Star Trek: The Next Generation: Too Short a Season   Rewatch 
May 26, 2020 3:11 AM - Season 1, Episode 16 - Subscribe

The Enterprise's intervention in a hostage crisis on Mordan IV is complicated by the curious case of Admiral Mark Jameson.

To Memory Alpha, there is a season, and a time to every factoid under heaven:

• In common with co-producer Herbert J. Wright's final draft script for "The Last Outpost", associate producer D.C. Fontana's script for this episode was tampered with by Gene Roddenberry's meddling attorney, Leonard Maizlish. As a result of his tweaks, the script suddenly included handwritten changes as well as a pair of new scenes, including one with Wesley Crusher, that Maizlish claimed had been written by Roddenberry. Aware that Roddenberry had been out of town and therefore could not have written the scenes, Supervising Producer Rick Berman asked Maizlish, who had been strongly in favor of Wesley being included in all scripts, if he had actually written them, to which Maizlish admitted that he had. "Berman said he told Maizlish he could in no way present these scenes to me for inclusion in the script," Fontana recalled. "The next morning, Berman and [fellow Supervising Producer] Bob Justman had come in early to make sure [that day's scenes] were ready to go to the stage, and they had found a Maizlish-written scene inserted in the revised pages. In addition, there were Maizlish-originated line and word changes incorporated into the revised pages. Berman and Justman were outraged. Berman called Roddenberry at home and informed him of the incident and also told him that I had every right to go straight to the WGA and begin a suit against Maizlish, Roddenberry, and Paramount, and that Berman would back me one hundred percent if I did so. [And] Justman called Maizlish personally and ripped him up one side and down the other for having the gall to insert his own material in a script."

• Although the episode was supposed to focus on Clayton Rohner's character Mark Jameson, the regular cast felt that Rohner did not work in the ensemble manner very well. Director Rob Bowman felt that the show was too verbose, more words than action. Rohner's makeup during the earlier parts of the show was a source of disappointment, being described as "sub-par" and ineffective.

• The "arms for hostages" element of the story was inspired by the Iran–Contra affair.

• Admiral Jameson's state-of-the-art twenty-fourth century wheelchair was a problem. It cost the prop department ten thousand dollars but it did not even move well enough to be anything more than a hindrance, and Bowman simply had to shoot around it. Property master Joe Longo referred to the wheelchair as a "big albatross". Learning from the fiasco, the production crew opted for a much simpler chair when one was required for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Melora".

• A set extension painting in the background of the underground installation during the phaser fight is a reuse of the Mega Maid set extension from Mel Brooks' 1987 comedy Spaceballs. The same painted background was reused in TNG: "Legacy".

• Since the death of Ellen Albertini Dow in 2015, Marsha Hunt (Anne Jameson) is the oldest living female Star Trek performer and the second-oldest living overall (after Norman Lloyd). She is the fifth Star Trek performer to reach the age of 100, after Viola Stimpson, Ellen Albertini Dow, Olaf Pooley, and Norman Lloyd. Hunt was blacklisted in the 1950s along with her husband Robert Presnell, making finding work difficult. She is the honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks, California.

Michael Pataki also played Korax twenty years earlier in TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles". Footage of Pataki in that role also appeared in DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations."

"What I don't understand sir, is how Karnas knew you were still... available."
"Still alive, you mean."
- Riker and Jameson

"Annie... with the golden hair."
"Flatterer. It's gray now."
"I see only the gold..."
- Mark Jameson and Anne Jameson, as Mark Jameson dies in his wife's arms

Poster's Log:
Jameson looks REALLY BAD for being 85 in the 24th century. McCoy looked better, and he's 137! Then again, Jameson obviously saw some shit in his starship-commanding days—and he's also clearly not afraid to ingest some dubious substances.

This episode, while not a standout (even of season 1), strikes me as actually fairly cohesive despite the Maizlish factor. Unfortunately, it's a routine sci-fi premise in mid-century TV-drama form. That latter factor, to me, is the starkest issue of this one, by which I mean that it's actually all about the guest star character in a way that feels like an episode of, I don't know, Columbo or even Love Boat or something; our regular cast is just along for the ride. Happily, that's not a type of story TNG does very often, IIRC. And it's by no means the worst sin committed by season 1, but OTOH, if they were going to have a Guest Star Showcase episode, it would've been nice for the guest star to not overact basically constantly. If there was some desire to feature Rohner specifically, he seems like he would've been better at being, like, an oddball alien.

This is of course the first of many of TNG's Antagonistic Admirals. It's a story hook this show goes to so often that I couldn't possibly list them all here, though perhaps the most memorable of them is Nechayev, who gradually develops a little bit and, in retrospect, really ain't so bad. We'll see a…striking example later this season.

MA notes that "Jameson appeared in his capacity as captain of the Gettysburg in the [noncanon] Star Trek: Terok Nor novel Day of the Vipers." Needless to say, while watching this episode with a little wine in me, I made a disrespectful comment to the effect that Jameson was obviously AT Gettysburg, not ON the Gettysburg. But in my defense, Mrs. CoB was right there with me perfecting our "Jameson Old Man" voices throughout our disrespectful commentary—culminating in its lowest point, when I had Jameson say "Let's bone!" in his very first de-aged moment alone with Anne. Basically, this is a very riffable episode.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Speaking of riffs, MST3K fans may also recognize Michael Pataki from The Sidehackers.

"Greatest Generation" episode link.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Having an episode based around Iran-Contra (IN SPAAAAACE) isn’t the worst idea for an episode, and was even timely at the time, and even though the reverse aging plot was done in TAS’ “The Counter-Clock Incident”, it would have been fine with good makeup and acting for the de-aged character; sadly, we got neither. I specifically remembered this episode for the atrocious makeup, and in the first glance at Jameson, I was puzzled—it wasn’t as bad as I thought, although it was irritating that his eyes weren’t visible. But, after he’d peeled off a few decades, I was like, yeah, there we go—the attempt at a wattle that looks like a big glob of Silly Putty stuck to his throat. Also agree that Rohner would have been better in another role. Marsha Hunt was fine, though, and great to see Pataki again.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:36 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not much to add here. TOS plot recycling: “The Conscience of The King”, a touch of Colonel Green from “The Savage Curtain,” proxy forces stuff from “A Private Little War”.

I thought it was odd and imprudent of Captain Picard to leap onto the transporter stage unarmed when they beamed down to get into a firefight. Also, Jameson seems pretty self-involved to gobble two doses of Rejuvenol like that. Damn meddling admirals!
posted by mwhybark at 9:13 AM on May 26, 2020

I'd be curious to know if anyone on the production team had an awareness of the overall treatment of the admiralty. Did they recognize it and then it just continued as a writers' in-joke?

For as much ST I've seen, as soon as an admiral shows up I expect them to end up as the villain. Admiral Ross was a nice departure from that in DS9, though on my first watch I *still* expected him to turn out to be a changeling as a plot twist.

God the make-up in this one is terrible. For what they paid for the wheelchair and make-up artists' time, they could have just hired a handful of different actors to play the same role.
posted by rocketman at 9:52 AM on May 26, 2020

Clayton Rohner's delivery in this episode is... OOF. I mean the script aint hot either but we've seen actors like Stewart et al try to hack their way around that by being excellent at their craft... Rohner... is not at that level and it shows. You actually see this as the series goes on, because of how top tier the main cast is they start having to dig a lot deeper into the guest talent- not necessarily big budget stars but classic character actors and stage performers who can hold up to the main cast and fill the holes in the scripts with the spackle of talent. In season 2 though you'll see a few character actors who... go a little too far trying to fix stuff with sort of force majeure acting and it doesn't make things better shall we say. Rohner cannot spackle. But in his defense- not sure anyone could. Hunt tried- but she's old hollywood- she's probably dealt with worse scripts.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:02 AM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I hadn't remembered this episode when I started rewatching, but having Jameson show up wearing obviously old-age makeup is a lot like watching an old cartoon and the ground is all oil-painted except for a patch of cel-painted leaves right where the characters are going to walk.

The way Star Trek shows are structured, there's generally not a lot of opportunity for an admiral to be good, usually just bad or unremarkable. DS9's Dominion war is an exception since it actually featured extensive fleet action, but for the most part the best an admiral can do is give the captain some orders and step back so the crew can accomplish them. And even that is usually redundant from a storytelling perspective, since the captain is going to have to relay the orders anyway.
posted by ckape at 10:11 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

My take on the Bad Admiral situation is that the shows tend to make the captains their all-around leaders/diplomats/explorers/investigators, and want to have them be as independent as possible, as if they were a throwback to the much-romanticized, so-called Age of Exploration when sea captains had to function independently instead of being capable of instantaneous two-way communication across many light-years. If there’s a competent admiralty, that takes some of the shine off the captains; if there isn’t, well, then they just gotta step up, right? And better yet if they’re an actual adversary.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:24 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

And the fact that Roddenberry hated bureaucracy, as demonstrated frequently in the Kirk era.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:00 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

In addition to terrible admirals, Starfleet also had a string of terrible admiral's uniforms, which would last a few appearances before getting changed.
posted by ckape at 11:08 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

In season 2 though you'll see a few character actors who... go a little too far trying to fix stuff with sort of force majeure acting

Sounds like some actors were trying and failing to climb up the long ladder.

This joke reminds me of a game we used to play as teens watching the promos for Trek shows in which you had to hamfistedly work the title of the episode into the trailer's descriptive pitch. "And for Admiral Jameson, it truly was... too short a season."
posted by Servo5678 at 11:08 AM on May 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

There's two major plot elements that just never tie in or reinforce each other, it made the episode very disjointed. First, there's the revelation that the Admiral's greatest triumph is actually a shameful act of amoral expediency. Then we get ... Benjamin Button in space. Why bother with the aging thing except to make it vaguely sciency? It doesn't even make sense what Jameseson is hoping to accomplish aside from confusing his adversaries and alienating his wife.

This episode wouldn't be much different if they completely deleted the the aging angle, if anything it would have been better: Admiral Jameson wouldn't have been such an abrasive antagonist, he could have just been a broken-down version of his former vibrant self, trying to recapture his glory while simultaneously protecting his legacy/hiding his shame. That would have been plenty to drive a wedge between him and Anne Jameson, who just wants to enjoy their retirement together. Instead of dying from the serum, he could have just gotten fatally wounded during the away mission, finally paying for his overconfidence and refusal to listen to others.

There was also a third element that never got off the ground, and it really should have been deleted: Jameson makes a huge deal about having command of the mission, and Jean-Luc begrudgingly agrees, and we all realize that there is going to be some pretty heated conflict between the two about the safety of the ship verses the success of the mission--this could get feisty! Oh, no, it ends up not really mattering at all, Jean-Luc just insists on joining the away team, and Jameson is like "eh, whatever" and that's it. Why bother? What was Picard even hoping to accomplish by being on the away team? He just ends up letting them do their thing even when it seems like Jameson hasn't a clue from the start. I feel like in an earlier draft, Jameson makes a much bigger deal about hiding violation of the prime directive, and only gets it dragged out of him with Picard balks about following some stupid order, and Jameson is forced to reveal his shame. But here, Picard just casually asks about it a couple of times before Jameson confesses for no particular reason. It's really flat and we get only the mildest reaction from Picard, where it seems like it should have been the major dramatic moment of the second act.

Did they tell Jameson to ham it up on screen, or is that just his style? When he gets hit with the phaser he makes a hilarious "oucheeee, my tummy!" face, as though his serum had suddenly reverted him back to four-years old at that moment.

Apart from a couple of bracingly offensive episodes, this is the worst of the series so far for me. Lots of people pick Naked Now, but although they're both cheesey and sloppily plotted, this was dull in a way that reminded me of all the other syndicated sci-fi shows off the era that I remember trying to get into.

Yikes, that's a lot to write about a largely forgotten episode of tv from 30+ years ago.
posted by skewed at 11:38 AM on May 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

Did they tell Jameson to ham it up on screen, or is that just his style?

I don't know, but this definitely wasn't his finest hour. I think his big break was as the romantic male lead in "Just One of the Guys", and I remember really liking a direct-to-video/direct-to-cable movie he did in '87 "P.I. Private Investigations" (a 'regular joe on the run from bad guys' action flick). But aside from those first few movie roles it seems like he did the tv-show-guest-star career instead, which he seems to have done pretty steadily for decades. I'm usually happy to see him pop up in shows (really imprinted on him with those two movies I guess) though.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:59 AM on May 26, 2020

I think his big break was as the romantic male lead in "Just One of the Guys"

Hold on; say what? That's the same guy? Of course now I'm picturing him as Old Jameson hitting on Terri in that movie and my god that's a road I do not need to go down. Not on these tires.
posted by Servo5678 at 12:07 PM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

In season 2 though you'll see a few character actors who... go a little too far trying to fix stuff with sort of force majeure acting

Sounds like some actors were trying and failing to climb up the long ladder.

Servo5678, may I just say, That was EXACTLY the episode I was referring to. The man in question, Barrie Ingham was a truly gifted character and stage actor, who was himself considered for Picard! That is the caliber of actor he was- and HOLY SHIT THAT EPISODE WAS A MESS. But we're a while away from dissecting that disaster.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:19 PM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Michael Westmore seemed to learn a lot on the job, and after an iffy start on TNG his makeup just got better and better until he was regularly filling the DS9 promenade with all these amazing aliens. But he was never great with aging makeup, and this one is a real botch job. A few seasons later Brent Spiner managed to turn in a nifty performance as Dr. Soong despite an aging makeup that was almost as bad, but here the combo of bad makeup and Rohner's performance is just embarrassing.

Rohner's so over-the-top that I'm tempted to blame the director more than the actor. Like, isn't a director's job to reign in an actor when they're going nuts like this? I dunno, maybe Bowman kept trying to calm him down but Rohner just wasn't having it, or maybe all the drama about the script made the show such a nightmare to film that Bowman was just lucky to get it done at all. You get the feeling that Rohner can act, but it's like he's trying to do all the acting at once. Fontana's script had potential, it's got a pleasantly retro, stagey, TOS/Twilight Zone-y feel and it could have been something special, but instead it's just another season one B-/C+.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:33 PM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I barely even remembered this episode existed, but I will cop to thinking fondly of Rohner because of a show he did called G vs E (later changed to Good vs Evil). But he does seem to have mostly just appeared on every single show I watched from the ‘90s till now.

I have no fondness for Berman however, but good for him for standing up for the writers. the more I read of these behind the scenes intros, the more amazed I am this show survived at all.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 4:16 PM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

but I will cop to thinking fondly of Rohner because of a show he did called G vs E (later changed to Good vs Evil).

Aw, I forgot about that one, I remember liking it too. (And it looks like someone uploaded them to youtube from vhs dubs, might have to revisit that rabbit hole.) He also had a recurring part in the Taye Diggs time-loop show that I loved, "Day Break".
posted by oh yeah! at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2020

So we’ve got the old guard as antagonist basically hijacking the works to rehash an old conflict… and then there’s this episode.

Old Jameson’s old man voice sounds a lot like young Nog’s young Ferengi voice.
posted by rodlymight at 7:11 PM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

There have long been rumors/speculation that Admiral Jameson was supposed to be Kirk in some drafts of the script. Jameson, James can almost see it if you squint.

It may be a just-so story inspired by the appearance of Admiral McCoy in the first episode. The characters are superficially similar. The Star Trek universe was a different, smaller place when this went out/
posted by StarkRoads at 10:54 PM on May 26, 2020

Something nice to say.... Marsha Hunt was very solid as Anne Jameson, bringing a slight sense of reality to the absurd proceedings. Checking her Wikipedia page for other roles, I discovered she was blacklisted for protesting HUAC.

Oh, that Federation wheelchair! It’s like the prop department heard “we need a Shriner bumper car, please.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:34 AM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

You actually see this as the series goes on, because of how top tier the main cast is they start having to dig a lot deeper into the guest talent- not necessarily big budget stars but classic character actors and stage performers who can hold up to the main cast and fill the holes in the scripts with the spackle of talent.

I'll never get tired of seeing David Warner playing a Cardassian (or a Klingon, for that matter) nor Andreas Katsulas playing a Romulan!

My take on the Bad Admiral situation [...]

BADMIRAL. Coining it.

Learning that the horrible drunken Irish caricature Danilo Odell in Up the Long Ladder was portrayed by an Englishman is... super-yikes.
posted by sugar and confetti at 6:04 AM on May 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

BADMIRAL. Coining it.

Perfect. Added it as a tag :)

This Week's Installment: Badmiral: Port of Call: Mordan IV
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:15 AM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

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