the sins of the character. Indeed, Troi looks downright gracious when she finally gives in and goes down to the planet alongside her latest love interest in an act of solidarity. The episode really ends up being an intriguing look at the topic of euthanasia and the ethical quagmire that can be brought up around it. Dr. Timicin is a decent guest character with a pretty solid backstory and enough rapport with viewers to make us care what happens to him.
And heck, making Lwaxana Troi somewhat more likeable is an epic feat on its own. Not a great episode, but amazingly not terrible. The best moment: Picard trying to slowly worm his way around to avoid Lwaxana at the beginning of the episode, only to be caught. Hilarious!
Grade: B- “Performs a miracle: It makes Lwaxana Troi slightly less atrocious.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It dealt with some difficult issues but overall was not super exciting.”
An ambassador the Enterprise is shuttling around, Odan, has hit it off with Dr. Crusher. However, when a militant faction causes an injury, it turns out that the body that Crusher had known was merely the host for a parasite that was the real intellect behind the man. They implant the Trill parasite in Riker for the negotiations, which leads to much akwardness as Riker’s body is guided by Odan’s mind and still loves Crusher. The negotiations succeed, and Odan gets a new host–a woman! Crusher can’t handle the craziness of changing bodies and the two depart on friendly terms.
It seems we again tread familiar ground with a female character. Haven’t we seen Beverly Crusher get swept away by some random guy before? Well kind of. But parts of this episode seem to also mirror Deanna Troi in episodes like “The Price.” Here, it is Troi giving Crusher knowing looks and random insights about being in love. It’s almost like it’s the same dialogue/scenes just with the characters reversed. Very strange.
Speaking of strange, there are just too many plot holes here to take the premise itself as seriously as it needs to be taken. Where do the Trill get hosts? What of the host bodies? Did no one really consider the possible damaage to Riker? Who became first officer? What would have happened if the Trill took sensitive Starfleet data from Riker’s mind? The questions multiple interminably. Granted, this is science fiction–and Star Trek at that–so the suspension of disbelief is expected. However, that suspension can only be pushed so far.
Moreover, I wish that we could get more episodes that made better use of Crusher (like “Remember Me”). I get it, she’s a female doctor, so she apparently must have a love interest for her. But really? Do we? Pulaski got some episodes where she got to be an epic doctor as a doctor (like “Unnatural Selection“) so why can’t Crusher? And to make it worse, we know TNG can do it because it has done it before. I expect better, but maybe that’s a testament to how good season 4 has been.
Grade: C “Rehashed plot with a whole bunch of holes.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Overall a good episode but not outstanding.”
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