The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: When the Bough Breaks

The Enterprise is delighted to discover that Aldea, a fabled planet of legend, is actually very real and ready to welcome them. But the Aldeans aren’t accepting strangers for the first time in centuries out of sheer altruism – their remaining population is sterile, and without the ability to have offspring of their own, they decide to abduct Wesley and the other Enterprise children.

Although there’s much to nitpick in this episode, it actually continues the trend of stronger stories in the second half of season one. Picard shows his chops as as a strategist and negotiator, Wesley isn’t completely annoying, and the youngest of the children is actually quite cute. If you recall how painful I found And The Children Shall Lead, the fact that TNG has done a pretty good child-centric episode is high praise indeed!

Why the Aldean plan sucked

Of course, had the children stayed on Aldea, they too would have become sterile and unable to reproduce, but since the Aldeans weren’t to know that, this is a point of information rather than a nitpick. Also, given that the Aldeans have become so dependent on their ‘custodian’ computer that they are extraordinarily clueless about science and technology, we can understand their lack of foresight as to the other flaws in their plan.

  • The Aldeans grab a handful of children from the Enterprise – are there more aboard? It’s not a very large gene pool to start repopulating their planet. Why didn’t they ask for lots of sperm and egg donations from the ship? Although I guess part of it was that they wanted pre-made children so that they could all play family.
  • The Aldean sculpting tool might make sculpting easy, but it removes all the challenge from creating art.
  • How was the Aldean repulsor beam able to fling the Enterprise away at faster than the speed of light?
  • The Aldeans found out about the Enterprise by intercepting their communications – why weren’t those communications encrypted? How did they know so much about the children – was part of what they intercepted messages back to Earth detailing how amazing these kids are and how well they’re doing aboard the Enterprise? How could they possibly know that Harry, for example, had the potential to become a sculptor, when Harry had never sculpted or shown any interest in it before? Could they deduce that merely from intercepting the ship’s communications?

Other bits and pieces

  • On the Enterprise, ten year olds have to learn calculus. Excellent – it’s about time kids learnt this stuff whilst they’re still young.
  • Deanna says humans are unusually attached to their children, as if Betazoids and other alien races are not – however, pretty much every alien family we see is equally attached to their children. Also, does Deanna mean that Betazoids, Vulcans, Klingons, etc, would give up their children without complaint – because somehow I doubt that.
  • Going through the Enterprise transporter also has a built in decontamination process – this was the case in TOS, of course, but it was rarely effective. Also, the Ligonians, for example, used their own transporter, so they weren’t decontaminated either, but no one seemed to mind about that. And what about decontamination procedures for visitors who arrive by shuttlecraft?
  • There’s some talk of the depleted ozone layer of Earth in the 21st century. Of course, back in the eighties, the ozone layer was one of the main environment topics of discussion; these days it’s not even a buzzword now that we have the blanket topic of climate change.

Summary – When the Bough Breaks: “Now, everyone jizz into this cup – the Aldeans need help repopulating their planet.”

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