"The quest for youth, number one. So futile. Age and wisdom have their graces too."
- Captain Picard
The curious case of Admiral Mark Jameson.
Congratulations, Clayton Rohner. You gave the worst performance of any actor in all of TNG. I was going to say in all of Star Trek but then I remembered Melvin Belli, a lawyer with no acting experience, in the atrocious "And the Children Shall Lead" * shudder *. Rohner's performance as Admiral Jameson was so bizarre and distracting that I had to sit through this episode twice just to make sense of the plot. The first time through I had trouble paying attention. It doesn't help either that the age makeup is terribly unconvincing and overdone. Jameson is supposed to be 85 years old, not a corpse for crying out loud! I thought people were supposed to look good for their age that far in the future. We're told he suffers from Iverson's Disease but that only affects motor skills. There's no reason why he should look THAT old.
Normally, I don't go after actors like this. When there's something wrong with an episode, in other words, the problem is usually with the script. But the story of "Too Short a Season" is actually pretty interesting and worthy of praise. The fault lies with the execution and especially with the acting of the guest stars. Clayton Rohner makes the mistake that a lot actors make when they play elderly people. They think that all old people sound as though they have a frog in their throat and speak in awkward starts and stops. Rohner even keeps this up long after it is needed when his character begins looking younger and younger. It's just ridiculous and off-putting. Instead of inhabiting a character he's a behavorial exhibit. This is in stark contrast to other actors in Star Trek who were given the same challenge. DeForest Kelley, for instance, was very convincing as an older version of McCoy in his brief cameo in "Encounter at Farpoint" (the age makeup was also much better). Patrick Stewart was absolutely extraordinary in "The Inner Light" when Picard lives out another life as a result of the probe scan. Jennifer Lien was very good in "Before and After" playing a much older version of Kes. But, I guess, for every good performance like these we can expect an occasional bad one. Just of think of Jolene Blalock's laughable performance in "E2" where she makes the same mistake as Clyaton Rohner in this episode.
While I said I liked the story of "Too Short a Season" I do have two problems with the script. The first is that it's too "talky." There's so much dialogue in this episode, maybe even a record for TNG. A lot of this dialgoue could have been trimmed or ideas could have been communicated without words (why not show an early shot at the end of the teaser of Jameson looking in the mirror as his face begins to change appearance?). The whole scene at the end where Jameson and Karnas meet face to face is an example of what I'm talking about. Karnas refuses to believe that the man standing in front of him is really Jameson even though he knew him many years ago and should be able to see the resemblance. This scene goes on and on and on. Eventually, Karnas figures it out and many minutes have been wasted. The other problem I have with the script is that the regular TNG cast is completely sidelined here. None of them are included in the storyline in a meaningful way. Admiral Jameson completely dominates the episode and is in pretty much every scene. When people sit down to watch a TNG episode they want to see their favorite characters. They don't want to watch an episode about some Admiral who we've never met before and will never see again. Most guest stars, however, are used wisely in scripts. Think of the late Jean Simmons in "The Drumhead" or the actor who played Riva in the superb "Loud as a Whisper."
But the story does work. It's about an old man trying to atone for his past sins. Jameson made the mistake many years ago of solving a hostage crisis by supplying weapons to both sides of a war-ravaged planet (I guess he never read Gandhi's "Hind Swaraj"). This decision resulted in decades of civil war even though the hostages were saved. Admiral Jameson takes the youth potion in order to meet Karnas on an even playing field. The result is his death. I like the way the whole story plays out and the fact that it ends in tragedy. It's also the second revenge story this season after "The Battle."
It's too bad that the execution of the episode lets this story down. Otherwise, this could have been an above average episode. Maybe if it had been done in one of the later seasons it would have turned out much better. The TNG cast are all quite good in their few scenes. It's the guest actors, especially Rohner, who give weak performances. The actor playing Karnas also overdoes his lines to the point where it comes across like high camp. And the goofy music is like something out of a low budget 70's horror flick. Still, I enjoyed it for what it was.