24 June 2015

Suddenly Human

Episode: s4, ep 4

What Happens
The Enterprise follows a distress signal to a dangerously damaged ship. It belongs to an alien race who look human besides head-ridges and whose name begins with 'T' and ends with 'ian', making them indistinguishable from most of the other alien races whose names I haven't bothered to remember. Seriously, paint them an unusual colour or something! There is no visual hook for me to describe them by. Anyway these boring-looking aliens used to be enemies and this exact set up was often a trap. Despite this an away team including the First Officer, the Chief of Medicine and the Chief of Security beams over. They find 5 youths suffering injuries from an engine malfunction and beam them straight to sickbay. Turns out one of the youths is a human teenager.
The boy is called Jono and believes he's a boring-looking alien when in fact he's a human. He won't respond to Crusher or Troi and only settles down when Picard arrives. It turns out Jono is Jeremiah Rosa, son of two colonists who were killed during an attack by the boring-looking aliens. His grandmother is an Admiral. Crusher notices injuries in the last few years and fears he might have been subject to abuse. Everyone agrees that Jono should be taken by Star Fleet and returned to human society. Troi tells Picard to bond with the kid and he reluctantly agrees, eventually letting Jono stay in his quarters.
A boring-looking alien warship arrives to collect the youths, Picard sends the 4 over but says they're keeping Jono. The boring-looking alien Captain says that Jono is his son. Everyone decides this can't be right because apparently mixed families aren't a recognised thing. Picard stalls, Crusher suggests caution and Jono is allowed a supervised visit with his father. He says that the injuries are a natural part of being a young man in the competitive environment of the boring-looking aliens. The senior crew continue to do all they can to convince Jono that he is human and humanity is great. Telling him about his dead parents makes Jono experience distressing flashbacks. Receiving a message from Admiral Grandma doesn't convince Jono. Picard bonds with him over sport then they meet up with Riker and Wesley. Jono laughs when Wesley gets ice cream in his face. They think they're close to convincing him.
That night Jono stabs Picard in the chest. The boring-looking aliens send more warships and the Captain demands the return of his son or war will resume. Riker tells boring-looking alien Captain that Jono is in custody. Picard, who is soon patched up, asks Jono why he did it. Jono is deeply conflicted; when he had fun with the humans he thought he was betraying his father and his culture. He attacked Picard so he would be put to death. Picard recovers enough to go to the Bridge just as the Enterprise is facing off against warships. He tells boring-looking alien Captain that they were wrong to ignore Jono's feelings. He will be sent back to his home and his father.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is in full 'get off my lawn you kids' mode at the start of the episode, shouting at the youths to be quiet. The cacophony they were making was actually a tradition of their people and I suspect that if they'd been adults Picard might have been more diplomatic about shutting them up. He is aghast when Troi suggests that he should try bonding with Jono, but accepts that the kid's disdain towards women prevents Troi from doing it. This seems like precisely the sort of thing he told Riker to deal with when they first met. I'm not sure why Picard let Jono stay in this quarters, except perhaps that he wasn't sure what else to do. I think he regrets it very quickly when Jono starts touching his things and playing loud music that isn't to Picard's taste (again not a youth thing but a cultural thing). Picard's awkward speech to Troi is hilariously unconvincing suggesting either that his speeching powers only work when he's being spontaneous or that Troi is immune to them and we're seeing the scene from her point of view. She asks him about his own childhood and it sounds like he didn't interact with other children much then, being too focused on his aim of being a Star Fleet Captain. Having seen his family home 2 episodes ago one wonders whether that was the furthest thing he could imagine from being a Luddite vineyard owner, as his father must have been.
Later in the episode Picard moves from 'get off my lawn you kids' to 'understanding mentor' via 'diffident uncle'. Seeing that Jono is having strong feelings, and deciding he doesn't want to deal with them, Picard introduces Jono to the traditionally acceptable outlet for male emotion that is sports. (I assume, I'm neither male nor into sports so this assumption is based entirely on observation.) He bonds with Jono over a game of future-racquet ball (is racquet ball basically squash?) and then takes him to 10 Forward where they sit with Riker and Wesley in an obviously contrived and very weird male-bonding double date. All is proceeded as planned, until the kid stabs Picard in his sleep.
At least at the end Picard realises what had been obvious all along: that he and his crew had unthinkingly taken a child from his family and his culture. They decided they knew what was best for the kid, plotted to coerce him into their way of thinking and acted as though it was all in the child's best interest. The show doesn't draw any explicit parallels (the kid is blonde and his father is a pinkish boring-looking-alien), but this is something that haunts human history and affects societies even today. Picard's realisation is not accompanied by an apology.

Doctor Doctor
I'm not sure how Crusher knows Jono's name when she also says he won't talk to anyone, but that's a minor niggle. It's quickly apparent that the patriarchal society Jono comes from means he (and presumably those other kids) won't take Crusher seriously. She can't like that but her focus is ensuring they're healthy so she doesn't let it stop her working. Her analysis of Jono shows old injuries and she's the one who brings up the possibility of abuse. I wonder how different this episode would have gone without the abuse concern, we're meant to think that the kid is being saved, tricked out of looking for moral grey areas.

Klingon Warrior
Worf interacts with Jono only briefly. Jono assumes the humans have captured Worf too, and is surprised to find that Worf is there willingly and taking orders from a woman. The boy claims he's no more human than Worf is, and Worf tells him he's confused. It's sort of a nice moment, but then Worf is barely in the episode again. It's a shame because the parallels between Worf and Jono are many and obvious. Jono's origin is practically the same as Worf's and whenever the crew were discussing the situation I wondered whether someone would ask Worf his opinion, or whether Worf would speak up with his own thoughts on this situation that is basically his life! I guess they didn't want to actually explore the ambiguity of the situation during the episode or it would have robbed Picard of his big realisation at the end.
I did consider that boring-looking-alien Captain taking little Jono was very similar to Sergey Rozhenko taking baby Worf, the only difference being that the Rozhenko was a third party in the conflict whereas the Captain was a combatant and did it according to his own customs. No better way to make a character seem unreasonable or suspect than by giving them unfamiliar customs (I know this isn't the point of Trek, but I still think it happens). Did the Rozhenkos contact Star Fleet or the Klingon Empire about finding Worf's family or returning him to Klingon society? I know Worf's supposed to be the last of his family (except his secret brother, shhh), but there must be maternal relatives or distant cousins who could have taken him in. I know family (presumably of the biological kind) is important to Klingons, but equally a warrior culture which is big on feuds must have societal provisions for orphans. His secret brother (shhh) was raised by family friends so it's not like blood is everything.

Counsellor Pointless
Troi's role is a bit mixed here. She's the one who suggests building trust with Jono and introducing him gradually to human culture, rather than snatching him away from the only home he can remember. That said she also seems to be all for taking him away away from the boring-looking-aliens eventually. She's from a mixed family, her background is more peaceful than Jono's (and Worf's) but you'd think she'd understand the benefits of a child being part of two cultures. Can't she tell that leaving his home is not what Jono wants? Also, can't she tell whether Jono has experienced abuse. Even if he doesn't think of it as out of the ordinary, surely she could sense if he was afraid of his father? Again this is the kind of exploration that would rob Picard of his epiphany, so we don't get to see it.
The whole anti-women thing gets Troi out of the way so Picard is forced to step in. It also means we aren't sympathetic with the boring-looking-aliens. Troi's insistence that Picard take responsibility for Jono has some amusing outcomes, and we hear about Picard's odd, lonely childhood. Troi's the one who compares dealing with Jono to parenting, not something Picard's ever shown much interest in. I don't think it would have been difficult to get someone else to care for the boy, but I think Troi wanted to shake up Picard's routine a bit. After all she's up on the Bridge helping him out with stuff all the time, probably wanted some time to actually counsel people.


Staff Meetings: 3
1. Jono's DNA reveals that he is Jeremiah Rossa, grandson to an Admiral whose other relatives have all died in conflict. Troi advises Jono must connect with humans in general before he could possibly be returned to his family and assigns it to Picard as he's male and the only person Jono has listened to so far.
2. Picard tries to convince Troi that he shouldn't take responsibility for Jono because he's not good with children and never has been (even when he was one). Troi encourages him but is clearly in her role as Counsellor (as opposed to being his PA) because she doesn't give him the option to refuse.
3. Crusher, Picard and Troi discuss whether Jono should see his father, what is best for his emotional health and trust building with humans, and what is most diplomatic seeing as they're in boring-looking-alien territory.

Meeting Addendum: Troi and Picard are supposed to be supervising Jono's meeting with his father, just in case there is abuse. Crusher points out that abusers can have subtle influence on their victims, which is valid. So Troi and Picard stand at the opposite end of the room and stare at the wall, supervising nothing. While I appreciate that having them hover over things would have been dramatically a bad choice this doesn't really feel like a supervised encounter. I guess Troi would've said if she's sensed anything bad, though she doesn't tell anyone she sensed good stuff either.

Won't Somebody Think of the... Oh wait, that's kind of the point.
An example of how thinking about the children can still mean things go wrong. Everyone involved believes they are acting in Jono's best interests, but they are blinded by their arrogant assumption that their way is the right/only way. The concern about abuse is valid and so caution makes sense, but that doesn't entitle them to try and manipulate the kid either. Telling him the truth about his origins is fair, but that doesn't mean they should necessarily bring Admiral Grandmother into the situation before Jono's made a decision about his future. The episode doesn't resolve how Jono will cope with his resurfacing memories; what will happen with his much-bereaved grandmother (does he have her number? could they exchange emails for a while?); whether Jono will decide to explore his human background, and whether he will be allowed to. It's important stuff but outside the scope of this episode.

The End
Jono says goodbye to Picard and finally takes his gloves off, allowing himself a touch an 'alien', acknowledging Picard as like him. He also touches forehead with Picard, a custom of the boring-looking aliens, whose culture he's still part of.

No comments:

Post a Comment