(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise crew discovers a young Human boy being raised by the aliens who killed his parents.
- "Captain's log, stardate 44143.7. We have moved into sector 21947 in response to a distress call from a Talarian observation craft. The alien vessel appears adrift, and our initial scans have detected a life-threatening radiation leak within its propulsion system."
As the USS Enterprise-D approaches the Talarian craft, Worf informs Captain Picard that there is no response from the vessel and Picard orders that an open channel be maintained. Doctor Crusher and her medical team are standing by to beam onboard the Talarian vessel. However, Data provides a warning by noting that this may be a well-known Talarian tactic as evidenced during the Talarian war. The Talarians would abandon their vessels, rig them to self-destruct, and send out a distress call. Troi senses life on board, which is rapidly fading. Despite Data's warning, Picard decides to send the away team over to the craft.
When Worf, Riker, Crusher, Martinez, and other medics board the ship, they discover five Talarian males, all wearing uniforms, who are unconscious with radiation burns. They conclude it is a training ship, and beam them all to sickbay, but not before Doctor Crusher finds one of the boys is Human.
- "Captain's log, supplemental. We have completed an emergency evacuation of four Talarians and one Human. How this young man found himself in the company of these aliens remains a mystery."
During their treatment, all of the Talarians and the Human boy are first still and silent, despite being talked to by the doctor and nurses. Suddenly, they all begin rocking and howling. Only when Captain Picard comes in and commands them to stop loudly do they all stop. The boy is silent until he hears Picard addressed as captain. He then admits his name is Jono and requests formally to return home to his captain, Endar.
When Picard talks to Doctor Crusher in her office, she explains other medical findings, in addition to the radiation: two previously fractured ribs, a broken arm, and a low-grade concussion, all sustained during the past seven years. She believes that he has been with the Talarians for some time, since he has assimilated their culture, and it is they who could have brutalized him to cause the injuries.
As they talk, Troi suggests that Jono takes off his gloves so that they can examine him further, but Jono begins to behave erratically by running away and yelling. Picard and Crusher rush in to stop Jono from resisting further medical examination, again by commanding him to stop struggling. In the middle of it, they receive a subspace message from Starfleet. Picard and Crusher leave to hear it.
In the meantime, Worf takes Jono to his quarters and Jono asks why he would respond to a woman, Dr. Crusher. Worf explains that he is outranked by her, and Jono says that females would never outrank a male in his society. Worf explains that Jono is not Talarian, but Human, and is confused. Then Jono makes the "B'Nar," the wailing noise that all Talarians make when they are in distress. Worf leaves him once he starts making the noise.
In the observation lounge, Picard learns that the boy is the grandson of Admiral Rossa – Jeremiah Rossa, the son of Connor and Moira Rossa. The crew concludes that the boy must rediscover his Human identity, and that Picard – the only one he has listened to so far – must be the one to help him do it. Picard initially disagrees because he is not good with children. Troi convinces him otherwise because Jono has only ever responded to him.
Picard goes to Jono to attempt to bond with him in some way. Jono finds his quarters like a cage, and still wants to perform the B'Nar. Picard orders him to stop, and asks what he can do instead. Jono says he always lived with his captain, which Picard immediately resists, but nevertheless he accepts Jono to his quarters. He immediately picks at Picard's artifacts, which Picard is not accustomed to. Instead, Picard asks why he will not take his gloves off, and Jono says that it is because he does not wish to touch aliens. He then gently asks if his captain ever hurt him, but Jono explains pain does not matter, but rather passing "the tests." Picard then directly says Jono is not Talarian, and, while Picard is acting as fatherly as he can, Jono still wishes to return to Captain Endar.
Later, Picard has called Troi to his ready room to say he does not do well with children, but Troi doesn't accept it, responding with, "Really?" keeping as straight a face as she can. Troi then says that, while the captain is willing engage in battles and face hostile aliens, he isn't willing to embrace a parental role. Troi tells him to muddle through, like most parents do when they become parents.
Picard returns to his quarters and finds Jono in a hammock built out of his bedsheets, with the Alba Ra loudly turned on. Picard screams over the sound for the computer to stop the "music" at once, and Jono says that he is in a hammock because he cannot sleep on the beds since they hurt his back. Picard tells Jono about his birth parents, Connor and Moira Rossa, and that he was born on Galen IV. Picard shows him some photos on a PADD and leaves him alone. He then remembers his parents screaming to get him to safety and becomes distraught at the thoughts.
The Enterprise is intercepted by the Talarian ship Q'Maire and Picard arranges to send over the four Talarian youth they rescued, and also asks why a Human has been in their custody for so long. Endar says that Jono is his son.
Picard learns that Jono was adopted by Captain Endar after he led the forces that wiped out the colony Jono lived on with his parents until he was three and half years old. Endar beams aboard to discuss the return of Jono to the Talarians, and Picard accuses Endar of torturing the boy. Endar says that according to Talarian custom, he is allowed to claim the son of a slain enemy since his own son was killed in a battle on Castal I by Humans.
However, it seems Jono's injuries are not a result of abuse, but rather Jono's zeal to over-achieve in the warrior culture of the Talarians. Jono is asked whether he wants to return with Endar or be reunited with his biological grandmother, for in Talarian culture he has reached the age where he may choose for himself. He chooses to return with Endar, but Picard will not allow it. Endar threatens war with the Federation if his son is not sent back to the Q'Maire within a certain amount of time. He tells Jono that he may even die in the war, and Jono replies that he is ready to die.
Picard and Jono begin a process of trying to introduce the young man to his Human roots. Jono receives a message from Admiral Rossa, which bring up conflicting emotions for the youth. He cannot understand why a woman would outrank the captain, and states that he cannot be calmed since he cannot do anything he would normally do to calm him. Later, during a game of racquetball between himself and Picard, the sounds of the ball hitting the boards cause him to recount the events of the colony massacre.
Afterward, Picard takes Jono to Ten Forward, where Wesley invites Jono to try a banana split, "quite possibly one of the greatest things in the entire universe." Jono, unaccustomed to using a spoon, stabs the dish and sends ice cream splattering all over Wesley's uniform and face. Picard and Riker begin to laugh while Data asks why it's funny, and Riker tells him to look it up in his data banks under humor, sub-heading "slapstick". Wesley and Jono also laugh and Wesley orders more ice cream for the two of them, while Picard and Riker move to the bar to discuss Jono's progress.
That night, conflicted over whether to reclaim his Humanity or cling to his adopted Talarian father and way of life, Jono walks over to Picard's bed and stands over the captain while he sleeps for a moment. Picard awakens and sees Jono standing there. Jono stabs Picard in his bed with a Klingon d'k tahg knife.
Picard wakes to find himself in sickbay without any serious injury and vaguely surprised to discover it wasn't a dream. Dr. Crusher informs him that his sternum deflected the blade and his injury could have been a lot worse. Jono has been taken into security custody by Lt. Worf. Picard demands to see Jono. Meanwhile, Endar contacts the Enterprise and demands Jono's return. Riker tells him that Jono, having attacked the captain, is in custody and subject to judgment by Starfleet. Endar warns that if Jono is not aboard the Q'maire in five minutes, he and the two Talarian ships that responded to his call for back-up will attack the Enterprise.
The boy is later brought in to answer to what he's done. Jono expects to be killed for harming a superior officer, and clearly expected to die. Picard assures him this will not be the case and begins to understand that they have not handled Jono's problem properly, as Jono explains he feels becoming more Human betrayed everything Endar had done for him and the life he loved with the Talarians.
Picard takes Jono to the bridge and Endar again [as he stated to Riker moments before] insists that the attack would never have happened if they'd have returned Jono as demanded earlier, and that Jono should come home to his father. Picard concedes that the interests and feelings of the boy have not been considered fully, explains as much, and states that he will, indeed, return the boy. Endar thanks him and the attack is over before it began. In the transporter room afterward, Jono also thanks Picard, and finally takes off his gloves to touch Picard in the familiar greeting/farewell that he had given his Talarian father, then returns to the Q'maire.
"Ever since I was a child, I've always known exactly what I wanted to do: be a member of Starfleet. Nothing else mattered to me. Virtually my entire youth was spent in the pursuit of that goal. In fact… I probably skipped my childhood altogether."
- - Picard
"You, have you ever been a father, Picard? Have you ever had a son desperately trying to win your approval, your respect? Jono broke his ribs riding on a t'stayan. Six hooves, a very powerful beast. The arm he broke in a competition with other youths. He endured the pain, and won the competition. One day he will be a great warrior."
- - Endar
"I am Talarian."
"You are confused."
- - Jono and Worf
"Are you saying that you are willing to go to war over this boy?"
"Would you not for your only son?"
- - Picard and Endar
"Captain, is it worth it to go to war over a child?"
- - Worf
"Jono, stop that IMMEDIATELY!"
- - Picard
"I don't like this place."
"We could find some other quarters."
"I've always lived with my captain."
"Ah… yes, well, that wouldn't work here."
- - Jono, discussing living arrangements with Jean-Luc Picard
- One-page memo from Hans Beimler and Richard Manning, conveying pitch from Ralph Phillips: 14 November 1989 
- Final draft script: 9 July 1990 
- Filmed: 19 July 1990 – 27 July 1990
- Premiere airdate: 15 October 1990
- First UK airdate: 27 April 1994
- 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))
- This episode is a bottle show. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 140))
- 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.
- Among the costumes and props from this episode which were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay, was a Talarian helmet. 
- The episode was filmed mainly on Paramount Stage 9 and 16.
- When this episode first aired, it generated some controversy with some fans claiming it condoned child abuse.
- Michael Piller recalled, "We got some pretty angry letters on that show. They said, 'How can you let an abused child go back to the people who are abusing him?' We really brought the child abuse issue up because it was the right and natural thing to bring up in the context in the story. There are real parallels to stories that go on in today's world about parents who fight over custody and one says there's been abuse. Who do you believe? But mostly, it was a cultural clash story. It was a story of someone who was Human who had been raised in a totally alien environment. Is he Human any longer? That's really what that story was about." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 209-210)
- Rick Berman added, "We wanted to make the point that the interpretation of broken bones was nothing more than normal childhood broken bones, and that these people were sort of prejudiced in this direction. It was in no way intended to be an episode that had anything to do with child abuse. It was the Wild child. It had to do with a boy being brought from one culture to another and not fitting in with either, and the inevitable need for him to return back to the world in which he grew up." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 210)
- As for the episode itself, Piller opined, "I think that episode was marvelously written by Jeri Taylor and it was strong enough to hire her on staff. I was disappointed by the show primarily because the aliens weren't alien enough. I felt there was some miscommunication on some level. The whole idea of that show was missed because these savage, different alien type creatures turned out to be very human." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 210)
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 15, pp. 21-23.
- Racquetball would later be introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, such as in DS9: "Rivals".
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 39, 17 February 1992
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 4.2, 7 May 2001
- As part of the TNG Season 4 DVD collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Ensign Wesley Crusher
- K.C. Amos as operations division officer
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Karen Baxter as operations division ensign
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Larry Echerer as Talarian cadet
- Brian Goldman as Talarian cadet
- Eben Ham as security ensign
- Carrie Henger as security officer
- Hogan as Talarian cadet
- Gary Hunter as Connor Rossa (photograph)
- Mark Lentry as science division officer
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- Talbot as Ten Forward waitress
- Weisberger as Talarian cadet
- Harry Young as science division officer
- Unknown performers as
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Randy Pflug – stand-in for Sherman Howard
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
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- Engineering Division Duty Roster – Third Shift Antimatter Operations Unit: D'Angelo, Dick; Finks, Wilbur; Foster, Don, Jr.; Mees, Jim; Nesterowicz, John; safety officer; Sepulveda, Fernando; Third Shift Antimatter Operations Unit
- "Suddenly Human" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Suddenly Human" at Wikipedia
- "Suddenly Human" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Suddenly Human" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
|Star Trek: The Next Generation