"Star Trek: The Next Generation" When the Bough Breaks (TV Episode 1988) Poster

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What is the price of utopia?
russem3111 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
ST:TNG:18 - "When The Bough Breaks" (Stardate: 41509.1) - this is the 18th episode that went into production but the 17th episode aired on TV. It's an interesting episode which deals with the price of utopia - this happens when the Enterprise accidentally discovers a utopian world that was only known in legends around the galaxy - the world of Aldea. The reason this world has remained elusive to outsiders was their sophisticated shield which cloaked the planet and prevented outsiders from entering (including beaming down). However, it's the shields that cause the problem facing the Aldeans - that of sterility and because of that, they kidnap the Enterprise children. An intriguing problem that makes for an intriguing episode. Oh, and look out for a future "Desperate Housewife"!
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Technology destroys....
gritfrombray-111 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This episode sees the USS Enterprise encounter a thought to be mythical world known as Aldea which has baffled space travelers and historians for centuries. The Aldeans are an interesting race, a little too human like for my taste, but are an advanced race without children. When the children of the Enterprise are stolen from the ship Picard and company work frenetically to get them back. The concept of this episode was interesting as it is the Aldean's technology of cloaking the planet that has made them sterile and the pollution of our own Earth has damaged our own ozone layer, an intentional echo I'm sure, similar to the message delivered in Star Trek IV The Voyage Home. The Aldeans plan is eventually thwarted by Picard and an equitable solution is reached and the Federation will help the Aldeans recover from the radiation damage. A good episode from a varied first season
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Sensationalism Faces Off Against the Cultural Importance of Calculus
Rizar16 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
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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Why not just bring these folks a shipload of needy orphans?! This seems like such an obvious solution!!!
MartinHafer10 November 2014
Rarely has there been an episode that has such a very obvious and simple answer--yet the entire episode seems to offer a HUGE conundrum--one that no one can figure out for themselves!! So, no matter how good the show is, it ends up being built like a house of cards--and THINKING about it will make it all tumble down!

Planet Aldea is a mythical planet---one that supposedly is a paradise and is cloaked! Imagine the excitement when the Enterprise discovers that the planet is real and they want to establish contact with them!! However, soon the real reason for the Aldeans contacting the Enterprise is obvious--they want the children because the Aldeans are sterile and their race is dying.

This brings me to an answer so obvious that any 4 year-old could figure it out for themselves. WHY NOT LET THESE DESPERATE PEOPLE ADOPT ORPHANS?!?!?! Or, why not let the children and their families come to live on the planet? After all, the population is very, very low and any influx of people would be a plus. Yet, through the entire show NO ONE THINKS OF EITHER OF THESE ALTERNATIVES!!! Talk about lousy writing. Didn't anyone involved in making the show THINK about these options--especially since the Aldeans are supposed to be a very advanced race?! Additionally, late in the show Dr. Crusher figures out WHY the Aldeans are sterile---so why didn't the super-smart Aldeans figure this out for themselves?!

While the episode is interesting, it's amazingly simplistic and stupid. Not annoyingly stupid--just stupid! And, I am amazed that other reviewers haven't addressed this.
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Sort of Bland
Hitchcoc29 July 2014
A planet with members of historic artistic ability has become sterile and is on the verge of extinction. They decide to stock the planet with children from the Enterprise. They choose the most talented, including Wesley Crusher, and treat to a paradise of perks, including instructions from masters. The parents, of course, are horrified. These people have the ability to do amazing things with their technology, including sending the Starship three days out into space. These people are so superior and yet are quite out of touch, with their own abilities and future. It is an episode that goes nowhere and is so dull. That they could bond with these children is their hope, but they are actually rather kind can see the handwriting on the wall, even before Picard and the crew act. The ending is so pat as well and not very satisfying.
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When the Bough Breaks
Scarecrow-8817 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If I'm honest, "When the Bough Breaks" isn't a bad episode, but it is just a bit too sappy for my tastes and once again exploits, "Hey, we got the star of Stand by Me in our cast, let him be the pick of the litter if special kids are to be kidnapped by an alien world in need of offspring to restart civilization". I just explained the plot in that quote. There's this world with all the wonders one could ever dream of. A machine's core furnishes the people all they need in comfort and luxury. It even cloaks the planet, therefore hiding it from possible threats! However, this very machine's core that gives them everything also causes radiation that makes them sterile. No children left and the people are all slowly succumbing to the radiation poisoning that will soon leave their world desolate and dead. Technology, sophisticated and advanced, will prove to be difficult for Picard and the Enterprise crew as they try to uncover a means to beam the kidnapped children back aboard the ship. Parents losing their children is horrifying enough, but the helplessness of not being able to get to them because of a technology so advanced even a galaxy class starship cannot free them is just as scary. Like I mentioned at the very beginning, the plot in itself is not bad, but the brunt of the episode features the cutesy kids placed in a situation where they like the people on the planet yet desire to return to their own parents on the Enterprise. This episode is all about getting the most of Wil Wheaton, a child star I guess Paramount felt needed to be shoved down our throats until we gag. Nothing against Wheaton, really, (I do love his episode with a young Ashley Judd called "The Game"), but that first season sure got him in the plots as much as possible so that the young audience would perhaps be lured to watch. Whatever the case, he gets the other children to strike so that the aliens (led by The X Files' Jerry Hardin and Brenda Strong, a veteran actress of television) will maybe get mad and want them to leave. Picard and company do believe there is a glitch in the planet's shield technology, or at least in the people's machine (it requires certain voices to command it, and the downfall of the surviving aliens is allowing Wesley access to it) which controls it, and this might be the answer to rescuing the children… This episode pokes fun at Picard's discomfort with children.
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The obvious solution avoided again
bloopville14 February 2016
Another poster pointed out that some various obvious civilized, peaceful and mutually beneficial solutions were ignored, before sterility issue was discovered.

1. I am sure there are numerous families that would love to immigrate to this paradise.

2. There must be plenty of orphans for the existing families. Why must superior species always be unethical? (and speak perfect English and be bi-pedal humanoids living in suburban splendor).

The other frustrating thing, after 100s of contacts with these superior species both in TOS and TNG, why doesn't the Federation have any of these vastly superior technology that can push a starship 3 days away from a planet at warp 9, instantaneously?
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Ozone hole cataclysm
theforgottenroom8 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The Enterprise arrives at a planet with a depleted ozone layer. Consequently,its citizens are suffering infertility and other effects of extreme UV exposure. (Earth in 2017 is experiencing something similar. See the geoengineering watch site for science data.) The desperate citizens capture children from the Enterprise in an attempt to perpetuate their species. Adolescent Wesley Crusher serves as a good leader on the planet's surface.

Spoiler alert - Starfleet frees the children and, in a sympathetic twist, helps the kidnappers. Thumbs up on this timely episode, which was reviewed on March 7, 2017.
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going another direction to...
jtsjtssmokey-703-36697321 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
gotta love capt picards response to the little girl wanting up an hugs...now for my thinking on the wesley crusher episodes i like them the way i enjoy star trek tng an his character adds to the show, i was a child of the 80s but did not remember seeing will wheaton before tng, actually never have watched shows/movies he was in back then, not sure which he was in an well even now no need to watch them. having a teen there who sees things as a teen is refreshing and the normal growing up. now the show had him feel for those on the planet also just wanting to go home, he sees more than the adults think (as we all did/do but can be overlooked). our children are not for sale, yup capt may not be comfortable around them but he knows they are apart of us. and help them after trying to steal children, yup be nice to think they might be able to help people have babies in the future easier than today, thinking of u my friends, am a trek fan of star trek tos, and tng movies incl
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