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Half a Life (episode)

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"Half a Life"
TNG, Episode 4x22
Production number: 40274-196
First aired: 6 May 1991
95th of 176 produced in TNG
95th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
202nd of 728 released in all
Lwaxana and Timicin
Teleplay By
Peter Allan Fields

Story By
Ted Roberts and Peter Allan Fields

Directed By
Les Landau
44805.3-44812.6 (2367)
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Lwaxana Troi causes trouble when she finds out that a scientist she has fallen in love with is due to commit ritual suicide.

Summary

"Counselor Deanna Troi, personal log, stardate 44805.3. My mother is on board."

Deanna Troi's mother, Lwaxana Troi is on board the Enterprise, still lonely and looking for her match. Jean-Luc Picard is on his way to a transporter room, to receive "the leading scientist of Kaelon II", an extremely reclusive people, who have not yet had real contact with the United Federation of Planets. On his way there, Picard encounters Lwaxana, who effusively greets him, a little bit to Picard's chagrin. He tries to get rid of her, but she cuts off every one of his attempts at escape. He also tries to explain to her that her presence when receiving the guest would not be welcome, but she interrupts him again, and Picard eventually gives in, allowing her to join Picard, Miles O'Brien, and Geordi La Forge in the transporter room.

There she immediately focuses her attention on the puzzled guest, Dr. Timicin, whom she leads away intending to show him the ship, explaining "you just think of me as your entertainment director." Once Lwaxana, Picard and Dr. Timicin have left the room, La Forge jokes to O'Brien: "That man's in a lot of trouble."

"Captain's log, stardate 44805.7. For generations, the people of Kaelon II have been working to revitalize their dying sun. The Federation has offered to assist in testing what may be a solution to this problem."

Deanna Troi, William Riker, Dr. Timicin, Jean-Luc Picard, Data, Beverly Crusher, and Geordi La Forge are in the observation lounge. Dr. Timicin has made modifications to some of the Enterprise's photon torpedoes, which should help to revive the dying sun of the Kaelon system. The Enterprise is on its way to an empty star system with a sun almost perfectly identical to the Kaelon sun, in order to test the modified photon torpedoes.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, Lwaxana bothers an unnerved Worf by playing around with the tactical station, almost pressing a torpedo launch initiator. As Riker, Deanna Troi, and Dr. Timicin return to the bridge, Lwaxana vividly greets the doctor, who explains that he does not have time for her right now, as he is expected in engineering. Riker politely asks her to clear the bridge, and she agrees reluctantly. Dr. Timicin then explains to Deanna, that he is surprised that Lwaxana is Deanna's mother: "She is so... vibrant.".

Then in engineering, Data, and a slightly overworked Dr. Timicin and La Forge prepare the test with the modified photon torpedoes. Lwaxana Troi then walks in with her assistant Mr. Homn, claiming that the men really need a break. Dr. Timicin agrees: "Mrs. Troi, you're a wise woman. I'm sure we could use a respite.".

Eventually the sun-reviving experiment is launched into the empty star system. The Enterprise monitors the results which initially appear successful as the system's star heats up according to plan. However, the heating process fails to stop, and the star explodes, concluding the experiment in failure.

Timicin is especially crushed by the failure of his experiment, and the reasons for this become evident as Lwaxana bonds further with the scientist. Discovering that, approaching the age of 60, Timicin is, upon returning to his planet, to undergo the "Resolution", ritual suicide, Lwaxana becomes livid with protest. She immediately goes to Picard and demands he intervene to spare Timicin's life, but Picard refuses to do so, as he is bound by the Prime Directive not to interfere. Furious, Lwaxana storms out of the Ready Room.

Lwaxana and Timicin spend a lot of time together, discussing the concept of ritual suicide back and forth. Lwaxana considers the practice barbaric, while Timicin attempts to explain that in his culture it is an accepted practice for all to undergo the ritual on their 60th birthday to avoid old age, infirmity, indignity, dependence on others, and the cruel uncertainty about when the end would come. Each ends up finding the other's point of view cruel: Lwaxana because she sees it as arbitrary murder in an uncertain universe when death can come both well before and well after the designated age, Timicin because she is denying people control of their fate and the opportunity to end life with dignity.

Initially, Timicin is reluctant to break with tradition, and intends to return to his planet and go through with his suicide, until realizing that he has some ideas about the failure of his experiment, and if he only had some more time, he could perhaps come up with a functional sun-reviving system. However, because his birthday and ritual is rapidly approaching, he will not have the time to develop the system if he follows tradition. Thus, he ends up seeking asylum from Captain Picard.

A diplomatic incident is created by Timicin's seeking asylum, and warships from his planet are sent to retrieve him. Complications further arise when it's learned that because of his defiance against the ritual, the Kaelon government has barred his submitting of any other transmissions about the project; even if he does find a solution to the problem with their sun, Timicin's people will not listen due to his rebellion, rendering it moot. This results in a standoff, and after some time, Timicin's daughter Dara boards the Enterprise to attempt to convince her father to return to the planet.

Timicin finds his daughter's arguments very convincing, and ultimately decides to return to his planet and carry out the tradition, thus concluding the diplomatic incident. Lwaxana, though she still disagrees with the tradition, packs her bags and sets out to accompany Timicin to the planet to be with him at his ritual. She promises Picard not to cause trouble on the planet. Picard gives her permission to go, and Timicin and Lwaxana beam down hand in hand to the planet.

Memorable Quotes

"Counselor Deanna Troi, personal log, stardate 44805.3. My mother is on board."

- Deanna Troi


"Diplomacy! Oh, I adore diplomacy! Everyone dresses so well!"

- Lwaxana Troi


"That man's in a lot of trouble."

- La Forge to O'Brien when Lwaxana and Dr. Timicin have left the transporter room


"Mrs. Troi, I must protest your unauthorized presence on the Bridge.."
"What does this little one do, Mister Woof?"
"Please, Madam! That is a torpedo launch initiator. And it, uh... it is Worf, Madam; not Woof."

- Worf and Lwaxana Troi


"Oh, Mr. Homn is my valet. He doesn't say much."
"How can he?"

- Lwaxana Troi to Timicin and La Forge, quietly, to Data


"Oh, that's alright. I can make enough conversation for the both of us."

- Lwaxana Troi, to Timicin


"Alive, I am a greater threat to my world than a dying sun."

- Timicin

Background Information

Story and production

Filming Half a Life

Director Les Landau and the actors filming a scene

  • This was the first Star Trek episode written by Peter Allan Fields. Fields took a crash course watching Lwaxana Troi-centered episodes to prepare for writing this script. He recalled, "I saw both "Haven" and "Ménage à Troi" quite a while before I even began writing and I didn't refer to them at all when I was writing my first Lwaxana Troi except to find out her title was 'holder of the chalice...' and all of that sort of thing. I went through the script for 'Haven' to find out who the hell I was writing about and that wasn't difficult to accomplish. I couldn't figure out at first how much rank and privilege she had and then I realized you give her as much as they'll let her have. She takes it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • The cast and production staff saw this episode as a chance to show a different side to Lwaxana.
    • Director Les Landau observed, "It showed a whole new side to Majel Barrett as an actress and the character of Mrs. Troi. She's usually this flimsy, whimsical Auntie Mame of the universe, but in this episode she's a very sensitive, warm and caring individual." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
    • Marina Sirtis noted, "It's a much different type of Mrs. Troi episode. It's not quite as flippant or light as they tend to be. It starts off quite light, but then it has a real message with a little morality play, which is something I like to do. I didn't have much to do, which is good since I don't want it to be a given that every time mom comes aboard, I have to deal with her. I think it's more interesting that when she does come back, other characters have to deal with her." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Landau praised executive producers Michael Piller and Rick Berman for supporting an episode that broke format by focusing on two guest characters instead of the regulars. He noted, "The opportunity to work with Majel and David Ogden Stiers was great." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • 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." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Marvin V. Rush, the show's regular director of photography, sat out this episode in order to prepare to direct the following episode, "The Host". Thomas F. Denove took over the role for this episode, getting his only on-screen Star Trek credit.
  • "Half a Life" was filmed between Wednesday 27 February 1991 and Thursday 7 March 1991 on Paramount Stage 8 and 9. Second unit and insert shots were filmed on Thursday 18 April 1991.
  • First UK airdate: 16 November 1994

Continuity

  • This is the only episode where Deanna Troi does the opening log entry.
  • The first scene in which Picard exits the turbolift and peeks around the corner in fear of encountering Lwaxana is mirrored in the Deep Space Nine episode "The Forsaken", when Odo, then Lwaxana's love interest on Deep Space 9, does the same thing. Yet eventually he, like Picard in this episode, fails to avoid the confrontation.
  • The brooch that Lwaxana wears on her coat at the very end of the episode was originally part of Palor Toff's costume and would later appear several times, on the clothing of an unnamed Beaked alien.

Cast and characters

  • Michelle Forbes' performance in this episode was instrumental in her casting as Ro Laren later in the series. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • Doctor Crusher only has one line of dialog in this episode; a second line that can still be found in the script was cut.
  • An homage to David Ogden Stiers' time on the series M*A*S*H was made during Timicin's test. The camera is focused for long stretches of time on a display titled "Composite Sensor Analysis - 4077" - a callback to the 4077th unit number of Stiers' M*A*S*H days. (Star Trek Encyclopedia)

Awards

  • This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore) (Dennis McCarthy).

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

And

Uncredited co-stars

Stand-ins

References

ambassador; animal; astronomer; asylum; Betazed; Betazoid; death; deathwatch facility; deep convection pattern; diplomacy; euthanasia; Federation; Fifth House of Betazed; gamma radiation; guidance system; helium; helium fusion; Holy Rings of Betazed; Homn; hydrogen; hydrogen-alpha emission; Kaelon; Kaelon II; Kaelon II Science Ministry; Kaelon sun; Kaelon warship; Kelvin; Mantickian paté; neutrino; neutron migration; nova; oskoid; pattern buffer; photon torpedo; Praxillus; Praxillus system; Prime Directive; proton reaction; Resolution; Rigel IV; ritual; Sacred Chalice of Rixx; security lockout; stellar core; suicide; sun; tea; Troi, Ian Andrew; turbolift; wig; xenophobia


Previous episode:
"The Drumhead"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4
Next episode:
"The Host"

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