Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Lwaxana Troi causes trouble when she finds out that a scientist she has fallen in love with is due to commit ritual suicide.

Summary Edit

Teaser Edit

"Counselor Deanna Troi, personal log, stardate 44805.3. My mother is on board."

The fear is real for Jean-Luc Picard as he slowly exits the turbolift...

The captain is on his way to a transporter room, to receive "the leading scientist of Kaelon II", an extremely reclusive people, who have not yet had real contact with the United Federation of Planets. On his way there, Picard encounters Lwaxana Troi in the corridor, who effusively greets him, a little bit to Picard's chagrin. He tries to get rid of her, but she cuts off every one of his attempts at escape. He also tries to explain to her that her presence when receiving the guest would not be welcome, but she interrupts him again, and Picard eventually gives in, allowing her to join Picard, Miles O'Brien, and Geordi La Forge in the transporter room.

There she immediately focuses her attention on the puzzled guest, Dr. Timicin, whom she leads away intending to show him the ship, explaining "you just think of me as your entertainment director." Once Lwaxana, Picard and Dr. Timicin have left the room, La Forge jokes to O'Brien: "That man's in a lot of trouble."

Act One Edit

"Captain's log, stardate 44805.7. For generations, the people of Kaelon II have been working to revitalize their dying sun. The Federation has offered to assist in testing what may be a solution to this problem."

Deanna Troi, William Riker, Dr. Timicin, Jean-Luc Picard, Data, Beverly Crusher, and Geordi La Forge are in the observation lounge. Dr. Timicin has made modifications to some of the Enterprise's photon torpedoes, which should help to revive the dying sun of the planet. The Enterprise is on its way to an empty star system with a sun almost perfectly identical to the Kaelon sun, in order to test the modified photon torpedoes.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, Lwaxana bothers an unnerved Worf by playing around with the tactical station, almost pressing a torpedo launch initiator. As Riker, Deanna Troi, and Dr. Timicin return to the bridge, Lwaxana vividly greets the doctor, who explains that he does not have time for her right now, as he is expected in engineering. Riker politely asks her to clear the bridge, and she agrees reluctantly. Dr. Timicin then explains to Deanna, that he is surprised that Lwaxana is old enough to be Deanna's mother: "She is so… vibrant.".

Then in engineering, Data, and a slightly overworked Dr. Timicin and La Forge prepare the test with the modified photon torpedoes. Lwaxana Troi then walks in with her assistant Mr. Homn, claiming that the men really need a break and sweeps all of their PADDs onto the floor. Dr. Timicin agrees: "Mrs. Troi, you're a wise woman. I'm sure we could use a respite." Mr. Homn then throws a cloth on the engineering table to start.

Later that night, Timicin and Lwaxana have spent some time together and they are heading for Lwaxana's quarters. He mentions his wife died a long time ago and that he has been dedicated to revitalizing their sun because they cherish their home planet. When they arrive at her quarters, she invites him in for a nightcap, however, despite the fun he is having, his says he must decline. When the door closes, his face turns to an understood regret and he goes.

Act Two Edit

Lwaxana is having a hard time picking an outfit. She is excited about meeting Timicin, which pleases Deanna but she also brushes off her mother's comments about her own personal life.

The sun-reviving experiment is launched into the empty star system. Worf confirms the system is clear of ships and lifeforms while La Forge and Timicin run diagnostics. With everything ready, Picard orders Worf to deploy the torpedoes. The Enterprise monitors the results which initially appear successful as the system's star heats up according to plan. However, the heating process fails to stop. Picard orders immediately Ensign Bennett to take the Enterprise to warp two just as the star explodes. Timicin sadly concludes the experiment in failure, but thanks Picard for his help. Disappointed himself, Picard orders the ship back to Kaelon II.

Timicin is especially crushed by the failure of his experiment, and the reasons for this become evident as Lwaxana bonds further with the scientist. He sits alone in Ten Forward and Lwaxana joins him. She tries to cheer him up, but he cannot participate. He asks her to stay, and wishes they had met years ago, since he is going to his planet to die.

Act Three Edit

Timicin reveals that he's approaching the age of 60 and thus he is to undergo the "Resolution", ritual suicide, Lwaxana becomes livid with protest.

In ready room, Picard, Riker, and Data are being informed by Science Minister B'Tardat that, even though the Enterprise is willing to stay to help a second attempt, Timicin has "obligations at home" and won't be able to continue. Puzzled, they offer to stay longer and make arrangements, but the Minister doesn't elaborate, rather thanking them again and ending the call. Lwaxana enters and explains the situation, distraught. She demands Picard intervene to spare Timicin's life, but Picard refuses to do so, as he is bound by the Prime Directive not to interfere. Furious, Lwaxana storms out of the ready room. Picard then asks the computer for the location of Counselor Troi.

After an incident in a transporter room, where O'Brien refuses to beam her down to Kaelon II, Deanna enters and she and a very upset Lwaxana discuss Timicin's impending ritual suicide. Deanna calmly explains O'Brien has his orders and, when she starts to cry, O'Brien leaves to give them privacy. Deanna tries to comfort her mother, noting it's all right that she's crying, like the time her father died. Lwaxana doesn't think it's the same, but isn't sure. She knows for sure she can't accept that fate would bring Timicin into her life only to be taken away for "no good reason." Deanna can only say that she will never be one of those people that "die before they die" and they embrace on the transporter pad.

Later, Lwaxana goes to Timicin, admitting she is hateful about the custom, hateful of him for going through with it and will never accept it. They embrace.

Act Four Edit

Lwaxana and Timicin spend a lot of time together, discussing the concept of his species custom of ritual suicide back and forth. Timicin attempts to explain that in his culture it is an accepted practice for all to undergo the ritual on their 60th birthday in the presence of their beloved ones to avoid old age, infirmity, indignity, dependence on others, and the cruel uncertainty about when the end would come. Both end up finding each other's point of view cruel: Lwaxana because she sees it as arbitrary murder in an uncertain universe when death can come both well before and well after the designated age, Timicin because she is denying people control of their fate and the opportunity to end life with dignity.

Initially, Timicin is reluctant to break with tradition, and intends to return to his planet and go through with his ritual suicide, until realizing that he has some ideas about the failure of his experiment, and if he only had some more time, he could perhaps come up with a functional sun-reviving system. However, because his birthday and ritual are rapidly approaching, he will not have the time to develop the system if he follows tradition. Thus, he ends up seeking asylum from Captain Picard.

Act Five Edit

A diplomatic incident is created by Timicin's seeking asylum, and warships from his planet are dispatched by Minister B'Tardat and have been sent to retrieve him. Complications further arise when it's learned that because of his defiance against the ritual, the Kaelon government has barred his submitting of any other transmissions about the project; even if he does find a solution to the problem with their sun, Timicin's people will not listen due to his rebellion, rendering it moot. This results in a standoff, and after some time, Timicin's daughter Dara boards the Enterprise to attempt to convince her father to return to the planet.

Timicin finds his daughter's arguments very convincing, and ultimately decides to return to his planet and carry out the tradition, thus concluding the diplomatic incident. As Timicin steps on the transporter pad, Lwaxana comes in to accompany Timicin to the planet and participate in his Resolution. She promises Picard not to cause trouble on the planet. Picard gives her permission to go, and Timicin and Lwaxana beam down hand in hand to the planet.

Log entries Edit

Memorable quotes Edit

"Counselor Deanna Troi, personal log, stardate 44805.3. My mother is on board."

- Deanna Troi

"Jean-Luc! You delicious man, you were just thinking of me, weren't you?"
"As a matter of fact, Lwaxana…"
"Well, think no further dear heart, she's… here!"
"Yes, indeed."

- Lwaxana Troi, finding Picard during his failed attempt to avoid running into her

"Oh, Kaelon II! I've never heard of that."

- Lwaxana Troi

"Diplomacy! Oh, I adore diplomacy! Everyone dresses so well!"

- Lwaxana Troi

"That man's in a lot of trouble."

- La Forge, to O'Brien when Lwaxana and Dr. Timicin have left the transporter room

"The Prime Directive forbids us to interfere with the social order of any planet."
"Well, it's your Prime Directive, not mine!"
"Computer, locate Counselor Troi."

- Picard, responding to Lwaxana Troi's request that he intervene to save Timicin's life from ritual suicide

"Mrs. Troi, I must protest your unauthorized presence on the bridge."
"What does that little one do, Mister Woof?"
"Please, Madam! That is a torpedo launch initiator, and it's… and it is "Worf" Madam, not "woof"."

- Worf and Lwaxana Troi

"You see Lwaxana, I'm on my way home now… to die."

- Timicin

"Oh, Mr. Homn is my valet. He doesn't say much."
"How can he?"

- Lwaxana Troi, to Timicin, and La Forge, quietly, to Data

"I know you mother, and believe me, you will never be one of those who dies before they die."

- Deanna Troi, to Lwaxana Troi

"Ah, a celebration of life. Sounds very noble, very caring. What you're really saying is, you got rid of the problem by getting rid of the people."

- Lwaxana Troi, to Timicin about "The Resolution" ritual of suicide

"Oh, that's alright. I can make enough conversation for the both of us."

- Lwaxana Troi, to Timicin

"Alive, I am a greater threat to my world than a dying sun."

- Timicin

Background information Edit

Production history Edit

Story and production Edit

Filming Half a Life

Director Les Landau and the actors filming a scene

  • This was the first Star Trek episode written by Peter Allan Fields. Fields took a crash course watching Lwaxana Troi-centered episodes to prepare for writing this script. He recalled, "I saw both "Haven" and "Ménage à Troi" quite a while before I even began writing and I didn't refer to them at all when I was writing my first Lwaxana Troi except to find out her title was 'holder of the chalice…' and all of that sort of thing. I went through the script for 'Haven' to find out who the hell I was writing about and that wasn't difficult to accomplish. I couldn't figure out at first 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." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • The cast and production staff saw this episode as a chance to show a different side to Lwaxana.
    • Director Les Landau observed, "It showed a whole new side to Majel Barrett as an actress and the character of Mrs. Troi. She's usually this flimsy, whimsical Auntie Mame of the universe, but in this episode she's a very sensitive, warm and caring individual." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
    • Marina Sirtis noted, "It's a much different type of Mrs. Troi episode. It's not quite as flippant or light as they tend to be. It starts off quite light, but then it has a real message with a little morality play, which is something I like to do. I didn't have much to do, which is good since I don't want it to be a given that every time mom comes aboard, I have to deal with her. I think it's more interesting that when she does come back, other characters have to deal with her." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Landau praised executive producers Michael Piller and Rick Berman for supporting an episode that broke format by focusing on two guest characters instead of the regulars. He noted, "The opportunity to work with Majel and David Ogden Stiers was great." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Landau saw similar themes emerging from this episode and "Sarek" regarding aging and society's treatment of the elderly. He remarked, "That's an issue which is very current in how do we deal with, and what do we do with, our elders. They may have reached an age where by numbers they are old, but mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually, professionally, they are, if not at their peak, certainly have a lot to contribute. That was a very poignant episode." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Marvin V. Rush, the show's regular director of photography, sat out this episode in order to prepare to direct the following episode, "The Host". Thomas F. Denove took over the role for this episode, getting his only on-screen Star Trek credit.
  • "Half a Life" was filmed between Wednesday 27 February 1991 and Thursday 7 March 1991 on Paramount Stage 8 and 9. Second unit and insert shots were filmed on Thursday 18 April 1991.

Continuity Edit

  • This is the only episode where Deanna Troi does the opening log entry.
  • The first scene in which Picard exits the turbolift and peeks around the corner in fear of encountering Lwaxana is mirrored in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Forsaken", when Odo, then Lwaxana's love interest on Deep Space 9, does the same thing. Yet eventually he, like Picard in this episode, fails to avoid the confrontation.
  • The brooch that Lwaxana wears on her coat at the very end of the episode was originally part of Palor Toff's costume and would later appear several times, on the clothing of an unnamed beaked alien.
  • A boom mic pole appears in the reflection the first time Lwaxana passes by the mirror in Troi's quarters.

Cast and characters Edit

  • Michelle Forbes' performance in this episode was instrumental in her casting as Ro Laren later in the series. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • Doctor Crusher only has one line of dialogue in this episode; a second line that can still be found in the script was cut.
  • An homage to David Ogden Stiers' time on the series M*A*S*H was made during Timicin's test. The camera is focused for long stretches of time on a display titled "Composite Sensor Analysis – 4077" – a callback to the 4077th unit number of Stiers' M*A*S*H days. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (? ed., p. ?))

Awards Edit

  • This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore) (Dennis McCarthy).

Reception Edit

Video and DVD releases Edit

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Guest stars Edit


Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stand-ins Edit

References Edit

ambassador; animal; astronomer; asylum; beneficiary; Beta Praxillus; Betazed; Betazoid; cage; death; deathwatch facility; deep convection pattern; density; diplomacy; elder; entertainment director; euthanasia; fashion; Federation; Fifth House of Betazed; gamma radiation; generation; gram per cubic centimeter; green; guidance system; heart; helium; helium fusion; Holy Rings of Betazed; hydrogen; hydrogen-alpha emission; isolationism; Kaelon; Kaelon II; Kaelon II Science Ministry; Kaelon sun; Kaelon warship; Kelvin; Lwaxana's namesake star; Mantickian paté; Mister Woof; neutrino; neutrino count; neutron migration; nova; number one; offensive potential; oskoid; pattern buffer; percent; photon torpedo; Praxillus system; pressure wave; Prime Directive; prisoner; proton reaction; Resolution; revolt; Rigel IV; Rigel IV astronomer; ritual; Sacred Chalice of Rixx; secondary reaction; security lockout; stellar core; suicide; sun; tea; temperature; tertiary reaction; Timicin's grandson; Timicin's parents; Timicin's widow; torpedo sustainer engine; Troi, Ian Andrew; turbolift; wig; xenophobe

External links Edit

Previous episode:
"The Drumhead"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4
Next episode:
"The Host"
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