The Enterprise delivers Admiral Mark Jameson to negotiate a hostage situation on Mordan IV, accompanied by his wife. The Admiral, who suffers from Iverson's Disease, begins to show marked improvements in his health after self-administering an overdose of an alien anti-aging medication. By the time they reach the planet, he appears to be in his 20s and in excellent health. Meanwhile, the admiral discovers that the hostage situation has been concocted to exact revenge for a hostage situation he negotiated 45 years ago. Then, his agreement to give arms to both sides helped spark a 40 year civil war. The Enterprise sends an armed away team to rescue the hostages under the orders of the admiral. When this fails, the Admiral gives himself up to save the hostages. By then, Dr. Crusher has informed his wife that the Admiral is dying from the medication. Picard spends a few tense minutes convincing governor Karnas that the young man before him is really the Admiral. The Admiral dies in his wife's arms, and the hostages are released.
I liked that this episode had a lot going on, yet these things were all tied together by a theme of regret. It was like the character building episodes I like so much except that the character was not part of the regular cast. I suppose that allowed them to do things like, you know, kill the character at the end. If that had been Picard instead of the Admiral, Dr. Crusher would have found a way to reverse the deadly changes at the last minute.
I also like how this episode touches on the Prime Directive but doesn't really dwell on it or on blaming any of the characters for the 40 years of civil war. The Admiral feels guilty for his part, but you also get this sense that his choices at the time all sucked. Even the armed rescue, which he says he should have done the first time, failed. If anything it's an argument that you shouldn't negotiate with terrorists - but yeah, the hostages probably will die when you don't. Life sucks.
But on the positive side, the Admiral's wife still loves him even though he experimented on himself and took the anti-aging dose that he'd expressely gotten for her. Seriously, like taking all of his dose at once wouldn't do the trick. I'm not saying this is a plot problem, though, because some people really are that dumb when they feel desperate. And kudos to the wife, I guess, since the Admiral was dying for his mistake. No need to be mean to him in his last pain-filled moments, right?
Finally, I liked that the episode cut to the chase about the hostages. When ? spoke at the beginning claiming that dissidents had the hostages, I was suspicious. On the Admiral's second time speaking to ? He challenges him and learns the truth, that there are no dissidents. Later, Picard cuts to the chase when he tells the Admiral that he knows he's hiding something and to spit it out already.
All in all, a well-rounded episode with good pacing and enjoyable acting. Even if they didn't manage to save the hostages in a SWAT-style raid.