Suddenly Human

Jono is a teenage Talarian warrior in training. Before that though, he was Jeremiah – a little boy from a Federation colony that was destroyed by the Talarians. Now it is time to get the boy home. Does that mean returning him to his Federation grandparents? Or to the Talarian captain who raised him as his own? A crime has been committed. Find out what it was and how it is solved when we put Suddenly Human in the Mission Log.

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  • CmdrR

    Flashy lights technology! The future beckons like a small boy howling at the ceiling.

  • Wildride

    The word you are looking for is kidnapping. Jono is a kidnap victim.

    • TrixieB


  • TrixieB

    Man murders village, leaving one child alive, whom he kidaps. Child is brought up to see people like his parents as unclean and evil. Discovered by another village,the child is left with his captor and not reunited with his remaining family because …

    Guys, last night’s show was not good. Seriously have issues with your thinking a murdering kidnapper should have custody of a child.

    How many children in the US are stolen at an early age and brought up as someone else? Are you saying that those children should stay with their captors? For your sakes I hope not one of your listeners has had a child abducted. The TNG show was already problematic. You made it worse.

    Ken, you speak of your baby sister. If she had been stolen at 2 and found at 14, would you think she should stay where she was because she did not remember her previous life? The only comparison to Indigenous peoples is the opposite of the one you made. They were murdered and their children were stolen. Those children needed to be returned. You would not argue that White families should keep stolen children.

    I am seriously appalled at the two of you, and whoever else did not do a double take when hearing this before it aired. Seriously poor judgement.

    • In times of war, the killing is not classified as murder. It is terrible there is no arguing against that, but I don’t think it is murder. Just complicated. Worf’s parents: we never refer to them as being murdered by Romulans. It’s just different when there are nations, planets, governments in armed conflict. Endar should have tried to find the biological relatives, but if no formal communication system exists, remember we are talking about interstellar conflict, this situation is more understandable.

      • TrixieB


        Really it isn’t. Tell that to his grandmother.

        • Well, what would you have had Picard do? I posted elsewhere, a formal complaint from the UFP/Starfleet demanding communications/start of relations w Admiral Rossa would be a good start.

  • McDunno

    Unless Federation family law is vastly different than modern-day U.S. family law, Picard is guilty of a pretty horrific crime. With Jeremiah’s parents dead, his custody becomes a little complicated, but the one person who would most certainly NOT be given custody is the man who killed Jeremiah’s parents and made it perfectly clear that he has no intention of allowing contact between his “son” and that boy’s biological family.

    At my job, I read custody cases nearly every day. Believe me, unless it can be shown to the satisfaction of a judge that exposure to a child’s biological family will be detrimental to the child’s mental and/or physical health, any foster parent who refuses contact between a child and that child’s family will not be a foster parent for long and certainly would never be allowed to adopt the child.

    Ken, you claim that we have no way to know for certain that Jeremiah’s “father” will not let Jeremiah know about the culture of humans, but that is pure pedantry. We are not required to judge the likelihood of something in a vacuum. We are not required to have irrefutable proof before coming to a conclusion. We can make some very good inferences based on what is known about the Talarians, what is known about Jeremiah’s upbringing, and what we come to know about Jeremiah’s “father.” A judge in family court is rarely given concrete evidence and must listen and sift through often conflicting evidence and testimony and would have no problem looking at all of this information and coming to a very strong inference that Jeremiah would not be allowed to come into contact with his biological family nor be allowed to even learn about his culture.

    I understand that Picard has a certain level of authority as a starship captain on the edge of Federation territory, but I am appalled that he made what, in essence, was a snap decision about this child’s future. Family law is a very delicate area of jurisprudence, and Picard has absolutely no experience or training in it. Judges regularly attend conferences to keep them up-to-date on the latest developments in family law. When hearing custody cases, they listen to testimony from family members, friends of family members, therapists, social workers, the list goes on and on.

    In at least my state (check local listings), by law, custody cases are expedited in the circuit court and on appeal. They can still drag out for months and months (especially if custody is being taken away from a biological parent). I understand that this is a TV show and the resolution has to happen by the end of the 48 or so minutes, but not only is this issue given short shrift, Picard’s decision comes after Jeremiah commits an act of violence that any judge would see as immediate grounds to remove a child from their current living situation and be put into foster care and a psychological examination ordered.

    You both claim that Picard made the right decision, but I can absolutely assure you that a judge would not agree. I can assure you that Jeremiah’s grandmother would not agree. I can assure you that people involved in family law or social services would not agree. I can assure you, as a parent, I definitely do not agree. I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that Jeremiah’s parents would be horrified at Picard’s decision, because I know I would be.

    • I don’t think it is mentioned Endar specifically killed the parents, perhaps they just died in bombing. If the powers had no formal communication method after these conflicts I think Endar’s actions are a bit more understandable.

    • TrixieB


      The Worf analogy people keep using is flawed. His adoptive parents did not murder his bio parents. They adopted him, not stole him. Plus they were honest with him about his heritage. That grandmother is going to kick butt all over the quadrant.

  • Bruce Aguilar

    I agree that Picard made the right decision in the situation he was in. Forcing Jono to stay with the Enterprise against his will and risking an all out war would benefit no one. This is a fight for another day. Maybe Jono’s Grandma will want to fight for him as aggressively as the Talarian captain did. She doesn’t strike me as someone who will give up on ever seeing her long lost grandson. It would have been great to revisit this story down the line at some point in TNG’s run.

    Also, I agree that ignoring Worf in this story made no sense whatsoever. It would have been great to see a Picard and Worf story that didn’t revolve around Klingon politics.

  • Lou Dalmaso

    another show in a row about family and family dynamics….yawn..pass

  • Durakken

    I think you’re getting the Talarians somewhat wrong. We’re told that there is a right of claiming children from enemies and Jono is raised as a Talarian. We can then argue that Talarians are likely a very genetically diverse species… having genetics from many other species mixed into their species.

    As far as messages… I can’t believe you guys missed them straight out telling you the message which was “we should have listened to what they wanted rather than just presumed”

    • The silly part of Talarian customs is for them to impose that on their enemies from other worlds. What if it’s Klingon custom to give a hearty pat on the back after a peace treaty is signed, but that is offensive to Talarians? It would just never end…these races who impose their beliefs on others from different worlds are just going to be disappointed.

      • Durakken

        Nyah. The only imposition they have is “don’t come here” as far as we saw. Everything else, as far as we can see is just a result of being in that particular culture. Not forced on anyone.

        • I think the Talerians claiming to have the right to the children of dead enemy combatants is overreach and therefore an imposition, but that’s just my opinion. Definitely needs to be a formal protest by UFP/Starfleet to prevent future incidents like this.

          • Durakken

            It’s definitely an issue but not neccessarily an imposition. As far as we know it’s that they attack and if there are kids alive they just take them and don’t contact the other civilization. And because they don’t contact the other civ it’s not a forced imposition. If they did contact them and then said “HAHAHAHA we take your kids mwahaha” or something to that effect then it’s an imposition. Semantic difference, but still a difference. As far as we know Jono’s situation could just be an oversight or it could be standard procedure.

          • I think the failure to notify is the deal breaker.

  • nathankc

    The other comments are making good points re: kidnapping, etc…
    I’ll raise a broader issue – racism (or perhaps ‘species-ism’ because I am addressing the human race vs alien cultures in-universe). Does genetics define culture? The enlightened crew of the Enterprise spends an awful lot of time expecting the Jono to behave a certain way simply because of his DNA and not at all in regards to the culture in which he was raised. You would expect them to have even some measure of understanding that even human cultures can be unique. But no, “you are human – you must act in this pre-defined way”. Putting aside the aspects of war crimes and kidnapping (which others have addressed successfully) I think the deeper (and maybe the issue that was attempting to be addressed) is that culture, family, purpose – the things that actually define us as sentient beings are not, and should not be determined by DNA

  • “Jono” “Jeremiah Rossa”- Chad Allen

  • “Captain Endar” Sherman Howard

  • Lou Dalmaso

    one other thing, and this goes back to what you’ve said in the past.

    Is this a good episode of Star Trek or could it have been done on another show? to me this was an episode of LA Law or Picket Fences with a starship thrown in

    • It’s pretty average in my opinion. It should have pushed the envelope for custody battles, interstellar custody battles…lol, but could have been more serious.

  • When the Elian Gonzalez case was big, I was asking co-workers, “Who’s wishes should take precedence?, the dead parent or the living ones?”- That shut up a lot of the prattling. Some said “But he can have a better life in the US!”- and I asked, “what if your ex-spouse died, and their rich relatives in Beverly Hills wanted the child to give him/her a better life?” Custody battles are terrible. This episode could have been treated a lot more seriously if relatives had been allowed to enter the fight and if Jono had been just a bit older to remember more…. also S1 “Haven” had Tarellians w a disease and this episode had “Talerians”- for a while I thought they had made a goof and used a species name again…

  • mc900

    Worf really should have had some input into this situation the fact that he didn’t really points to a writer not very familiar with the show.
    The take away here is an obvious nature vs nature study.

    And Ken- yeah Wesley should have had asome better moments as well- again see writer not familiar with the show and just looking at past character descriptions- but chill dude.

    • Yeah, I thought this was a gimme for Worf. If I was captain, I’d DELEGATE! I don’t have time for this nonsense, thanks but no thanks, Troi!

  • Muthsarah

    I’ve read all the comments here, and I know the episode well, from way back. Just re-watched it too.

    Don’t have much to say (and THIS time, those words won’t be followed by three giant paragraphs), but:

    I just want to say, bravo to this episode for creating controversy. Ken and John are sympathetic, most of this comment section is borderline-violently opposed to it. From my experience, it’s an INTENSELY divisive episode, message-wise, not just quality-wise. And there’s the Elian Gonzalez reference, which was similarly controversial. So…not necessary prophetic, just that it ended up sorta anticipating a real-world parallel. Pretty good for TV.

    Wherever you fall on this issue (for the record, I…just don’t know, all solutions seem frought with difficulty to this pessimist), this episode is a lightning rod. There’s so much to argue about. And when’s the last time Trek produced one of those? This Side of Paradise? Elaan of Troyius? Undiscovered Country? Or even as recently as The High Ground? Whether it was intended or not (99% not, methinks), it’s a rare episode that can inspire such heated debate. And I think it’s good that the show could occasionally do something like that. Keeps it spicy.

    • I’m honestly stunned at how strong the reaction has been to this episode – here and in our other social media. Agree with you that it’s nice to find an episode that still really touches a nerve after so many years because there aren’t perfect answers.

      • I also was surprised. I think it’s a bit like “Dances w Wolves” or “The Last of the Mohicans”- though I don’t recall if Daniel Day Lewis was mixed race and found, or just grew up w tribes. Either way, the white American settler kid survives and is raised by Apache or Navajo types tome- is that the right usage? concept or premise. That’s how I took this episode. I really think failed marriage international custody battles/parental abductions and sick criminals murdering and kidnapping analogies just do not fit this analogy. We are talking about interstellar societies who may not care about rules of other governments because they frankly are not evolved enough, (however strongly we think they should be) Romulans, Cardassians look down on us…so we should not be so surprised at these fundamental differences.

        • CmdrR

          I was thinking more of “The Searchers.” Pointedly, neither story offers us a view of how things ultimately play out. For all we know, John Wayne has his sudden change of heart, welcomes Natalie Wood home… then things go rotten. Dunno. Jono could be happy with his “Dad,” or he could start having nightmares about missing his dead parents. Dunno. I just think this ep is too neat, whichever way you think it should have gone.

      • Yeah, crazy, right? I think Ken summed it up when he said, “the moral of this story is that you need to get all the facts before making a decision, not just make a rule that say nature or nurture always wins.” Well, he said something like that. For what it’s worth, I think Picard made the right choice in this case. Oh, it’s a fantasy, and we know little about the circumstances that led to it and nothing about the outcome? Drat! It’s so hard to say “I told you so” under these circumstances!

    • Yes, very fired up indeed. I also thought of the Brazilian custody case, can’t remember the names- but again, I think family custody divorce battles are different than acts of war and combat between governments.
      Especially governments w/o established ties of communication. Great discussion though. Does keep things…interesting. Also, so many angles I never considered back in 1990, when I was…at the AGE OF DECISION! LOL, or was it before the AGE OF INCLUSION? lol Klingons….

  • Muthsarah

    One thing I don’t understand, re Worf and Wesley: OK, Jeri Taylor didn’t know Trek at all, but she had been working on other shows for years, so maybe this script was originally intended for some other show, or for no specific show, and it got re-purposed for TNG. And so, the lack of the obvious Worf/Jono parallel, and Wesley’s bizarre immaturity.

    Why didn’t the rest of the writing staff do their own treatments on this script, to make it fit the characters better? We hear about it with other episodes, some of which were fundamentally re-structured by several staff writers. How did this one get through?

  • CmdrR

    Ken and Jon — See what you did… reviewing a 25 year old television show! Sheesh!!! Maybe controversy has a certain value in this case. Trek does make you think… or at least, it makes you post.

    • CmdrR

      I shudder to think how you’ll handle the uproar over TLB’s infamous “Gopher’s Lost Boa” episode.

    • Interesting, right? I always thought it would be other topics that would cause the most heated discussions.

      • CmdrR

        Hang in there. This may be your Kobayashi Maru, but I think we all still love the podcast.

  • Troy Brooks

    When you kept asking what Captain Kirk would do I was yelling “Don’t you remember Charlie X!” Granted the power levels were different (which actually bothered me in this episode, why was it important to note that the Enterprise could destroy them?) but Kirk, after arguing that Charlie belonged with his own kind did allow him to be returned to his adoptive family.
    And that brings up my second point, the message of this episode is that adoptive families *are* real families.

    • Exactly – I was kind of hoping people would make the connection to Charlie X. Like that you found that message too.

    • Muthsarah

      The importance of the Talarians being no threat to the Enterprise are twofold:

      1) The immediate danger posed by the Talarian warships, and by extension, of the whole Talarian military (even post-Wolf 359, maybe) wasn’t a consideration for Picard. It wasn’t “right or wrong, if we don’t surrender the boy, we might all die anyway, including him”. He didn’t have to think about the welfare of his ship, only the welfare of Jono.

      2) Assuming the Talarian captain knew of the power disparity (and he didn’t come off as stupid, he did call in re-enforcements early and never did actually attack, like the Romulans did even before issuing their threat in “The Defector”), that means that he was also motivated by principle. Even if it would have been a futile gesture, he was willing to fight a giant and very likely die rather than surrender his son. Jono said that he was ready to die, and Endar was apparently ready as well.

  • NEWS FLASH @ 22:00
    Picard : To conceal him was a clear violation of our agreement.”
    If the Talerians and UFP had some sort of POW agreement, then Picard has much more legal/moral ground to take and keep Jeremiah. Still, I think it would be a bad idea, in light of Jeremiah’s love for his adoptive father, but definitely more support, to at least strong arm the Talerians and perhaps hit them w sanctions or more clear regulations. Pic coming

  • Game changer?

  • Ben Shakey

    I read Greg Cox’s A Child of Both Worlds about a month ago and really liked but I saw this today and its pretty much the same story.

  • Ben Shakey

    I just read “A child of Both Worlds” by Greg Cox. I really liked it but I watched this and I am now bummed that it was pretty much this story set in the TOS era.

  • Daniel R. Przybylski

    Cats in Space Quoting Scientists

  • Low Mileage Pit Woofie

    I’m late to this little debate, except to add: don’t go into this expecting a happy ending, no matter how it might have turned out.