Important Episodes of Star Trek - 4/? - Half a Life - TNG - 4x22
Lwaxana: I mean, he’s not ill. He hasn’t had a tragic accident. He’s just going to die! And for no good reason! Because his society has decided that he’s too old. So they just dispose of him! As… as though his life no longer had any value or meaning! You can’t possibly understand at your age, but at mine… well, sometimes, you feel tired, and… and afraid.
Season four’s “Half a Life” features the lovely Majel Barrett, first lady of Star Trek, again shining in her role as Lwaxana Troi. Lwaxana is an interesting character because she appears on the surface to be a purely comedic character, but then there are episodes like this, where Lwaxana’s story is poignant and painful. It’s also some significant commentary on society and its responsibility to caring for the elderly, which seems more relevant than ever given the current political debate on Social Security and Medicare reform. Beyond that, it’s a refreshing episode in that it does explore the love (and sex) lives of mature people, and tells a beautiful love story between two characters who wouldn’t typically be the subject of a grand Hollywood romance.
Summary: The Enterprise (upon which Lwaxana Troi is currently a visitor) is assisting a scientist, Dr. Timicin, from Kaelon II, a planet whose star is dying. Timicin has spent his lifetime trying to find a way to save his planet’s sun, and the Enterprise is here to assist him in an experiment. While there, he meets Lwaxana, who does her best to romance him. Timicin finds Lwaxana charming.
When the experiment fails, Lwaxana goes to comfort a despondent Timicin, trying to tell him they’ll try again, but Timicin explains that this is impossible: he is about to turn 60, and on his planet, people are expected to commit ritual suicide at that age, a cherished custom.
Lwaxana is horrified, and tries her best to convince Timicin to rebel. He is the most qualified scientist to save his planet’s sun, and she has come to care for him deeply. After some time with Lwaxana and looking at the results of his experiment, Timicin decides to ask Picard for asylum: so he may continue his work, spend more time with Lwaxana, and live.
His people are outraged and pledge to attack the Enterprise if they leave orbit with Timicin. They also refuse to see any more scientific research Timicin produces, so even if he finds a way to save the star, they will not listen. His daughter comes to plead with him to change his mind, and tells him she is ashamed of him. Overwhelmed by all of this, Timicin agrees to go through with the ritual, telling Lwaxana that his love for her was almost enough to defy his entire family, planet, and culture. Almost, but not quite enough. Lwaxana is heartbroken, but understands the pressures he’s under, and asks if she can attend the ritual, which is supposed to be a celebration among his closest friends and family.
- Landau saw similar themes emerging from this episode and “Sarek” regarding aging and society’s treatment of the elderly. He remarked, “That’s an issue which is very current in how do we deal with, and what do we do with, our elders. They may have reached an age where by numbers they are old, but mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually, professionally, they are, if not at their peak, certainly have a lot to contribute. That was a very poignant episode.”
- Michelle Forbes’ performance in this episode was instrumental in her casting as Ro Laren later in the series.