Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, January 20, 2020

ST:TNG Season Four, Episode Twenty-Three "The Host"

ST:TNG Season Four, Episode Twenty-Three "The Host"
Production Order: 23
Air Order: 23
Stardate: 44821.3
Original Air Date: May 13, 1991

Crusher's Personal Log 44821.3: "Work shit, got a letter from my kid, blah, blah, blah. Seeing someone new!"

We jump right into it, with a close-up on Crusher hard-core making out with someone whose forehead ridges clearly say Not Human. There's a hissing noise and they break apart just in time for the camera to swing to the side, and a door to open, and Data steps into the lift.
Holy shit, y'all. You do you, boo-boo, but maybe not in the freaking lift, okay?
Data immediately starts talking and addresses them. The dude that Crusher was sucking face with is Ambassador Odan, and Data is eager to talk to both of them about an assignment they are all working on. He wants two hours of their time to "integrate the results of my study" with their information. Crusher is not pleased. It's clear by the lame excuse she gives that she and Odan intended to knock Starfleet-issued boots during this time, and Data is whatever-Odan-has-blocking them.
(I'm assuming it's something compatible.)

Odan comes up with a quick solution: he doesn't feel good. Crusher makes a big show ("Oh, NO! Are you still having those AWFUL headaches?) and all I can imagine is the reactions of her other crewmates in response to this overacting in the name of Getting Some. (For the record, Troi, Riker, and La Forge would all smirk. Picard would give her a "you cannot be serious" face.) But poor, clueless Data takes everything at face value and looks mildly concerned. Odan and Crusher devise a divide-and-conquer scheme: Odan will "lie down in his quarters with a cold damp cloth on his forehead," and Crusher will take Data to her lab to input his figures into a computer (which should take an hour at least), then Crusher will return to Odan's quarters to "give him a hypospray."
When the lift doors open, Crusher ushers Data out into the corridor, telling him that there's not a moment to lose in getting those figures in.
Odan goes to his quarters. He unbuttons his shirt and looks in the mirror, but instead of preparing for sexy times, his abdomen bulges.
Worried music?
He grabs a phaser thing from the vanity and shoots some kind of light at the bulge-thing.

Definitely worried music! Opening credits break!

Later, Crusher is brushing her hair in Odan's quarters, and Odan comes up in a robe to make out with her some more. He laughs and says he thought that Data was gonna bust in on them and start talking about the project. As they chat (and kiss) we find out that Odan (a mediator) has only been on board ship for 10 days, and that he thought Crusher was an ice queen when they first met. She asks in a worried voice if their fling is interfering with his work on the Pelier Zel project, but he assures her that he doesn't really have anything else to do until they get to Pelier Zel, so having a side project is nice. He gives her some lovely compliments and calls her Dr Beverly, and makes her promise that if he lets her go do project stuff with Data, that they can get together later that night.
Picard calls, and Crusher claps her hand over her mouth. It seems the Federation rep for Pelier Zel is on board, and would Odan like to meet up in the Obs Lounge?

Crusher enters the Obs Lounge through one door, and when Troi asks in an undertone where she's been, Crusher vaguely says she was with a patient. Odan comes in through the other door. The rep, Leka Trion, is introduced to Odan, and she tells him that she knew his father, and that the mediation provided by Odan's father lead to peace for many generations. Everyone sits down, and we get the skinny on our B-plot:
Two groups of people left the Pelier Zel planet 500 years earlier to live on its two moons, and they've been squabbling ever since. The people on Alpha moon have tapped into some kind of magnetic field on the original planet, and have made that their main power source. But it's causing environmental damage on Beta moon, basically causing global warming. The Betans are having severe medical problems. The Alphans are refusing to give up the new energy source, and the Betans are accusing the Alphans of intentionally harming them. Attempts to intervene by the planet have gone by the wayside and both sides are prepping for war, thus their calling Odan in.

Picard says they'll be at Pelier Zel in six hours, and could Trion have reps from both moons at a meeting place on the planet? Then Odan could beam down to them, and talks could get started right away.
"Oh. hey," says Odan. "I don't do beaming. I'll need a shuttle."
"Not recommended," replies Trion. "There are radicals on both sides, taking a shuttle would make you a target."
"It's cool," he replies. "I don't like the whole "being broken down into molecules" thing. I can't be the only one. Gonna do a shuttle."
Everyone leaves except Picard and Troi.
"Something up?" Picard asks.
"Yeah, Ambassador Odan keeps having these fluctuations of emotion. I can't really get a handle on him," Troi admits.
"Could be because he's Trill," Picard offers.
The Trill are fairly unknown.
"Maybe," she shrugs.

Troi goes to the salon. In the twenty-fourth century, everybody gets their hair cut in the same place, because it doesn't make any fucking sense to divide such things among gender. She sits in a chair and notices that Crusher is in the chair next to her.
Crusher is getting a full treatment: a mani-pedi, and an eye mask. She also looks out of place. She is startled when Troi greets her cheerfully. Then Troi guesses why she's there: Crusher is getting dolled up for someone. She's in love.
"Sometimes I wish you weren't so empathic," says Crusher, uncomfortably.

Troi pauses, and when Crusher pushes her, she admits that she senses something weird from Odan, and asks Crusher how well she really knows him. Crusher has a moment where she overthinks - does she know the difference between love and infatuation? She decides she doesn't really care that much. She hasn't felt like this in a long time, and she's enjoying herself. Troi is happy for her friend.

Picard is in his ready room when Odan comes in. They're at Pelier Zel, and they're almost ready to send Odan down. Odan thanks Picard and compliments him on his staff: Data and others have been helping him collect and analyze data from the situation, and he feels prepared.
"Especially that Dr Crusher. She's a fantastic doctor..."
"That's true," nods Picard.
"... and a fabulous woman."
Picard is no longer nodding. Odan is nosing in on his will-they-won't-they, one he has put years of effort into.

"Hey, you've known her longer than I have -"
Longer than ten days? Yep.
"- do you know how committed she is to staying in Starfleet?"
Again, dude. Ten days.
"I wouldn't presume to know her mind on such things," Picard answers stiffly.
Then the ready room is paged to let them know that the shuttle is ready. Odan goes down to the shuttle bay, hoping to return with good news.

In the shuttle bay, Odan is told that Riker will be piloting the shuttle himself. Crusher is there, and Riker walks by, but he does this "Oh, crap, personal goodbye" move when he sees that Odan has paused to talk to Crusher in a non-professional way.
Odan gives her a red rose, saying that his research on Earth says that red roses are given for love. She tells him that's correct, and seems slightly uneasy about PDA. They were hot and heavy behind closed doors, but now they're in a shuttle bay full of her fellow crewmembers, and he's kissing her palm and calling her Dr Beverly. But by the time he gets on the shuttle, she seems to have decided that maybe this is okay after all.

The shuttle takes off, with the bridge watching.
"Hey," says Worf. "There's another shuttle coming from the moons."
"Um, we're not expecting another shuttle," says Riker over the comm.
"They say they're an escort from Beta?" Worf reads off.
"Yeah, nothing about that in the flight plan," says Picard. "Ask them for a security clearance code."
But this new shuttle doesn't answer, because of course they don't have any clearance code.
 "Shit. Come back," Picard tells Riker.
Too late. The mystery shuttle opens fire on the Enterprise shuttle, and Odan is knocked from his chair.
Riker swings the shuttle back around, but the other shuttle is still firing. Worf tosses out a tractor beam onto Riker's shuttle and starts to haul it in, but they've taken a lot of fire, and the hull starts to break up.
"You're gonna have to beam us back!" Riker yells.
"No!" Odan protests from the floor. "You can't beam me over! I'll die."
So Riker puts his nose to the grindstone and carefully steers the crumbling shuttle back into the bay, calling for a medical emergency.

Crusher gets Odan onto a biobed in sick bay, and she and Nurse Ogawa scan him. The readings are kind of screwy, and as Odan regains consciousness, she mentions that it seems like he's got a parasite, and she may have to treat for that.
He takes her hand and puts it on his abdomen, which is bruised and bulging.
"What is that?" she demands.
"It's me," he tells her weakly. "I'm the parasite. This body is just a host."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Odan, still on the biobed, shakily tells Crusher that the Trill are a joined species, symbiont and host, and that his host body is dying. She needs to contact the Trill and ask them to send a new host for the Odan symbiont. He begs her to help him and calls her Dr Beverly.

A bit later, Crusher tells the senior staff in the Obs Lounge that Odan's host body has died. She's put the symbiont in stasis, but it can only survive another hour or two. The symbiont Odan was also who negotiated the first treaty with the people of Pelier Zel, just in another host body that they claimed was the father of this last host body. And they couldn't beam Odan down to the planet's surface because it would harm the symbiont.
Picard adds that they contacted the Trill, and a replacement host is on the way, but it'll take almost two days for them to reach the ship.
"Can I play host until then?" asks Data.
"That's nice of you," says Crusher, "but no - the symbiont needs to make a biological connection."
"I'll do it," says Riker firmly.
"Ehhhh." Crusher is uncertain. "Like, Odan told me the process, but there's never been a human host, so we don't know how that would pan out."
"It's really risky," Picard adds.
"We need Odan," Riker argues. "To keep the peace."
So nobody is claiming the shuttle that fired on Odan. Both sides are insisting that it was the other, and they're all pulling out weapons.
Picard tells him that it's his choice, and to indicate that he's stepping out of Riker's way officially, he calls him Will instead of Commander.
Riker is pretty freaking determined.

We skip straight to the surgery, where Crusher tells Riker that she's given him a local, but no knock-out drugs, because the symbiont can't handle it. Dude has to be awake. Brutal.
And we get a look at the symbiont, which looks like a fish... thing? With a lobster tail?

So Crusher slices him open, and they put the symbiont in, and Riker reports that it feels weird, because why would it not? Riker's system doesn't react well at first, and his BP drops and his vitals aren't good, but Crusher has to give the symbiont time to adjust, so there's some tension in the episode. If she just tossed the worm into Riker's abdomen and everything was an easy success, there would be disappointment. Draw that shit out a bit. Add some drama. Eventually, it all settles into place, and Riker's vitals go back to normal.
Crusher asks Riker how he's doing, and he replies that he's fine.
"You look a little tired, Dr Beverly."

Dramatic music while Crusher looks discomfited, because she has maybe forgotten that the symbiont was not the Trill host! Commercial break!

Riker-Odan calls the governor from the bridge and explains this weird new situation.
"Look, that guy wasn't my dad, it was me in a host body. And that guy you were expecting on the planet? Me too. This body I'm in now? Also just a host."
"I don't know if this will work," admits Trion. "The reps will see you as a Starfleet officer, maybe with his own agenda."
"It's your job to convince them otherwise," Riker tells her.
She agrees to try, and they sign off.
Riker-Odan is feeling dizzy, so Worf escorts him back to Odan's quarters.
Picard sends Crusher to Odan's quarters as well.

Crusher goes to see Odan-Riker. She scans him with her medical doohickeys, tells him he feels like crap but there's no sign of transplant rejection.
He wants to talk about them.
"I don't know what to say," she says bluntly.
"I don't either," he admits.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asks.
"I didn't think to. It's normal to me to be a joined species. Did you ever stop to think that you should tell me that you're a singular being?"
She's frustrated. "I don't know who you are!"
"No matter what or who I look like, I'm still Odan. And I still love you."
She scoffs at him.
"Look, I'm sorry." Now he's frustrated, too. "I can't help how I feel. But if it's hurting you, then I'll keep my distance."
Crusher leaves.

Crusher is sitting by herself in Ten Forward.
(Is this where people go to brood in space? Is Ten Forward a futuristic moor? But with fake-ass booze?)
Troi comes in and joins her, and Crusher (unprompted) tells her about the first man she ever loved. She describes a soccer player-turned-sculptor, and the three kids they had after marrying, and just when you're asking when the fuck all of this happened, she reveals that it was a crush she had on an older boy when she was 8.
It's a weird segue into talking about Odan. She says she loved him completely and without fear, but now wonders what it was she loved? Physical traits? Those are gone, and if it's just that, then she should mourn and move on. But it wasn't just physical. It was more than that. But now those "more than that" feelings are now housed in Will Riker, a guy she views as a brother. She's at a loss here, and asks Troi for help.
Troi asks earnestly how she feels, and Crusher admits that she's drawn to him, and wishes that he'd never come aboard.
"Don't wish that," says Troi gently. "If you're going to be open to love, you have to feel some pain sometimes."
Odan-Riker comes into Ten Forward, and Crusher guesses he's there. She refuses to look at him, and begs Troi to talk to her instead.
Troi tells her that the first man she ever loved was her father. She describes Ian Troi as her protector, who then went away. She would give pretty much anything to get his love back.
"If you can get that love from the man we know as Will Riker, then do it. Accept that love."
Crusher turns and looks at him, clearly torn.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 44823.8: "Trion managed to convince the reps from both moons to accept Riker as Odan, and they're on their way up to meet him."

In the Obs Lounge, Crusher does one last scan of Odan-Riker before everyone arrives, and tells him that his white blood cell count is up, but he's still okay, relatively speaking.
"We can stall til you're better?" Picard suggests.
"Nah, they'd be suspicious," Odan-Riker replies. "Gonna fake it til I make it."
Aah, pretending that you're not completely broken so you can work. That's not familiar at all.
Trion comes in with Lathal Bine from Beta moon, and Kalin Trose from Alpha moon. Odan-Riker recalls that Bine's aunt negotiated the treaty on behalf of Beta 30 years earlier, and that Trose himself, then a young man, represented Alpha. They seem to accept him based on this info, and the Starfleet officers leave.
"How'd you get the truce back then?" asks Trose.
"You switched places with Bine's aunt, to get a better feel for what each of you was going through. There was a truce after about a week."
"Whatever," says Trose. "You could have read about that in a history book."
"Okay," says Odan-Riker. "Very few people know that you, Trose, caught and stopped a radical plot on your moon to assassinate the Beta rep."
Trose is convinced. But Bine takes the opportunity to get in a dig:
"Maybe he was smarter back then than he is now."
Y'all, don't be that guy.
"Will you let me work with you?" Odan-Riker asks them.
Bine replies that he will, but Trose says he needs to ask his peers if it's okay.
(Why didn't he get that permission before he beamed up? Like, "Hey, if this guy is the real deal, can we work with him?" WHY ARE THERE SO MANY EXTRA STEPS IN BUREAUCRACY?)
Bine tries to start some shit, but Odan-Riker tells Trose that he can have 8 hours to talk to him people.
All of that, for a five-minute meeting that could have been an email.
The Pelier Zelians (?) leave, and Odan finally gets that headache that he told Data he had.

Dramatic music!

Down in sick bay, Crusher tells Picard that Odan-Riker finally has organ rejection.
"I can give him an immunosuppressant for now, but there's a foreign object in his gut that shouldn't be there, and his body is trying to get rid of it. Kinda flying blind here. Don't know about symbiont health or Trill physiology."
Picard asks Odan-Riker to join him in the ready room when he feels up to it, then Picard leaves.
Crusher gives Odan-Riker a hypospray for pain. He thanks her and tries to take her hand.
"Please don't," she says, pulling away.

In the ready room, Picard tells Odan-Riker that the Alphas have accepted him as mediator, and Odan-Riker responds that these people are reasonable, just caught up in their anger.
Picard notes that Odan sounds very much like Riker at times. He then tells Odan-Riker that a new host is 18 hours away.
"Can you make it until then?"
"I'll figure it out," Odan-Riker assures him. "The meds Dr Beverley gave me are helping."

Crusher goes back to her quarters. She orders tea and sits down at a table to stare at the red rose Odan gave her. In his quarters, Odan-Riker asks Majel where Dr Crusher is, but when told that she is in her quarters, he does nothing.
The door chimes. It's Crusher.
They stand terribly close and talk banalities.
"Are you feeling okay?"
"Yes, thank you."
"I can do a check-up in the morning before the delegation arrives, and I can give you more meds intermittently."
"I don't want them knowing I'm getting treatment."
"We can schedule small breaks for it."
He finally cuts to the chase and tells her that if she's going to go, she better do it now. She refuses to leave.

Picard's Log 44824.4: "The reps are coming back aboard. Apparently, troops on either side have amassed to get the war going if this peace thing doesn't work."

Crusher has joined Picard and Odan-Riker in the ready room for that last check-up while Odan-Riker lies weakly on the couch. She tells them both that his white blood cell count is up again, and the meds she has given him are now wearing off faster than they were before.
Yeah, me and my non-medical-degree-havin' opinion are going to suggest that when someone is experiencing organ failure, that person should not be having sex.
Odan-Riker opts for no more meds at this time. He confirms that they're detrimental to Riker's body, and that he'll just do another fake-it-til-you-make-it with this meeting. Then he makes two announcements: he will do the meeting today; and regardless of what happens, the symbiont needs to come out at the end of the day. Odan feels that Riker has done enough, and he doesn't wish to kill the first officer. He is aware that the symbiont will die if the host does not arrive in time, but he makes Crusher agree.
Worf pages Picard to let them know that the delegation has arrived.
Odan-Riker shares a brief moment with Crusher on his way out.
Once he is gone, Picard reminds Crusher that they are friends, and he sees that she's struggling, and tells her that he'll always be there for her.
She allows herself a small breakdown and hugs him. This was a bit more than he bargained for, but he can tell his friend needs a hug, so hug her he does.

Picard and Crusher are pacing and clock-watching on the bridge. Crusher lets the audience know that the delegation has been in talks for six hours now.
"So hey," interrupts Worf. "Just got a message from the ship bringing the new host? They're having car trouble. Gonna be another nine hours."
"Are you shitting me?" asks Crusher weakly.
The door to the Obs Lounge hisses open and a sick-looking Odan-Riker stumbles out. "Worth it," he croaks before collapsing on the floor.
Crusher runs to scan him, and he tells her that the Pelier Zelians will not go to war.
Picard starts barking out housekeeping orders: get the Pelier Zelians off the ship, and prep to go to the Trill ship at warp 9.
"Still gonna take like two hours to get there," warns Data.

The E rushes to the Trill ship, and Picard goes down to sick bay to see what's what. Riker is resting post-surgery, and will be fine. The Odan symbiont is doing the same in stasis. Picard tells Crusher that she should rest some, but she tells him that she'll need to transfer the symbiont into the new host ASAP.

Worf enters sick bay sometime later to find Crusher asleep by herself, her head on the biobed. He wakes her up to tell her that the new host has arrived, and she steels herself for a moment. She is about to meet the new-old man in her life, and she's prepared to do it with a smile on her face.
"Send him in," she says cheerfully.
A female Trill comes in and introduces herself as Kareel.
Crusher is taken aback. She clearly assumed that all Odans were male.

Crusher is in her office post-surgery, giving a medical log about how the transfer was successful, and the "assimilation complete."
Kareel comes in, calling her Dr Beverly.
"I feel for you," says Odan-Kareel. "This process has been really hard on you, but you stood by me, and helped me when I needed it."
She's being kind, and sort of looking to see if maybe Crusher is up to move forward with their romance.
But Crusher's congratulations on a job well done concerning the negotiations is clearly a no.
Odan-Kareel is disappointed. "I'm still Odan, and I still love you."
"Glad that you're okay," smiles Crusher.
LOTS of awkward dancing here.
Odan-Kareel rips the band-aid off: "Are we done then?"
Crusher is honest. "I'm not used to this body-switching thing. I just... can't keep up. Like, how long will you have this body, and who will the next one be? It's too much for me."
That's fair, I guess.
She blames it on a failing of humanity, and suggests that someday, their ability to love won't be so limited.
Odan-Kareel pauses, then replies that she understands. She gets up to leave, but Crusher calls her back.
"I do love you, Odan."
Odan-Kareel takes Crusher's hand and kisses the palm. "I will never forget you."
She leaves the office, and Crusher reflects on what might have been.


This episode is tough. I'm generally trying to pretend that I haven't seen anything beyond this point in my viewership, but the Trill species fascinates me, and I actually know quite a bit about them. Separating out the strands is much harder when you've immersed yourself in the lore and own a copy of "The Lives of Dax." So I guess I'll go over some differences we see here and what we see later on.
Being that this is our first encounter with the Trill, the writers have no idea what will become of them later, and quite a bit will change in the way that they are handled, both lore-wise, and physically. Here, they have sculpted foreheads and lack the spots that they'll become known for, and like many changes that come to Star Trek, the original content will be built upon, but the discrepancies will be ignored. (DS9 Trills will actually get the spots given to Kamala, a Kriosian female, in TNG's season five.)

For instance, the joined Trill is handled differently. Odan as the symbiont retains the dominant personality, with all of their skills and memories, but the host seems to disappear. We never learned the first name of the original host that Crusher met, because he needed to only go by Odan. Later, when the Trill become better established as a race, it will be treated as a joining of personalities, but for this episode, Riker is completely enveloped by Odan, and referred to in the third person by Odan. In this way, the host seems to be treated more like a physical vehicle to get the symbiont around. It makes me wonder about certain aspects of this race: Odan in Riker's body returns to Odan's quarters for the remainder of the trip - because Odan was simply "borrowing" Riker's body, would it be considered an invasion of privacy for him to go to Riker's quarters? Also (very important!), when offering to house Odan, Riker consented to running the peace talks, but with his own personality buried under Odan's, did Odan get Riker's permission to continue the quasi-secret romance with Dr Crusher? Crusher described Riker as being "like my brother," so was it okay or weird for him to sleep with her? How cognizant was he of things that Odan did while in his body? Was it like waking up out of a coma, and saying, "I did what?!"?

Another question: how joined were Riker and Odan? Did Odan gain Riker's memories, skills, thoughts, the way he would with another Trill host? It seems like the connection was not a great one, so possibly not. Also - how would the handling of a human host be recorded in their records? Like

- (first name) Odan
- *
- Kareel Odan

*William T Riker, temporary human host

Does it depend on how deep the connection was, or again, was Riker simply treated as a meat suit for the symbiont? I feel like "meat suit" is the correct answer for this early-stages Trill, but possibly footnotes would be included in later-stage Trill notes.
(Sidenote: those who have watched DS9 will note that I have reversed the way that Trill names are handled. The first name of the host goes first, and the name of the symbiont becomes the new surname. But because this is information we have not been given yet, I used the name of the symbiont first to indicate who they were, and the name of the host last to indicate which host was housing Odan at the time. The correct way to say that Kareel is joined to the symbiont is to say that she is now Kareel Odan).
Something else that got thrown to the wayside with the introduction of a more fleshed-out Trill race: that transporter thing. Without the transporter interference, this story would have been drastically different. Moving forward, all Trills hop onto the transporter pad without a care in the world, but here, it's treated as a matter of life or death. Had Odan not had this issue, he would not have gotten into the shuttle, or been fatally injured when the shuttle was fired upon. In truth, this story would not have been possible with the fleshed-out Trills of DS9, because too many of the canon items mentioned here get ignored when the race is made more dimensional. A specific gripe: if one cannot get into the transporter for medical reasons, why not say so? "I'm sorry, Trills cannot do transporters for medical reasons" is not only good enough to get him out of a transporter trip, but is vague enough that people will not question it. "I don't like transporters" will only gain you arguments. In this case, Odan would have ended up on the shuttle whether he claimed medical concerns or preference. "Medical concern" would have been the better choice.

They... they made action figures of characters in mid-transport, y'all

Speaking of which, why did the Trill not mention that they were a joined species? Why was this kept a secret? Did they assume that others would shun them in misunderstanding? Odan was kind of correct when he told Crusher that he had not mentioned it previously because it is normal for him to be a joined species, just as it is normal for Crusher to not be. But he also tells the Pelier Zelians that a previous host was his father, instead of saying "we are a joined species." This suggests that Odan was not being forthright to Crusher on purpose. Memory Alpha suggests that Trills considered this a private matter; however, when Odan needed to switch hosts because one died, he laid it all out on the table for the Pelier Zelians. It's possible that this was a landmark thing, telling other species that some of their rank and file are joined. Following this episode, the Trill are very open about this fact - was Odan's unique situation the reason behind them no longer keeping this secret? Sure, he told the Pelier Zelians that "father" lie because the story required the symbiont thing be kept under wraps to make it a surprise when that first host died, but it would have been nice if things like this had been addressed.
I also wondered how exactly the cat had not been let out of the bag prior to this - would the Federation (and Starfleet) not be aware that their Trill ambassadors were joined? Survey saaaaays... nope. Despite working alongside them, the Trill and their homeworld are not actually a part of the Federation. So they could be as secretive as they damn well pleased. Until the next Trill episode, when it ceases to matter.
One more personal gripe: Crusher was not an expert at symbiont surgery and transfers, so why did a Trill specialist not accompany Kareel to the Enterprise? I'm sure the show was looking to save a few bucks (if not for five guest stars, this would be a bottle show), and avoided hiring another actor by just having Crusher do the surgery, but could she not have mentioned a specialist in her notes? "I assisted Dr (Trill name) in the implantation of the Odan symbiont into the new host..." This way, the specialist could have ensured that the surgery went as planned, and Crusher could have added Trill-specific info to the Federation database. Instead, Crusher and the Enterprise were treated kind of like a MASH unit, and it seems kind of reckless to do that, based on how precious the Trill view their symbionts.

Odan probably agrees, Hawkeye

So there's a thing I gotta address here, and that's that the transgender community often views Trill stories as trans stories. And I get where they're coming from. Trills are both a perfect and imperfect stand-in for trans humans. Perfect, in that they can be used to futuristically show how easy it is to accept a person who has fundamentally not changed on the inside (in this case, the symbiont), while some changes take place on the outside (when a host is swapped out). And it's imperfect because with DS9 Trills and beyond, we are talking about the joining of two separate entities to become one. The narrative fits a little better with Odan, as the host body gets a bit erased, and the symbiont personality takes over. There, it really is simply a changing of the outside from one host body to another... if you don't count that Kareel and her predecessors had lives and personalities before becoming joined.
In fact, it's typically this set of screencaptures that gets shared to show how easy it is to accept the same person in a new wrapper:

I've actually seen this shared by trans folx that don't watch Star Trek and have no idea who these people are. They just know that one character accepts the other without question. This is the great part about science fiction: we can use it to address current problems in our society, but frame it in such a way that feels like fiction. We can talk about trans rights in the twenty-first century via sci-fi, and fewer people will get up in arms about it, because "it isn't real." We can be sneaky, y'all. And it's always been that way with sci-fi, from the time of that little Mary Shelley novel about cheating death by building monsters. Gene Rod built that premise in from the very first episode of Star Trek: no one was allowed to talk about the Vietnam War, but Gene could get away with it, because his show was about fantastical stories of the future.
So is "The Host" a trans love story or not?
I'm gonna go with "maybe" here. 
On the Not side: Odan commits a lie-by-omission when he doesn't tell Crusher that he is a joined Trill, and that who he is is encased in a worm in his abdomen. Trans people are typically upfront with possible partners, because... well, they don't want to die. Murder is a common way to die in the trans community, and their killers often get away with it by claiming the "Gay Panic" defense. If a trans person trusts someone enough to date them, they will be upfront about their journey.
On the Yes side: Odan switches host bodies when one dies. A trans body sometimes goes through changes on the outside (and on the inside, hormonally). In both cases, the personality, memories and feelings on the inside do not change. The appearance does.
On the No side: Odan does not change genders at first. He is moved into another male body, and Crusher struggles with not only her feelings for Odan not being attached to the body that she thought of as Odan, but then when Odan suddenly becomes the guy that she thinks of as a brother.
Kind of both: Crusher's hesitancy to accept Riker and then Kareel as Odan is actually pretty realistic. Sometimes, a trans person meets a partner part of the way through transition. Sometimes, a couple is married for forty years and one partner admits to the other that they are trans. In each case, the cis (non-trans) partner must make a choice: can they weather the changes together, or will they be too overwhelming to stand the test of time? The answers vary wildly. 
In Crusher's case, some people argued that she was being homophobic in not accepting Kareel. But it didn't strike me as being the case. She struggled quite a bit with Odan as Riker as well, and each host was presented as Odan, but not the one she remembered. Was she really in love with Odan's previous host, or the Odan personality? Both. She had no reason to believe that they were separate. Was she still in love with the Odan personality when it was inside the Riker wrapper? Yes, but she was very much on the fence about not only the Riker aspect, but the fact that the outside could change like that at all. She admitted to loving Odan, and gave in to her desire with Odan-Riker, but then the host body was changed on her again, and she was forced to ask herself some tough questions: could she keep up with the changes? How often would they change? Given that the symbiont could live to be more than 100, that's a distinct possibility. We also have no idea what kind of life span the hosts have - if they are more delicate than the symbiont, they might have to change hosts multiple times over the course of the symbiont's life. (In DS9 it is established that Trills have strict laws against joined members taking up with former lovers who are also joined, and that romance is considered something frivolous that "young people" do, but none of that has been established yet.) I would consider this to also be a strike against the idea that this episode is a trans love story, in that it is expected that a symbiont would need a new host body on multiple occasions over their lifetime. While it is not unheard of for a trans person to transition to another binary gender, then to a different gender when the first was not a good "fit," it is not expected that trans folx would change as often as Trills do.
In this case, Crusher examined her feelings and asked, "are these changes something I can handle?" and came to the conclusion that she could probably not keep up. In matters of love, one must always be honest. She admits to Odan-Kareel that she does love her, and almost seems disappointed in herself, but she is honest enough to admit that she couldn't deal. It is what it is, and that sucks for both parties.
BUT, she also tried to blame humanity's shortcomings for her decision. Yeah, not buying it. There are humans that could weather the situation, just as there are partners who can take the hand of their trans partners and say, "okay, let's do this." If you can't do the thing, Crusher, admit it and move on. But don't blame humanity. While I know this was filmed in 1991, there have always been trans humans on Earth, and I would like to think by the twenty-forth century that we would have gotten over ourselves concerning our prejudices and accepted trans folx. Take responsibility for your own feelings, and leave the rest of us out of it, thanks.

PS - If you're looking for a more straight-forward Star Trek trans love story, I highly recommend TOS' "Metamorphosis." Those who are not trans or do not have trans loved ones will probably argue that it is not, but those in the know will recognize it right away.

- Fun Facts:

- Barbara Tarbuck (Leka Trion) will appear again later in Enterprise.

- Robert Harper, who played Lathal Bine, is not listed in the credits for some reason.
- "E Pluribus Unum" was the working title for this episode. It means "out of many, one."
- In the original script, there was no romance. The story focused entirely on the war and negotiations. But adding the romance, Crusher, and Riker made the death of Odan's host more of an immediate problem for the regular characters.
- Brannon Braga described this story as "the most repulsive story ever pitched to us." "It was pitched as a squirmy worm who's really the intelligence."
- Gates McFadden was heavily pregnant during the filming of this episode, and because the pregnancy was not addressed on the show, great care was taken to only shoot her from the chest up, to hide her bump. McFadden later lamented that Crusher's first romance episode was shot while trying to hide a pregnancy.
- This is the first time that we see that the barber shop has a salon area as well.
- Picard is looking at the Tyken's Rift from "Night Terrors" on his monitor before he talks to Odan in the ready room.

- This is the first appearance of the Trill, though later Trill will bear no resemblance to Odan physically.
- While both Odan and Crusher insist that the symbiont would have been damaged during transport, this problem is never addressed again. Future Trill use the transporter without issue. Maybe we're supposed to forget that part? Maybe we're supposed to believe that later transporters were altered to accommodate Trill? (But then that makes me wonder about the DS9- TOS crossover episode...?)
- There is some disagreement about whether or not Crusher's rejection of Kareel Odan was homophobic. Some people wanted Crusher to proceed forward with Kareel, others were angry that this episode contained any trace of a homosexual relationship at all. You can please some of the people...( We won't actually get a same-sex romance until season 4 of DS9, which coincidentally is about two joined Trills, and which is also not actually about a same-sex romance.)

Red deaths: 0
To date: 0
Gold deaths: 0
To date: 0
Blue deaths: 0
To date: 1
Unnamed color crew deaths: 0
To date: 11,000
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
To date: 1
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
To date: 4
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
To date: 4
Sassy Riker Moments: 0
To date: 7
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
To date: 12
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
To date: 1
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date: 2
Sassy O'Brien Moments: 0
To date: 0
Sassy Crusher Moments: 1
To date: 3
Sassy Troi Moments: 0
To date: 7
Sassy Guest Star Moments: 0
To date: 5
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 0
To date: 23
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 1
To date: 18
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 1
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 0
To date: 1
Picard Maneuvers: 0
To date: 19
Tea, Earl Grey: 0
To date: 11

Who sleeps like a weirdo? My cat sleeps like a weirdo.

Monday, January 6, 2020

ST:TNG Season Four, Episode Twenty-Two "Half a Life"

ST:TNG Season Four, Episode Twenty-Two "Half a Life"
Production Order: 22
Air Order: 22
Stardate: 44805.3
Original Air Date: May 6, 1991

This shit is why Sorting Hat quizzes keep putting me
in Ravenclaw.


Troi's Personal Log, 44805.3: "My mother is on board."

That's a direct quote, and the entirety of the log entry, y'all. And she says it in a super flat voice. Troi is clearly very pleased that this is happening. And can you blame her? The last time Troi saw her mother, they and Riker were kidnapped by freaking Ferengi, and Lwaxana pulled some mental abuse bullshit on her. They seemed to have gotten past that part by the end of Menage a Troi, but still. Lwaxana, as much as I love her, is A LOT. She would suck to have as a mother.

Right after that log entry, we see a lift slide open, then this shit happens:

Picard checks the corridor before proceeding, but too late.

Once again, big-time kudos to the costume department. Lwaxana is always dressed to kill. Designer Robert Blackman once said, "All of Lwaxana Troi's clothing is fun because it's fairly outrageous." Hell yeah, it is. Werk it, gurl!

She's thrilled to see Picard, and insists that he's just as thrilled to see her. He tries to wiggle out of her company by saying he has to meet someone in the transporter room, but it backfires.
"This is a sensitive meeting, Lwaxana. He's a member of a reclusive race, one that we haven't really met before now, and it requires diplomacy."
Lwaxana is tickled teal. She loves diplomacy, because "everyone is dressed so well!"
And she marches into the transporter room. Picard seems resigned.
You were never getting out of that, Picard. Lwaxana Troi is an ambassador, and can easily convince people that she belongs in situations where she really doesn't.

The newcomer is beamed aboard, and hey, it's David Ogden Stiers! Nice!

The new guy looks a round a bit before getting down. He introduces himself as Dr Timicin, and explains that he has never been on a Federation ship before. There's an awkward moment where Timicin recalls that humans shake hands when they meet, and Lwaxana rushes to interrupt.

You know O'Brien's gonna spill that tea later to his wife.
"She interrupted an official greeting? Are you serious?"

She wastes no time in rattling off her rank and such ("Daughter of the Fifth House," blah, blah, blah), then immediately asks him to dinner.
"We're... kind of busy," says Picard, clearly trying to save this new stranger.
Lwaxana is having none of it, and sweeps Timicin out into the corridor, with Picard trailing behind.
"That dude's in trouble," La Forge tells O'Brien.

Dramatic music! Opening credits break!

Picard's Log 44805.7: "So Kaelon II, where this scientist is from, has been working for generations on trying to charge up their dying sun. But like that crappy charge cord you bought at the convenience store last week, no power is getting where it needs to go. The Federation offered to help. And they're reclusive, but they said yes."

The senior crew are in the Obs Lounge with Timicin, who is explaining his plan to revitalize the sun with altered torpedoes.
"Your plan is the shit," says Data in admiration.
They talk about how they're going to test the torpedoes on another sun that's similar, and Picard says he wishes it hadn't taken the Federation three years to find. Timicin then admits that it took him four decades to develop the programming for the torpedoes, and while his people don't like asking for help, they're pretty freaking grateful that the Federation is lending a hand. He's been doing this his whole life, and really just wants to complete the process before he dies.

Lwaxana is dicking around on the bridge, pushing buttons and calling Worf "Mr Woof." When the meeting lets out, she rushes forward, but pushes between Deanna and Riker, grabbing Timicin by the arm and turning on the charm full blast. Timicin apologizes, he can't come play with her now, he has to go to Engineering because, you know, he has to save his planet.
"You gotta leave the bridge, Mrs Troi," says Riker. He is, of course, amused when Lwaxana hassles anyone but himself.
"Why?" she asks. "There are other people here."
They're working, yo.
After she leaves, Timicin says that he is surprised that Lwaxana is old enough to be Deanna's mother. He calls her "vibrant."
Deanna gives him a polite smile that fades when he looks away.

Timicin is working with Data and La Forge at the pool table in Engineering when Lwaxana interrupts to announce that she and Mr Homn have brought a snack. Then she proceeds to sweep all the padds off the table because those aren't important at all. And when Timicin looks askance at Mr Homn, she explains that he is her valet, and doesn't say much.
"How can he?" La Forge mutters to Data.
Data then pipes up that they have been working for a while, and organic lifeforms do require sustenance to continue working at a high level -
"Don't you start, too," warns la Forge.
Timicin graciously accepts her offer of food, calling her Mrs Troi, but the Mrs Robinson of Space tells him that only Data and La Forge call her that.
"Call me Lwaxana."

Later in the lift, Lwaxana and Timicin discuss their families (each has a grown daughter, and Timicin has a grandson), and Timicin admits that he is a windower. Lwaxana moves in for the kill. Exiting the lift, she asks him why his people have not vacated the planet, knowing their sun was dying. He explains that it is their home, and defines who they are as a people, and they both hope that the Federation will help the people of Kaelon II fix their dying sun.
When they reach Lwaxana's quarters, she invites him in, adding that Mr Homn sleeps elsewhere. They share some laughs, and he seems delightfully surprised that he is having a good time with her, but declines. They're both mildly disappointed when he leaves.

Dramatic music, for some reason? Commercial break!

Picard's Log 44807.5: "Made it to the test sun."

Lwaxana is in her quarters, trying on dresses, while Deanna tells her to just fricking pick something. Lwaxana gets on her case for not speaking telepathically. Deanna points out that, with Mr Homn in the room, they are not alone, and that shit is rude. Lwaxana holds up a dress and wonders telepathically if Timicin likes green.
Sassy Troi Moment: "That's not very telepathic of you."
"I tried," Lwaxana admits. "Wrong species. Right species for everything else, though."
Girl, did you scan his brain, and his pants?
They tease each other: Lwaxana is a slut, and Deanna needs to find a man.

A scene with Lwaxana and Deanna will also occur at the end of the episode,
and will also largely feature Lwaxana standing in front of mirror, with Deanna
mostly shown in the reflection.

On to the experiment! La Forge and Timicin are down in Engineering, while the bridge crew handles the torpedo launch. They fire the torpedoes, and all is going well. Timicin looks incredibly relieved. But then the sun starts to overheat, and they're forced to warp the fuck out of Dodge before the thing explodes. 

Timicin shakily sits down in the nearest chair, and fighting tears, comms Picard to offer his gratitude to the crew for their help. Picard accepts, and sets the course back to Kaelon II.

Later, Timicin is sitting by himself in Ten Forward, nursing a drink, when Lwaxana approaches him to offer her condolences. She sits and tries to cheer him up by fishing for a compliment, but he tells her that he isn't good company now. She starts to get up to leave him alone, but he asks her to stay, lamenting that they met now, rather than several years earlier.
"What difference does a few years make?" she asks.
"Kind of a lot," he says. "I'm on my way home to die."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 44812.6: "Back at Kaelon II, gonna talk to Science Minister B'tardat."

Ever the eager beaver, Picard tells B'tardat that even though the experiment was not a success this time, they can totes do more experiments til they get it right. Riker offers to let Timicin have all of their info and facilities so he can continue his work.
"That's cool of you," says B'tardat, "but Timicin has other stuff to do at home, and we don't have anyone to replace him."
Picard and Riker exchange a glance. "We can hang out."
"We're cool," says B'tardat. "Thanks for helping us."
He signs off. Picard, Riker, and Data are baffled.
Lwaxana marches in without ringing the bell. "Oy. Did you know that this fucking planet has a ritual where you kill yourself when you reach 60? It's their thing. You hit 60, they throw you a party, and you kill yourself."
Picard, caught off guard, looks at his walking encyclopedia
Data shrugs. "They're isolationists. We don't know anything about them." 
"Timicin just told me!" Lwaxana rages. "You can't let them do that!"
"I don't have any choice," says Picard. "It's a cultural thing."
It's a Prime Directive thing, too.
"My hands are tied."
She yells at him to go down there, and "educate them," but he flat-out tells her that he can't go around the PD, even if his personal feelings diverge from the situation.
"That's your Prime Directive - not mine!" She storms from the ready room.
Anticipating trouble, Picard pages Deanna.

Whipped into a frenzy by a mixture of grief and anger, Lwaxana goes down to the transporter room and demands that O'Brien beam her down to Kaelon II so she can yell at Timicin's people about a custom that she disagrees with. O'Brien is at a loss. He hasn't been given orders to beam anyone down, and doesn't know what to do with her.
Deanna comes in. "Mother, what are you doing?"
Lwaxana screams that O'Brien needs to beam her down, and Deanna puts on her counselor hat to explain that O'Brien does not have orders to follow her directions. Lwaxana steps off the pad and begins sobbing that 60 is still young, and it's not fair. O'Brien makes up a bullshit reason to walk away, but locks the transporter before doing so.
The Trois sit on the transporter pad. Lwaxana sobs that it doesn't make sense for her to cry, that she never cries, but Deanna reminds her that she cried when her husband died. It takes some coaxing, but Lwaxana finally admits that, at her age, sometimes she feels tired and afraid, and Deanna guesses that her mother is worried about becoming one of those people who "dies before they die."

Lwaxana goes to see Timicin. He is wracking his brain, trying to figure out where his calculations went sideways, and she hugs him. He tells her that she is kind, but she disagrees.
"I'm hateful. Because I hate what you're going to do, and I kind of hate you for doing it."
He tells her that it's part of his culture, but he isn't arguing. They just both seem sad about the whole thing. They kiss.

Worrying music? Commercial break!

When we come back, it's obvious that Lwaxana and Timicin have slept together, as she's watching him sleep. Timicin wakes up, and he tells Lwaxana that he wants to explain The Resolution to her so that she understands what's about to happen and why.
He then launches into a description of a system that sounds... familiar. Fifteen or twenty generations earlier, the elderly on Kaelon II would grow older and infirm. Their families could not care for them, and they were put into deathwatch facilities to wait it out, sometimes for years. Their lives had had meaning, but at that point, meant nothing.
"We are no longer that cruel," he tells her.
"No, you just kill them," she argues. "You got rid of the problem by getting rid of the people."
"It's a celebration of life," he replies. "You pass the responsibilities of life from one generation to the next."
"Uh-huh. So no one is caring for the elderly? You take care of your kids, but then it isn't their turn to take care of their parents?"
"That places a huge burden on the kids," says Timicin. "No parent should expect to be paid back for the love they've given their children."
"Why the hell not?" She angrily orders oskoids from the replicator.

He's interested in the oskoids and asks what they are.
"Betazed delicacy. Should have tried it while you were alive. No point now."
Ouch. Damn.
They then get into it concerning the chosen age of the Resolution. Lwaxana argues that someone could still be vital at 70 or 80, but hopelessly sick and frail at 50.
"Why make them wait so long to commit suicide?"
He tells her that by picking a uniform age for the Resolution, it takes the burden off the families to choose when their loved ones will die. She counters by saying that they wouldn't have to choose if they just let people die when they were ready to die. Then she switches tack and asks about his grandson - wouldn't it be better if his grandson knew him in person, rather than remembering him as some vague memory? 
No chill. None.
He tells her that this is a custom that he has known all his life, and that he attended the Resolutions of his parents, and that they are beautiful celebrations.
They've reached the part of the argument where neither answers the other directly, they just throw out points.
Now she hauls out an example: the women of Betazed used to wear enormous wigs with holes in the middle, and they used to put tiny cages with animals in the hole. Started out as a weird fad, then it became the custom. It was uncomfortable for the woman, and cruel to the animals. One day, a woman said, "this is kind of fucking stupid," and she quit doing it. The custom ended.
Timicin smiles. "That woman must have been a lot like you."
Final arguments:
Lwaxana points out that no one on his planet is more qualified to save it than he is, and he's about to take himself out of the game. If Kaelon II only has 30 or 40 more years, will anyone be able to save it at all? Will his grandson live to see his own Resolution?
She kind of crosses a line there, and he briefly gets angry, but then calms himself: Younger scientists will take up his work, and it will continue. He doesn't sound 100% convinced, though.
"Why should anyone bother trying, though?" she asks. "If it's time has come, let it die."
Neither seems terribly angry now. They just seem... sad.

Later, Timicin is back down in Engineering, going over the test results with Data and La Forge. They discuss what might have gone sideways, and Timicin realizes that he could build a new experiment to test a new theory.
"It'll just take some time," he says happily.
But then he realizes that he hasn't got any more time.

Picard is in his ready room when Timicin comes to see him.
"Hey, so... I need to request asylum aboard the E?"
Zoom-in on Picard!

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard and Timicin call B'tardat, who is angry that Timicin is asking for asylum.
"Your family and friends are gathering for your Resolution. It's part of our culture. Get your ass back here."
"But I have new theories about how to save our planet," argues Timicin. "It would take other scientists a decade or more to set things up and test them. I need to finish my work."
"Others started your work, others will finish it," says B'tardat. "Are you being coerced?" He eyes Picard.
"Influenced, maybe," admits Timicin. "But I made the decision of my own free will."
Riker pages Picard: there are Kaelon warships headed for the E.
"We're here in friendship," Picard tells B'tardat. "We're just here to help you figure out how to revitalize your sun."
"You leave orbit with our guy, you're toast," says B'tardat.
He signs off.
"Am I doing the right thing?" asks Timicin quietly.
"You're the only one who can answer that," Picard replies.
"Lwaxana thinks I should lead some kind of revolt," Timicin smiles. "She's a woman of strong conviction."
That is definitely something Picard can agree with.

Rae sighting!

On the bridge, Riker tells them that the warships haven't contacted the E, but have taken up attack positions. Timicin is very insistent that there be no blood shed over this. In what appears to be her only line in this episode, Crusher assures him that the E's bridge crew will avoid it at all costs.

Down in Engineering, La Forge and Data break the news to Timicin that the Science Ministry on Kaelon has broken the interlink. They will no longer accept any data he sends them.
"I will not terminate my life, so they terminate my work?" he roars at the computer screen. "Alive, I am a bigger threat to my people than I am dead."
He looks up to find a thoroughly gutted Lwaxana standing before him.

Timicin and Lwaxana argue in the corridor: she thinks that Picard can fix things here, despite the fact that Picard has said the PD blocks him from doing anything. Timicin, knowing his people and having seen how B'tardat has reacted to the news, knows that Picard can probably do very little. his people are already isolationists, interference from others could drive mistrust of outsiders on Kaelon II. Things get heated, but once again, he calms down right away, and tells her that he wants to live because, in her, he sees that his life still has value. But what does it mean if he can never go home, and his people won't accept his work?
Riker pages Timicin: his daughter has come aboard.

Dara is waiting in Timicin's quarters. He introduces her to Lwaxana, and Dara tells Timicin in earnest that he needs to come home.
"I have to finish my work," he says.
"I'm not concerned about your work. I'm concerned about you. It's your time to rest."
Lwxana has had this argument like five times over the past few days, and she gets a little impatient. "Maybe you'll feel differently about that in a few years... say, approaching 60?"
Dara, who is smart enough to catch onto the fact that her dad's new friend probably has a lot to do with this change of heart, turns her ire on Lwaxana. "How dare you attack me and my culture, and make my father turn his back on the Resolution?"

Timicin directs her back to him, but she asks the questions that he has already been asking himself: "Where will you go? Where will you die? I hate the idea that you won't be laid to rest on our homeworld, and that you won't lie beside my mother, and that I won't lie beside you when it is my turn."
Timicin is openly crying. Dara is openly crying.
She takes his hand. "I love you. But I am ashamed."
Ooh, too far. Come on, Dara. That last bit was shitty. Don't be that person.
She stands up, and stares daggers at Lwaxana as she slowly withdraws her hand from Timicin's, then leaves.
That was brutal.

Lwaxana reaches for his hand, but he asks to be alone.

In her quarters, Lwaxana has decided to completely unpack everything from this latest trip on the Enterprise: was it wrong of her to ask him to put aside his deeply-held beliefs? Was she asking him to do so just to keep her company? Deanna, in full counselor mode, tells her that she was just being honest with him, and that, while Lwaxana definitely wanted Timicin to live so that they could be together, she also was doing it for his benefit.
"Rituals bring comfort," Deanna tells her.
"This ritual is a bad one," Lwaxana answers.
This is really helpful. I don't think we've ever seen a Lwaxana Troi that examines her own actions and how they affect others. She probably won't stop being her, but it does offer a nice dimensional quality to the character.

The door chimes. It is Timicin. Deanna shows herself out.
"Do you believe that I love you?" he asks Lwaxana.
She nods.
He is going back.
"It's not enough, is it?" she asks.
"Almost," he replies. "It was almost enough."
He holds her while she sobs. He is not the person to lead the revolt.

Picard escorts Timicin to the transporter room. Timicin apologizes to Picard for the chaos that this situation has created.
"You're not going back just to smooth things over, are you?" asks Picard.
"No, it's more complicated than that, and more personal," Timicin replies.
They exchange farewell pleasantries, and Timicin says that he will encourage his people to seek out the help of the Federation when they are ready to try more testing. He then tells Picard that he has said his goodbyes to Lwaxana, and is ready to leave.
The door opens. It is Lwaxana, bag in hand, no Mr Homn.
"It's customary for your loved ones to be at this Resolution?"
"You don't have to do this," he tells her.
"Yes, I do," she replies. It is the old "don't contradict me" Lwaxana, if a bit sad.
She asks if she can disembark, then somberly tells Picard that she won't cause trouble on Kaelon II. Maybe she won't, but Dara won't be happy to see her.
Picard grants her permission to leave, and she gets up on the pad next to Timicin.
They beam down holding hands.

What a fucking great episode. It's such a classically Star Trek thing to present a current problem as one that exists in the future as well, and to present it in such a way that no solution is given: it is left up to the viewer to decide personally how this problem should be solved. It is expected that the viewer will mull over the arguments presented, will argue with other viewers, will come to their own conclusions.
And both sides make good points: is euthanasia the correct antithesis to "deathwatch facilities"? Is it preferable to ask someone in good health to commit suicide because the agreed-upon age has arrived? For people like Timicin, whose important work needs to be completed within a certain timeframe, should they still comply with that cut-off, or could they petition for more time? In this case, it was denied outright, but were the people of Kaelon II consulted first? No. I wonder if this might just be big enough that the people should be given a vote instead of leaving such things up to their leaders. is the governing body of Kaelon II even democratic like that? We have no way to tell. We also don't know the final outcome for this planet - if they were able to find a solution - because Memory Alpha doesn't say. (It shows up on stellar cartography star chart four years later, so we know it is still viable then, but the forecast for the sun dying was 30-40 years out, and we do not have a show that far in the future yet.)
The choice to make this a Lwaxana story was a good one. Majel Barrett has far better acting chops than I'm sure she gets credit for, but the role of Lwaxana had thus been largely one of comedic farce: she exists to irritate Deanna and Picard, and to amuse Riker, and generally shake up the militant precision of the Enterprise. She hasn't been given many meaty roles to play, so a script like this affords us a deeper look. She'll get several more episodes in the future that explore aging and mortality, where Lwaxana is a more well-rounded character, and not just a cardboard cut-out where she talks to herself via the computer.
While this is pretty classic Trek storytelling, it is not really TOS storytelling. TOS did an episode that involved rapid aging (The Deadly Years), but didn't involve the natural aging process. TAS also covered rapid aging as well in The Lorelei Signal, but again, it involved "how to reverse the process of aging" rather than dealing with end of life care and such things. In fact, the only time when TOS dealt with aging in an earnest, realistic way was in Wrath of Khan, when Kirk must come to terms with the fact that he is getting older and cannot solve problems in the same fist-fighting cowboy way that he always had (long-time readers will recall that this was one of the few times that I actually liked the character of Kirk). In fact, the only time that aging ever comes into anything is when they goof about the grouchy older doctor. No, TNG is the correct show for this topic, with an older, more settled cast, and a more nuanced feel to subject matter. Coincidentally, the age cut-off for the Kaelon Resolution was probably not chosen randomly. While we don't know how old Lwaxana would have been at this time, Majel Barrett was 61 at the time of this filming, while David Ogden Stiers was 49.

There was one thing that sent me down a rabbit-hole for this episode, and it concerned Lwaxana yelling at Picard that the Prime Directive was his thing, and not hers. Is Lwaxana Troi, an ambassador and diplomat of Betazed, bound by the Prime Directive? The answer is... yes and no. While Betazed is part of the Federation, the Prime Directive is specifically attached to Starfleet and the Merchant Marines. Starfleet is the Federation's military arm, so they are related, but not the same. Lwaxana Troi is employed by the Federation, not Starfleet, and as a private citizen, is not bound by the PD per se. Does this mean she can ignore it completely? Could she get away with it if she interfered with another culture on Picard's watch? No to both. While not bound by the rules and regulations of the PD, members of the Federation were encouraged to uphold the principles of the Prime Directive. Could they be punished for it if they went around it? Ehhh, maybe. Civilians being encouraged to go along with it seems to have come from the Vulcans, who, according to memory Alpha, were already practicing such a thing in Earth year 1957, despite the fact that the Federation would not be formed until Earth year 2161. It seems that the Federation took principles that it liked from already-established groups of people and incorporated them into its charter. (Along with the PD, the episode "The Drumhead" mentioned that the Federation had a built-in clause for being able to plead the fifth.)
So Picard was correct in telling Lwaxana that he could not help her convince Timicin's people to put the brakes on his Resolution, as he was in fact bound by the Prime Directive. He couldn't actually do anything until Timicin claimed asylum, in which case, he did what he could, which was to hold a bit of a conference between Timicin and B'tardat. Lwaxana felt free to throw up a middle finger at the PD, because she was probably not going to get more than a warning for convincing a single member of a race to go his own way. She would have most likely gotten into trouble for beaming down and leading a revolution herself, but talking one guy out of a custom? Small potatoes, and no guarantee that it would go farther than Timicin.

I have a weird, random question: were there no mentorships on Kaelon? Was Timicin working by himself, or did he have a team of scientists that worked with him? They make it clear that he was the foremost guy on this project (you know, this project where he is trying to save their planet from total destruction, and their people from annihilation), but it seems likely that he would have at least a team of helper scientists, or maybe someone he was mentoring to take his place? Dude knew he was checking out soon, seems like he would have appointed a successor in this case, or that he would have picked someone several years earlier to train up for when his Resolution came up. I know in terms of story, it was more dramatic for him to say that it would take someone else 10 years to do what he could do in five, and that time was running dreadfully short on all of them, but it's just not logical for there to be one guy who can do the work properly, and who they are going to ax very quickly. It really only drives home that cage-in-a-wig analogy that Lwaxana brings up - surely they can make an exception here when there isn't a back-up?

- Fun Facts:

- This is the first Star Trek appearance for Michelle Forbes (Dara). Her performance here impressed producers so much that she was selected to later play the recurring role of Ro Laren in season five.
- This was a different kind of Lwaxana Troi episode, one where her devil-may-care attitudes come into play less, and we see a more vulnerable side. It was also a different kind of episode in that it focused on two guest stars, rather than the regular cast of characters.
- This was writer Peter Allen Fields' first time writing for Star Trek, and he went over the scripts for Haven and Menage a Troi to get a feeling for Lwaxana. "I couldn't figure out how much rank and privilege she had and then I realized you give her as much as they'll let her have. She takes it."
- This episode has similar themes of aging and how society cares for the elderly, in much the same way as "Sarek."
- This is the only episode where Troi does the opening log.
- The brooch that Lwaxana wears in the final scene was first seen on Palor Toff from the episode "The Most Toys." This dude:

- An homage to David Ogden Stiers' time on M*A*S*H is found in one shot in Engineering. One of the tests on a display is labeled as "Composite Sensor Analysis - 4077," a reference to the MASH unit 4077 from the show.

- This episode was nominated for an Emmy for music composition.
- According to Memory Alpha, the custom of wigs large enough to hold caged animals was once practiced by humans as well (horrifying), but I couldn't find evidence of it online. However, it was a gag in a Bob Hope - Lucille Ball film called "Fancy Pants."

Yep, there's a live bird in Lucille Ball's hair

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Bower is broken