Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"When the Bough Breaks"

Remember our old postulate that trek never does children well? “When the Bough Breaks” is further proof.

The people of the planet Aldea, a cloaked planet considered a myth, are sterile for unknown reasons, so they lure the Enterprise into orbit, kidnap the children, and expect since they have shields that block transporters, they can get away with keeping the children. The Enterprise crew is rebuffed in hostage negotiations and the ship in thrown far away at warp nine.

During the return trip to Aldea, the kids become enthralled by the toys, gizmos, and promises they do not have to follow the strict rules of their parents any longer. Wesley eventually convinces them to go on a hunger strike in order to force their release. The Aldeans contact Picard and asks him to make the children cooperate. That is not a good sign of future success with child rearing.

Turns out the Aldeans planetary computer, the Custodian, operates the shields and cloaking device which has rendered the Aldeans sterile. It will happen to the children, too. When picard is allowed to beam down to talk with the children, Riker and data sneak down in order to disable the Custodian. Without the computer, all parties are allowed to beam back to the ship. The Aldeans think they have been doomed to extinction, but Picard assures them otherwise. He also gets thanked by a little girl you just know he absolutely despises.

I will concede it is a personal choice to not like this episode. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it. The plot comes across too much like a TOS episode for my tastes. There is a planet run by a computer on which the entire population has been rendered sterile, but they have no clue why., but they can solve the problem by kidnapping a bunch of children and that will not cause any difficulties.

Enter our heroes. Crusher figure out the cause of the sterilization--the most obvious answer, to boot. Picard decides to destroy the computer for the planet’s own good. Replace Crusher with McCoy and Picard with Kirk, and you have a TOS episode. Such might be fine under normal circumstances, but after having immersed myself in these episode for the last three months, I am in tune with how repetitious they can get.

Plus, I think putting small children in peril is often a cheap attempt atc reating drama. If you are going to pluck my heartstrings, I want you to do so genuinely.

As a big fan of the X-Files, I have to take note Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat) and Kim Manners (A frequent director) worked together on “When the Bough Breaks” years before they met up with Mulder and Scully. The combination does not save the episode in my eyes.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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