***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***
SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1.E16. “Too Short a Season”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner
GUEST-STARRING: Clayton Rohner, Marsha Hunt, Michael Pataki
WRITERS: Michael Michaelian, D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR: Rob Bowman
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: February 8, 1988
SYNOPSIS: The Enterprise hosts an elderly admiral who has taken a drug to reverse the aging process.
By Rob Siebert
Early in this episode, the bad guy addresses our main guest character, Admiral Mark Jameson. The first thing he says is: “So, Jameson, I see time has not been kind.”
That could very well be the biggest understatement in the history of Star Trek.
Our premise for this episode is that Jameson, a retired admiral, is brought in to negotiate over a hostage crisis with a old rival Karnas (shown below). Are we to believe that these men are the same age? If so, what in God’s name happened to make Jameson look the way he does by comparison?
From a meta perspective, we know what happened. The story called for this character to age in reverse thanks to a drug, so they wanted to make him look as old as humanly possible from the start. The problem is, unless Jameson was in some kind of toxic chemical accident at some point, what’s happened to him doesn’t look like it’s in the realm of human possibility.
Looking at Jameson (shown above), along with the make-up job they did on DeForest Kelley for Bones’ appearance in “Encounter at Farpoint,” it seems to me like the showrunners were overthinking the extended aging process of the Star Trek universe.
The implication seems to be that medical science has advanced to the point that people can live to be well over 100. So from a production standpoint, you’d want to make it obvious to your audience that this person is very old. Fair enough. But in theory, if medical science can extend human lives, can’t it also allow people to age gracefully to the point they don’t look like monsters?
Why even mess with latex prosthetics to begin with? What’s wrong with a basic white wig and conventional make-up? A character doesn’t have to have flappy jowls or exaggerated liver spots for us to understand they’ve aged.
The moral of this story? Whenever possible, keep it simple. Star Trek is filled with over-the-top ideas and visuals as it is. So there’s no need to go over the top with something as simple as human aging.
Incidentally, Michael Pataki, who plays Karnas, was also in “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Given what we saw in “The Naked Now,” I’m quite surprised we won’t be seeing tribbles this season. Or for that matter, any point during TNG. What, they make an actor look like Freddy Krueger’s cousin, but they can’t invest in little multicolored puff balls for the actors to play with?
Then again, considering how “The Naked Now” turned out, perhaps we should be grateful.
Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check us out on Twitter.