Star Trek TNG (Season 1, Ep 15): Too Short a Season

Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

The Enterprise must ferry eighty-five year old, and ill, Admiral Mark Jameson to negotiate a release of hostages on the planet Mardan from a man named Karnas. The Admiral, who was specifically requested by Karnas for this job due to prior history with Jameson, puts the mission at risk by taking an anti-ageing drug.

The Admiral took too much of the drug because he feels guilty about a prior hostage negotiation with members of this same planet forty-five years earlier. Almost half a century earlier, he armed both sides of what turned into a four decades long civil war. The Admiral wants to be able-bodied and capable of setting right what went wrong. Instead, though, his body rejects the drugs and he dies in front of the man with whom he was slated to negotiate. Seeing Jameson die, Karnas, the hostage-taker, decides to release the hostages.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

Captain’s Log Stardate 41309.5.

The Enterprise is in orbit around Persephone 5. The Enterprise has been sent to confer with Admiral Mark Jameson in regard to an extraordinary situation. The Enterprise has received a transmission regarding a hostage crisis. The transmission requests that Starfleet send Admiral Mark Jameson to conduct the negotiations. The transmission states that the Enterprise has six earth days to deliver the Admiral for the negotiation or else the hostages will die.

Picard asks the aged Admiral why he has been chosen to conduct the negotiation. Admiral Jameson states that he conducted a successful hostage negotiation on the planet fourty-five years ago. He believes that Karnas, a local ruler, believes he can do it again. Jameson and his wife Anne beam aboard. Jameson is using a futuristic wheelchair. After his arrival, Jameson tells Picard and Riker that he, as the senior officer, will be in charge of the negotiation mission. He notes that Picard will remain in charge of the Enterprise itself. Picard seems reluctant to agree but he does.

Karnas calls to The Enterprise, on screen, while it approaches its destination. He asks if Jameson is on board. When Picard points him out, Karnas shows himself to be antagonistic to Jameson and states that time has not been kind. Jameson asks Karnas to outline the hostage-taker demands.

Karnas states that the demands include face-to-face discussions with a Federation mediator. Jameson states that he accepts the conditions of the negotiation. After the call ends, Troi states that she senses Karnas was being honest but that also he was holding back. Jameson believes that Karnas did not want to admit failure of his own efforts to negotiate. Dr. Crusher calls onto the bridge and states that she is ready for the Admiral.

Jameson asks Picard what Dr. Crusher wants from him and Picard tells him she is going to conduct a routine medical examination per the ship’s regulations. Jameson seems hesitant to go through with the checkup. Troi notices his hesitancy.

Later, Riker asks Jameson how Karnas knew he was still alive. Jameson states that he briefed Starfleet Ambassador Hawkins about the planet before the Ambassador took up residence there. The bridge officers speculate about the potential demands. Data speculates that the planet has had five years of peace but perhaps the hostage-takers want more than what the planet provides. Admiral Jameson believes that they want weapons – something Karnas would not be willing to provide. Jameson also believes that Karnas will want revenge against the hostage-takers for the perceived insult of looking to an outside force to meet their demands.

In his quarters, Jameson struggles to move from his wheelchair to a chair. His wife Anne notes that he appears to be stronger today and he tells her that he feels like a kid again. As Anne begins praising the ship, Jameson seems to have a major health issue. He gasps for breath and holds his right arm with his left arm. Anne says she will call the sickbay and he asks her not to do so. He says this has occurred before and that the episode will pass. In a few moments, it does. His wife seems concerned.

In Picard’s office, Dr. Crusher speaks with him. She tells the Captain that Jameson gave her two months old medical records while telling her that the records were two days old.

Dr. Crusher: He lied to me and I do not know why.

Crusher tells Picard that she believes Jameson is hiding something from her. The Captain replies that her observation is something he might have expected to hear from Counselor Troi. He also then tells Dr. Crusher, earnestly, that he respects her opinion and wants her on the bridge for the next day or two because it is vital that the Admiral remain in good health for the negotiations.

Later, on the bridge, Picard tells Jameson that they are approaching a star cluster and he asks Jameson if he would like to take the con while they do so. Jameson says thank you and that he would. However, then Jameson rises, very feebly, from his wheelchair and walks in an equally feeble way Geordi’s chair. He makes it. Picard tells Jameson that he has surprised them and Jameson replies that he began taking a new therapy before leaving. He says that all he needed to get out of the chair was the thought of walking the deck of a new starship again. Picard reminds the Admiral that he will only have the chair temporarily.

Back in Picard’s quarters, he notes to Dr. Crusher that the Admiral is displaying remarkable improvement. Dr. Crusher, very concerned, states that no one recovers from Iverson’s Disease. She notes that by all medical facts known, Jameson should never have been able to walk again. Picard asks her to look into the situation thoroughly.

In his quarters, Anne Jameson chides Admiral Jameson for continuing to watch the message form Karnas repeatedly. Suddenly he stands up and walks over to her. She is stunned and elated. A moment later though, she urges her husband to come with her to look into the mirror. Jameson’s hair is no longer white – it is gray. He also has fewer wrinkles on his face. She tells him that he looks like he did twenty years ago.

Just as she angrily insists that he tell her what is going on, Jameson has another medical emergency. This time Anne calls sick bay.

In Dr. Crusher’s office, she explains to Picard what she found in the Admiral’s body. She states that she found drugs in his blood and tissue but that none are in Starfleet’s known pharmacopeia. She tells Picard that Jameson’s DNA is skewed, that he looks twenty years younger, and that his body now shows no traces of Iverson’s disease. Picard asks her to get some answers as soon as possible.

Picard visits the Admiral’s quarters and tells Anne that he needs to ask him some questions. Jameson, now looking much younger, tells Picard to ask away. The Admiral explains to both Picard and his wife that he obtained an age-reversing medication from the Cerberus system. He explains that he obtained two doses of the medication, one of himself and one for his wife, but that he wanted to test it on himself first. He goes on to say that he had been taking the drug, successfully, in its recommended small increments prior to the hostage negotiation. When the negotiation came up, he says he realized that he needs to be in top shape. As a result, Jameson took both doses, in their entirety, all at once.

Picard asks Jameson why he felt it important to be young to negotiate the release of the hostage. Picard notes that Jameson felt being young was so important that he was willing to put his life at risk for it. Jameson does not answer. Picard leaves and tells the Admiral that he will be on the bridge if he wishes to talk further. After Picard leaves, Anne chastises her husband for not consulting her, first, and she storms out of their room.

Later, alone in his dark office, Jameson asks Data – who is on the bridge – to open a frequency to speak with Karnas. Picard interrupts and asks if it is wise to press a man for information that the Admiral himself stated, earlier, was exceedingly proud. Jameson tells Picard that he is the negotiator. Picard asks if he can request a secure channel, at least, and Jameson states that the request is a sensible precaution.

Jameson calls Karnas and asks him who is behind the hostage crisis. Jameson suggests a couple of candidates and Karnas tells him both are long dead. Karnas notes that he thought Jameson was also long dead until recently. Then he states that with Jameson returning for a hostage negotiation, it is almost as though the last forty-five years never happened at all.

Jameson: You’ve never forgiven me.
Karnas: Of course I have. It was years ago.
Jameson: There are no dissidents, are there? No terrorists? You have the hostages!
Karnas: And if I have?

Karnas states that Jameson will come to negotiate and that he, Karnas, will ask a high price for their release. When Jameson asks what will happen if he refuses then Karnas states that they will die.

Later Jameson comes onto the bridge. He now moves very well and looks younger than Picard. He requests that Picard increase speed to Warp 8 so that he can arrive to the negotiation ahead of schedule – in an effort to throw off Karnas. Jameson offers that he now believes there are no dissidents and that Karnas has the hostages himself. Picard asks what has led him to this conclusion and Jameson says he is not at liberty to say. Jameson then states that he plans to personally lead an Away Team on an armed rescue mission to retrieve the hostages. Picard questions the decision but is rebuffed by Jameson.

Troi, Dr. Crusher, and Anne Jameson discuss Admiral Jameson. The Admiral’s wife states that she was happy about her husband’s retirement and having time together. Now she worries that she will not get that because he is young again. Abruptly Troi tells Crusher than Anne needs to know. When Anne asks “needs to know what” Dr. Crusher explains that Admiral Jameson is not stabilizing.

Dr. Crusher: He may not have that life to live over.

Later, Picard visits the Admiral in his office on the ship. Jameson tells Picard that they will arrive in three hours and states that he could not sleep, either. The Admiral is now a very young looking man – perhaps in his twenties. Jameson finally gives Picard the unofficial history of his previous hostage negotiation with Karnas. While the story officially is that Jameson negotiated a release of hostages from Karnas, the unofficial story, according to Jameson, is that in order to secure their release he gave Karnas the advanced weaponry he wanted. Jameson also gave the same weapons to Karnas’ rivals.

Jameson: My interpretation of the Prime Directive. Let them solve their problems with those arms on an equal basis.

Picard notes that the decision led to a forty years long civil war. Jameson states that he did not know that would happen. He believed there might be a minor war, perhaps lasting less than a year. He confesses that he falsified the official records to Starfleet.

Jameson: Sixty-three people came away safe but millions more died on Mordan because I delivered those weapons.

Picard and Jameson discuss that Karnas wants revenge for the decades long civil war and that is why he requested Jameson specifically. Jameson states that he will not give Karnas what he wants. He will bring the hostages out by force, if necessary, but he will not make any deals with Karnas.

At Mordan, as the Away Team assembles, Picard tells the Admiral that his proper place is aboard the ship. Jameson tells Picard that he, not Picard, is in charge of the mission. Picard that that is so but as Captain of the Enterprise, he has a right in that case to join the Away Team. The Captain puts Riker in charge of the Enterprise and leaves with Jameson and the Away Team. Data, Yar, Geordi, and Worf comprise the rest of the group leaving for Mordan.

On the planet, Jameson states that they are in the tunnel directly beneath the governor’s residence. Data says that what the Admiral is saying does not correspond with the information on his tricorder and Jameson tells him that the tricorder is wrong. Jameson leads the group down the tunnels. Data pulls Picard aside and privately tells him that the Admiral is definitely wrong and that the path they are on dead-ends. Picard tells him that he has no doubt he is right, however, he suspects that forty-five years ago, the tunnel they are in likely did link up in the way that the Admiral remembers.

When the group arrives at the dead end, Geordi notes that the wall through which they want to go is a relatively new installation. The Admiral states that through the wall is the most direct path and he instructs Yar and Worf to set phasers to cut through the wall. After cutting through the wall, Yar suggests to the Admiral that they could beam directly to the location of the hostages and he notes that the hostages may not be in exactly the same place as he suspect. He commands they continue on as they have been.

Inside the next room, Geordi reports a laser light ahead. He reasons it is an alarm trigger. Picard commands the team to set phaser to stun. As he says this, the Away Team is fired upon by people from the planet.

Data: Sir, their phasers are set to kill.
Picard: [calmly] Thank you, Mr. Data. I have heard the sound before.

As the Enterprise sets to systematically stun the other troops, the Admiral abruptly shouts and cowers in pain. Yar asks if he has been hit and Worf states there is no sign of a wound. Picard assumes command and beams the entire Away Team back to the ship.

On the bridge, Karnas calls. Picard answers. Karnas tells him that there has been an armed intrusion under his city and that it smells of Jameson. Picard replies that Jameson is critically ill. Karnas replies that Jameson’s health is not his concern. Sick or well, he says the Enterprise has ten minutes to beam Jameson dowon to the surface. As the call ends, Troi calls to the bridge from sick bay and tells Picard that Dr. Crusher requests his presence immediately.

In sick bay, Jameson is not well. He tells Picard that the only tool with which he can negotiate is himself, regardless of his health. Dr. Crusher states that she cannot let him out of her care. Just then, Riker communicates with sick bay that Karnas has sent a message that a hostage will die in five minutes if Jameson does not appear. Karnas states that fifteen minutes after that, another hostage will die.

Riker: He promises the method of execution will be most painful.

As his wife looks on, in horror, Jameson pleads with Picard to let him go. Picard communicates with Riker to inform Karnas that “we will be beaming down in less than five minutes.”

Picard, Jameson, and Dr. Crusher beam down to where Karnas awaits.

Karnas: Who are you? I want Mark Jameson.
Picard: Karnas, this is Admiral Mark Jameson.

Karnas does not believe that the young man is Jameson and he tells Picard that this charade will accomplish nothing. He says he wants the old man so that he can show him the scars on soldiers’ bodies, the ruined cities, all of which Karnas says was caused by Jameson. Jameson begins convulsing. Picard calls the ship and tells them to ready Mrs. Jameson to beam down. He explains to Karnas that Jameson took a de-aging drug, then shows Karnas a visual record of Jameson’s deterioration while on the ship.

Anne Jameson arrives. Picard tells Karnas that whatever he wanted from Jameson is no longer possible. Picard then states that Karnas will have to deal with him, instead. Picard agrees that Jameson is much to blame for the civil war on Mordan but points out that Karnas himself shares some of the blame for not negotiating peace sooner.

Karnas refuses to believe the tale regarding Jameson and says the real man is still on the ship. Just then, the young-looking Jameson gets back on his feet. Shaking badly, Jameson recounts their private one on one negotiation. Karnas begins to believe.

Karnas: If it is you, show me the scar.
Jameson: [lifts shirt] Here is the blood cut you gave me to seal our bargan!

Finally Karnas believes. He goes to a wall and points a gun at Jameson. He tells the Admiral that he will die by his own weapon. But he does not shoot the Admiral. He says that his revenge, instead, will be seeing Jameson live like he is now. Jameson collapses. Dr. Crusher says that the drug he took is trying to force his internal organs into an even younger state and that his body cannot handle the stress of the change.

Anne: Mark, can you hear me? I will always love you.
Jameson: Annie with the golden hair.
Anne: Flatterer. It is gray now.
Jameson: I see only the gold.

Jameson dies as Anne cries and Karnas watches. Karnas announces that the hostages are to be freed immediately and that he is prepared to be cooperative.

Later on the bridge, Picard announces that the hostage are freed and unharmed. He also announces that the body of Admiral Jameson is buried on Mordan per the request of his widow.

Picard: The quest for youth, Number One. So futile. Age and wisdom have their graces, too.
Riker: I wonder if one doesn’t have to have age and wisdom to appreciate that, sir.
Picard: I hope not, Number One.

The Enterprise leaves the orbit of Mordan.

Roll credits.

REACTION:

This was a strange episode inasmuch as it felt like something other than a The Next Generation episode. The entire plot centered around Jameson with our usual cast playing a secondary role. Picard and Dr. Crusher are the only regular cast members who had much to do in this one. You might expect an episode that sidelines its own cast if said show is setting up a spinoff, or doing a cross-over episode, but neither were the case here.

The story had its good points. I think most people, as they get older, think back to being younger. Many of us occasionally wish we were younger again. I even think that as motivators go, wanting to right the wrong of a diplomatic failure that leads to the death of millions is a good one. It remains a good motivation even if the effort would only be essentially a token redemption. The problem with the story is that the audience was not given a chance to connect our emotions to Jameson’s motivations as he made choices. We were just told about his motivations after the fact. I guess what this episode really needed was a front-loaded backstory to give some weight to what was transpiring.

Well, that was not the only problem with this episode. Jameson’s old age make-up might be the worst in television history. Worf’s face looked more human. It was just genuinely distracting for most of Jameson’s scenes and those scenes took up most of the episode.

I also felt like the character of Anne Jameson was a missed opportunity. She was just… present… for most of this episode. Couldn’t we give her a little more material to connect to her feelings on watching her husband grow young again? No?

The episode did have a few bright spots.

  1. The incompetent member of Starfleet was not a member of the regular cast… for once. Hooray! That might be a first.
  2. Wesley did not save everyone for a change.
  3. Data and Picard had one of the funniest exchanges of the show to this point.

Data: Sir, their phasers are set to kill.
Picard: [calmly] Thank you, Mr. Data. I have heard the sound before.

Data stating the obvious in a tense moment when that statement is wholly unnecessary. Picard acting as though he is playing laser tag rather than being shot at. Peak TNG, in my humble opinion.

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