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I faintly remember this. It might be from a series like Star Trek or Buck Rogers.

What I remember is, towards the end it's understood that children (they look like children) are actually adults. Even, one of them is their leader, emperor or something.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. When did you watch this? Where was it? (What country, what TV channel.) How young do they look? Who is the "normal human" provided for reference?
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 20:40
  • Can you give us a timeframe for when this episode would likely have aired? Would it be the '60s? '70s? '80s? '90s? 2000s? Also, can you describe the setting of the episode? Were the 'children' on a spaceship or a planet, for example? If on a planet, were there buildings around, or was it an undeveloped area? Also, roughly how many 'children' are we talking about? One or two? Four or five? Ten or twenty? Possibly more? Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 20:48
  • 1
    Does this answer your question? Adult-sized alien child and child-sized alien adult Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 20:53
  • 4
    ST: TOS episode, "Miri," is a partial match, except the children aren't adults who're aging in reverse; they're genuine children who're aging very slowly, both physically and mentally, due to a disease. (There are also considerably more than 4-5 of them.) ST: Voyager episode, "Innocence," is another partial match, except that I don't recall any of the 'children' being presented as a leader or emperor or whatnot. Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 21:31
  • 3
    There's a TNG episode where Picard and a few other people are somehow accidentally de-aged to teenagers, but we know it's them from the start. (Picard is not an emperor, of course, but he is their leader.) Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 14:17

6 Answers 6

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Could it be "Innocence", a ST:Voyager episode?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innocence_(Star_Trek:_Voyager)

Tuvok crash-lands on a moon along with Ensign Bennet. Bennet does not survive and his remains are stored in a containment field in the damaged shuttle. Tuvok discovers three children, Tressa, Elani and Corin. They tell him the craft they were on also crashed, killing the adults. They convince him other members of their race, the Drayans, mean to do them harm. Tuvok helps the children elude a search party. Later, when the danger passes, they behave as children normally would, getting into things they should not and asking incessant questions as Tuvok tries to contact his ship.

The leader of the Drayans, Alcia, contacts Voyager to say they have found the shuttle and the crewman should be removed as soon as possible. The planet is sacred to the Drayans and their presence desecrates it.

Tuvok's efforts fail as two of the children, Elani and Corin, vanish in the middle of the night. Captain Janeway and Paris take a shuttle down to the surface while being pursued by other Drayans, who do not wish the shuttle to sully the sacredness of the moon. Soon, a confrontation occurs between the aliens and the Voyager crew. The crew believe the aliens mean to harm the last child, until it is finally explained that they were not children at all, but actually confused Drayans at the end of their life; their species ages in reverse.

Tressa recalls the truth about her circumstances. With Alcia's permission, Tuvok promises to stay with Tressa to the end.

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In the Buck Rogers TV episode, "The Golden Man" this turns out to be the case. But there is only the one father and son shown in the episode. The immature acting adult-looking person turns out to be the son of the more concerned father that looks like a child.

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  • @RicirtDicksin But you said it yourself that "It might be from a series like Star Trek or Buck Rogers"! Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 15:00
  • This is the episode that came to my mind. Haven't watched it in 40 years!
    – RobertF
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 21:34
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It's a bit of a trope in SF. There have been several such with the various pantheons of gods running around looking like kids. There have been several where the super-duper advanced humans have slowed aging by a huge factor, so that this 500 year old guy here looks like a 12 year old. And so on.

Possibly you are thinking of the episode of the original Star Trek called Miri. Kirk and Spock and "the boys" discover a planet with only children. When the children begin puberty they contract a disease and die very quickly. It is also discovered that these children are in fact centuries old. They have been hiding in the ruins since a virus wiped out all the adults and slowed their aging. The crew who beamed down are infected by the virus and must find a cure before they too are killed by it.

There is also the first season of Stargate episode The Nox. SG1 meets a species of people who are hanging out in the woods. They have a nice little hut made of branches. They wear home-spun cloth. They have flowers in their hair. And they are all about 4'8" tall, their leader being played by Armin Shimerman. SG1 thinks they are just primitives, since that's how they appear, and set out trying to help them hide from the bad guys. But it turns out they are actually super-duper high tech people, who happen to like having a cookout in the woods.

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    I read the question and my mind leaped straight to Miri. +1 Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 8:33
  • @João Mendes As did mine. But the question is confusing. The children in "Miri" are children, not adults, although they are centuries old. Adults implies to me the ability to reproduce.
    – Wastrel
    Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 14:28
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As Darrel Hoffman suggests, Rascals is a match. Due to a teleporter accident, a couple of crew-men are de-aged.

  • It is Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The crew looks like children, but they are adults.
  • One of them, Captain Picard, is their leader (much to his dismay).
  • At the end, their juvenile appearance provides a plot-twist.
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  • To be specific (after looking it up), the de-aged people were Picard, Ro Laren, Keiko O'Brien, and Guinan. So technically Picard is only the leader to one of them, since Keiko and Guinan are not enlisted Starfleet officers. Interestingly, this does give lie to the claim from ST:Picard that Guinan's race can appear any age they want to, because if she could do that, she could've fixed the problem herself. But whatever. I think the people who wrote for ST:Picard must've not watched any of the Guinan episodes from TNG because they got almost everything about her wrong... Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 13:30
  • Pretty sure that even if Guinan could have re-aged herself, she would have waited to do so, because being a child again was kind of fun. Commented Apr 18, 2023 at 17:30
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It sounds like the brief but memorable 1970's Canadian Sci-Fi show 'The Starlost' episode 5 "Children of Methuselah".

"Thinking they have found the backup bridge of the Ark, the trio discover a module occupied by children who believe that they have been piloting the Ark since it left Earth (500 years ago)."

Jonah Royston and George Ghent 20 October 1973 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Starlost

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Another contender: Andromeda, Season 1, Episode 3:

Dylan is manipulated into unlocking powerful weapons stores when the Andromeda discovers a Commonwealth space station populated by children who believe that he is the legendary "High Guard" who has come to bring peace by destroying their enemies. A group of child warriors bent on causing the destruction of solar systems is discovered on a Guard Station outside of the Dyhedra system.

In this case they actually are children, with the oldest ones being around 15 to 20, if I remember correctly. But they don't have any adults because there's some nasty radiation on the space station that kills them off before they can get very old (they still manage to reproduce though and so have been there for centuries). But, absent of any other "adults", they could be considered to be the adults in the space station (and certainly in one's memories).

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