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When the Bough Breaks

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Series :
The Next Generation
Rating :
Disc No :
Episode :
First Aired :
15 Feb 1988
Stardate :
Director :
Year :
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Just how many children are there on board the Enterprise-D? After all, the Aldeans are trying to repopulate their entire species here - yet they only kidnap seven children! Logically, they should have taken all the kids on the ship. After all, they won't get another chance - if their actions had succeeded, surely the Federation would avoid the area and warn other species to do the same. And if seven is all that was available, surely it would be better to wait until a better candidate vessel came along?

Also, the damage being done to the Aldeans is supposed to be due to the destruction of their ozone layer, which is letting in harmful light from the sun. But we're specifically told that their cloaking device bends the light around the planet, so there should be nothing hitting the planet to harm them! And if the cloak doesn't bend non-visible light around the planet, then it would be easily detectable.
Worst Moment :
Pretty much anything with Wesley in it.
Body Count :
Factoid :
Jerry Hardin, who plays Radue in this episode, also played Sam Clemens in "Time's Arrow".


The Enterprise-D is investigating the Epsilon Mynos system, claimed to be the location of a mythical planet called Aldea. Just as they are discussing the legend Aldea appears before the ship and an inhabitant, Radue, hails and asks for a meeting. No sooner does Picard agree than Radu and a woman, Rashella appear on the bridge. They explain that the Enterprise's transporter technology won't work because because Aldea has a planetary shield in place. Picard and Troi are beamed down with the Aldeans; Radu explains that he wants to buy some of the Enterprise's children, offering advanced technology in exchange. When Troi explains how attached Humans are to their children Radu becomes irritated. He explains that the Aldean people have become infertile for some reason, and need outsiders to continue their species. Although sympathetic, Picard rejects the offer outright and he and Troi are returned to the ship.

The Aldeans simply beam some children off the Enterprise without permission, including Wesley Crusher. Picard's demands for their return are ignored, and Radue displays the pwoer they are up against by firing an energy bolt which hurls the Enterprise more than a day's travel from the planet. As they return Picard comments that Aldea could easily vanish behind a cloaking device again, leaving the ship forever unable to recover the children.

On Aldea, each child is assigned to foster parents. The children are impressed by the advanced technology they possess, including devices which can make music or sculpture under the control of a person's mind alone.

When the Enterprise arrives Radue contacts the ship, pointing out that he could easily have thrown the ship so far across space that it would be take decades to return. He beams Crusher, picard and Troi down to continue negotiations, determined to pay some sort of price for the children. Crusher is allowed to visit Wesley and manages to make a covert tricorder scan of Duana, a female Aldean, with his help. The scan indicates that Duana is suffering from radiation poisioning, which has made her infertile - by implication, the rest of the Aldeans must be suffering from the same thing. As the officers return to the ship Wesley organises the children to begin passive resistance to the Aldeans, including a hunger strike. Radue demands that Picard make the children to co-operate.

Crusher explains to Radue that the planet's shield and cloak systems are the source of their infertility; they have destroyed the ozone layer, allowing ultraviolet light to inflict radiation sickness. She says that if they are shut down the condition is reversible. The Aldeans shut down the computer system which looks after their day to day needs, Radu commenting that hte Aldeans will have to learn to look after themselves from now on. All the children are returned, and the ship departs the planet.


There's just nothing I like about this episode. The idea of a cloaked planet is just stupid; As I say in the YATI, Data explains that the planet is bending light around itself but if that's so then how is ultraviolet light supposed to be infecting the inhabitants? It's stupid, and it's obviously a clumsy attempt to make a comment on the damage to Earth's ozone layer which was a popular bogeyman at the time of this episode. The weapon which throws the Enterprise across space is also dumb; I imagine the writers were trying to be original, showing an advanced weapon which did something a bit more imaginative than just blasting a hole in the ship, but it just comes across as silly.

Then there's the numbers thing. Again referenced in the YATI, the Aldeans steal a grand total of six kids! This is the very last chance they are ever going to get to steal children from anywhere, and with a crew of 1,000 including families you would think that there would be more than six available, but apparently not. And even if that is indeed how many the ship has, how can the Aldeans possibly expect to continue a whole civilisation like that?

This episode also showcases the blatant stupidity of even having family members aboard a ship like the Enterprise in the first place. We have seen several Galaxy class ships go down, the Enterprise has come close numerous times (and actually been destroyed on several occasions only for time to be altered to restore or prevent it). How can you possibly justify having civilians and children aboard these things? Sure, the official explanation is that the saucer section can carry them to safety - but that didn't help the Enterprise here, now did it? Nor in Timescape or Cause and Effect for that matter, and nor did it help the Yamato much.

It must have seemed like such a good idea, dramatically speaking, to have families aboard the Enterprise. So many opportunities for all sorts of interesting stuff to happen. But how often has it actually been used? Offhand this is the only episode I can think of where the families fill a function in the story that couldn't be filled by a crewmember or visiting civlian specialist. And this episode sucks.

Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 39,451 Last updated : 12 Mar 2013