Baby | Child | Family
in a Science Fiction Television Series
It is often said that our children are our future. Science Fiction, by its very nature, looks to the future. So what view of childhood is provided for by this forward-looking genre?
Curiously, in science fiction, people of vastly different species from opposite ends of the galaxy are able to reproduce quite easily, and humans can reproduce with anything. This is perhaps seen most in the Star Trek universe.
Star Trek Conception: Creating the Next Generation
When it comes to having interspecies babies, the Star Trek motto is Make it so. The galaxy's most famous hybrid, Mr Spock, is half-human, half-Vulcan. Also in the Star Trek universe, Worf's son Alexander is a quarter-human, B'Elanna Torres is half-human, half-Klingon and young Naomi Wildman is half-human, half-Ktarian.
Be warned, sex isn't always fun and games in the Star Trek universe. In the episode of Star Trek: Enterprise called 'Unexpected', Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker is shocked to learn he has become the first pregnant human male when he is inadvertently impregnated by an alien simply by holding hands in a box. Even worse, in the Star Trek: Voyager episode 'Favorite Son', Kim discovers a planet where males are slaughtered in order to impregnate the females.
The exception to the rule of healthy hybrid children being easily created in the Star Trek universe is baby Elizabeth in Enterprise, the artificially-created daughter of 'Trip' Tucker and T'Pol.
All of these interspecies characters proves that Captain Kirk was not the only one willing to boldly go where no man has gone before and teach the rest of the universe about a little thing called love.
Same Species Conception
A natural conception was seen in Voyager episode 'The Q and the Grey', in which Q and a female Q mate by touching fingers and conceive a child. This apparently is a revolutionary occurrence, even though an earlier Next Generation episode, 'True Q', featured a character called Amanda Rogers who is unknowingly a young Q.
Farscape has a more balanced approach. John Crichton, a human, is able to breed not only with Sebaceans1, such as Aeryn Sun, but also otherwise-infertile Princess Katralla of the Breakaway Colonies. Luxan D'Argo has a half-Sebacean son named Jothee and villain Scorpius is half-Sebacean, half-Scarran. Even the spaceship in Farscape, Moya, gets in on the action, becoming pregnant and giving birth to a baby gunship, Talyn. Sadly, Chiana and D'Argo are genetically incompatible and unable to breed.
Other fictional universes also show how easy it is to mate with members of different species. In Babylon 5 the human Captain Sheridan and Delenn, who is from a species known as Minbari, have a son, David. In the pilot episode 'The Gathering' the Narn G'Kar propositions human telepath Lyta Alexander, requesting a mating.
In Doctor Who, the character of Cassandra reveals that the human race has interbred with the rest of the universe so often that she is the last pure human left alive. This attitude of breeding with anyone and anything is exemplified by Captain Jack Harkness. In the 21st Century version of Battlestar Galactica, organic and mechanical life is able to come together in order to create baby Hera.
Pregnancy does not have to hold you back in science fiction. Although in the past mothers-to-be have been wrapped up in cotton wool and expected to relax and take things easy, in the future that is no longer the case. In Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, the character Mele-on Grayza is heavily pregnant, but her pregnancy does not prevent her from leading an armada into a warzone and risking the destruction of the universe through insisting on the deployment of Doomsday wormhole weapons.
In the future, getting someone else to be pregnant on your behalf may be the best option for you. Following a shuttle accident, Major Kira is impregnated with Keiko and Miles O'Brien's baby in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. However it is best to ask first: Gwen Cooper was impregnated by a Nostrovite, an evil shape-changing alien shortly before her wedding day in Torchwood episode 'Something Borrowed'.
A popular alternative to pregnancy is cloning. This is a staple of science fiction stories and the number of species who adopt cloning as standard include Doctor Who's Sontarans and Deep Space Nine's Jem'hadar. Although cloning is a topic all on its own, a brief mention will be made of Servalan in Blake's 7. In the episode 'Children of Auron', Servalan intends to create clones of herself to raise as her children, although they sadly die. After this tragic event Servalan swaps her trademark white outfits for black, in mourning.
Of course, not every race in the imagined universe experiences pregnancy the same way that humanity does. In Babylon 5, the Narn are marsupials, whose young, named pouchlings, are carried in pouches. Some races, such as Doctor Who's Raxicoricofallapatorians, including the family Slitheen, hatch from eggs. You can't even judge by appearance; although Ford Prefect looks human, we learn in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that he shared three of the same mothers with his semi-cousin Zaphod Beeblebrox.
In the future, just like today, pregnancies are often unexpected. We have already briefly mentioned that Kira becomes pregnant through being in the wrong shuttle at the wrong time as Doctor Bashir needed to put Keiko's baby somewhere safe following an accident that rendered Keiko incapable of carrying her baby herself.
Men are often the most surprised when they become unexpectedly expecting. This happens to Dominar Rygel XVI in Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars and Dave Lister in Red Dwarf2. However women can also share similar predicaments. B'Elanna Torres ends up pregnant with a holographic baby in Star Trek: Voyager while Amy Pond in Doctor Who gives birth unexpectedly without even realising that she is pregnant.
One challenge faced by writers is what to do when an actress in the series becomes pregnant. While it is possible to film pregnant women from chest-height up and ask them to wear baggy coats to try to hide the fact that they are pregnant, this approach only works for so long.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when Nana Visitor was pregnant with co-star Alexander Siddig3's child, it was explained as being Keiko and Miles O'Brien's baby transplanted into her womb. In Star Trek: Voyager when actress Roxanne Dawson became pregnant, she was given a new lab coat rather than the usual Starfleet uniform to wear during the early and mid stages to disguise her pregnancy. Later her bump was explained as a holographic pregnancy caused by the holodeck scenario that the crew were trapped in. Curiously, after the actress had the baby, her character never wore her lab coat again...
Gillian Anderson was inconveniently pregnant at the start of Season 2 of The X-Files. This necessitated the traditional long coats, sitting down and behind table acting, and lots of headshots while she was replaced as Mulder's partner by another character, Krycek. Then her character, Scully, was kidnapped by aliens, to allow Anderson some time off to have her baby. One memorable shot involved Anderson lying on a slab, presumably in an alien lab, with her exposed belly subject to implied alien experimentation.
In Stargate SG-1, actress Claudia Black was pregnant while playing character Vala Mal Doran. This pregnancy is explained on screen with Vala having been forcibly married and impregnated against her will.
Birth of the Future
Childbirth. Today, despite the existence of epidurals and cæsarian sections, it remains one of the most painful experiences a woman can endure. Fortunately the future is bright; in Star Trek: Voyager, when Ensign Samantha Wildman is in labour with her daughter Naomi in the episode 'Deadlock', the doctor simply beams the baby out.
Childbirth isn't always easy in a hostile universe. Shortly after Naomi was born, the Starship Voyager found itself under attack by Vidiians. This was nothing compared to Aeryn's experience in Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, in which her labour takes place while she is busily having a gun battle. When the spaceship Moya gives birth to her beautiful bouncing baby gunship, Talyn, the birth is not an easy experience and Talyn is forced to resort to shooting his way out of his mother.
This goes to prove that even in the future, midwives are required. Perhaps the galaxy's most reluctant midwife is Klingon Security Chief Worf. When Keiko was in labour in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 'Disaster', she became trapped in Ten Forward with Worf who successfully managed to deliver Molly. However when Keiko and later Kira were pregnant with O'Brien's second child in Deep Space Nine, Worf went out of his way to avoid them to ensure he would not have to repeat the experience. The worst midwife is perhaps Madame Kovarian in Doctor Who; a scary, eye-patch-wearing figure who is not at all comforting or reassuring, she steals Rory Williams and Amy Pond's daughter, Melody Pond.
This follows what is perhaps science fiction's strangest childbirth sequence. When Amy Pond gives birth in 'The Almost People', she was unaware that she was pregnant, having been kidnapped and replaced by a non-pregnant Flesh clone doppelgänger copy that she was unknowingly telepathically controlling.
An alternative to being born is, of course, to be called into existence. In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a whale is brought into existence miles above the surface of the planet Magrathea. Sadly this method of reproduction has its flaws; the whale was sadly denied the opportunity to enjoy a long, fulfilling life.
Bringing Up Baby
After a baby is conceived, carried and delivered, it next has to be raised. This can be quite difficult. For instance, in Torchwood: Miracle Day, mother Gwen Cooper has to balance bottle feeds and nappy changes with battling helicopter gunships with bazookas. Torchwood: Miracle Day reminds us that babies face not only enemies who carry guns, but also paedophiles.
For Ferengi in the Star Trek universe things seem so much simpler; Rom fathered Nog following a business contract with Nog's mother.
Of course in science fiction, time travel is a standard occurrence and it is possible to meet your children even before they are born. This happens fairly regularly in Doctor Who, for instance with Amy Pond and her daughter River Song, who as a child was raised as Amy's friend Mels. Ace travels back in time in 'The Curse of Fenric' and meets a very cute baby, Audrey, later revealed to be her hated mother. A slightly different perspective is shown in the episode 'Father's Day', in which companion Rose travels back in time to see the father she never knew, meeting herself as a baby and causing chaos when she saves her father's life. Similar events occur in The Sarah-Jane Adventures story 'The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith', in which Sarah Jane is transported back to the 1950s when she herself was a baby, before her parents both died.
As well as meeting loved ones now gone, there is the possibility, through time travel, of becoming your own descendant. Doctor Bashir and Miles O'Brien discuss whether they are their own ancestors in the classic Deep Space Nine episode 'Trials and Tribble-ations'. In Futurama it is revealed that Fry is his own grandfather in the episode 'Roswell that Ends Well'. This is nothing compared to Dave Lister in Red Dwarf, who is his own father4. The love of his life, Kristine Kochanski, is his mother and boy does he have an Oedipus complex.
Children not Seen or Heard
In the Star Trek universe, many species seem to do their best to bypass the whole baby-raising stage. This is usually accomplished through a speedy gestation period where children do not stay as babies or children for long. This applies to species including the Jem'Haddar and the Ocampa. Similarly, the Borg tend to keep their children in drawers known as maturation chambers until they have reached adulthood.
Babies Who Grow Up Quick and Just Die
Curiously in science fiction, many characters seem to either become pregnant or create a child who then teaches them something about themselves before sadly dying at the end of the episode.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation in the episode 'The Child', Deanna Troi gives birth to a boy named Ian Andrew who grows quickly then dies. In 'Offspring', Data creates an android daughter named Lal who, after experiencing emotions, dies. This happens again in Star Trek: Voyager episode 'Drone', where a Borg named One is created and raised by Seven of Nine. He sacrifices himself by the end of the episode to save the crew from the Borg. A slightly different take on the same old story occurs in Star Trek: Enterprise episode 'Similitude' when Charles 'Trip' Tucker is cloned and an infant copy, named Sim, created. It is known that the child will have a 15-day lifespan, and he is made for the purpose of saving the real Trip.
Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is, at first glance, an unlikely father figure, but that doesn't stop him from adopting a couple of surrogate kids. In 'The Begotten' Odo and his own adopted father Dr Mora attempt to raise an infant Changeling, who snuffs it by the end of the episode, but not before restoring Odo's ability to shape-shift. 'The Abandoned' has Odo raise a Jem'Hadar child as if he were his own son; this infant grew into an adult in just a few hours. The Jem'Hadar didn't die, but instead went to the Gamma Quadrant, never to be seen again. Presumably he lived happily ever after. Or died horribly. One or the other...
Fortunately in British science fiction, similar stories tend to have happier endings. In Red Dwarf, Dave Lister's children Jim and Bexley5 aged 18 years within three days. Consequently they were sent to a different dimension in order to prevent their deaths6. In Doctor Who episode 'The Doctor's Daughter', a sample of the Doctor's DNA is used to create a fully-grown female-generated anomaly named Jenny. At the end of the episode she is shot and killed, but fortunately regenerates, planning to run round the universe.
Perhaps the best person to raise rapidly-ageing or instantly-adolescent children is Sarah Jane Smith of the Sarah Jane Adventures, who adopts two children. The first is Luke, a human archetype created by alien race the Bane to resemble a human child in order to assist their plans for world domination. Later she finds Fleshkind baby Sky on her doorstep. Sky was created to be a weapon against the Metalkind and grows from being a baby to a 12-year-old girl within hours.
Of course, babies don't stay as babies for ever and at some point grow into children. Next time we will look at the science fiction phenomenon of the annoying child genius, learn how to cope with children with superpowers and discover exactly why Captain Jack Harkness is the worst babysitter in any known universe.