The family train that is TNG’s fourth season rolls along with “Brothers”, where we learn why Data and Lore both look like that, and “Suddenly Human,” where we learn what happens when someone stabs Picard in the chest. Spoiler: He lives. Also! Someone splatters Wesley with his cream.
“Suddenly Human” drives me crazy. You touched on it a bit when you talked about how different the episode would be if the kid were 9 or, say, 25. If the kid WERE 25 years old, then I’m fine with what happened. But, I see very little difference between 9 and 14. I don’t really care if the Talarians consider 14 to be adult. The Federation does not. To me, this child was very clearly kidnapped. The Federation doesn’t have any agreement with this species saying it is okay if they take children of their enemies. I don’t see how this is not clear cut kidnapping. And the fact that he identifies with his captors is akin Stockholm Syndrome. We know that human’s brains aren’t even fully developed by that age, which is why we consider 14 year olds to be children. So, I think it is crazy to me that they let this 14 year old make this decision.
It baffles me that so many viewers of this episode object because they think it condones child abuse. That, to me, is not the issue at all. I’m much more concerned that it seems to condone KIDNAPPING as a war tactic.
Example: My son and daughter in law were diplomats in some war torn region, say the Middle East, and they were killed in an extremist Islamic uprising and their 5 year old son was taken. If the US military recovered that child at age 14, would they allow the Islamists to keep him because the kid had assimilated into their child soldier culture and said he wanted to stay?
If the Federation had some kind of treaty with these people which allowed this practice, then I could see how this episode would be murky. But would the Federation ever allow this in a treaty? Are they now going to claim that it is okay if enemies kidnap children in wartime, so long as they are raised by people who treat them as their own children? Doesn’t that sound insane to anyone else?
We all seem to say that it is okay to return him because it would cause him too much psychological distress to return. But, this is an era where we have counselors on the bridge! I mean, we have psychologists to treat kidnap victims, and victims of Stockholm Syndrome now. We have psychologists to deal with people like those three girls rescued from the house of the dude who kept them as sex slaves. It is bizarre to me that we take counselling so seriously in this TNG era, but we automatically assume it will be a failure with this kid.
This all becomes even more frustrating to me in light of the events in DS9 S2xE5 “Cardassians”, which confronts a similar question, with a completely different ending.
Do you think this episode would have ended the same way if the child’s human mother were still alive and asking he be returned?
That’s an interesting question–I think it probably would have been, but as it stands, no one seems very interested in advocating for his return. And, we don’t exactly know what age the Federation considers adult. It may very well be 13 or 14. But I think you raise some good points about the ending of the episode.