Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “Too Short a Season”

“Too Short a Season”
Story by Michael Michaelian
Teleplay by Michael Michaelian and D.C. Fontana
Directed by Rob Bowman

Season 1, Episode 16
Original air date: February 8, 1988
Star date: 41309.5

Mission summary

On Mordan IV terrorists have taken several hostages, including a Federation ambassador, and demand to negotiate with an elderly Admiral Mark Jameson. Despite (or perhaps because of) his advanced years, Jameson’s qualifications are self-evident: he negotiated a seemingly impossible hostage situation on that very planet forty-five years earlier that made him something of a diplomatic hero. Though Mordan IV eventually plunged into a bloody, forty-year civil war, the past five years have been peaceful. Picard wonders why the current governor, Karnas, can’t seem to handle the situation himself. (Obviously healing a rift as deep as a civil war has a difficulty rating of three, max.)

Jameson and his wife beam aboard and it’s clear Jameson relishes returning to a starship. He delightfully asserts his authority as the senior mission officer, but deflates when Dr. Crusher insists on a medical exam. Jameson has an advanced stage of Iverson’s Disease, which deteriorates the body but leaves the mind intact. He’s wheelchair-bound, but surprises his wife by staggering out of his chair for the first time in four years. Later, on the bridge, he’s able to stand and walk to the con. Everyone is astonished, but the medical results Crusher obtained from Jameson are normal, if two months old.

Later in his quarters, Jameson tries to get frisky with his wife–and doubles down in pain. Mrs. Jameson calls sickbay and Crusher discovers alien chemicals (and no Iverson’s Disease) in Jameson’s body. Released, Jameson confesses to Picard that he obtained not one, but two sets of rejuvenation drugs on Cerebus II (the other intended for his wife). They were supposed to be taken over the course of two years, but when he heard about this mission he took all of it at once–including his wife’s dose. Mrs. Jameson is furious that he would lie to her and take such a dangerous risk, seeing as the drug has a high mortality rate and is rarely shared with outsiders. But Jameson is hiding something else. He contacts Karnas and calls him on the governor’s charade–it’s Karnas, not terrorists, that has taken hostages, and the price for their return seems to be Jameson.

As Jameson de-ages his condition becomes more and more unstable, and Dr. Crusher must tell his wife that he will not survive the ordeal. Jameson seems be all right with this and decides to offer himself to Karnas. He reveals to Picard that forty-five years earlier, it wasn’t his diplomatic excellence that won over the hostage-taker where his predecessors had failed: he simply gave in to the demands and provided them with weapons. To ease his own conscience, he gave the other side weapons, too, thus plunging the world into decades of civil war. Karnas wants revenge, and a combination of guilt and old age convince Jameson to just give it to him.

He beams down to Mordan IV and offers himself to a very skeptical Karnas. Eventually he proves who he is by showing a scar on his arm that had sealed their pact all those years earlier. Karnas watches as Jameson dies in agony before him, cradled by his wife. His revenge sated, Karnas releases the hostages and all’s well that ends well.


I hadn’t remembered anything about this episode, and even on re-watch I doubt I’ll retain much by the season’s close. Clayton Rohner does a passable job playing an old man saddled by guilt and selfishness but his makeup is so atrocious I couldn’t believe for a moment this was an old man. I did like Marsha Hunt’s turn as his wife, who consistently calls him on his bullshit excuses yet cares for him dearly, and their scenes together were the strongest of the episode. But ultimately the de-aging plot didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-Contra plot, and so as a whole nothing ever came together.

I’m mostly unsatisfied that Jameson’s character is supposed to be in some way redeemed by the end. The man’s a menace, a stain on the reputation of Starfleet and a danger to any mission he’s assigned to, not to mention an asshole to his wife (I love that he takes her dose and then says “I did it for us!”) . Then he jeopardizes what’s left of the good in his life–his marriage and pending retirement–to get some short-lived machismo points in this final showdown. The fact that these men sealed their corruption with a knife (like MEN) is ludicrous. I have no sympathy for him. His farewell to his wife is sad, but again, in no way related to the diplomatic A-plot that I’m apparently supposed to be invested in. The half-hearted lesson about accepting aging also seems weirdly out of place, mostly because you’ll never know if the alien tiger balm could have worked if he had just followed the package directions. Ultimately “The Counter-Clock Incident” handled that theme with more grace.

In any case, there’s a good reason you don’t negotiate with terrorists: because they will continue to make demands and take hostages. I’m shocked that Picard allowed Jameson to give himself up. The man was dying anyway, so why give Karnas the satisfaction of getting his way? Why not just produce the dead body and say “Sorry, too late”? Then he has no choice but to release the hostages, Jameson dies with some dignity, and you’re not giving other potential terrorists data to support using similar means for less personal ends.

I don’t know if this was cut from the script or something, but did anyone else note the heavy emphasis on Troi looking suspiciously at Jameson and yet never saying or doing anything? The camera repeatedly focuses on her while Jameson speaks, presumably to indicate that she knows something is off about this guy, and yet she never says a word to Picard or Crusher or anybody. How did she get to be on the bridge again?

Lackluster, middling, and meh. I’m actually looking forward to “When the Bough Breaks” just so that I sink my teeth into something worthy of being savaged.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 3 (on a scale of 1-6)

Thread Alert: Nothing says thread alert like a bunch of old men wearing army surplus gear. Reactionaries? Contractors? Paintball fanatics? Whatever it makes you think of, I’m going to guess it’s not “security guards.”

Best Line: JAMESON: Annie… with the golden hair.
MRS. JAMESON: Flatterer. It’s gray now.
JAMESON: I see only the gold.

Trivia/Other Notes: In the original script Jameson survives and reverts to teenagerhood–and does not recognize his wife.

The wheelchair used in production cost $10,000 and didn’t work properly. Rob Bowman had to shoot around it.

Karnas may look familiar–he was Korax in “The Trouble With Tribbles.”

Previous episode: Season 1, Episode 15 – “11001001.”

Next episode: Season 1, Episode 17 – “When the Bough Breaks.”

About Torie Atkinson

Torie Atkinson watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.