Friday, March 19, 2021

Star Trek: Suddenly Human

Episode: "Suddenly Human"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 4
Original Air Date: October 15, 1990

via Memory Alpha

The Enterprise responds to a distress call.  Five Talarian teenage crewmen are rescued from a shipwrecked vessel.  Except that one of them isn't Talarian.  He's human.  Turns out, young Jono was born Jeremiah Rossa.  He is the grandson of a Starfleet admiral and his parents were killed in a Talarian raid when he was a small child.  He was raised as a Talarian by Endar, the leader of the invading forces who killed Jeremiah's parents.  The question now is whether or not Jono should be returned to his human family or if he should be restored to Endar's care.

It's an interesting story, though a frequently uncomfortable one.  The initial Starfleet position - and that of the captain and most of the crew - is that Jeremiah should be returned to his human life.  Obviously (at least from their perspective)!  Allegations of abuse complicate the matter, though those allegations are eventually discredited.  This situation does come up in the real world from time to time.  Remember Elian Gonzalez?  The six-year-old Cuban refugee who arrived in the US in 2000 essentially unaccompanied?  The position of many: of course, he should stay here.  Obviously, a life in Florida is clearly preferable to one in Cuba.  One small problem: the boy's biological father, still in Cuba, wanted him returned.  At the risk of starting an argument, I'll make my own feelings clear.  Of course the boy should return to his family.  No matter the geo-political ramifications, it was the best decision for the sake of the child.

The controversy in "Suddenly Human" is much the same.  Obviously, it's better (from our heroes' quite troubling perspective) to be human than Talarian.  One very important difference: Jono, according to Talarian law, is old enough to decide for himself.  Jono wants to remain with the only family he's ever known.  Endar is prepared to respect his choice and defend his right to make it, with force if necessary.  It's not so clear that Picard will, especially after Jono attacks Picard in his sleep.

Fortunately, in my opinion, wisdom comes to Picard at last in the end and the boy is returned to his father.

Acting Notes

Sherman Howard (Endar) was born Howard Lee Sherman on June 11, 1949 in Chicago.  Trained at the American Conservatory Theater, the vast majority of his high profile work has been on stage.  Screen credits include Day of the Dead and the role of Lex Luthor in the TV series Superboy.


  1. I can’t seem to recall this episode but it makes me think of the Native Americans who, in the 1800s, did take people and raised them as their own. We think of it as horrible even a few decades ago but they were often treated well from the litTle I read. It s a hard decision.

    1. I’d recommend a book entitled The Unredeemed Captive, concerning how far into American history this goes.

    2. Birgit, funny you should mention that. One story that came to me as I was watching this was The Searchers which involves just such a story.

      Under the circumstances, it's the humane thing to do. Would any decent person leave a terrified child to starve to death alone? I would hope not.

  2. Interestingly, the geek in me always thought this episode could be better by featuring an established alien species. But when DS9 does it later (“Cardassians,” second season), I still didn’t think it was as good as it could be, until I saw it reworked as a truly outstanding novel, The Never-Ending Sacrifice.

    1. I guess I'll need to keep an eye out for the novel.

    2. Of course I meant to write “wasn’t as good.”

      Anyway, I fondly remember Howard’s Luthor. I was a fan of Superboy. Of course I haven’t watched a minute of it since it was on TV. Would be interesting to revisit.

    3. I'm pretty sure I never watched it.

  3. Great review and outstanding episode!

    I think I know the DS9 episode Tony mentioned. Didn't Sisko come to a different answer?

  4. It's a hard puzzle.
    We recently watched News of the World, which handles the same question.