Aged and infirmed Admiral Mark Jameson boards the Enterprise with his wife after terrorists on a planet he once negotiated a peace treaty kidnap hostages and demand his presence. Determined to make up for past mistakes, Jameson takes an unstable drug that de-ages him. Eventually, Jameson learns that the hostages have not been taken by terrorists but by someone with a grudge against him. He and the Enterprise crew must defuse the situation before the unstable drug kills Jameson.
Teleplay by Michael Michaelian and D.C. Fontana. Story by Michael Michaelian. Directed by Rob Bowman.
Too Short a Season tries to combine two familiar science fiction / action sort of plot ideas that have both been around the block a few times – an old hero trying to redeem himself for the sins of his past that lurk beneath his reputation, and someone aging unnaturally (in this case, backwards). Neither concept is handled very well here, and putting them together leaves the episode feeling pretty disjointed, and ultimately forgettable.
The episode absolutely fails to create an emotional connection with the planet that’s at the heart of the plot, or indeed the hostage situation that motivates everything. We never see the hostages, and we hardly see the world. Basically, there’s one set, one backdrop, and on guy (Karnas), and a few extras for a half-hearted attempt at weight and mass. Oh, there are the tunnels as well, but they aren’t really any help at connecting us with the plight of the hostages or the impact of Jameson’s actions on the world. Really, we needed something like that to create an emotional centre for the story. As it is, all we have is the story of Jameson himself, how he was willing to take his alien super drug and the fact that his wife is upset by it. It’s just not enough.
There are some moments that hold promise but it isn’t enough. After the failed raid, I thought that the story would shift to focusing on Picard having to find some resolution to the hostage crisis, and was looking forward to seeing what would happen. But all that happened was he beamed down with Jameson and tried to convince Karnas who he was, until Jameson conveniently died and Karnas decided his whole crazy grudge was over.
One thing that’s been a bit of a pattern so far on Next Generation is Starfleet’s seemingly built-in safety for commanding officers to act crazy with impunity. Twice before, Picard has acted very strangely under alien influences while everyone stood around feeling uncomfortable but failing to actually do anything about it. Well, in this case, it’s Picard who stands by uselessly while Admiral Jameson acts crazy. Picard knows that Jameson is using an untested alien drug that is having a radical effect on his body and that he is guilty war crimes, and yet he still seems to have either no recourse or inclination to remove Jameson from command. It all just seems so absurd.
Shout Outs to the Past:
I don’t think it’s intentional, but Jameson and his “wheel chair” is vaguely reminiscent of Captain Pike from the original series episode The Menagerie.
• Clayton Rohner, who plays Admiral Mark Jameson, was a regular on Murder One.
• Michael Pataki, who appears here as Karnas, was the Klingon Korax back in the original series episode Trouble with Tribbles.
• Wesley doesn’t not appear in the episode
• Mark Jameson’s make up job is hard to buy. He’s supposed to be 85, but he looks like he’s about 150. I guess that’s his disease at work.
• Riker makes no objection to Picard beaming down in the middle of a potential war zone. Maybe with all the tensions with Jameson, which have in a way robbed Picard of part of his authority makes Riker feel like he can’t or shouldn’t intervene. Or maybe Patrick Stewart wanted more action scenes. Either way, it explains why Picard almost barks Riker when he puts him in command. Sadly, Picard beaming down with Jameson on the raiding party adds nothing to the story at all.
• There’s a cool angle of Picard angrily leaving the turbolift into the bridge, and back again.
• This story you are telling me is unbelievable. Karnas says this at one point, and all we can say is that he is taking the words out of our mouth.
• At the end, Picard merrily beams not only himself but Dr. Crusher and Anne Jameson into an extremely volatile situation.
• They babble on about the quest for youth at the end, but that’s not really what the story is about – it’s more the quest for redemption.
• At the end, there isn’t any mention made about how the Federation will respond to the fact that their ambassador and his staff have been held hostage by the legitimate leader of this planet so that he could exact personal revenge.
Dialogue High Point
In the midst of this not very interesting episode, there are some good lines. My favorite is Picard’s moralizing speech at the end. It went something like this:
“And you wanted revenge! You blamed your war on him! And there’s no doubt he had a lot to do with it. But you had the weapons and you used them. You could have tried negotiations for peace on your planet long ago. Instead you chose to fight! How many of those 40 years of civil war are on your head, Karnas?”