The Rewatch 171: Half a Life

Series: Star Trek: TNG
Episode: 4.22 Half a Life (05/06/1991)
Rating: 4/5
Redshirt Status: 0/1/34

Notable Guest Stars:
David Ogden Stiers (Timicin) Stiers has been in many television shows, but perhaps he is best remembered as Charles Winchester III from M*A*S*H.  He has also appeared as a Replicant on one of my favorite shows, Stargate Atlantis.

Michelle Forbes (Dara) Forbes was a star on Guiding Light, but more importantly she would return to TNG as a reoccurring character Ensign Ro Laren.

Terrence E. McNally (B’Tardat) McNally is no longer actively doing acting work, and now is known for his radio work hosting Free Forum .He also wrote and produced the film Earth Girls are Easy(1988).

Carel Struycken (Mr. Homn)  Lwaxana is once again accompanied by her valet, Homn, better known as Lurch from The Adams Family Films.

WARNING:  This episode involves discussion of euthanasia and ritual suicide.

Review:

This episode is a Lwaxana episode, so you expect it is going to be full of the general hilarious that accompanies her, but instead we are treated to a bittersweet love story and a tragic ending.

Timicin is a physicist belonging to the planet Kaelon II.  The planet is in danger of loosing its sun, and Timicin has accepted on behalf of his people assistance from the Federation (and Enterprise) to test the ongoing theories and designs to revive their sun.

Kaelon II is very insular, not really found of being among other species.  In fact, it is possible that if their sun wasn’t such a major issue, they would have avoided the Federation all together.  They have also developed a way of dealing with an aging population by creating “The Resolution.”  Upon reaching the age of 60, Kaelonians are expected to commit ritual suicide to spear their families the burden and pain of watching them in decline.

Timicin is 59 years old, and fastly approaching his resolution.  It is a deeply held belief for him, but working with the Federation, and his blooming romance with Lwaxana he finds himself questioning it.

Sadly, Timicin does not change his world’s view, but eventually succumb to his own beliefs on the matter and returns home.  Lwaxana who desperately hates the idea even accompanies him because she loves him.

It brings up two issues.  The idea of Euthanasia- or assisted suicide- is a polarizing topic.  There are many who hold deeply that suicide, for whatever reason, is wrong.  Others feel it is mercy, allowing those who are declining in health or in mind to choose how they leave the world.  It’s not an easy topic even if you are sure which side of the topic you stand on.

The second issue is the idea of children taking care of their aging parents as they decline in life.  Lwaxana sees it as part of the cycle of life.  You bear children, love them, raise them and send them out as adults, and in the end, they take care of you.  Not out of duty but love.

Timicin sees this as horrible, putting such a burden on the children you bear, thinking it is not right to expect them to “pay” for your love and affection.

They spend quite a bit of the episode arguing over this, and the resolution. It also has Lwaxana dealing with the fact that she herself is an older woman.  She’s a little bit more serious in this episode, not quite as forward and more reserved.  You can still see the strong woman she’s always been, and it takes a lot for her to arrive at the end to watch Timicin’s Resolution.

Interesting Notes:

  • Written by Peter Allen-Fields (First credit on Star Trek)
  • Directed by Les Landau
  • According to Memory Alpha this is the only episode where the opening log is done by Deanna Troi.
  • This is one of the few episodes that deal with guest characters more so then any of the main characters.  While Deanna and Picard feature prominently, the story is not about them.  They are the minor characters in this story.
  • The music for this episode was nominated for an Emmy.
  • Oddly enough, Stiers was involved with North and South miniseries, which meant he had previously worked with last episode’s main guest star Jean Simmons, and Jonathan Frakes.

Pros

  • Lwaxana’s character is broadened in this episode, giving her a less comedic and more dramatic role.  It also focuses more on her, then just her relationship with her daughter.
  • Very good acting on behalf of the whole cast.
  • You do not often see romances given to older women, so it was nice (abet tragic) to see one for Lwaxana.
  •  

Cons:

  • Nothing completely stands out.

Screencap via CygnusX1.net

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