Written by Allison Hock, Ward Botsford, Diana Dru Botsford, Brannon Braga, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Adam Nimoy
This is one of those episodes that on the surface looks like it will be a complete dud. I can remember seeing the previews for it and thinking “Oh, no…” However, it surprised me then, and even now on watching it over an over again, I am surprised by how well the execution of a flawed idea is.
Captain Picard, Ensign Ro, Guinan, and Keiko O’Brien (Patrick Stewart, Michelle Forbes, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rosalind Chao) are returning to the Enterprise in a shuttlecraft. While on their way to the ship, they are enveloped by a mysterious energy field. The shuttle begins to break up, but Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) manages to get a transporter lock on them, seemingly just in time. He worries that he’s lost one when there is a forty percent drop in mass. However, when they materialize on the transporter pad, they are now about twelve years old. (Why have their uniforms & clothing shrunk as well as their bodies?)
This was a challenging episode for the child actors who had to play Picard, Ro, Guinan and Keiko as kids. However, they all do a decent job, especially the actor who portrays Picard as a child. The dialogue is the same as if spoken by Patrick Stewart, but it is coming from a 12 year old’s mouth. It’s hard for the rest of the crew to deal with it and accept his authority. In many ways, this is funny considering they let Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) practically run the ship while he was there. David Tristin Birkin, who portrays the young Picard, gets the Captain’s mannerisms down very well. Megan Parlen, who portrays the young Ro, tries to give off the same air of indignation seen on the adult Ro, but it is a bit wooden. Still, as the young Guinan (portrayed by Isis Jones) seems to break through Ro’s adult barriers, the child actress loosens up a bit and falls into the part more comfortably.
As for Guinan, she seems to be enjoying the transformation. As seen in Time’s Arrow Part 1, she has been an adult for at least 500 years. Isis Jones is good in the role, as she is an adult embracing her youth rather than fighting it. I believe this made it easier on the young actress.
Miles O’Brien is quite uncomfortable with his wife as a 12 year old. Caroline Junko King is not quite as smooth as Picard and Guinan, but not as wooden as Ro as she portrays the young Keiko. She is in an uncomfortable situation, with a husband and child, and the discomfort the actress seems to feel in the role plays into it quite well.
Following their return to the ship, the Enterprise is attacked by Ferengi in two Klingon Birds of Prey. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) manages to lock out the command codes. The Ferengi beam all able bodied adults to the surface except for a small contingent of the crew. Since Picard, Ro, Guinan and Keiko are young, they remain with the others and the Ferengi don’t see them as a threat.
The episode is not as bad as the previews or even the premise seems to indicate. For that, I credit the child actors who make themselves believable in their roles. Many times episodes which hinge on the use of child actors stand or fall on their performances. It’s very rare to find child actors (especially in guest-starring roles) who are exceptional in their abilities. I’ve only seen this happen in this series with Shay Astar in the episode Imaginary Friend, and now here with David Tristin Birkin. It’s because of him that the episode works, and the small flaws in the other performances is forgivable.
The episode was directed by Adam Nimoy. If the name sounds familiar, yes, he is the son of Leonard Nimoy who portrayed Spock in the original Star Trek series and films. He’s directed episodes of many different television series, but this was his first, and he manages to draw out decent performances from the actors. I would have liked to have seen what he would have done with a better story as an initial directorial effort.
The flaws in the story are not as easily overlooked. If de-aging oneself were that easy to do, wouldn’t t be the proverbial fountain of youth? Just go through the transporter and remove the genetic code responsible. Everyone could just go back to an earlier age any time they wanted to. It sort of negates the entire story in Star Trek: Insurrection where the Federation wants to exploit a “fountain of youth” in a planet’s radiation and destroy it in the process. Why not just put people through a transporter and alter their molecular structure as is done here?
Still, this isn’t as bad as it could have been or as it sounded on first reading of the premise. It’s a fun story, and if you can see past the flaws, it’s fun to watch, especially when the young Picard is acting like Commander Riker’s son.