Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 1, Episode 16

When the Bough Breaks (13 Feb. 1988)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
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A planet that was able to cloak itself for thousands of years suddenly reveals itself, with its inhabitants proposing peace. But, after initial negotiations, children of the Enterprise are kidnapped due to the impotence of the inhabitants.



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Title: When the Bough Breaks (13 Feb 1988)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Jandi Swanson ...
Paul Lambert ...
Ivy Bethune ...
Dierk Torsek ...
Dr. Bernard


The Enterprise is delighted with a rare chance to visit a technologically advanced planet which long prevented access by means of a perfect cloaking technique. Prime administrator Radue shows how their people lead a life of leisure, trusting their central computer takes care of all necessities. But they can't solve a medical nightmare: endemic infertility, so they need to 'adopt' earthling children. Negotiations failing, they suddenly snatch Wesley and several younger, also gifted crew kids. Picard can barely keep negotiating credibly enough to avoid being chased too far in space ever to return, but Wesley manages to study and befriend the locals while planning a minimal risk revolt. Written by KGF Vissers

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Release Date:

13 February 1988 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Aldea is the Spanish word for village. See more »


When the Enterprise is hit by the Aldea repulsor beam and is spinning out of control the main bridge alert indicator behind Riker (and beside Worf) is flashing at Red Alert (at the same time as the audible klaxon) while the other alert indicator behind Dr Crusher is still indicating Yellow Alert. See more »


Radue: Captain, if you don't accept our terms, the Enterprise will be pushed so far away that by the time you return, your children will be grandparents.
See more »


Star Trek: The Next Generation End Credits
Composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Alexander Courage
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User Reviews

Sensationalism Faces Off Against the Cultural Importance of Calculus
16 September 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Riker is ecstatic about the legend of an Atlantis in the Epsilon Mynos system (reported to be the planet Aldea). Enterprise investigates the system and discovers a cloaked planet, Aldea.

Two of the leaders of the Aldeans make contact with the Enterprise for the purpose of trade. However, they want a few Enterprise children to help replenish their infertile population. Picard, of course, refuses, so the Aldeans use their superior technology to steal a few specially selected children.

So "When the Bough Breaks" (Episode 16, Season 1, Air Date 02/15/88, Star-date 41509.1) introduces the Utopian world of Aldea and its many advancements, and it has the Enterprise crew try to rescue their stolen children back from the Aldeans.

Riker describes the vision of Aldea as a highly technologically advanced world in which people are free to pursue a life of art and culture and peace. His picture of the Aldeans is basically true of the world in some ways, but the Aldeans have also lapsed in their knowledge of science and medicine.

*Spoiler's Follow*

We have to watch much silly sensationalism in the process (as Spock would call it!). Yes, humans are attached to their kids and we are willing to die for them. So we ignore the potential for trading our children to leap years ahead in science (the Aldeans promise to exchange some of their scientific knowledge for some of our children). But, it seems, the information the Aldeans offer to us probably isn't as valuable as they suggest since (as we later find out) they don't even know how it works anymore!

Wesley also learns the Aldeans have lost their knowledge of the way their technology works. This leads the Aldeans to fail to discover a radiation leak or radiation side effect coming from their power source. It causes them to become infertile, become sensitive to light, and lose their appetite.

Some Aldean power is well intact, however. Radue, a leader of the Aldeans, uses a repulsor beam to blast the Enterprise far away (three days at warp 9) as a demonstration of his power.

But Wesley leads the children in nonviolent and peaceful resistance, having the other children refuse to eat, while Picard makes his way back to Aldea.

Some minor plot points include:

(1) Aldea uses technology to bend light around its planet and make itself invisible to outsiders.

(2) The Aldeans use a Custodian central computer and power system to take care of all their physical and technological concerns.

(3) The Aldeans can scan for hidden abilities and potential within the children they steal. Apparently they have scanning technology that discloses inner skills for music (Alexandra), sculpting (Harry), or science and technology (as in the case of Wesley).

(4) The Aldeans have cameras all through their civilization, so Wesley can ask the Custodian to show him a few of the other children. Does this make anyone there worry about privacy?

(5) One of the little girls (Alexandria) learns to use a musical device that senses her music-thoughts-or-feelings. Harry learns to sculpt with a tool that draws out his inner image of a dolphin sculpture. These seem like magical tools to me, but perhaps it's a case of tools being so advanced they seem like magic to us (or to any lesser technologically advanced civilization).

But my favorite part of the episode emphasizes the importance of science and math to our culture. The Aldeans concentrate on culture and the arts to the detriment of science, and this shows that Riker's vision of Aldea is too narrow (and must include tough subjects like calculus).

My favorite part of the episode has the dying Aldeans, and Enterprise and its crew, teach us the importance of science.

For example, one of the opening scenes of the episode has a little boy, Harry, run away from his calculus teacher, bump into Riker, and get sent back to class by his father. But later Harry gets selected by the Aldeans for his hidden sculpting ability.

After the crew of Enterprise use their knowledge of science and technology to outsmart the Aldeans and get their kids back, Harry tells his father he wants to quit calculus and become a sculptor. His father says Harry can do anything he wants, but he must continue to study calculus.

Yes! Calculus and science are important for this very reason. If our culture allowed our citizens to quit tough subjects, we would no doubt become as superficial and as purely artsy and lazy as the Aldeans. (For all the teachers out there, the next time a student whines about the meaninglessness of your subject, especially science and math, just tell them about the miserable Aldeans and our own dark ages.)

The episode works for me since I loved its pro-science message, and it also has a well thought out vision of a misguided, mere artsy driven civilization.

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