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Star Trek TNG - Season 4 - Episode 22

Star Trek TNG - 4x22 - Half a Life

Originally Aired: 1991-5-6

Synopsis:
Lwaxana fights to stop her lover from ritual suicide. [DVD]

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 6.25

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 13 1 8 7 8 9 46 32 24 29 10

Problems
None

Factoids
- Michelle Forbes, who plays Dara in this episode, goes on to play the Bajoran Ro Laren.

Remarkable Scenes
- Troi: "Counselor Deanna Troi personal log stardate 44805.3: My mother is on board."
- Picard carefully trying to avoid Lwaxana but utterly failing at it.
- Lwaxana's armorous advances on Timicin.
- Lwaxana calling Troi "Mr. Wolf" and Worf working hard to restrain himself.
- Timicin regarding Lwaxana as "vibrant". Yes, I'll agree to that.
- The Enterprise accidentally blowing up a star.
- The revelation that Timicin will soon die.
- Lwaxana's initial outrage to Picard about Timicin's ritual suicide obligations.
- Lwaxana's outburst in the transporter room.
- O'Brien "gracefully" exiting and locking out the transporter just before he left.
- Lwaxana debating the morality of the ritual suicide with Timicin.
- Timicin realizing Lwaxana is right and asking for asylum.
- Timicin, Dara, and Lwaxana meeting each other.
- Lwaxana in doubt of her strong moral convictions against the ritual suicide.
- Lwaxana joining Timicin to observe his resolution.

My Review
Lwaxana's character, for once, didn't annoy me in the slightest. In fact, she stole the show. Her speeches on the morality of euthanasia were extraordinary and invoke powerful emotions. Furthermore, Timicin and Lwaxana had excellent chemistry while together. So what's right here? Is it right to prolong old people's lives even when they become invalids and become nothing but a drain on society? Is it right to purge such people? I'm not qualified to answer such a question, but this episode explores it well.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Orion Pimpdaddy on 2006-05-07 at 1:06pm:
    Half a Life takes the euthenasia issue and stuffs it into a Lwaxana Troi episode. While it is nice to see a more rounded characterization of Lwaxana, I was not moved by the many heavy conversations between her and Timicin, or between her and her daughter. This emotional disconnection is coupled with a bit of bad science. How can you alter a massive star with photon torpedos? The Enterprise has almost become a Death Star, able to wipe out whole systems with a push of a button. While I find the moral issues intriguing, I just wanted more out of this episode.
  • From Frogshortening on 2006-08-25 at 6:24pm:
    I loved the way they pu the serious issue in with Lwaxanne- showed that she really did take some things seriously... and the contrast between her normal self and the one who was upset about Timicin's decision made it all the more dramatic! They WERE very moving scenes! (so there)!
  • From DSOmo on 2007-08-28 at 8:01pm:
    - When Timicin first beams aboard, Picard immediately sticks out his hand to greet him. This action confuses Timicin, and then he comments that he has heard humans shake hands to greet each other. For a man as well versed in diplomacy as Picard, this seems very out of character for him. Timicin comes from an isolationist planet. Why make him feel immediately uncomfortable by forcing him to participate in a human ritual? Prior to this episode, Picard initiates a handshake only one other time, and that was only in respond to a physical greeting from the other party ("Final Mission")
    - In this episode, Lwaxana orders Oskoid from the food replicator. When Timicin asks what it is, Lwaxana says it is a Betazed delicacy. But during the picnic in "Menage a Troi," Lwaxana offers Riker an Oskoid leaf and he acts like he's never had one before. Riker offers it to Troi, as if she'd never had one before. If Oskoid leaves are a Betazed delicacy, why do Riker and Troi act like they'd never eaten them before? Troi grew up on Betazed, and Riker was stationed there for several years.
    - When Timicin and Lwaxana transport to the planet they are holding hands. Their hands are outside the confinement beam but they manage to transport OK (see "Sarek")
    - After Timicin asks for asylum, Lwaxana and Troi have a talk. The scene opens with a shot of Lwaxana leaning against a mirror. As she walks away, the pole from the boom mic can be seen in the mirror. When the scene changes and follows Lwaxana walking across the room, the boom mic shadow can be seen moving across the wall.
  • From djb on 2008-03-13 at 3:17am:
    This was a valuable episode in many ways.

    As others pointed out, I liked how Lwaxana's character was a bit more fleshed out in this episode. Usually she's just obnoxious and insufferable, but here we get to see something really, truly bother her, and see her go through some intense emotions. Much better.

    At first I thought it strange that Lwaxana would become so romantically attracted to a man (an alien, at that) at first sight, but I then remember that she's a telepath, an especially talented one at that, who can basically "read" the gestalt of a person in the first few moments of knowing them. What takes us humans months or years to find out takes her minutes instead. Makes you think about what Betazoid culture must be like, with basically no one able to lie to each other...

    I like how this episode brings up the issue of moral relativism. Normally I'm not a moral relativist; I think that there are some standard rights we can uphold for all of humanity. But what about when other sapient species come into play? The "Resolution" concept sounds to us like euthanasia taken to an unacceptable extreme, but I actually tend to agree with Timicin's daughter when she basically tells Lwaxana she has no place to judge their people's practices. Even though it sounds abhorrent to us, we're talking about a different species, planet, culture, psychology, history; enough to determine that we have no moral jurisdiction. Plus, it sets a bad precedent: species intervening on other species' practices they find offensive can lead down a totalitarian path pretty fast.

    So much of Star Trek is based upon speculation. We really have no idea what other species in this galaxy are going to be like. An episode devoted (partially)to one alien's personal dilemma makes me think about what fields of study will pop up once we start making contact with extra-terrestrial species. Basically take any field we have now and add the prefix "xeno," and you have a new field: Xenobiology, xenopsychology, xenosociology. Xenoethics. Xenotheology. Xenomusicology! The possibilities are endless...

    Good point someone made about the star subplot... The idea that a starship can make a star go nova with just a few specially-modified photon torpedoes, in minutes, is ludicrous (at least they made the nova look semi-believable, unlike "Evolution." They still don't get that novas appear for weeks, even months). If not ludicrous, extremely scary. The power not to destroy planets a la Death Star, but to cause the devastation of an entire solar system! This system had no inhabitants, but what about systems that do? If life on any of the planets survived the radiation and solar debris, how long would life last without the primary power source? How would they react gravitationally to a white dwarf (which will be less massive than the original star)? If this kind of stellar apocalypse is possible, why didn't the Romulans send a few cloaked ships into sector 001 and just decapitate the federation as soon as it became a threat?

    If anything I'd say that an unsuccessful result of this experiment would be no change in the star. I also think that if the experiment were successful, we wouldn't find out for months, even years. Remember we're talking about a body that's about 1 and a half sextillion (1.5x10^21) cubic meters in volume and about 2 nonillion kilograms (that's 2x10^30) in mass. Whatever effects our special little torpedoes might have is going to take quite some time in real life.

    Anyway, bad sci-fi, but great character study, great themes. Also, David Ogden Stiers is such a good actor that even though I've seen him in M*A*S*H countless times, I didn't realize it was him until I looked him up! Great guest star performance. An 8.
  • From JRPoole on 2008-06-26 at 12:43am:
    I don't have much to add to the commentaries here. This is about as good as stand-along episodes get: interesting (if not very plausible) science, great guest actors, interesting themes, and finally a Lwaxana episode that doesn't annoy. I give it a 9. Did the Enterprise wait for Ms. Troi? Or is she staying here until she can hitch a ride back to Betazed?
  • From John on 2010-12-31 at 3:36pm:
    You have to love how good an actor David Ogden-Stiers is. He renders his part with a quiet dignity that perfectly fits the character. I can't think of anyone better suited for the role. Certainly one of the best guest-stars TNG has ever had.
  • From MJ on 2011-01-05 at 2:12pm:
    I also agree with the vast majority of the webmaster’s ratings, but I would give this one a 7. The lack of explanation of Tarses fate doesn’t ruin it for me, nor does the lack of sufficient explanation for what exactly he did wrong (was it falsifying the application or the fact that his grandparent is Romulan?).

    The drama of the episode is irresistible, and the issues it grapples with are both complex and timely; it would’ve been interesting to see how differently this might have been written in a post-9/11 world. I also don’t think everyone is quite out of character. Worf’s paranoia at the prospect of having a Romulan spy on board seems very fitting, for example.

    The only other snag which knocks the episode down somewhat is that it seems strange that Admiral Satie would’ve been able to use tactics like this in all her investigations without throwing up any red flags. Sometimes it seems everyone at Starfleet are blind, despicable fools compared to Picard and crew.
  • From Robert Koenn on 2011-03-17 at 9:50am:
    Some of the other comments are very pertinent. As far as the backup story about rejuvenating a star with photon torpedoes, that is technical bunk. Stars burn based on their internal hydrogen and other element components and the fusion induced by the mass and these components makeup. If this star had burned out of hydrogen a photon torpedo barrage is not going to make it spontaneously rejuvenate. This was only a device to allow for the fundamental plot line of euthanasia.

    Now that part was quite interesting to watch and quite pertinent in many ways to our present conditions. While there is the prime directive to not get involved in other species culture, if there was a cultural decision years ago to go this course that is not a reason to consider changing a flawed decision. However that would have to be instigated in person by Timicin but with support of Lwaxana and/or others. I wanted that to start out of basic morality but felt in the end Timicin was only returning to accept his preordained fate rather than starting a fundamental examination of a flawed law. He should have become the catalyst but it was not in his psyche. The same is so true of so many things on our planet at present, women's rights, children's rights, etc. If one person does not start a movement or does but gets not support it is fundamentally unjust. But for no one to even try then the conditions will simply stay the same flawed way. I do enjoy these episodes that examine fundamental human rights.
  • From Lee on 2012-04-25 at 12:27pm:
    Since I don't care much for technical problems (as long as they aren't as severe as in VOY: Threshold of course), I could really enjoy this episode. It's also the chronologically first Lwaxana-episode I really like!

    It not only has the typical TNG-themes, it's also very sad and the acting of the guest star was magnificent! And although the science of the episode is probably not the best, it has still some awesome visuals.

  • From Douglas on 2016-04-21 at 8:48am:
    I've watched this episode many times but only just saw that when Georgi is at his console, the file number for the experiment is 4077. Nice in-joke since guest star David Ogden Stiers was in M.A.S.H. and the unit he was posted to was the 4077th.
  • From QuasiGiani on 2018-04-18 at 3:38am:
    Not euthanasia.

    Just pure bureaucratic stupidity.

    Irritating episode. As formulaic as the preceding episode on witch-hunts. But at least that episode was addressing its intended subject. The only problem there was that it missed the opportunity it had so worked to go beyond the ordinary and extend an understanding to the witchfinder's pitiable foundation of fear... This episode just entirely mistakes its very subject... Not euthanasia. Just pure bureaucratic stupidity.

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