In which we see age make-up even worse than that piled onto DeForrest Kelley for the pilot.
Memory Alpha says: An elderly admiral must negotiate the end of a hostage crisis he helped create. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
The main problem with this episode is: I don’t know who Mark Jameson is, and I don’t care. I (as a notional first-time viewer – I am pretty sure I didn’t see this episode when it was new) just barely know who Jean-Luc Picard is, and am starting to care about him. Commendably, TNG works hard to develop a true ensemble cast, giving different people episodes in which to shine, a refreshing contrast with the TOS situation, where because Bill Shatner had a smart agent, they were contractually obliged to give Captain Kirk the A-plot of pretty much every episode. (That’s my understanding of the situation, but if I’m confused I’d be pleased to hear the real deal in comments.)
This early along, though, that ensemble is still being developed, so bringing in a guest character whose story we’re all supposed to give a shit about for one episode is a misstep. It could have been done more successfully much later, when we were so used to Picard et al that focusing on someone quite different for an episode could feel refreshing. It’s similar to how miscalculated ‘The Naked Now’ is: it’s not funny to see the crew act goofy when you don’t yet know how they behave on a normal day.
This episode also establishes a central truth of the Star Trek universe: Starfleet admirals are a huge pain in the arse, and exist primarily to make real people’s jobs harder. If you walk into a room full of admirals, do not even turn around, just reverse out. You will note that on her return to the Alpha Quadrant, Kathryn Janeway was promoted to Admiral while Jean-Luc Picard remained a Captain. This is a reflection on their differing levels of usefulness.
Anyway, let’s get on with the episode, and I will see what I can find to enjoy in it.
- The part of Mark Jameson is being played by a huge wad of latex and a ridiculous doddery old man head-tremor and voice. To my joy, Data looks at him like he’s weirded out.
- I love the bird statues in this guy’s office! They remind me of Egyptian Horus falcons.
- Oh dear, terrorists! And years of civil war! This actor’s old man performance is horrible. Why couldn’t they cast an older man and a younger man who looked sufficiently alike to be the same character? Good different-ages casting is hard, but when it works, it works so well. I suppose here I’m thinking mainly of Spencer Beaumon and Michael Emerson as the young and adult Ben Linus. God, I love Ben Linus. I wish Ben Linus were on Star Trek.
- Jameson has turned up in a sort of beige plastic bath-chair. Apparently this POS cost ten thousand dollars to build and never worked properly. Please think for a moment about what youcould do with ten thousand dollars, or what, say, an animal shelter could do, and imagine how ashamed of themselves everyone concerned should have felt. Consequently, a much more basic set of wheels was used for the awful DS9 episode ‘Melora,’ but at least that gave us this:
I can’t help it, Julian On Wheels is cute. What is it with the urge of able-bodied people to play with wheelchairs and crutches? I know I can hardly resist it. If a friend is temporarily on crutches I have to suppress the urge to ask ‘Can I have a go?’
- Anne, at least, is played by a real old person, and has an interesting hooded dress.
- Jameson is a bossy bitch. Riker gives him the stink-eye.
- I’m so uninterested in this terrorist plot! Deanna is clearly suspicious of Jameson in some way. His uniform, by the way, is different from the one worn by Q the last time he played dress-up. Oh, DC Fontana worked on the teleplay for this!
- Jameson doesn’t want a check-up. Boringly, not because he is an android from Planet Mudd, like Norman.
- Hello, android from Planet Omicron Theta, with an infodump.
- Deanna’s makeup is so heavy this week her face is a different colour from her cleavage.
- The Future: instead of pushing a drawer back into the chest, you press a button and it slides in on its own! I love unnecessary details like that.
- Anne’s costume honestly looks to me like it was designed for Amanda, as if there’s a dress code for Federation ambassadors’ wives.
- Note lack of age makeup on Jameson’s hands. A man as old as he’s supposed to be should have liver spots and big ropy veins. I like Anne, for some reason – she’s believable to me, and I’m interested in what she says about how she wishes they’d had family quarters on ships thirty years ago, so she could have lived with her husband. Maintaining a marriage where your spouse may be on the other side of the galaxy must take a lot of patience.
- Oh dear, Jameson’s having some sort of infarction. I don’t care. But why hasn’t he gone to his check-up with Bev yet? His explanation of ‘body changes’ is obviously bogus, and Anne clearly knows he’s lying to her.
- HEY LIVINGSTONE! Bev doesn’t know why Jameson lied to her, giving her test results two months old and saying they were from two days ago. Picard suggests that Jameson’s mind may be going at age 85, which actually shouldn’t be that old for them, should it?
- Bev says she feels Jameson is hiding something, and Picard says ‘Now that is an observation I’d expect from Counselor Troi,’ and Bev looks really offended. Why? Does she think Deanna is useless?
- Picard comes over and sits really close to Bev to tell her he does respect her opinion (implying, given the last exchange, that he doesn’t respect Deanna’s!) and ask her to hang out on the bridge in case Jameson spazzes out.
- Picard offers to let Jameson take the conn as they approach their destination, which is quite nice of him (I get the impression from how jazzed he was about it in ‘Binary Code Title I Forget’ that he thinks of it as a special treat that he can’t usually permit himself). Anyway, the old fart gets out of his bath-chair and hobbles down to take Geordi’s seat.
- So Iverson’s Disease is some kind of degenerative condition? I suppose they’re deliberately keeping it vague.
- So Jameson’s ‘new therapy’ is obviously sinister, and ewwwwwwww it may involve Cialis. I hate those ads. Ew, stop pawing your wife in front of us. The age makeup is terrible – he’s so obviously a much younger man plastered with latex, and it’s just kind of insulting alongside a legitimately older actress.
- Beverly seems so annoyed at having to explain the anomalous results she’s got from Jameson that she reminds me of Dana Scully for a moment. I always enjoyed how indignant Scully was in the face of the inexplicable. Well, I just generally love the pants off Scully.
- So Jameson keeps getting younger but no less creepy-looking. Couldn’t they at least cast a middle-aged actor? His manner is just callow, he doesn’t have an older man’s gravitas. You are not fitter than Picard, you waxy-looking young fart – Picard is a total badass.
- I continue to like Anne and to feel like she is a real person in a way that Jameson isn’t – and I feel sorry for her having such a jackass of a husband.
- Ooh, moody lighting in the conference lounge! I suppose this is so it’s ‘surprising’ when we see the next stage of Jameson’s rejuvenation.
- Poor Picard, having to try to rein in this raging jackass. And he’s stolen his catchphrase. I like how Data looks to Picard to make sure that ‘make it so’ counts before he does anything.
- Oh piss off Jameson, I couldn’t care less about you. Ugh, I want to remaster this episode somehow so that a good older actor like Terry O’Quinn or John Noble plays you. Even the guy playing Karnas on that little screen is better.
- Ugh, ego, blah, Picard should punch him.
- Girl talk in the sickbay! Oddly, Beverly and Deanna address Anne just as Anne, not Mrs Jameson. It’s not as if they know her well. Anyway, Jameson’s not stable and might die, GOOD.
- The actor playing Jameson is finally using his normal voice. They’re still using shadows so it’s a ‘surprise’ when we see his young face.
- Jameson is such a tool.
- The corridors they’re in look like a re-dress of the ones from Omicron Theta. Jameson won’t listen to Data. Always listen to Data!
- Firefight in the tunnel! Data makes a ridiculous ‘nerving myself up’ face before rolling across the corridor to tell Picard the defenders’ phasers are set to kill. (Because he couldn’t have shouted that.) ‘Thank you, Mr Data, I have heard the sound before,’ Picard stiff-upper-lips.
- Anyway, Jameson has a spazz and they all beam out.
- Some unusual handheld camera work on Picard going in and out of the lift.
- Oh no Jameson has a disease that makes him sweaty!
- Ugh, just give Jameson to Karnas. Some of the hostages might be nice people.
- There are those awesome bird statues again! I really like the military uniforms on Karnas and his people – they look real. The pin badges and medals on their plackets and collars are very believable.
- Now Picard’s going to make a speech! With visual aids! Screenshots from earlier in the episode!
- Do you think it’s deliberate that ‘Karnas’ sounds like ‘carnage’?
- So the scar hasn’t been rejuvenated too? Because Jameson has presumably regressed, physically, to younger than he was when he met Karnas before, or Karnas would recognise him more easily. Why is the scar still there, when all the other changes to Jameson’s body have been reversed?
- Ugh, just shoot him, Karnas.
- So Jameson and his wife have a last conversation about her hair colour, and he dies. Good.
- So I guess Karnas feels better now, and I wish he had just got some therapy.
- Picard and Riker have a little chat about being old, and Riker is like ‘I am young and AWESOME!’ and for some reason Data and Geordi exchange a conspiratorial little look as they take off for some place named after Isis. So that’s that, and honestly, it was just dull. Sorry. I’m so dulled out by it that I can’t even think of anything entertaining O’Brien might have been doing this week.