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Suddenly Human (episode)

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"Suddenly Human"
TNG, Episode 4x04
Production number: 40274-176
First aired: 15 October 1990
75th of 176 produced in TNG
77th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
184th of 728 released in all
Suddenly Human
Teleplay By
John Whelpley & Jeri Taylor

Story By
Ralph Phillips

Directed By
Gabrielle Beaumont
44143.7 (2367)
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The Enterprise crew discovers a young Human boy being raised by the aliens who killed his parents.

Summary

"Captain's log, stardate 44143.7. We have moved into sector 21947 in response to a distress call from a Talarian observation craft. The alien vessel appears adrift, and our initial scans detected a life-threatening radiation leak within its propulsion system."

Despite Data's warnings that this may be a well-known trap as evidenced during the Talarian war, Troi senses life on board, which is fading. Picard decides to send an away team.

When they board the ship, they discover five Talarian males, all wearing uniforms, who are unconscious with radiation burns. They conclude it is a training ship, and beam them all to sickbay, but not before Doctor Crusher finds one of the boys is Human.

"Captain's log, supplemental. We have completed the evacuation of four Talarians – and one Human. How this young man found himself in the company of these aliens remains a mystery."

During their treatment, all of the Talarians and the Human, Jono, are first still and silent, despite being talked to by the doctor and nurses. Suddenly, they all begin rocking and howling. Only when the captain comes in and commands them to stop loudly do they all stop. The boy is silent until he hears Picard addressed as captain, and then he admits his name is Jono and requests formally to return home to his captain, Endar.

When Picard talks to Doctor Crusher, she explains other medical findings, in addition to the radiation: two previously fractured ribs, a broken arm, and a low-grade concussion, all sustained during the past seven years. She believes that he has been with the Talarians for some time, since he has assimilated their culture, and it is they who could have brutalized him to cause the injuries.

Troi suggest that Jono takes off his gloves so that they can examine him further, but Jono begins to behave erratically by running away. After Picard stops Jono from resisting further medical examination, again by commanding him to stop struggling, they receive a subspace message from Starfleet identifying the boy as the grandson of Admiral Rossa – Jeremiah Rossa. The crew concludes that the boy must rediscover his Human identity, and that Picard – the only one he has listened to so far – must be the one to help him do it. Picard initially disagrees because he is not good with children. Troi convinces him otherwise because Jono has only ever responded to him.

In the meantime, Worf has taken Jono to his quarters and Jono asks why he would respond to a woman, Dr. Crusher. Worf explains that he is outranked by her, and Jono says that females would never outrank a male in his society. Worf explains that Jono is not Talarian, but human, and confused. Then Jono makes the "B'Nar," the wailing noise that all Talarians make when they are in distress. Worf leaves him once he starts making the noise.

Picard tries to convince Jono that he is not Talarian and explains that he may have been brutalized. Jono will not listen and says that he wishes to be returned to his Captain, Endar. Picard asks why he will not take his gloves off, and Jono says that it is because he does not wish to touch aliens. Jono finds his quarters very limiting, relating it to a cage. Picard asks how he sleeps, and Jono says that he sleeps in his Captain's quarters. Picard is reluctant to allow him into his quarters but ultimately lets him in. He picks at Picard's artifacts, which Picard is not accustomed to. While Picard is acting as fatherly as he can, Jono still wishes to return to Captain Endar.

Picard tells Troi that Troi may not know that he does not do well with children, and Troi responds with, "Really?" keeping as straight a face she can. Troi then says that while the captain is willing engage in battles and face hostile aliens, he isn't willing to embrace a parental role. Troi tells him to muddle through, like most parents do when they become parents.

Picard returns to his room and finds Jono in a hammock built out of his bedsheets, with the Alba Ra turned on. Picard stops the "music" at once, and Jono says that he is in a hammock because he cannot sleep on the beds since they hurt his back. Picard tells Jono about his birth parents, Connor and Moira Rossa, and that he was born on Galen IV. Picard shows him some photos and leaves him alone. He then remembers his parents screaming to get him to safety and becomes distraught at the thoughts.

The Enterprise is intercepted by the Talarian ship Q'Maire and Picard arranges to send over the four Talarian youth they rescued, and also asks why a human has been in their custody for so long. Endar says that Jono is his son.

Picard learns that Jono was adopted by Captain Endar after he led the forces that wiped out the colony Jono lived on with his parents until he was three and half years old. Endar beams aboard to discuss the return of Jono to the Talarians, and Picard accuses Endar of torturing the boy. Endar says that according to Talarian custom, he is allowed to claim the son of a slain enemy since his own son was killed in a battle on Castal I by humans.

However, it seems Jono's injuries are not a result of abuse, but rather Jono's zeal to over-achieve in the warrior culture of the Talarians. Jono is asked whether he wants to return with Endar or be reunited with his biological grandmother, for in Talarian culture he has reached the age where he may choose for himself. He chooses to return with Endar, but Picard will not allow it. Endar threatens war with the Federation if his son is not sent back to the Q'Maire within a certain amount of time. He tells Jono that he may even die in the war, and Jono replies that he is ready to die.

Wesley Crusher hit by a banana split

Wesley hit with the Banana split

Picard and Jono begin a process of trying to introduce Jono to his human roots. Jono receives a message from Admiral Rossa, which bring up conflicting emotions for the youth. He cannot understand why a woman would outrank the Captain, and states that he cannot be calmed since he cannot do anything he would normally do to calm him. Later, during a game of racquetball between himself and Picard, the sounds of the ball hitting the boards cause him to recount the events of the colony massacre.

Afterward, Picard takes Jono to Ten Forward where Wesley invites Jono to try a banana split, "quite possibly one of the greatest things in the entire universe." Jono, unaccustomed to using a spoon, stabs the dish and sends ice cream splattering all over Wesley's face. Picard and Riker crack up while Data asks why it's funny, and Riker tells him to look it up in his databanks under humor, sub-heading "slapstick". Wesley and Jono also laughed, and Wesley orders more ice cream for the two of them, while Picard and Riker move to the bar to discuss Jono's progress.

That night, conflicted over whether to reclaim his humanity or cling to his adopted Talarian father and way of life, Jono stabs Picard in his bed. Picard wakes to find himself in sickbay without any serious injury and vaguely surprised to discover it wasn't a dream. Dr. Crusher informs him Jono has been taken into security custody by Lt. Worf. Picard demands to see Jono. Meanwhile, Endar contacts the Enterprise and demands Jono's return. Riker tells him that Jono, having attacked the captain, is in custody and subject to judgment by Starfleet. Endar warns that if Jono is not aboard the Q'maire in five minutes, he and the two Talarian ships that responded to his call for back-up will attack the Enterprise.

The boy is later brought in to answer to what he's done. Jono expects to be killed for harming a superior officer, and clearly expected to die. Picard assures him this will not be the case and begins to understand that they have not handled Jono's problem properly, as Jono explains he feels becoming more human betrayed everything Endar had done for him and the life he loved with the Talarians.

Picard takes Jono to the bridge and Endar again [as he stated to Riker moments before] insists that the attack would never have happened if they'd have returned Jono as demanded earlier, and that Jono should come home to his father. Picard concedes that the interests and feelings of the boy have not been considered fully, explains said and states that he will, indeed, return the boy. Endar thanks him and the attack is over before it began. In the transporter room afterward, Jono also thanks Picard, and finally takes off his gloves to touch Picard in the familiar greeting/farewell that he had given his Talarian father, then returns to the Q'maire.

Memorable Quotes

"Commander, quickly."
"What is it?"
"This boy... he's Human."

- Beverly Crusher and Riker find Jono amongst Talarian youths


"You, have you ever been a father, Picard? Have you ever had a son desperately trying to win your approval, your respect? Jono broke his ribs riding on a t'stayan. Six hooves, a very powerful beast. The arm he broke in a competition with other youths. He endured the pain, and won the competition. One day he will be a great warrior."

- Endar


"I am Talarian."
"You are confused."

- Jono and Worf


"Are you saying that you are willing to go to war over this boy?"
"Would you not for your only son?"

- Picard and Endar


"Captain, is it worth it to go to war over a child?"

- Worf


"Jono, stop that IMMEDIATELY!"

- Picard


"I don't like this place."
"We could find some other quarters."
"I've always lived with my Captain."
"Ah... yes, well, that wouldn't work here."

- Jono, discussing living arrangements with Jean-Luc Picard

Background

Stewart reviews SH script in Locutus costume

Patrick Stewart reviews the script while filming "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II"

Story

  • Jeri Taylor (who went on to become an executive producer and scriptwriter for both this series and Star Trek: Voyager) joined the Star Trek production team with this episode. Taylor was recommended by short-time producer Lee Sheldon. Because she had no prior experience or knowledge of Star Trek, she was given a "crash-course" in the series, both old and new, with a very large number of videotapes. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • Taylor described her strengths as a writer as "long on character and personal relationships, and very short on sci-fi." This episode, she noted, "was all about the relationship between Picard and this adolescent boy, and so, having had adolescent boys, I had that down pretty well. Then I just filled in past that. I actually lifted a whole section of tech from one of the scripts they had given me and just copied that. So that part came out sounding really good." (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission)
  • Jeri Taylor originally called the alien race "Phrygians". On the advice of Michael Okuda, the producers decided to choose a race that had been mentioned but not seen. The Talarians had been first referred to in "Heart of Glory". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)

Production

Beaumont and Allen

Director Gabrielle Beaumont instructs Chad Allen

Reception

  • When this episode first aired, it generated some controversy with some fans claiming it condoned child abuse.
    • Michael Piller recalled, "We got some pretty angry letters on that show. They said, 'How can you let an abused child go back to the people who are abusing him?' We really brought the child abuse issue up because it was the right and natural thing to bring up in the context in the story. There are real parallels to stories that go on in today's world about parents who fight over custody and one says there's been abuse. Who do you believe? But mostly, it was a cultural clash story. It was a story of someone who was human who had been raised in a totally alien environment. Is he human any longer? That's really what that story was about." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
    • Rick Berman added, "We wanted to make the point that the interpretation of broken bones was nothing more than normal childhood broken bones, and that these people were sort of prejudiced in this direction. It was in no way intended to be an episode that had anything to do with child abuse. It was the Wild child. It had to do with a boy being brought from one culture to another and not fitting in with either, and the inevitable need for him to return back to the world in which he grew up." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • As for the episode itself, Piller opined, "I think that episode was marvelously written by Jeri Taylor and it was strong enough to hire her on staff. I was disappointed by the show primarily because the aliens weren't alien enough. I felt there was some miscommunication on some level. The whole idea of that show was missed because these savage, different alien type creatures turned out to be very human." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 15, pp. 21-23.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

Uncredited co-stars

Stand-ins

References

Admiral; Age of Decision; Alba Ra; artery; asteroid storm; autosuture; banana split; B'Nar; Brae; calcium; captain; Castal I; Castal system; D'Angelo, Dick; d'k tahg; distress call; DNA; Earth; Federation; Finks, Wilbur; Foster, Don, Jr.; Galen border conflicts; Galen IV; Galen IV colony; guerrilla; hammock; humor; ice cream; Klingon; Krasner outpost; laser; leak; medical tricorder; Mees, Jim; The Merchant of Venice; merculite rocket; music; neutral particle weapon; Nesterowicz, John; Q'Maire; patriarchal; racquetball; racket; radiation; red alert; rib; river; Sector 21947; self-destruct device; Sepulveda, Fernando; sextant; slapstick; spoon; Starfleet; Starfleet Command; sternum; Stockholm syndrome; subspace proximity detonator; Talarian; Talarian observation craft; Talarian warship; three-dimensional chess; t'stayan; triangular envelopment; tricorder; Woden sector; X-ray laser

External link


Previous episode:
"Brothers"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4
Next episode:
"Remember Me"

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