Two hoary clichés — the Hostage Crisis and the Fountain of Youth — converge/collide to create one of the more forgettable and emotionally impenetrable episodes in TNG's run. This is hardly the worst of TNG, but I'd be lying if I said I could turn my empathy over to anybody in this story's scenario. One of the odd aspects of the show is that it makes the guest character the central character without giving us any notable reason to care about him.
The hostage standoff has to do with a vendetta that dates back 45 years. Karnas (Michael Pataki) has taken hostages and is promising to execute them unless an ancient Starfleet admiral, Mark Jameson (Clayton Rohner), turns himself over to answer for his crime: arming both sides of a conflict (rather than just Karnas' side), which led to four decades of civil war. Who are these hostages, who are the hostage-takers, and who exactly is Jameson? Most of all, what does any of this have to do with Jameson's sick need to answer this hostage negotiation in the middle of a risky drug regimen intended to reverse his aging? Better question: Who cares?
Clayton Rohner is not convincing as an old man — not in the makeup and certainly not in the performance, which seems to equate old age with a (very fake) gruff voice. By the time we get to the revelation that Jameson armed both sides of the conflict, the ship containing our interest has long since sailed. The final act falls victim to its boundless overacting, with Karnas shouting and refusing to believe the young Jameson is who he says he is, despite the lack of any reasonable motive for such a convoluted deception. The story makes too much of proving to Karnas that Jameson is actually himself. Meanwhile, the audience is sitting on the sidelines with blank stares.
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