Star Trek: The Next Generation (1991): S04E22 – Half a Life


Introduction

“Half a Life” is the 22nd episode of the fourth season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 96th episode overall. It was originally released on 06 May 1991, in broadcast syndication. The episode was the first of the series written by Peter Allan Fields, who later joined the writing staff. Director Les Landau said that “Half a Life” was a morality play about “how society deals with the elderly”.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett) falls in love with Timicin (David Ogden Stiers), a Kaelon scientist who is attempting to test his theories of stellar ignition in the hopes of saving his world’s dying star. The experiment fails, and Lwaxana encourages Timicin to continue his research, but as he is about to turn sixty years of age, he prepares instead for a ritual suicide. According to Timicin’s cultural tradition, his people voluntarily choose euthanasia to prevent the aged from becoming a burden to the younger generation.

The episode features the first appearance of Michelle Forbes in the Star Trek franchise; she would later appear as Ensign Ro Laren during season five. The cast praised the story and the expansion of the Lwaxana character. The episode received positive reviews, with critics noting the performances of Stiers and Barrett, their character’s love story, and the changes to the Lwaxana character.

Outline

The U.S.S. Enterprise takes aboard Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis)’s eccentric mother Lwaxana (Majel Barrett) and Dr. Timicin (David Ogden Stiers) of Kaelon II. Timicin is brought aboard to conduct an experiment which he hopes will save his threatened home planet, as its sun is in a state of near-collapse.

The Federation enlists the Enterprise to take Timicin to a sun in a similar state of decay to conduct experiments which may yield a method for saving the Kaelon system from destruction.

Upon arrival at their destination, the crew assists Timicin in modifying photon torpedoes to launch into the proxy sun with the expectation that it will repair the damaged star and prove that the technique can be safely applied to the Kaelon sun. The torpedoes are fired and, although the experiment seems initially to work, the effect is short-lived and the star explodes. The Enterprise returns to Kaelon II.

Timicin is crushed, and after some questioning by Lwaxana, he reveals that there are other things troubling him. Timicin tells Lwaxana that he is about to turn 60, and on Kaelon II, everyone who reaches that age performs the “Resolution”, a ritual act of voluntary euthanasia. Lwaxana is outraged to learn of this and brings it to the attention of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart).

Picard makes it clear to Lwaxana that due to the Prime Directive, he will not interfere in the planet’s local affairs. Lwaxana tries to beam herself down to the planet to halt the process herself but she is thwarted by Deanna who comforts her.

After Lwaxana and Timicin spend an evening together, he tries to explain the custom of the Resolution. He tells her that a fixed age had to be selected by the Kaelons because just randomly choosing a time to die would be heartless. Lwaxana finds the practice barbaric and refuses to accept the Kaelon tradition. She tells Timicin how a Betazed woman on her planet successfully fought the tradition of wearing ornate wigs that contained live, captive animals. It only took one courageous woman to step forward and end this cruel tradition (It is implied that the woman was Lwaxana herself.).

Lwaxana also compares Timicin’s plans to end his life with his research to save his star. If it is Timicin’s time to die, Lwaxana argues, perhaps it is also time for his star to die as well, so why should he continue to try to prevent it? Timicin thinks about what Lwaxana has told him.

Timicin’s analysis of the failed test turns up some promising options, but if he follows through with the Resolution, no one will have his experience and knowledge to carry on his work to save his world. Concerned, Timicin requests asylum on the Enterprise so that he can renounce the Resolution and continue his research. B’Tardat (Terrence E. McNally), the Science Minister on Kaelon II, is outraged after learning of Timicin’s request for asylum, and he sends up two warships to ensure that the Enterprise does not leave the system with Timicin on board.

As Picard orders the bridge crew to analyse the offensive capabilities of the Kaelonian ships, Timicin realises that his situation is not as simple as he had hoped, for his home planet will not accept any further reports from him, and he is told that even if he does find a solution, they will not accept it.

Dara (Michelle Forbes), Timicin’s daughter, beams on board the Enterprise to insist that he return to Kaelon II and undergo the Resolution. She tells him that she cannot bear the thought of him being laid to rest anywhere but next to her mother and, although she loves him, she is ashamed of him. Timicin realises that he is not the man to forge a cultural revolution, and agrees to return to Kaelon II. Lwaxana, despite her disagreement, realises that Timicin’s decision is his to make. As it is the custom for loved ones to be present at the Resolution, Lwaxana beams down to be with him at his side at the time of his death.

Star Trek TV Series

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Les Landau.
  • Writer(s): Ted Roberts and Peter Allan Fields.
  • Release Date: 06 May 1991.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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