Family continues to be a theme this season and this time we look at what makes someone part of a family. Is it blood relation? Is it being raised by someone? Is it all just a matter of perspective. Today’s episode originally aired on October 15,1990. This is Suddenly Human.
Stardate 44143.7 Suddenly Human
The Enterprise receives a distress call from a Talarian ship, but is cautious as the Talarians have a history of boobytrapping ships that appear in distressed. Knowing that there is no chance for a ship to get there in time, they board the ship and find five young badly wounded boys, and one of them is human.
After rescuing the children, they discover that one of the boys, Jono, is a human that has been with the Talarians for many years. He has no interest in being human, resisting even the slightest hint that he is.
After doing research they discover that, not only is he human, but he is also the grandson of Admiral Rossa who has lost her entire family in various tragedies. Troi recommends that someone needs to bond with the boy and suggests that Picard is the only one to be able to accomplish this. Despite his protests, he attempts to bond with the boy but only hits roadblocks. Jono has been in the custody of the Talarians for most of his life and seems to know no other way.
After Picard shows Jono pictures of himself as a child, Jono begins to have memories of his natural parents, further causing him internal conflict. It seems, deep inside he knows that he is not Talarian but doesn’t know any other life. Soon Captain Endar arrives looking for his son Jono. Endar reveals how he found Jono (or Jeremiah Rossa) and claimed him as per the Talarian custom of replacing his child. The Talarians are a violent warlike race and inso, Jono has had many massive injuries in his life. Picard and Crusher see this as abuse but as Endar describes the events, these injuries were all obtained in the path of becoming a warrior. Endar wants his son back and Picard refuses. Endar informs Picard that Endar will go to war with the Federation again if he is not allowed to take Jono back with him. Picard reluctantly agrees to let Endar see Jono before making a decision.
Endar tells Jono that he can decide on his own whether to stay or not. Jono chooses to go with his Captain and Endar informs Jono that if he is not let go, they will go to war. Before any decision is made, Admiral Rossa sends a message to Jeremiah (Jono). Her message informs the boy that she is his grandmother and is excited that he is safe and secure. The message touches Jono and he is conflicted. He knows that he is at a crossroads but must make a choice that will affect more than him. He soon begs Picard for something to make him calm down and Picard takes him to play Racquetball. During the game, he has a flashback and the memories flood back causing him even more pain.
Picard uses the opportunity to help integrate Jono with the human crew. This begins to work but he is still a child of two people. He is human, and knows this, but most of his life he has been raised as a Talarian and this is what makes things more difficult. Knowing that he must make a choice, he attacks Picard in his sleep with a knife. Picard survives the attack and understands why Jono attacked him. The boy is torn and it is killing him inside. Jono explains that he attacked Picard so that he would be executed. Jono would rather die than make the choice. He doesn’t want to hurt his Talarian father and is afraid that, by accepting his rediscovered humanity, he will lose all of who he is.
Jono choses to return to Andar and Picard allows this to occur, citing that Jono’s home is not with the humans but with the Andarians he grew up with.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
It is an interesting one. Good story overall but it feels a little out of place. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it doesn’t seem to fit the series tone. It plays out more as a Picard has to learn to take care of a Teenage Boy story but also loosely covers child abuse, Stockholm Syndrome and parental rights. Everyone does their best with the script but it just doesn’t come off as strong as it could have.
Jono is possibly in an abusive situation but the cultural differences are in question. Jono was raised as a Talarian so all he knows is this culture. It is only when Picard realizes that Jono is no longer human and is not in a truly abusive situation. In fact, he is being treated well by the Talarians considering the circumstances. To force Jono back among people he doesn’t know, he is risking more harm than good. Picard’s only recourse is to let him go back to the people who raised him. Whether this was the right decision or not is never fully explored. Jono now has memories of his past and will have to deal with them as a Talarian. This can not be an easy thing to do.
The episode gives some serious back story and character development for Picard as he discusses his history with Troi. He did not have much of a childhood as he was driven to be the best he could with the goal of joining Starfleet from a young age. Picard must also get to know and deal with a young teenage alien. It is clear that his time with Wesley has softened him a bit as I dont think Season One would have handled the situation well at all.
This episode also reminds me a lot of the 1985 movie Emerald Forest which was about a boy who was abducted by an aboriginal tribe in the rainforest and raised with them for ten years. It was based on a true story and dealt with many similar issues. I won’t ruin the outcome of the film here, but I do highly recommend it.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We see the first instance of the future version of Racquetball. This will come back again in future series, specifically DS9 with O’Brien.
Wesley gets banana split all over him due to an accident in ten-forward. It’s a pretty fun moment of levity.
We never see or hear from the Talarians again but they are referred to on occasion.
I have to wonder what Admiral Rossa’s reaction to her grandson being given back to the Talarians was. I am sure she wasn’t too thrilled with Picard in his choice. Oddly enough, we never find out how that panned out. I wouldn’t be surprised if Picard has a black mark on his record over this situation.
We also never hear from Jono again but it would make for a fantastic episode to see what happened to him. Maybe a movie?
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Remember Me
If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!
Late To The Game 11/16/2019 (Originally published 6/27/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
“Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made production intended for recreational use. No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”