“Too Short a Season”
Written by Michael Michaelian and D.C. Fontana
Directed by Rob Bowman
Season 1, Episode 15
Production episode 40271-112
Original air date: February 8, 1988
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise has been sent to deal with a situation on Mordan IV, a planet that has just ended four decades of civil war. They pick up Admiral Mark Jameson, who negotiated a hostage crisis on Mordan 45 years earlier. They now have another one: the Federation ambassador and his staff have been taken hostage by dissident terrorists, who will not negotiate with Karnas, the planetary governor.
Jameson is very old, and we know this because Clayton Rohner has been dipped in enough latex to keep Trojan in business for decades. He’s also in a wheelchair—suffering from something called Iverson’s Disease—and has an old wife. In his quarters, he has an attack of some kind, which surprises his wife—as does the fact that he’s had such attacks before.
Then, to everyone’s surprise—especially Crusher’s—Jameson gets up from his wheelchair on the bridge. Iverson’s has no cure and has never gone into remission, so Crusher isn’t sure what’s going on. But he starts getting younger—and has another attack. Crusher finds an unknown substance in his bloodstream, his red blood cells are running rampant, his DNA is skewed, and latex keeps falling away from his face.
It turns out that Jameson negotiated a treaty on Cerberus II years ago, and used the goodwill from that to obtain a drug that would reverse the aging process. It’s a two-year drug regimen, and he’d obtained enough for both him and his wife, but when this mission came up, he took both doses all at once. He felt he needed to be at his strongest to deal with this situation.
Jameson contacts Karnas on a secure frequency, hoping to get more information. It soon comes out that there are no dissidents, and that Karnas took the hostages himself, and he wants revenge on Jameson.
Now Jameson changes his strategy: he’s taking an armed rescue squad in. Picard wants to know why he’s made this decision. A now-youthful Jameson tells the truth. Forty-five years earlier, Jameson was sent in to negotiate for the release of Federation citizens Karnas took hostage in order to obtain weapons. Officially, he succeeded; in truth, he secured the hostages’ release by giving Karnas exactly what he wanted. He gave the same weapons to Karnas’s enemies—”my interpretation of the Prime Directive.” His feeling was that they’d have a brief war at best—instead, the civil war lasted forty years.
The admiral leads his raid—with Picard, in an odd burst of testosterone, insisting on accompanying. The team is ambushed by Karnas’s troops and beam back to the ship, but Karnas demands Jameson, who is now deteriorating rapidly. Jameson beams down, with Picard and Crusher, and—after a tiresomely lengthy convincing of Karnas that yes, this is really Jameson—Karnas announces his intention to kill Jameson on the ravaged world that he created.
Picard points out Karnas’s own responsibility for the carnage, and it all becomes moot as Jameson dies from the youth drug. Karnas frees the hostages, Jameson’s wife asks him to be buried on Mordan IV for no compellingly good reason, and the Enterprise flies off.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: “Because there are lives at stake, Mrs. Jameson.” Troi’s answer to the question as to why Admiral Jameson took the youth drug. It’s also wrong on pretty much every level, since his decision was entirely selfish and motivated by guilt.
There Is No Honor In Being Pummeled: Worf gets to shoot things a lot, but amusingly, his only line of dialogue in the entire episode is, “Sir, look out!” yelled right before he keeps Jameson from getting shot by tackling him.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: As he youthifies himself, Jameson tries to make nookie with his still-elderly wife, who rebuffs him. You’d think she’d want to kiss him more with less latex on his face….
Welcome Aboard: Michael Pataki makes a triumphant return to Star Trek, having played the angry, drunken Korax in “The Trouble with Tribbles,” now playing the angry, vengeful Karnas. He’s far stronger than Clayton Rohner as Jameson, who mistakes a scratchy voice and being a little shaky for playing an 85-year-old, and isn’t any better when he’s young. Marsha Hunt creates no impression whatsoever as Jameson’s wife.
I Believe I Said That: “They’re phasers, sir, set on ‘kill’.”
“Thank you, Mr. Data, I have heard the sound before.”
Data stating the obvious (with a contraction, no less!), and Picard calling him on it.
Trivial Matters: In the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series, Captain David Gold is established as having served under Mark Jameson on the Gettysberg. In No Surrender by Jeff Mariotte, it’s established that another shipmate, Augustus Bradford, who practically worshipped then-Captain Jameson, left Starfleet in disgust after the events of this episode came to light and he learned that his hero had feet of clay.
Make it so: “The story you are telling me is unbelievable!” I have to confess to liking this episode in spite of itself. It’s, at the very least, a decent script, with an interesting character in Jameson and a good history for Mordan IV. In particular, Karnas’s anger is palpable, and understandable under the circumstances.
Unfortuantely, far too many factors undermine it, starting with Clayton Rohner, who is simply horrible as Jameson, additionally saddled with the worst old-age makeup in the history of the universe. The relationship between him and his wife is depressingly traditional—in fact, it’s mired in 1950s clichés, since there’s no indication that she does anything but be his wife.
The lengthy scene where Picard has to convince Karnas that the young man in front of him is Jameson—when Jameson now must look like he did when Karnas first met him—is padding at its worst, as the scene takes too long and is wholly unnecessary.
Finally, it’s not really a Next Generation episode. It’s a story about an old man who has been carrying guilt for four decades over something stupid he did in his youth, and he tries to recapture his youth in a move of even greater stupidity. It’s even almost a good story about that.
Ultimately, it’s a missed opportunity.
Warp factor rating: 5.
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest novel, Unicorn Precinct, is currently available for the Kindle, and will be available in other eBook formats, as well as trade paperback, from Dark Quest Books in July. It’s the long-awaited sequel to his 2004 novel Dragon Precinct, which will be re-released by DQB later this year. None of this has anything to do with Star Trek, as these are high fantasy police procedurals. But I’m proud of them, so nyah.