Episode: s5, ep
Survivor guilt little boy thinks he's an android after Data rescues him.
The Enterprise is looking for a ship that went missing in the Black Cluster, which is a very ancient space thing. The ship is found mostly destroyed and without life signs, the Computer files aren't accessible remotely so Riker, Data and Geordi are sent to retrieve them. Riker and Data investigate a noise and find a boy trapped beneath a beam. They prepare to transport him to sickbay, but the damage means the transporters can't get a proper hold on him (same thing probably masked his life signs). Data can move the beam, but it'll make things unstable, so Riker and Geordi beam back to the Enterprise. The kid asks Data how he can lift the beam and Data explains about being an android (for once someone didn't get it straight away). Data the the kid beam to sickbay.
The boy, Timothy, describes his ship being attacked and boarded to Crusher, Troi and Data. Timothy holds Data's hand and Troi suggests he stay. The doomed ship's remaining files are patchy, but reveal that Timothy's parents were both officers on board, so they're dead now. While Timothy is sleeping Crusher discharges him to Troi's care. Troi explains to Data that they will have to rebuild his whole world. When Data finally leaves sickbay he asks Geordi about childhood trauma and Geordi describes being caught in a fire. Info from ship and the cluster suggests a cloaked ship could have attacked, but it's not clear who did it or why. Geordi says a boarding party would be almost impossible and asks Troi if Timothy was lying, she says it's possible, or he might not know he was lying. Troi asks Data to go see Timothy as the boy has formed a attachment to him. Data asks for guidance, I think she should have given him more.
Data visits Timothy and helps him build model after being more critical than necessary. Timothy is impressed by android speed, and curious about androids not feeling things. After Data leaves Timothy impersonates him in a mirror. At a staff meeting the Black Cluster is discussed and Picard asks Troi if Timothy can provide more info. Troi takes Timothy to 10 Forward, where he explains to her that he is an android, though he still likes to taste food. She reports this to Picard and Data and suggests Data mentor Timothy in android stuff as it's actually a normal reaction to help get him through the trauma. Picard agrees. Data tries to style Timothy's hair. They do some stuff together, including painting. The cluster gets very bumpy and makes the sensors all weird. In school Timothy laughs with another child, and Troi says Timothy is moving out of his android phase, but still needs their help. She asks Data to share his fascination with humanity and help guide him back to being a boy. Timothy and Data discuss being an android in 10 Forward, Data points out some disadvantages to being an android, as Timothy focuses on the positives.
The cluster is even bumpier now and the Bridge crew realise it would be impossible to fire weapons there. Timothy is brought to the Captain to talk about what really happened. He gets angry then reveals that he thinks it was his fault the ship was destroyed, he fell against a console as it happened. He's been carrying so much guilt, poor lad. Data, Troi and Pciard all explain that he could not have destroyed the ship. The Enterprise is shaking again, and Timothy recognises this from before. On the Bridge shields are increased and the bumping increases. Although Troi tries to take Timothy away he refuses and remembers that on his ship the shields were given a lot of power. Data takes Timothy to one side, asks him for as much info as he can remember about what the adults were saying (not sure why he was on the Bridge on that other ship either) and just as Geordi is putting all the power behind the shields Data insists they be dropped completely. Even though this seems suicidal Picard does it and the bumpiness stops. Data explains that Timothy's info prompted him to check something which shows that the shields were making things bumpy and weird. The whole Enterprise could've been torn apart, as Timothy's ship was. At the end Timothy is singing 'Row Row Row Your Boat' with the other kids, he's kinda subdued but at least he's joining in. He talks to Data about their time together.
Does Not Compute
After the initial rescue Timothy is attached to Data (by hand holding), not a surprise as Data saved the boy after he'd presumably resigned himself to dying. Troi encourages Data to spend time with Timothy as there's an attachment and the child has lost everything. Data asks for guidance about interacting with the boy, which I think maybe Troi should have given him more of. You probably shouldn't give a traumatised child a "frank assessment" of their creative work and Data upsets Timothy initially. But when the boy starts on angry, negative self-talk Data dispels this with his usual frankness and logic, which I think helps Timothy break what could've turned into a shame spiral. Data asks Geordi about childhood trauma, trying to get a perspective on something he cannot experience himself.
Data's early companionship means Timothy pretends to be an android as a coping mechanism and again Troi encourages Data to work with the boy. There are cute moments like Data trying to brush Timothy's hair, while the boy is fidgeting because he's trying to master Data's bird-like head-bobbing mannerism, which the android doesn't realise was weird. While doing various activities with Data Timothy is able to hint at some of his inner turmoil (nightmares and expressive red painting) in an emotionless environment, which might be less daunting than talking through his complex feelings in a therapy session. After Timothy starts reacting more like a human child again Troi guides Data to discuss his own fixation with humanity and his aspirations in that direction. Timothy is envious that androids don't have to feel bad feelings (plus also they're stronger and faster than humans). Data points out that he also can't feel good feelings either and would be happy to accept the bad if he can have the good.
At one point Data tells Timothy androids don't lie. The assumption is that Data can't lie, and everyone goes along with this, but since series 1 it's known that his elder brother Lore can and does lie, a lot, and with very malicious intent. So in saying androids can't lie Data is in fact lying here.
Data comes to Geordi, as he often does, to get a perspective on human stuff, in this case childhood trauma. He describes being caught in a fire, terrifying for any child, especially a blind one. It was only brief but you can tell from the way he recounts it that it had a massive impact on him. After that he didn't want his parents to go out of earshot (it took a second watch for me to realise why earshot was significant here, because of course he's blind and didn't have the visor as a child). Data points out Timothy doesn't have that parental support anymore.
It's Not Easy Being Troi
Excellent work from Troi here again, because being ship's counsellor is her job and calling, rather than providing vague warnings based on iffy powers or helping Picard with his schedule. She keeps Data around early cos she sees the bond between android and boy. She tells Data that they must help Timothy rebuild his entire world, a daunting task. It's telling that after dealing with his physical well-being Crusher discharges Timothy into Troi's care with foreboding words; though this isn't necessarily helpful it's probably Crusher expressing a kind of professional sympathy at the extent of the work needed and also her relative unfamiliarity with Troi's role and methods.
Troi suggests Data is used for therapy and explains that while pretending to be an android might seem odd (I have seen that episode of Futurama), in this case it's actually allowing Timothy to process his trauma by creating a persona that feels safe. She observes Timothy with other children in the school room, and one-on-one by taking him to 10 Forward with her. As the ship's specialist in this area she guides Data through helping Timothy in a role that he has not really had before and likely has difficulty relating to as he was never a child. Troi is always compassionate and caring, and devotes a lot of time to Timothy (again the timescale of this episode is super confusing to me, is it a few days or weeks?).
Staff meetings: 3
1. Senior staff discuss the Black Cluster, it is super old and dangerous. Geordi has adjusted the shields because of all the gravity waves (cos it's bumpy). Worf points out sensors will be disrupted, so detecting an enemy will be tricky. Picard asks if Timothy has provided any further info. Troi says no, but she's visiting him later. Picard says to see what she can find out, but they can't delay the investigation, so they're going in.
2. Troi explains to Data and Picard about Timothy being an android now. She briefly explains the psychology behind it (without a load of incomprehensible technobabble, though I guess this is based on things that exist in reality), but focuses more on the impact to the child, how it is beneficial and what support is needed. She never says he wants to be an android, or is pretending to be an android, just that at present he is one; it's very validating language. She also makes it clear that asking him about his ordeal is not helpful.
3. Timothy is asked by Picard, Data and Troi what really happened on his ship. The boy sticks angrily to his story until Data says androids don't lie (a lie). Then the boy breaks down and admits he destroyed the ship, he fell and hit a console as it was damaged. All three adults surround him and explain in calm and kind tones that it's impossible he could have destroyed his ship. Three different people (including his android idol) telling him it's not his fault finally convinces the poor kid.
Future is Better
I absolutely love the idea that when someone has been through a traumatic experience they are given mental health support as well as being treated for physical ailments. It's great that Timothy is allowed to do what he needs in order to heal, even if it is a bit odd. I'm not sure if this is true for everyone, or whether it has more to do with the senior crew wanting info from Timothy. I feel like in other circumstances Troi would just deal with the recovery herself and not involve others unless needed. Seeing how involved this process is I'm actually kinda surprised Troi doesn't have her own staff like Crusher does, though I suppose something as serious as this might not be very common. Does this also happen for folks with mental health illnesses or those who aren't neurotypical? Is making allowances and adjustments for stuff like this so normal it doesn't get commented on? Are people allowed to easily self-determine things about their identity that run counter to outward appearance without push back? I hope so. The idea of a future where care for a person's psyche is so important and people aren't shamed for their situation is a beautiful one.
In the Star Trek future they only have the first verse of 'Row Row Row Your Boat'! They don't seem to have the verse with the crocodile at all. My husband recently showed me the scene in Star Trek V where Kirk and McCoy sing the song in a round to Spock (I haven't seen Star Trek V, I'm told I'm not missing much), and I commented that they'd ignored the crocodile verse. Then the kids in school on the Enterprise are singing 'Row Row' and again they just do a round, no second verse, no crocodile. Clearly this information was lost to history,* damn those nuclear winters!
Won't Somebody Think of the the Children?
Another episode where a child is just left alone in some quarters, without adult supervision. Timothy is older than Alexander (I think, not sure about Klingon growth and Alexander's timeline is confusing), but he's also grieving. I mean Geordi's childhood story shows that when a kid has gone through something bad the last thing they want is to be left alone. Plus Timothy has a lot of self-anger going on and I could see how that might have led him to harm. The same thing happened with a boy called Jeremy in The Bonding** back in series 2; he lost his mother and he was just left along in their quarters to dwell on his loss, then an alien almost took him. Aren't there families on board kids can stay with? People who'll offer a temporary refuge to a vulnerable child? I mean there are people who do that nowadays, so it shouldn't be hard to kind in this more compassionate future.
I also have an issue with the teacher guy who stops Timothy from building a model he's engrossed in because the other kids are doing something different now. He wasn't being disruptive, he was focusing quietly on something. He doesn't know any of the other kids yet and he's just been through something awful, leave him be. I think what really got to me was the way this guy shot a Look at Troi after Timothy answers back a bit. It seemed like an overreaction, as though this guy thought that was unreasonable behaviour. Of course I have noted before that in TNG kids seem weirdly unemotional and not very kid-like at times, so maybe this is the future version of bad behaviour. I mean Timothy seemed pretty stoic when he's found on the damaged ship, though I assumed he was in shock.
Death by Space Misadventure
Everyone on the Vico, besides Timothy. No numbers are given, but it's gotta be a lot even though it's much smaller than the Enterprise. Some people were sucked into space when the shields failed. Others died on board due to structural instability.
Timothy talks self consciously to Data about their time together, he's a bit embarrassed by how he was, and it's kinda heartbreaking. Data doesn't shame him for it at all and in fact points out imitation is the highest form of flattery, it's lovely. Data says he would be happy to have Timothy as one of his friends. It's really sweet. I mean obviously we will not be seeing this kid ever again (we don't even know if he's staying on board or going to join other family or what), but if you can ignore that and get into the moment it's nice.
* Or it wasn't a thing back in the 70s-90s when the film/show was being made. I seem to recall from my own 90s childhood that the crocodile verse became more popular over time, but wasn't always used. I've been to various children's groups this year and both verses are always sung together nowadays. Babies and kids love the scream at the end.
For those wondering the second verse is:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
If you see a crocodile
Don't forget to scream
** I see now that my prediction -that Worf's very solemn bond with Jeremy would never be spoken of again- was correct. I'd forgotten it until this write up, and if it was going to come up you'd think it would have in one of the episodes about Worf becoming a parent (like the previous one).
I also noticed that I suggested foster-families or adult supervision for grieving children back then too. It just seems like such a major omission to what is otherwise good care.