David Odgen Stiers is probably best-known for his role of Major Charles Winchester III on M*A*S*H but to The Next Generation fans, he will always be Dr. Timicin from Half a Life.
Stiers did not have to audition for the role of Timicin. “It was an offer,” he said.
His first impression of working on the show started off on the wrong note. “On a particularly rainy day, my second day working…I went to my little, tiny dressing room thing parked out alongside the building and discovered there was a leak in this round-topped dressing room arrangement that had found my clothing,” said Stiers. “I had soggy, rain-soaked trousers and a soggy shirt. I was already stressed and not particularly in the mood when I heard, ‘Mr. Stiers, we’d like to see you on the set, please. We’re ready to rehearse 13A.’ I shouted back…I won’t tell you what I said exactly, but, ‘I’ll be there when I’m damned good and ready.’ There was this awful pause from outside, and then the same voice said, plaintively, ‘I have your umbrella.’ Heaven forbid we should get the costume wet, right?”
Getting past that, Stiers enjoyed the story of his character, Timicin. “That’s a nice chunk of drama for a guest star to chew on,” he said. “They really let it focus on the two of us, which was very unusual. I just watched a clip of it this morning. I had forgotten how beautifully written the arguments are. The whole moral dilemma was beautifully presented. I’m not jumping up and down, but I really like the idea that I live in a state with dignity legislation and physician assisted suicide, should it ever come to that. That seems to me to be an intelligent and mature middle ground. You don’t use it if you don’t want to, but it’s there if you are in need, for whatever reason, of a legitimate reason for ending your life.”
The episode led to a conversation with his parents. “I watched it with my parents, who were then alive, and we had a long talk afterwards about life, death, aging, eventualities,” said Stiers. ‘Are you in a position to be able to take care of us if we need that?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What do you think about the episode?’ and I said, ‘You know, I’ve been dealing with this since I shot it. I’m more interested in hearing what you happen to think.’ They were very forthcoming, but very conservative about it. They thought it was a matter for extremis rather than a careful planning, were such a thing to ever come about. This is well before enlightened Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act, so it was a fascinating light to turn on the backstory, the human, the most intimate human backstory. I think we left it unresolved, but a good deal more willing to talk about such things in the future, which was really remarkable.”
Stiers latest project has just been released. Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time is “an outlandish sci-fi/comedy/adventure that also features Walter Koenig.”