Plot Synopsis: The Enterprise crew discovers a young human boy being raised by the aliens who killed his parents.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser is somewhat interesting. The Enterprise comes upon a small alien ship in distress. Beaming on board, they find some young Talarians on what appears to be some sort of training mission, all unconscious with significant injuries. The real surprise is that that one is human. Plot A is about the Talarian teenager, Jono, there is no plot B. We learn Jono was born on Earth and his parents were killed by the Talarians when he was 3. Since the kid identifies as Talarian, and the plan is to reunite him with his grandmother (who’s an admiral) Troi suggests the only way to help Jono make the transition to human culture–since they’re all very patriarchal–is for Captain Picard to mentor him. While Jono at first denies he even is human, as things progress there’s evidence he may have been abused, the kid gets confused about his identity, and the captain of the next Talarian ship that comes along is Jono’s “father.” What follows is a reasonably well-plotted episode without any serious flaws that resolves in a somewhat controversial way that I partially agree with.
Favorite Scenes: This episode isn’t really one that I like. The only scene I genuinely like is about 15 minutes in, when Picard tries to wriggle out of being Jono’s babysitter with Troi. We learn a bit about Picard’s childhood and how Troi handles him is fairly cool. As a therapist myself, it’s not too different from how I would do it. Also, in spite of myself, the scene with Wes getting hit in the face with the banana split is fairly funny.
Use of Cast/Characters: Only a couple members of the cast are actually used here. Riker, Data, Worf, Geordi, Wes, they’re really just place holders. Picard’s struggle to relate with adolescents is one of the foci here, and I guess I just don’t care. Beverly’s main role seems to be to introduce the possibility of child abuse. Troi is used to fairly good effect, and she is the reason the crew even try to teach him about being human instead of just shuttling him back to Earth. Chad Allen, who plays Jono, rides the line between being a strong-willed and increasingly confused young man and an arrogant kid, but he gives a solid performance. Sherman Howard, playing Endar, is the concerned father but the way he’s played he’s not particularly sympathetic.
Blu Ray Version: Pause at about 8:18. Look to the left of Worf and you’ll see what looks like an episode script that someone left lying around and in the shot. It’s not exclusive to the Blu Ray version, but I’ll put it here anyway. The Talarian ships look terrific, there’s a lot more detail visible on them throughout this episode. Little things like that are one of the reasons I bought the Blu ray version.
Nitpicks: In the teaser, what is Troi doing there next to Worf by tactical? Seems like the only reason is to have her in the shot, which doesn’t serve much of a purpose anyway. About 26 minutes in Picard and Troi allow Jono’s Talarian father to meet with him but then turn their backs while they talk, presumably to give them some privacy. That’s not right, at the very least Troi should be watching everything–especially if they think his father has abused him.
Overall Impression: Overall this episode is OK, it’s not one that I really enjoy watching and is pretty forgettable. This episode is third in a row where the underlying theme is family, the hallmark of half of season four. Some folks think it’s about child abuse, but I disagree; it’s an episode about cultural identity. Jono does have suppressed memories of his abduction as a small child, and some old physical injuries, but mostly it should be about coming to terms with being both Talarian and Human. It starts out this way, and we do see him increasingly act out–an understandable step in the process–but at the end there’s nothing that leads me to believe he has begun to reconcile his dual identity (or even that it was a goal), just an apology for trying. I’m fine with returning him to Endar, but there could have been more. An analogue of this in our society are folks that are born of two races, or those that grow up in our nation but have a heritage from another as well. The end goal is not to choose one and deny the other, but to accept and integrate them both. Jono may be wrestling with being ‘suddenly human’, but the ending is simply too sudden and unsatisfying. I rate this episode 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This episode was actually the second episode made in season four (rather than Family), but it aired fourth. Picard doesn’t have any scar or bandages on his head like he does in Family, leaving me with the impression that even though they shot this episode first they intended it to be shown later. Jeri Taylor joined the staff as a writer with this episode, and she’ll stay with Star Trek up through Voyager. This episode is another ‘bottle show’, taking place entirely on the ship.
Turns out LeVar Burton doesn’t actually appear in this episode, his one shot is stock footage, because (as mentioned in my BoBW 2 review) he’d just had surgery and was recovering. If you’re trying to place Chad Allen (Jono), he was on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Michael Piller said they received a bunch of letters from folks claiming the episode was about child abuse and they were letting this kid return to his abusers. Please.
Missable/Unmissable? Eh, missable. Not the next one though, it’s great.
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