Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Suddenly Human"

**

Air date: 10/15/1990
Teleplay by John Whelpley & Jeri Taylor
Story by Ralph Phillips
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

An Enterprise rescue team beams aboard a damaged Talarian ship piloted by teenage crew members who have been injured in an accident. One of the boys, Jono (Chad Allen) turns out to be human, and a medical examination shows evidence of previous injuries that indicate possible long-term abuse. How did this human boy end up with the Talarians?

It turns out Jono is actually Jerimiah Rossa, a boy whose parents were killed at the hands of the Talarians in an attack a decade earlier. A Talarian captain named Endar (Sherman Howard) has raised the boy as his son ever since. Uh-oh — here comes a 24th-century custody dispute. Should the boy remain with the father that raised him or be returned to his human grandmother?

"Suddenly Human" is the third family-themed story in a row, but by far the least effective. The story takes way too long to get moving, spending time on annoying "culture shock" scenes like where Jono refuses to talk and instead makes a high-pitched squeal of defiance. I say a vow of silence would've been preferable. I also find it a little off-putting that Crusher's evidence of broken bones would automatically be assumed (wrongly) to have been possible past abuse, even torture, at the hands of his father. She should work for DCFS.

Picard takes Jono under his wing and tries reconnecting the boy to his long-forgotten human past. Meanwhile, Endar sits and waits for a verdict on whether his son will be returned to him, and seems ready to go to war if he doesn't get the right answer. All of which plays as flat and obvious (not that I didn't understand Endar's feelings). The episode culminates with a torn Jono, in a moment of desperation, stabbing Picard in the chest as he sleeps. This prompts Picard to realize Jono should be reunited with the Talarian father who raised him. Fine, except Picard's unilateral decision seems hugely simplistic and hurriedly arrived at. What about the grandmother's custody rights? Does she have any? Considering she's a Starfleet admiral, don't you think she might have a few choice words for Picard?

Previous episode: Brothers
Next episode: Remember Me

Season Index

39 comments on this review

stviateur - Wed, Jun 29, 2011 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
What struck me about Suddenly Human was its naked political correctness. Because Talarian society reflects more America of the 1950s than the PC 2000s it is to be disdained? My prediction: the Federation like the US today, is on its way to societal senescence while the Talarians are on the way up. In a 100 years, the Talarians will be the ascendent culture and the Federation falling rapidly into decadence.
Nathan Gibson - Sun, Jan 20, 2013 - 10:04pm (USA Central)
Just an awful episode. Awful.
Adam T - Tue, Jun 4, 2013 - 9:06am (USA Central)
I hope stviateur is trolling. The only way Talarian society resembles America in the 50s is that it's patriarchal.
William B - Wed, Jun 26, 2013 - 11:34am (USA Central)
I was actually stunned by how terrible this episode is. My girlfriend and I laughed the whole way through. A few of my "favourite" moments:

1. When Jono unironically asks how Worf can possibly hang out with humans all the time when he's not human, just like he himself is not human! The boy's not too bright, is he? (Yes, this might be the point, but the writing is not nuanced enough to be credible.)

2. When Troi convinces Picard that he has to take over a parental role for Jono because he is male, as if he is the only male on the ship. Yes, there is the matter that Jono has "only responded to" Picard, but there was a point of making everyone else who had interacted with Jono up to that point female, except Worf, whom Jono did seem interested in talking to. And yes, Jono does respond to captains -- but jeez, there ARE other men on the ship, and the episode has to do more work to establish that he really won't listen to someone else. One of the central premises of the episode -- that Picard suddenly starts becoming a foster parent, effectively -- is shockingly undermotivated.

3. When Troi answers Picard's statement that he clearly is unqualified to be a parental figure to a traumatized teenage boy from a culture Picard knows nothing about and who dislikes his human heritage, and to convince the boy to turn all-human, with "did you ever have friends as a child?" And then her speech about how most people don't know how to be a parent right away, but they get good at it, and Picard will be surprised how good he is, as if Picard's task with Jono is basically equivalent to starting to raise a newborn and Picard will get really good at it any minute. These may be the worst Troi scenes of the series (and while I like Troi a lot more than most, that is still saying something).

4. How Jono just says "Yeah, I used to live in the captain's quarters!" and so Picard brings him to live with him immediately, because, well! Obviously if Jono used to live in the captain's quarters, he has to now. I like too that it's still a shock later on when Endar claims to be Jono's father -- it's kind of a shame that the episode didn't follow the implications of that statement, which is that he would likely be either the captain's foster child or lover.

5. Picard coming in and seeing Jono listening to Talarian Space Heavy Metal. Shut that noise off, whippersnapper! And don't you dare listen to that noise on my ship! There is something breathakingly funny about the creative bankruptcy of watching them try to find stories to tell about Picard as reluctant foster parent, and they settle on "teenager listens to annoying music."

6. Picard's response to Jono telling him "I am going insane because I'm not allowed to cry (grieving sound) or listen to my heavy metal!" is not to say, "Well, you can do those things while I'm out but please, it annoys me when I'm here" but "maybe instead I'll show you SPACE RACQUETBALL!"

7. Space racquetball looks incredibly stupid, though maybe not as stupid as space-something-jitsu from "The Icarus Factor."

8. Jono having an emotional breakdown while playing space racquetball because the sounds are kind of like the sounds of weapons discharging (?) is particularly laughable given that this is a guy who has seen and been in combat for basically his entire life, and racquetball is a lot less like combat than actual combat. Of course, the reason his memories are triggered at this time is because he has so very recently been shown pictures of his family. But it still doesn't make the rather extreme stretch between racquetball and PTSD from when he was a young child any less ridiculous and funny.

9. What even is that banana split scene? Do any banana splits in the real world look that particular colour of white? When Data said that he does not understand why this is funny, I was right there with him.

10. Generally speaking, the episode just pushes too extreme to create conflict. Jono's foster father is not just demanding that Jono be returned to him, he is READY TO GO TO WAR. Jono feels so much shame that he wants to die, so he STABS PICARD HOPING TO KILL HIM. And so on.

11. The creative bankruptcy of the episode becomes really clear at the end, when Jono is trying to explain what he was missing about his life, and says that he misses...running along the river, listening to his space heavy metal...victory with his brothers. On the one hand, I get that it's good to have Jono miss things that have already been clearly indicated. On the other, Jono even seems to be struggling to come up with a list of even three things he misses about his old life, and one of them is "running along the river," which for some reason cracks me up every time I think of it. (No, I don't think it would actually be wrong for someone in real life to miss "running along the river" if that was their...hobby in life. But it sounds so unconvincing as the central thing about his life that he can't live without. Dude, Earth has many rivers!)

12. Anyway, I don't really know how I feel, "objectively," about Picard's last-minute decision to send Jono back with his foster father. I also think that in reality Endar is not abusive, as discussed. And yet, the idea that convinces Picard that Jono really should go back to his better life with Endar is that Jono feels so guilty that for a couple minutes he was not miserable missing Endar. I'd say that if someone is willing to commit murder-suicide because of guilt over laughing over a banana split when you should be sitting around being sad missing their father every second, this is not actually a sign that they are all that healthy and it certainly is not what I would call proof that his father is NOT abusive, since making someone feel intense, suicidal guilt if they ever consider living with someone else is how a lot abuse works.

13. Similarly, Picard's final speech is really hard to take. There was a crime committed on the Enterprise, but it was not the crime of someone stabbing me in my sleep! It was the crime of GOOD INTENTIONS. You know, to be honest, I think stabbing someone in their sleep is still a crime even if there were criminally good intentions going on elsewhere.

Fortunately, the episode offered some great opportunities for MST3K-style mockery. One line I'm proud of. Right after Picard and Riker walk away from Jono and Wesley in Ten-Forward:

PICARD: Look at him. He's a different person.
RIKER: Who would have thought we'd see him laugh out loud like that?
PICARD: Just half an hour ago he was crying like a baby.
ME AS RIKER: Yep, Wesley has come a long way.

Anyway, for the record, again, I don't know whether I'd describe Picard's decision as right or wrong -- this episode really is too silly for me to take it quite seriously. I do appreciate that the episode tried not to make anyone the bad guy, though the end result is largely that everyone looks equally silly. Even so, something in the episode must have worked, because I did find Jono's final moment with Picard on the transporter pad -- where he removes his gloves -- rather touching. I suppose this says that the episode did enough right to maybe warrant 1.5 stars rather than 1.
Moonie - Sun, Oct 27, 2013 - 9:15am (USA Central)
Hmmmm I disagree completely with all of you. I really liked this episode and it touched me deeply.

Sure, some of the dialogue/script was clumsy and there is the usual "subtle as a sledgehammer" - delivery which is, I think, mostly due to the one-hour format of the show but there are few episodes of TNG that *don*t* have that, so maybe I just got used to it by now. I overlook it like I overlook the 60s special effects in TOS.

I liked this episode MUCH more than "Family" (large parts of which I just LOATHED. Basically everything that was set in the French village).

I wish there would have been a hint at the end that Jono would seek contact with his grandmother the Admiral and maybe him introducing some of his humanity into his life with the Talarians.
Nissa - Thu, Jan 9, 2014 - 11:50pm (USA Central)
While the episode is quite dull and hyper-inflated with fluff, I agree with the conclusion and don't understand why they didn't reach it sooner. There's a DS9 episode that handles the same concept much better, showing that this is a more complex situation than presented in TNG.

However, it is a good idea to consider that a foster father does have rights over the boy. He's used to the alien culture. Though the dad should definitely let the dumb kid visit his Earth family, assuming the little brat can get over his habit of stabbing people.
K'Elvis - Thu, Jan 16, 2014 - 12:50pm (USA Central)
@Moonie That's one of the problems I have with this episode. It's not unreasonable that he might have gone back with his adoptive family, but the episode is pretty clear that the door is closed on his humanity. It appears there will be no visits from his human relatives. Star Trek does this so often, when a character straddles two worlds, they are forced to choose one and abandon the other - usually abandoning the human part. A hint that his adoptive parents will respect his humanity, and allow visits, would have improved the episode. He might have made a good ambassador to the Federation when he grew up.
SkepticalMI - Wed, Mar 5, 2014 - 7:06pm (USA Central)
This sadly reminds me of a Season 1 episode. There's an interesting concept here, one that deals in a difficult moral issue. How do you deal with an adoptive child when both parties have significant claim to the child? How important is it to accept one's native culture vs one's adaptive culture? How do you insure that the child in question can make an adequate choice? All of these are potentially interesting questions to ask, and can make the episode interesting. Unfortunately, the episode made a mess of things, lurching around the main problem with heavy-handed commentary and a boring weak plot. Consider Justice as a comparable episode, which is hardly a compliment.

Another comparison is the bizarre smugness that occasionally rears its ugly head in Trek that was all too common in Season 1. Stabbing a captain isn't the crime, the crime is telling a boy about his heritage? Yeah, I get what they were saying, but that was very heavy-handed. As much as I love the wonderful Picard speeches, this one was bad.

Part of the problem is the silly side plot of having Picard as a father. The logic that it had to be Picard as the surrogate father was not well thought out, and seeing Picard try to deal with the kid was not amusing or useful to the plot. It just wasted time.

Also, Jono stabbing Picard came out of nowhere. I realized they tried to explain it via Jono's strange attempt to commit suicide, but that didn't make sense either. His dad was in orbit, and the negotiations hadn't finished yet. Oh, but he laughed a bit. So what? Are the Talarians really that xenophobic and rigid? It's possible, I guess, but it doesn't really move the plot along. He stabs Picard, people complain, then Picard decides to let him go back. The end.

Meanwhile, all of these extraneous actions prevented what should have been an interesting parallel, one that they even brought up and then promptly ignored. Worf should have been a focus, given that he was orphaned due to a war and adopted and brought to a different planet by another species. He should have been the natural surrogate for Jono, not Picard. Of course, when offered the choice between human culture and Klingon one, he choice Klingon. And Jono also choice the warrior culture. Clearly, the episode is telling us that enlightened human culture is lame and warrior cultures rock...

Despite my complaints, this isn't exactly a bad episode. Just not a very good one. So at least it's slightly better than season 1 in execution, but still well below the typical quality of late.
Dave in NC - Mon, Jul 21, 2014 - 3:18pm (USA Central)
Overall, I didn't like this episode.

I'm particularly angered by the scene in Picard's ready room with his captor "father". His explanation of his son's injuries is the equivalent of "My wife is clumsy. She walked into the door."

The scene with Jeremiah (not Jono) and Endar first meeting on the Enterprise also had the uncomfortable vibe of an abusive parent attempting to keep his child from saying something incriminating about them.

Couldn't anyone see how quickly Endar gets enraged when Riker hails him?! He goes from zero to pissed in two seconds.

Jeremiah was not given a chance to integrate his repressed memories or really explore his human heritage. Playing raquetball, eating a sundae and goofing with Wesley in 10 Forward doesn't cut it. And despite what his captors say, he's only sixteen. He doesn't know enough to know what's best what's best for him.

This episode does have it's interesting aspects. The whole father/son relationship seemed to have a homoerotic subtext, especially with Jeremiah's penetrating his symbolic father (Picard) with a knife. Jeremiah's line to Picard "As I grow closer and closer to you . . ." had a distinct double entendre, as did their transporter room Eskimo kiss.

Also, a nice understated score to the episode. It really held back until the final scene, where it helped give a little emotional lift to what was otherwise really a terrible ending.

This show had no moral legs to stand on.

Summary: They never should have sent Jeremiah back. He was kidnapped and brainwashed and abused.
End of story.
Dave in NC - Mon, Jul 21, 2014 - 11:02pm (USA Central)
I forgot to mention this in my review earlier, but this was another episode where Troi asks inappropriate questions which seem designed to pull off mental scabs.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that Troi gets off on making others feel pain. It's never seems to be enough for her just to make a point with a logical defense, she really seems to go for the jugular an awful lot.

As we saw with Suder on Voyager, it's definitely possible Betazoids can get addicted to the strong emotions of others. Naybe that's why she freaked out when she lost her powers in "the Loss": she simply couldn't get her fix.
Andrew - Fri, Aug 15, 2014 - 10:44am (USA Central)
I liked this episode, especially the racquetball and banana split scenes, although I would have also liked more use of Worf and suggestion of more contact with humans. I liked that Endar felt alien and antagonistic to make the ending surprising but not wrong.
Picard and others in Starfleet coming to regret interfering on the basis of good intentions feels in-character although there could have been better development-that the crew was really trying to push Jono rather than just give him a choice and that he was more (but more gradually) traumatized by the inner conflict.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:17am (USA Central)
@ Andrew

I disagree wholeheatedly!!!

Endar was antagonistic because he was from a warlike race that kills parents in front of their children and then abducts these children back to their world, where entire personalities and heritages are systematically replaced by the violent primitive thinking of an alien culture.

And what of Jeremiah's numerous significant injuries which so alarmed Dr. Crusher? The explanation offered in the episode was laughable.

Jeremiah should NEVER have been sent back because HE DIDN'T BELONG WITH THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. He was kidnapped and mentally and physically abused.

The more I think about it, the more I really hate this episode. It's basically a apologist argument for abusive upbringings in "foreign places." I hate the message it sends, and I hate the way it puts a great character like Picard in a bad light.

A personal note: I was adopted and raised by someone originally from another country. I was abused a lot as a child, and I still remember watching this for the first time at age 12. I totally understood Jeremiah's internal conflict, feeling love for people that can't or won't express it to you, people that you don't really have a connection with, despite all your best efforts.

I still remember despairing when Picard bought Endar's lies about the abuse, and I can also recall being really upset when Jeremiah was sent back. This episode actually contributed to my staying silent, and that is something that I guess still gets to me a little. Sometimes the moral IS important.

How anyone can like this episode is beyond me. Truly a ZERO STAR episode.
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 9:24am (USA Central)
@Dave - I don't like this episode but I think "It's basically a apologist argument for abusive upbringings in "foreign places." is a bizarrely off base argument.

There is a difference between coming from a culture where it's acceptable to beat your kid and coming from a culture where it's acceptable to let your kids do things American parents would find dangerous. Before helicopter parenting kids jumped their bikes over ditches without helmets on, climbed trees/buildings, ran across roofs, played outdoors, used jungle gyms (those are basically not even allowed anymore) and you know what? They broke arms and stuff.

I am not defending this episode but the writers intended it to be canonical that Endar was NOT abusing Jeremiah. Fractured ribs? A broken arm? A concussion? Back in the day you could get such from climbing a tree, playing on a jungle gym and some football on the pavement in a parking lot.

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

If you think that line is BS you're reading something into the episode that is not there. Given your upbringing (which I am sorry for) it does not surprise me that you read them as lies. But the episode was not written to have them be lies, the actor did not deliver them as lies and Picard (who is our hero and we're supposed to trust his judgement) states his complete belief in these lines.

My cousin got a serious concussion falling off a horse and that's not a really powerful 6 hooved beast. Children's games in warrior cultures would be rougher than here, but even human cultures are not immune. Heck, even humans in the 24th century play dangerous games. Parrises squares killed the Doctor's daughter!

I'm not telling you to like this episode, to agree with Picard or to agree with the decision. I personally sided with Sisko in Cardassians, so I'd technically side against Picard here. But those lines are not lies and if you read them as such it's entirely a product of how your life colored this episode for you.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 11:26am (USA Central)
@ Robert

After viewing how warlike Endar's race is (and how prone to violence Endar himself is) I find it very doubtful that a human boy forced to become an alien (in that kind of culture) wasn't physically abused.

If you DO buy that Jeremiah did it all to himself, why didn't Dr. Crusher see those as injuries relating to a fall? She seemed quite convinced there was more there, and Jeremiah's behavior reinforced her suspicions. I think I'd trust Dr. Crusher's 24th Century forensic evidence before I trusted some enraged kidnapper's excuses.

But setting that all aside, HE WAS STILL KIDNAPPED AGAINST HIS WILL AND MENTALLY ABUSED!!!

No matter which way you slice it, Jeremiah was stolen from his parents (who were murdered in front of him) and forced to become the very thing he should despise.

In my opinion the murder of one's parents, kidnapping, the breaking of one's will, and the repression of his kinder past DEFINITELY QUALIFIES as abuse. And that is IF YOU SET THE QUESTION OF PHYSICAL ABUSE ASIDE.

Maybe that's because people don't view mental abuse in the same way they view physical abuse? I don't know. It all comes down to whether you think Jeremiah was abused. I think it's pretty obvious he was, no matter WHAT kind of childhood I may have had.
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 11:38am (USA Central)
I'm afraid I agree with Robert, here. Qualifying something as abuse requires cultural context. After all, indoctrinating children with a religious belief that condones suicide bombing or wife-beating is, in my view a kind of child-abuse, but cultural relativism demands that such behaviour be viewed, in context, as simply the continuation of social traditions.

It seems clear that Jono was not singled out for treatment by the Talarians, but was treated as any Talarian boy would have been. Now, we may not approve of their culture, but it isn't fair to single out his treatment as abuse when his behaviour suggests he's not atypical for a Talarian.

To echo what Robert said, this isn't a great boy-raised-by-wolves story, but I don't find it offensive, nor do I believe for a moment the episode is condoning child-abuse.
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 11:56am (USA Central)
@ Robert

For the record, I do appreciate your sympathy. (Star Trek fans really are nice people for the most part).

I just feel that my interpretation of this episode is not dependent on having an abusive childhood, and my gut reaction was that you were dismissing my points because of my history with this episode.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 12:01pm (USA Central)
@ Elliot

I think you are splitting hairs.

"After all, indoctrinating children with a religious belief that condones suicide bombing or wife-beating is, in my view a kind of child-abuse, but cultural relativism demands that such behaviour be viewed, in context, as simply the continuation of social traditions."

Slavery was a social tradition. So was child labor. And racism., And homophobia. And religious oppression.

Either something is wrong or it isn't, and all the cultural relativism in the world isn't going to make those bruises vanish or make someone un-raped. Just because something is "cultural" doesn't mean it is worth preserving or defending.

"To echo what Robert said, this isn't a great boy-raised-by-wolves story, but I don't find it offensive, nor do I believe for a moment the episode is condoning child-abuse."

So it's not abusive to murder a kid's parents, kidnap him, and destroy his personality and heritage to the extent he is willing to murder someone before the age of 16?! That's the DEFINITION OF ABUSE, and if you think Picard made the right choice in rewarding the kidnapper, I think you are beyond wrong.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 12:02pm (USA Central)
I accidentally posted as Robert at 11:56 AM (sorry, I was getting passionate and wasn't paying attention to where I was typing).
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 12:06pm (USA Central)
@Dave :

"Just because something is 'cultural' doesn't mean it is worth preserving or defending."

I totally agree with this! But, what needs to change is the cultural practice, right?

We wouldn't accuse a devoutly religious man telling his daughter that she ought to submit to her husband of abusing his daughter, but we still would want to change this cultural practice. Likewise, I don't think Endar was abusing Jono, but, should the Tamarians ever join the Federation, their cultural practices would have to change.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 12:12pm (USA Central)
Even calling him Jono is abuse.

How do you think it felt to be a small child and be told your name is not your name anymore, your parents are not your parents and never were, and everything you were taught about respect and tolerance was wrong?!

That's ABUSE.

"Cultural practices" is a red herring argument.

This should have been treated as a criminal case, and Picard should have told Endar to shove his violent threats up his ass. (I highly doubt his species would have gone to war over a kidnapee, especially since the Federation could crush them).
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 12:23pm (USA Central)
I am sorry, but it isn't cut and dry for me.

Abuse is defined as "the improper use of something; misuse; misapplication."

Improper is defined as "not in accordance with accepted rules or standards, especially of morality or honesty."

Thus in order to call something abuse, the standards by which something can be called improper have to be agreed upon. Clearly between these two cultures, human and Talarian, they do not agree. If a human did these things, it *would* be abuse.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 12:37pm (USA Central)
@ Elliot

Abuse is an umbrella term . . . but dictionary definitions aside, in it's colloquial usage you know exactly what I am referring to.

Let's get our heads out of the dictionary and back into the real world. Don't like the word "abuse"?

How about Jeremiah was "violated"? Jeremiah was "traumatized"? Or maybe just, "What happened to Jeremiah was WRONG." In the end, they are all just adjectives.

My gut tells me returning a teenage kidnapee to their abductor is wrong. Doubly so when you consider that A) the abductor killed the kid's parents and B) the kid is comfortable with murdering a veritable stranger.

Child abuse and kidnapping are the last things anyone should be attempting to rationalize, in my opinion.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 12:41pm (USA Central)
And I must say, this whole line of thinking "it's just their way of doing things" is kind of a cop out.

Think about it: it's very convenient when one can say "tsk, tsk" but not actually have to take a stand against something that is wrong. That's not the kind of lesson Star Trek should be sending, but apparently, that's the one that's being received.
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 12:56pm (USA Central)
Your gut, nor mine nor Picard's is not the measuring stick by which we should be judging the morality of other cultures. You have decided that Jono's treatment was wrong, and made clear what your position would be in this situation. The episode even has a character for you, Beverly (as an aside, this is exactly what I prefer in TNG over DS9, there's usually someone in the debate to voice counterarguments). That does not end the debate. You see it as wrong, and you made your case, I am saying that it is more complicated than that. "Wrong" is not an absolute, it is a cultural consensus.
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:10pm (USA Central)
"I just feel that my interpretation of this episode is not dependent on having an abusive childhood, and my gut reaction was that you were dismissing my points because of my history with this episode. "

I think you viewed Endar as LYING because of your past, where the episode paints his words as the truth. I'm not saying that he wasn't abused at all, especially from a human perspective. I just think that Endar truly does love him and from a certain mindset being forced to care for children that you caused to be orphaned might even be an enlightened philosophy.

"ENDAR: I lost my son at the hands of humans during the conflict over Castal One. Talarian custom allows me to claim the son of a slain enemy."

From my HUMAN perspective, if my wife and I were killed I'd want my child to go to whomever it specified in my will and certainly not my killers, have their name/identity removed, etc.

But to me, the fact that Endar loves Jeremiah the same as he would a Talarian son seems evident by the episode and is not really up for interpretation. He had a rough and tumble childhood, likely doing things that the physically tougher Talarians would get hurt doing (all ST aliens seem stronger than us physically) and Endar is not physically abusing him.

I think Endar is a loving parent and is not abusing Jeremiah. But Jeremiah is human and from a human perspective everything that has happened to this boy is wrong. If I were Picard I would have made the opposite choice.

I was mostly taking issue with your repeated comments that Endar is lying, which the episode does not support, not necessarily your conjecture that returning him to the people who killed his parents and took him away from his life was a good idea.

"I still remember despairing when Picard bought Endar's lies about the abuse"

"The scene with Jeremiah (not Jono) and Endar first meeting on the Enterprise also had the uncomfortable vibe of an abusive parent attempting to keep his child from saying something incriminating about them."

"It's basically a apologist argument for abusive upbringings in "foreign places.""

"I totally understood Jeremiah's internal conflict, feeling love for people that can't or won't express it to you, people that you don't really have a connection with, despite all your best efforts."

These are the lines I took issue with that I feel may be colored by your life. I don't think Endar is lying, I DO think he loves Jeremiah and gives him love, I don't think the episode supported their reunion as uncomfortable, and I don't buy Picard as gullible or "buying" anything false. I actually think the whole episode is really, really interesting up until the part in which Picard sends him back, and then it slams into a brick wall.
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:14pm (USA Central)
Also, if I were the admiral and it was my grandchild Picard would spend the rest of his career as an Ensign scrubbing plasma conduits, assuming he didn't spend the rest of his life on a penal colony somewhere for deciding that without any power to do so.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:15pm (USA Central)
Elliot said "Your gut, nor mine nor Picard's is not the measuring stick by which we should be judging the morality of other cultures."


reply: Actually, it is. This is a show that regularly asks the viewers to make moral choices and to question their own decision-making processes. We, as viewers, were very much being asked to pick a side by the time the credits rolled.

How does any rational human decide that kidnapping and child abuse is something that could be "right"? How could anyone think that is something we shouldn't judge harshly? How could anyone think that is something not worth taking a stand against?

Let's be real. If your neighbors were immigrants and they were abusing their children, would you say "well, it's just their way"? I'd hope the answer is no, but I'm starting to wonder.


Elliot said "The episode even has a character for you, Beverly (as an aside, this is exactly what I prefer in TNG over DS9, there's usually someone in the debate to voice counterarguments)."


reply: Beverly wasn't expressing a counterargument, she was EXPRESSING HER MEDICAL OPINION. I found Picard's dismissal of her 24th Century forensic evidence (after the father says one sentence about it) to be out of character for Picard. It's even sadder that the viewers don't seem to care about him casually brushing aside her concerns.

By the way, I'm not sure what you mean by "a character for you", but somehow that doesn't seem like a compliment.


Elliot said "You see it as wrong, and you made your case, I am saying that it is more complicated than that. "Wrong" is not an absolute, it is a cultural consensus."


reply: Remember when I said this episode is an "apologist argument for abusive upbringings in foreign places"? Thanks for proving my point.
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:17pm (USA Central)
One last comment. What I think is interesting about these pair of episodes ("Cardassians"/"Suddenly Human") is that when I was young I wanted to keep Jeremiah AND Rugal. I wanted to keep Rugal because of my feelings towards the Cardassians. As I'm older and have children I think Sisko is right and Picard was wrong.
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:19pm (USA Central)
"By the way, I'm not sure what you mean by "a character for you", but somehow that doesn't seem like a compliment"

I don't think Elliott meant anything by that, only that... in TNG a few characters always seemed to disagree with the final verdict, which was nice because there was always someone for the viewer to identify with, even if they disagreed with the episode.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:32pm (USA Central)
@ Robert

Thanks for being understanding.

I admit that personal experiences can color perception, so yes, in that sense, I may have sided with Dr. Crusher right from the start, but still . . .

She had a LOT of evidence and was VERY certain how one would get those injuries. Picard's explorations of her concerns were beyond pathetic. And why weren't Counselor Troi and Dr. Crusher involved in talking to the kidnapping parent? They're the medical experts.

If the episode hadn't made Dr. Crusher's protests such a big deal, I wouldn't have either.
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:33pm (USA Central)
"How does any rational human decide that kidnapping and child abuse is something that could be "right"?"

Rationality allows a human to understand (not decide) that with cultural practices there is not "right" or "wrong", just different. "Right" depends upon a set of circumstances, a context which allows us to judge actions against a social contract. Your knee-jerk reaction to this situation is a testament to the episode's emotional relevance to you, but not evidence of a "correct" answer.

For the record, I am not condoning Picard's actions in the end--I actually need to rewatch the episode before I make my final call. But his approach the situation is laudable: collecting evidence and weighing the pros and cons rationally.

Beverly's analysis of Jono's injuries reflects the way 24th century humans raise their young (apparently), but takes no accounting of Talarian culture. Picard, the arch├Žologist, takes an unbiased view.

Robert is correct, that I only meant that Beverly's position is the most similar to your own.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:38pm (USA Central)
@ Elliot

I'm kind of bummed you'd assume my reaction is a "knee-jerk" one, and thus, dismiss my points as ones based on illogic and emotion.

I will agree with you on one point. The fact that you are still calling him Jono tells me you REALLY need to rewatch this episode.
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:40pm (USA Central)
"She had a LOT of evidence and was VERY certain how one would get those injuries. Picard's explorations of her concerns were beyond pathetic. And why weren't Counselor Troi and Dr. Crusher involved in talking to the kidnapping parent? They're the medical experts."

It was bait and switch. The intent of the writers was to put it in your head that they were abusing this boy (possibly even BECAUSE he was human) and then bring Endar in and spin it 180. I'm SURE a lot of important details get glossed over/hashed out off screen in other episodes and this one probably bothers you more for personal reasons. I mean, I just assumed Picard gave Deanna a look off screen and she nodded ("I sense no deception from him") and that she sensed no fear when Endar was brought near the boy.
Robert - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:41pm (USA Central)
And actually

"CRUSHER: Two previously fractured ribs, a broken arm, and a low grade concussion. There might be neurological impairment. I'd like to examine him further. Jean-Luc, the Talarians have been known to be ruthless to their enemies. I think there's a real possibility they may have brutalised the child.
PICARD: Isn't it possible the injuries were caused prior to his captivity?
CRUSHER: Not likely. He's been with them a long time. Long enough to assimilate their cultural traits, and calcium trace patterns indicate the injuries took place during the past seven years.
PICARD: But if they have abused the boy, why would he so devoutly wish to return to them?
CRUSHER: It's not uncommon. It was identified centuries ago as the Stockholm syndrome. "

She's not even sure. A lot of her conjecture of abuse is based on prejudice against a former enemy. For what it's worth I really don't think you're wrong about the episode's moral being wrong or Picard screwing up. I just think your view of Endar is wrong. I don't see him as the villain of the piece.
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
@Dave :

Forgive me if that came across as condescending. It was not meant to be. I found your reaction to be knee-jerk because you seem unwilling to confront the episode's moral dilemma on its own terms. You have brought your own preconceptions with you and refused to set them aside to consider the arguments in the show, it seems. I call him "Jono" because that is who he believes himself to be. Whether or not he "should" have been raised to be Jono is moot--it has been done, and that is who he is.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:44pm (USA Central)
@ Robert They returned the boy after ONLY SEVEN YEARS OF CAPTIVITY?

I'm even less inclined to think those injuries were all from rough-and-tumble play. He repressed HIS ENTIRE HUMAN CHILDHOOD in 2500 days?! THIS IS AN OBVIOUS SIGN OF ABUSE.

I hate Picard's decision even more now.
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:48pm (USA Central)
@ Elliot

Thanks for saying that.

I just detest this episode because of the conclusions it makes the viewer draw. It was one of the only times Star Trek ever tackled child abuse as a serious topic and it's a crying shame this is what resulted.
Elliott - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 1:58pm (USA Central)
@Dave :

Check out "Child's Play" and "And the Children Shall Lead" for other examples of Trek tackling the subject. This isn't the last word on the matter.

For the record, Piller is quoted saying "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."
Dave in NC - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 2:15pm (USA Central)
@ Elliot

I'll watch Child's Play in the next few days and I'll let you know what I think. hopefully I'll have a more positive opinion. (I haven't seen that one since the late 90's, maybe earlier).

As far as Michael Piller's comments go, the fact that he mentioned all the angry letters and felt it necessary to explain what the episode was supposed to be about (that long after it aired) tells me that this episode really did mix its messages.

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