TNG: S4E22: “Half A Life”

In which Lwaxana is on board, tries to form the AARP, and the Enterprise blows up a star. 

awwcrap

awwcrap

In the tones of someone telling us that they have just discovered a new type of slug by finding it in their toothpaste, Troi tells us that her mother is on board. Picard is taking great care to look around as he steps off the turbolift, but since Lwaxana is telepathic she can probably hear his brain screaming “I hope she’s not near turbolift 3” and came running. It’s funny that everyone avoids her, until you remember that she can’t avoid hearing about it.

The Enterprise is picking up a scientist from a fairly reclusive species that Lwaxana has never heard of, and Picard is trying to keep her away from the transporter room, so what exactly is she doing there? Shouldn’t she be… ambassadoring? That’s not a word, is it. Regardless, she’s there when Picard goes to greet Doctor Timeson, and she immediately hits on him. She can be trusted not to cause a diplomatic incident, but only barely.

Sadly, the auto-destruct sequence was initiated and all crew killed when someone put the mustard down in the wrong spot.

Sadly, the auto-destruct sequence was initiated and all crew killed when someone put the mustard down in the wrong spot.

He’s going to be collaborating with the Federation in order that together they can revitalize a dying star. They have a torpedo that they need to test on an uninhabited star before they can use it on the real one. Timeson states that it’s his entire life’s goal to fix their star before he dies, but he’s going to have a hard time with that if Troi keeps interrupting his work for picnics in Engineering. Mrs. Troi discretely checks that Timeson is single – a widower, in fact- and invites him in. He can’t  accept, but he clearly wants to. Something going on there, no doubt. Incidentally, apparently Timeson’s species is immune to Betazoid telepathy, but otherwise compatible. Lwaxana never misses an opportunity to encourage her daughter to lighten up and get laid once in a while,either.

With the test system given a final scan for life and confirmed negative, the Enterprise starts firing their solar rejuvination torpedoes. There’s very little science here to latch on to except for a quick line about Helium-3 Fusion, and the slight brightening of the star when the torpedoes hit. So far, all parameters appear to be stabilizing within expected parameters, and everyone gets that frisson you get when you successfully engineer a star. Sadly, the feeling doesn’t last, and the star explodes.

"Marines, we are LEAVING."

“Marines, we are LEAVING.”

I will repeat that. The Enterprise accidentally blew up a star.

Remember that time they had a torpedo that could merely wipe out a single planet and the Klingons went nuts and re-started a shooting war that had been in cease-fire for ten years?

The Enterprise and the Federation now have a method to blow up stars.

That revelation is somewhat overshadowed by Timeson’s grief and his failure. Still, they got experimental data, which is rarely a bad thing (factoring out the cosmopolitical ramifications mentioned above). Lwaxana is trying to cheer him up in Ten-Forward, but it’s not all that successful because he’s about to die. Wait, what? Picard, Riker, and Data get a brief hint of that when talking with the planetary science minister (who seems remarkably uninterested in the death of their star) before Lwaxana walks in and lays it out. At 60, a person is supposed to have a big dinner in their honor and then kill themselves.

Picard pleads the Prime Directive, and Lwaxana storms off to beam down and give every single person on the planet a piece of her mind. This is an incredibly powerful scene, and Majel Barrett really brings it. Recall that every time she goes to see her daughter (who, despite the peaceful intentions of the Federation, could still be killed at any time) she has to deal the thoughts of everyone on the ship trying to avoid her. We get the sense that she’s facing irrelevancy, she’s gone through her species’ version of menopause, and is now confronted with a species that would, if she were a member, ask her to kill herself.

Troi gives her a pep talk, and she goes to try to give Timeson reasons to keep living. That means exactly what you think it does. He explains, afterwards, that this Resolution comes out of a concern for the elders. Rather than let people decline slowly into the grave, they now have a big party and end on an up note. There’s a culture clash between the two, and neither is going to convince the other. Lwaxana insists he’s still vital. He insists that this is the way he wants to be remembered, and they dance around the middle ground, which would be a voluntary system. In a culture that doesn’t run screaming from death so much as it does from deterioration, you wouldn’t have some of the problems that human culture has with assisted suicide.

And, of course, the planet only has a few decades of habitability left, and Timison is the person with the best chance of saving it, and she does at least get him thinking about the problem some more. The star problem, not the social problem. He twigs to a lead, but given how long it’s going to take to follow up on that, he has to request asylum.

Another side note: so far, their planet has been fairly insular, and one might suspect they’ve put, like, zero effort into the geronotology field. Meanwhile, Federation science got McCoy to the ripe old age of 120. You’d think that a brief scientific exchange could at least bump the age of ‘retirement’ up to 80 or so. But nope, instead, the natives launch warships, and aren’t even accepting broadcasts of the scientific data. Rather than allow his people to continue to ignore his work, he decides to allow himself to die, so that his people can live.

To drive the final nail into the coffin, his daughter beams aboard to remind him of the overriding cultural values he’s abandoning. Beleiving as we do here at Worlds in a Blender that Death is kind of sucky, we hate her. But Timison eventually decides to go back so that his work will remain in the canon of their scientific body of knowledge, so that maybe their planet won’t be scoured of life in fifty years. It will just have to be up to someone else to lead the charge. And Lwaxana decides to show her support by being there at the end.

Did we miss something awesome?