Season Four - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Suddenly Human

Written by John Whelpley, Jeri Taylor, Ralph Phillips, Joe Menosky, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

For anyone who doesn’t know, I was adopted. It took twenty-seven years, but I was finally reunited with my birthmother and she is a terrific friend to me. It was only after that reunion that I began to take a critical look at the adoption system in our country and see some pretty blatant faults. One of the problems is that while everyone is busy making sure that the adults involved have their rights protected, no one is looking at what is in the best interest of the child.

Suddenly Human cuts to the heart of that very subject. The Enterprise receives a distress call from a Talarian vessel. The Talarians and the Federation have an uneasy truce; sort of a “You ignore me and I’ll ignore you” agreement between them. The vessel is a training vessel, manned by five teenagers. One of them turns out to be a human.

The Talarian culture is very different from the human/Federation culture. Females are not given any respect at all, but there is a deep reverence for authority. This is why the boy – known by the Talarian name Jono – responds best to Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart).

Captain Picard is notoriously horrible with children. He is uncomfortable with them in just about any situation. Thus, when ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) suggests that he take charge of the boy, he resists with every excuse in the book.

Jono (portrayed by Chad Allen) resists all attempts to integrate him into the human culture. He has been raised for as long as he can remember by a Talarian Starship Captain (portrayed by Sherman Howard) who wishes the boy to be returned to him. To make the mix even more difficult, Jono’s true identity is soon learned. His parents were killed when the Talarians attacked a Federation Outpost. His grandmother, a Starfleet Admiral, is still alive.

While the Talarian Captain, Endar, is willing to let Jono make his own decision about where he wishes to be, the crew of the Enterprise is intent on “persuading” him to want to return with them. The two ships have similar armaments, and Endar has threatened to attack the Enterprise should they refuse to return him after he has made his desires clear.

It’s interesting to see what happens when Picard thinks he knows what is best for the boy. Instead of listening to him and what he wants, he and other members of the Enterprise crew attempt to impose their own will on him. He does begin to fit in with the human culture, but it causes such anguish in him that he attacks Picard, believing the problem will be solved if he is put to death.

I was happy the writers didn’t take the easy way out by having Jono choose to stay with the humans. It would be similar to having a sixteen-year-old choose to return to live with his or her birthmother – something that rarely happens. Although the way Jono and Endar found each other was most unorthodox, it was very obvious that the two did have a great father and son relationship.

Likewise, Jono grows throughout the episode. His memories from when he was younger come back into place, leaving open a universe of possibilities in the future.

Chad Allen does a terrific job as the conflicted Jono. He conveys a wide range of emotions very well, as well as portraying the fish out of water when around other humans. Patrick Stewart is as great as ever. Always uncomfortable around children, he manages to overcome this to try to give this young man the nurturing he needs, and in the end, it is perhaps this discomfort that lets him look at the situation a bit more objectively and without emotion. I would not want to be in his shoes when he has to inform the Starfleet Admiral that her only living descendant chose to go back to a race that had taken him after slaying his parents…

All in all, this is a pretty good episode. By far, it’s not the best. The rest of the crew interacts with the main story in meaningful ways. There is enough of a story that hits home for me that it kept me interested all the way through. Non-fans of the series or casual viewers might not be impressed with it, but neither will they be confused by the story since there is very little background needed to watch the show.

As a side note, just because the episodes are numbered this way, does not mean this is the order they were broadcast in or should be viewed in. Family, which is episode #78 should immediately follow The Best of Both Worlds Part II. This episode was actually originally broadcast after both Family and Brothers.

Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds Part II

Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Brothers

7 replies »

  1. I’m neither Trekkie nor Star Warry but my dad loved Star Trek. So I have an appreciation for it! So I have a respect for ya!

    • Thank you! I grew up on Star Trek re-runs (the Original Series). I was so happy when they brought back The Next Generation and gave up part of the way through the first season. I love it but can see the flaws. A friend said it had gotten better in the third season so I started watching again. It’s really a great show.

      • He loved the original but seemed very partial to The Next Generation.

        Which was weird to me because they didn’t stay entirely true to the original. Romulans and Vulcans and the other species were different and I don’t know… why did things change?

        Then again, I’m a personal perfectionist lol

      • There’s a whole backstory in one of the novels involving time travel and attempts at genetic engineering that explain it, but the bottom line is they had a higher budget and better make-up and effects to use.

      • Cool! That makes sense now. You can tell I’m pretty oblivious lol!