Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Half a Life"
Air date: 5/6/1991
Teleplay by Peter Allan Fields
Story by Ted Roberts and Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Les Landau
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
What is it about the Trois that, given the starring spotlight, ultimately make me want to crawl under my kitchen table and hide? Whether it's "The Child" or "Manhunt" or "Menage a Troi" or "The Loss" — they just never seem to work. Bad stories? Bad characterization? My own anti-Troi bias that I don't want to admit? Maybe a little of all of it? I'm not sure, but good intentions misfire here.
In "Half a Life," we have Lwaxana Troi aboard the ship (rarely a good sign, although this episode ultimately tries to utilize her better than most) at the same time as Timicin (David Ogden Stiers), a scientist about to test an experimental procedure on a dying star that will hopefully allow his people to save their own dying sun. Lwaxana and Timicin meet and fall instantly in love, pursuant to every unrealistic timeline in every love story in every TV show and movie. This November-November romance isn't bad, but not compelling either. But then the other shoe drops: Timicin, in accordance with his people's longstanding culture, is scheduled to kill himself on his 60th birthday, mere days away.
To me, the episode was basically unsalvageable once Lwaxana came to her daughter wailing ("wailing" isn't a word I have reason to use very often) over the fact that Timicin must die "JUST BECAUSE HE'S SIXTY!" There's drama, and then there's melodrama. And then there's nails on a chalkboard. Lwaxana Troi wailing is maybe two steps beyond the chalkboard. I'm being mean, but when you have a story based on arbitrary alien customs, performances matter.
What can I say? Lwaxana is right. (Her message is fine, even if I still want to shoot the messenger.) Far be it for me to judge a fictional belief, but Timicin's society's custom is hopelessly silly, and based on all kinds of nonsensical logic and assumptions about the dignity of death in the face of aging, and avoiding getting so old you're soiling yourself, or whatever. The allegorical point here, somewhat rendered useless by stretching the story past the absurd point, seems to hint at our own society's general disregard for the elderly. But just as "The Loss" was an ineffective allegory for disability, "Half a Life" is a failed allegory for getting old. Do we blame the Trois? Well, maybe I shouldn't be that unfair.