|Posted on April 25, 2012 at 7:15 AM|
Part 4 of 6 on the next generation of space travelers.
In this series, we’ve been looking at people who are already children in the second incarnation of Star Trek, but today we’re singing a different tune. I mentioned “Rascals” briefly on April 14, 2010, in connection with a discussion on the Ferengi, for the episode features an unusual collection of four crewmates who become children for a time. It takes their combined adult wisdom to deal with their lot and confound Ferengi invaders, before they return to adulthood.
Captain Picard, Keiko O’Brien, Ensign Ro Laren, and Guinan are shuttling home from an archeological dig on Marlonia. They encounter an energy field that reduces their age to about 12 years old—in spite of their original diverse ages as adults. I’m not sure how this would work, perhaps explainable given the level of missing RVN components which control growth. This is one of my favorite Next Generation episodes because it examines how adults might react, should they find themselves young again.
Keiko, for instance, still tries to be a wife to Miles and a mother to Molly, just like before, in spite of her diminutive size. When she orders the replicator to make cocoa for herself and Miles, Miles tends to coach her as though she doesn’t know what she’s doing. When Molly wants her mom to read her a bedtime story, she rejects Keiko because her childish mind cannot understand Mommy has changed.
Captain Picard naturally gives orders as though nothing is different—despite that his voice is higher and he has a full head of hair. Dr. Beverly Crusher confronts him, encouraging him to step down for awhile, but the captain protests.
“I am still Jean-Luc Picard. My judgment, my experiences, my mental capacities are all intact.” However, Beverly fears the current change may soon affect his mind. (It never does, though.)
But the most interesting part is Guinan and Ro Laren’s reactions. “I haven’t been young for a long time,” says Guinan, whose race’s natural longevity reaches into centuries. “And I intend to enjoy every minute of it.” Earlier she had remarked to Ro: “You know, you make a pretty cute kid.” I certainly agree with that!
Annoyed, Ro says, “Great! Just what I want to be, cute. … I was in a [Bajoran] refugee camp! ‘Fun’ wasn’t exactly in my vocabulary.”
Soon Dr. Crusher and Commander Riker find the answer to restoring the four: use the transporter’s pattern buffer to reintegrate them into adults. But that’s when the Ferengi come on board. Unlike most Ferengi, these are renegades led by DaiMon Lurin, who by himself declares the Enterprise-D totaled and fair game for their salvage. Crewmembers most qualified to stop them are relegated to slave labor down on Suvin IV.
They do, however, keep the children on board, thinking they would be helpless. Of course, they don’t realize four of them are transformed adults. It’s hilarious how Picard tries to access secure information from a child’s classroom computer (“Would you like to play a game?” it asks), and how he pretends Riker is his father to request releasing classified information.
It’s also funny how Riker manages to comply. Lurin wants access to all computer systems, so he demands Riker teach his colleague Morta how it works. Riker’s “explanation” is full of nonsensical words and phrasing, not unlike Captain Kirk’s card game Fizzbin in “A Piece of the Action.”
Riker speaks of processor cores being “cross-linked with a redundant melacortz ramistat and 14-kiloquad interface modules. The core element is based on an FTL nanoprocessor with 25 bilateral kelilactirals with 20 of those being slaved into the primary Heisenfram terminal.” He turns to Morta. “You do know what a bilateral kelilactiral is.”
Clearly Morta is completely lost, but says, “Of course I do, human! I am not stupid.”
Riker turns back to the console. “No, of course not.” He continues the “lesson” with one hand, distracting Morta while keying in release codes with the other.
Thus, using the classroom computer, the juvenile adults program the transporter with a containment field around the platform. With the aid of Alexander, Worf’s son, they find ways to trick Ferengi to beam over and trap them. Alexander even remote-controls a kind of futuristic toy tank to distract them. (I will say more about him in two weeks.)
Going back to Ro and Guinan, they come to a new understanding of each other, especially Ro. She discovers a side of childhood denied her in the refugee camp. She learns to be a child as others once were, such as jumping on the bed or coloring with crayons. Yet even after she returns to her adult form, subsequent episodes show her able to function as an invaluable crewmember.
In my last blog about this episode, I had quoted Matthew 18:3-4: “[Jesus] said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
What I say now builds on this Scripture, for though we are adults, we must maintain a certain childlikeness. And I don’t mean merely faith and humility, but our interests as well. We must never shirk our adult responsibilities, of course, but we can find release in play. Most adults I know still like to play games. Many of us still love the cartoons we saw as children.
I think it’s a shame how many adults lose their childlike wonder as they grow up. My sister Linda and I are opposite personalities, partly because she’s businesslike and is always going to one meeting or another—which is not bad in itself. I, mostly due to heart issues, enjoy spending more time with my computer and my stories.
She likes CSI and I prefer the classic Hawaii Five-O. (The new Five-O is not as good, because the lead actors act more like young punks instead of experienced cops.) Sure, it has a retro feel. In a day of Caller IDs, for instance, it’s no longer valid to keep a kidnapper talking to get their phone number. She says CSI is more realistic, but I say neither of them is. How many police cases get solved in an hour’s time? Would a forensics expert wear heavy makeup and pigtails? I think not. (Those of you who also like the series, remember what I’ve always said about science fiction: Enjoy it as fiction, but don’t let it define your reality.)
Though I turn 59 in a couple of days, I love the animated adventures I enjoyed as a child. I love Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Jonny Quest. The Flintstones and the Jetsons I consider old friends. Back then, I may not have understood that Augey Doggy spoke like Jimmy Durante, or that Snagglepuss performed like a Shakespearean actor, but learning this has never jaded my perception. Exit, stage right.
My point is, to some degree we still need the simpleminded pleasures of a child to deal with the life’s pressures. Ro Laren didn’t have this. Her back story included more than the depressing atmosphere of a refugee camp set up by Cardassians; she had been a rebel and a fighter. At age seven she had watched her father be tortured to death. Ultimately, after helping Starfleet, she came on board to work with the crew. Considering such a history, it’s no wonder she had trouble relaxing as a child.
Though she had grown up around religious people, she had never committed to it, just as children on Earth who grew up in the church often abandon it. They’ve had so many traumatic early memories that it’s hard for them to become like a child again and come to Jesus. But once they do, they receive a new perspective on life, a new hope for the future.
Ro Laren appeared in only seven episodes of the fifth season, yet she’s one of my most favorite recurring characters. I love stories where traumatized people find relief. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Categories: Original Star Trek