Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break
The Federation faces war with the Talarians over a culture-shocked teenager who sees Picard as a father figure.
The Enterprise detects faint life signs on a damaged Talarian ship. Of course they can’t just beam the injured directly to sickbay; they must first send an away team to wave props at blinking set pieces. One of the survivors is a human teenager wearing a Talarian uniform.
Although Heart of Glory (s1 e20) features a Talarian freighter, we’ve never seen the Talarians before, and we’ll never see them again. I’d rather the episode had focused on developing the Romulans or the Cardassians.
It’s always fun to see Picard unnerved, though he did so well a few episodes ago as uncle to his nephew Rene that it’s hard to take seriously his claim that children don’t like him. That’s all part of the fun, so I give it a pass.
Instead of simply dismissing the counselor with a brusque, “That will be all,” Picard petulantly switches on his desktop computer. Troi actually reaches out and slaps the “off” button, so he can’t have the last word.
Early TNG often celebrated the Roddenberry Utopia by disparaging cultures that oppose it. Trek invites us to look down on the greedy Ferengi with their grossly exaggerated facial features; the Planet of Sexy Black Stereotypes; the Planet of Sexy Blond Joggers; the Planet of Tall Sexy Women with Cute Little Men, etc.
The bumpy-headed alien captain is so ungrateful and hostile that we want to believe Crusher’s hasty, culturally biased doubts about the boy’s safety. This episode likewise encourages us to dislike the Planet of Proud Patriarchal Warriors Who Are Definitely Not Klingons.
In this context, the tender meeting between the human boy Jeremiah and his adoptive Talarian father catches us by surprise, which sets the boy’s surprising reversal(s), and neatly motivates Picard’s surprise resolution. Having said that, this episode isn’t designed to open up a debate. This is Star Trek at its preachiest, where no character faces any problems that can’t be solved by adopting the correct utopian ideology.