Star Trek: The Next Generation: Suddenly Human   Rewatch 
December 28, 2020 11:50 AM - Season 4, Episode 4 - Subscribe

The Enterprise crew discovers a young Human boy being raised by the aliens who killed his parents.

Jeremiah needs to build a relationship with Memory Alpha, a wiki with whom he can explore his origins.

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, 2nd ed., p. 140)
  • 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, pp. 130 & 133)
  • 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, 2nd ed., p. 140)
Production
  • Although it aired as the fourth episode of the season, "Suddenly Human" was actually filmed second. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., pp. 139-140)
  • Geordi La Forge appears only for a very brief scene which is actually recycled footage. Prior to the filming of "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II", LeVar Burton had surgery and couldn't make an appearance.
  • The Talarian writing and logo, first seen aboard the Batris in "Heart of Glory" are seen again aboard the observation craft.
  • The Talarian uniforms were later re-used in "Man of the People" for guards on Rekag-Seronia.
  • Connor Rossa is seen wearing the 2350s-2370s style Starfleet uniform on a photograph holding young Jeremiah shortly after his birth in 2353. This might be the earliest chronological appearance of the uniform.
  • This episode marks one of the few times that a sheathed d'k tahg is seen. Captain Picard keeps one in his quarters.
  • The rifles worn by the Talarian militia were later re-used as Romulan disruptor rifles.
Poster's Log
Three 'family' related episodes in a row feels like a lot.

Beverly, especially, hits the "I think they abused this boy" button a little too hard.

One wonders how many other species went to war with the Talarians just because they heard the B'Nar and wanted to make that noise stop.

Endar claimed Jeremiah to replace his son, killed by Humans at Castal One, and refers to Jono as his "only son". But, Jono talks about "sharing victory with [his] brothers".

Poster's Log, Supplemental
I didn't remember this one fondly and rewatch didn't make it better. The one saving grace is the explicit discussion of Picard's failure to listen to and take into consideration Jono's feelings, which feels more woke in 2020 than it did in 1990.
posted by hanov3r (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Star Trek CCG never touched this episode, apart from a fairly average fan-produced card Brink of War from 2017. We haven't had an episode this barren since "The Icarus Factor", if memory serves.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:57 AM on December 28


The B'Nar is awful, yes, but I would listen to a whole album of Talarian Alba Ra. Musically-inclined hardcore Trek nerds: get on that.

The story is fairly simplistic and at least a little bit reminiscent of things we've probably seen elsewhere, which means salvation lies with the performances of its two guests, Jono and Endar. I found them both to be pretty good, but the latter more compelling; since Endar has so much less screen time, that adds up (for me) to a very watchable but not an essential installment.

Endar actor Sherman Howard had a memorable guest role as the recipient of the Junior Mint in the titular Seinfeld episode; his character therein almost couldn't be more different from Endar.

The Talarian Republic is depicted astrographically as a decent-sized faction located very close to, and roughly rimward of, the Cardassian Union in the noncanon but pretty-dang-thoroughly-researched Star Trek: Star Charts book.

Three 'family' related episodes in a row feels like a lot.

I had the exact same thought. By my count, season 4 opens with seven in a row, although admittedly "Remember Me" is only secondarily family-related.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:59 AM on December 28


Yeah, there are a bunch of family episodes stacked up. This one left me uneasy; I will accept that the writer and showrunners intended it to be a show about cultural relativism, but I have to at least side-eye a script in which a character seemingly experiences abuse, but then it's explained away. (Compare/contrast with VOY's "Retrospect", see also VOY's "Survival Instinct", about Seven of Nine's previous chance at escaping the Collective, but not only not taking it but getting the other potential xBs in her nonuple reassimilated as well.) Having several previously broken bones in childhood is not usual. Also, as with the Chalnoth in "Allegiance", the Talarians seemed a bit like off-brand Klingons, as if the showrunners wanted to make Jono a Klingon adoptee--basically, giving him the mirror of Worf's childhood--but the timeline didn't work out. (I would have liked a scene where Jono realizes that Worf's whole ethos is not that far off from Talarians' and tried to spend all his spare time in Worf's "calisthenics" program.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:33 PM on December 28 [3 favorites]


As an adoptee, I have a very complicated response to this episode (man, I miss mwhybark on these, and it would have been great to hear their also-adoptee perspective), and the ending especially really upsets me. This idea that if Picard just acknowledges the kid's feelings, and that he wants to go home, and everybody on the Talarian side is an ace adoptive parent, and fuck the feelings of the remaining family who did not, you know, actually choose to send their surviving kid to live somewhere else...hoo boy. I just don't know. I have no idea what I actually think about all this, other than I'm especially troubled about their dismissiveness of the remaining family, like, they're there, and then they just get punted for the happy reunion... Yeah, I don't know.

Maybe if they had brought Worf into the mix a little more, it would read better to me on a personal level. Or make it feel less like one of those missing kid milk carton very special episode afterchool special earnest lesson dramas of the late '80s, early '90s.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 2:16 PM on December 28 [2 favorites]


other than I'm especially troubled about their dismissiveness of the remaining family, like, they're there, and then they just get punted for the happy reunion... Yeah, I don't know.

I found myself trying to imagine the subspace communique between Picard and Admiral Rosso where he has to explain that she's not going to see her long-lost grandchild after all. And given that the show made such a point of Talarian refusal to recognize women in authority, it's not like she can easily warp on over to meet him in their territory. Maybe this one played better in 1990; nowadays with all the hundreds of children stolen from their parents by ICE, and the many stories of international adoptees who turned out to have been trafficked from their parents rather than orphaned, the ending just doesn't sit right.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:10 PM on December 28 [2 favorites]


For those looking to cleanse the palate, IIRC this general topic was handled less clumsily in the DS9 episode "Cardassians," which is early enough in the show that I don't think one requires any special foreknowledge. Of course, it also ends uncomfortably, but more intentionally so.

And the excellent DS9 novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice is all about the war orphan main character of that episode, though (being a Trek novel) it does require pretty detailed knowledge of the associated canon.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:52 AM on December 29 [2 favorites]


Not much to say about the episode content per se, but I am also here for the Alba Ra. I want to just crank that track over the theme music for every subsequent episode.

I'm not sure how well I'm handling the Child Actor Death March we're on here, but I did want to point out that the actor playing Jono was pretty good. 10/10 mournful keening!

This episode also has the worst title. At least "Menage a Troi" was trying.
posted by phooky at 5:15 AM on December 29 [1 favorite]


I have always strongly disliked this episode. It's not the worst by far, but it is one of the first that comes to mind when I think of episodes I dislike.

First off, the resolution is just cheap. Picard cuts the Gordian knot, but no one provides any push-back. His choice conveniently avoids a diplomatic incident or potentially an armed conflict. It would have been nice if there was someone else around advocating for the opposite approach who could have at least made the accusation that Picard was making a political decision, or at least allowing it to affect his analysis. Picard could have given a good speech about balancing his duty to the boy and to the Federation, or something similarly lofty. But they don't even bother with that. So it doesn't seem like the ending is much of a resolution, rather, it's just a decision.

Also, I just hated Jono, and his mourning ritual and cool leather clothes and great hair.


For some weird reason, I remember my young teenage self nerding-out on my criticism of this episode; how either Jono was speaking English/Standard/whatever, which didn't make sense, or the universal translator just magically changes his speech, which okay, but then why doesn't it translate the word "B'nar" straight to "mourning"? Gotcha, TNG writers!
posted by skewed at 7:04 AM on December 29


The Fanfare rewatch is just about caught up with my personal rewatch, largely because I kept putting off finishing this episode. The resolution seems obvious from the get-go, and much of the episode is just Picard being uncomfortable.

I think having the Admiral involved in the resolution both for tension and also to tie up that thread. (I do think that, as someone who is old enough to make his own decisions, and who has warmed up to the Federation, even if he doesn't want to live there, Jono will eventually visit his birth family.

The thing the episode most reminds me of is the Elián González incident in 2000, although I assume at the time the idea was more a counterpoint to stories like The Searchers.
posted by ckape at 9:21 AM on December 29


I'm not sure how well I'm handling the Child Actor Death March we're on here, but I did want to point out that the actor playing Jono was pretty good. 10/10 mournful keening!

Chad Allen, a child actor staple of the late eighties and early nineties who successfully made the transition to adult actor. For those who are interested in TV trivia, his best known role is probably Tommy Westphall on St. Elsewhere.
posted by Fukiyama at 12:21 PM on December 29 [3 favorites]


Eh. The Talarians fought a war with the Federation and the Fed wants to be careful not to spark another one. On the other hand, the Talarians are not a threat to the Enterprise and are never heard from again after this episode. Suddenly Human is a good example of how TNG's writer's room's worldbuilding efforts were pretty shallow beyond the hull of the Enterprise and the bare necessity of the week's plotline.
posted by Stuka at 1:34 PM on December 29 [1 favorite]


The Talarians fought a war with the Federation and the Fed wants to be careful not to spark another one. On the other hand, the Talarians are not a threat to the Enterprise

That's because every Talarian war is short, and follows the same phases:

1- Neighboring power invades Talarian space because the Talarians' evident technological backwardness makes them seem like easy pickings.

2- Talarians suffer massive casualties—resulting in nonstop B'Narring.

3- Invading power hastily sues for peace because they can't stand that sound.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:45 PM on December 29 [4 favorites]


Chad Allen, a child actor staple of the late eighties and early nineties who successfully made the transition to adult actor. For those who are interested in TV trivia, his best known role is probably Tommy Westphall on St. Elsewhere

Holy shit, we’re all in that snowglobe, aren’t we?

Allen is pretty good and there’s some good awkward Picard (they should have called it Suddenly Dadman), but the episode… I see what they’re going for but I don’t think they manage to stick the landing.
posted by rodlymight at 7:07 PM on December 29 [1 favorite]


Maybe this one played better in 1990

No, I remember thinking it played pretty awkwardly then, too.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:03 PM on December 29


1- Neighboring power invades Talarian space because the Talarians' evident technological backwardness makes them seem like easy pickings.

2- Talarians suffer massive casualties—resulting in nonstop B'Narring.

3- Invading power hastily sues for peace because they can't stand that sound.
They say that in space, no one can hear you B'Nar. This is a lie.
posted by ckape at 11:47 AM on December 30 [1 favorite]


In 2015, Allen announced his retirement form acting to become a clinical psychologist.

Huh, cool.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:47 PM on December 30


Allen’s so badly cast in this that it spoils the episode for me. I wanted a kid with some edge, one who seemed like he’d been through some hard things. I don’t think Allen’s a terrible actor, but he really feels like a comfortable Southern California white boy who’s never had anything bad happen to him. This might have worked for me with a different actor—and as always, Stewart brings his A-game no matter who he’s acting against. But as it is, this one’s a dud in what’s mostly a very strong season.
posted by EarBucket at 1:37 PM on December 31


« Older Black Sails: XXIII...   |  Movie: Death to 2020... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments