Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"When the Bough Breaks"

*

Air date: 2/15/1988
Written by Hannah Louise Shearer
Directed by Kim Manners

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Few episodes defy logic and common sense as egregiously and obviously as the awful "When the Bough Breaks." I must say, I feel like a real bastard reviewing season one of TNG (even knowing full well that the show will later get much better), where the episodes — sometimes barely watchable — are getting some of the lowest ratings in all my years of reviewing.

The mythical world of Aldea, hidden for centuries behind a cloaking shield, appears before the Enterprise, and its inhabitants invite the crew down in an attempt to negotiate a trade for some of the Enterprise's children. The Aldeans are desperate because they're infertile and want to preserve their species. When the Enterprise crew refuses, the Aldeans take the children with their superior-tech transporter, saying they have no choice, and subsequently force Picard into negotiations which, if you think about from the Aldeans' point of view, are pointless and moot.

The episode becomes an unworkable "parable" of the most tiresome sort. I've always hated it when an entire planet/society is reduced to five boring people and three boring sets. Here's a storyline so full of holes that we find ourselves asking question after question. Like, gee, do the Aldeans realistically expect to repopulate their world with only six kidnapped children? And, gee, are the Aldeans such slaves to their own laziness (and their magical "Custodian" provider) that their scientists, even with their superior technology, can't figure out in three decades what Dr. Crusher can figure out in three days? And, gee, the Aldeans aren't even curious enough to look behind the mysterious door to see what powers the "Custodian"? And, gee, don't you think the children, separated from their parents, would be a little more upset and a little less resigned? And, gee, wouldn't that kid Harry be harder to bribe than with the concept of wood sculpting, even if his real dad makes him take calculus? And, gee, isn't this a really lame episode, with simplistic answers the Aldeans are hopeless dolts not to figure out, meaning it's all that much more tedious for us to watch them learn?

Previous episode: Too Short a Season
Next episode: Home Soil

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13 comments on this review

Corey - Mon, Apr 23, 2012 - 1:55pm (USA Central)
I personally liked this one. However, it is difficult to believe that no one on the planet would possibly imagine that that a possible reason the entire race on the planet might not conceive might be due to a planet-wide effect (the planet cloaking device) -- especially over decades of time!. Big plot hole, unless their intelligence was affected which the show did not say it was.
Rosario - Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - 9:17pm (USA Central)
"I must say, I feel like a real bastard reviewing season one of TNG (even knowing full well that the show will later get much better), where the episodes — sometimes barely watchable — are getting some of the lowest ratings in all my years of reviewing."

laughing laughing laughing thanks jammer! :D
Rikko - Tue, Jul 31, 2012 - 6:07pm (USA Central)
I like how you make very funny reviews of super-boring episodes.

This is one of those episodes that you don't remember a damn thing after a while. It lets you so unaffected from what's going on that becomes pointless to watch.

Btw, I've said "boring" so many times now, but hey! It's TNG Season 1, so brace yourself.
xaaoz - Sat, Nov 3, 2012 - 1:04am (USA Central)
I can accept that Aldeans wanted children to re-populate, but gee, even Wes?
DPC - Tue, Nov 13, 2012 - 9:05pm (USA Central)
Ms. Sheear's stories for TNG were different.

But not in a bad way.

They're (IMHO) refreshing, exploring venues of sci-fi not really touched on.

Calculus in the 7th grade? Cool!

Abducting kids as means to get around a sterility problem? This is remarkably adult sci-fi, and not a stupid sexcapade as so many earlier TNG episodes devolved into.

But the Aldeans would not make good parents. They're too hyperfocused on art and forgot how to build the tools they use, much less in discipline - the one aspect of raising children that is completely ignored, apart from Harry's father, and how did Riker know Harry's name? Anyway, that trope (forgetting how to build things) is not uncommon in sci-fi, but the application in this story is novel.

Even WESLEY WONDERBRAT isn't the cure-all. Okay, the children do start to get upset toward the end, at least the girl who played the music. Wes did seem to have to tell them all not to comply, and is having difficulty convincing them as to why...

But a cloaked planet -- cool idea, but surely a starship traveling at warp or impulse might go *SMACK* into it, since it's only rendered invisible -- it's still there, and ready to be the proverbial car that the starship (or, in this case, the proverbial deer) is waiting to greet... without the headlights.

3.25 of 4 stars from me, despite my nitpicks.


Nick P. - Tue, Nov 20, 2012 - 9:39am (USA Central)
Wow, Jammer, I completely disagree with you. I would go so far as to say you might not have "got it"? The Aldeans are so stuck in their ways ,old people = old culture, that they cannot see the trees from the forest. I thought it was a wonderful episode, with great effects, good score, good acting, and great Picard SWEAR!

I agree that the Aldeans negotiating with the Enterprise at all was kind of a silly plot point, and only taking 6 kids was essentially meaningless, but in the annals of meaningless Star Trek plot points, this is certainly not even in the top 10.

I think this was a well done episode, it moved well, and all the players had believable motivations, which is all I ask out of space-drama. I say this is a highlight of season 1.
DG - Thu, Dec 20, 2012 - 7:55am (USA Central)
Nick P, I agree.

My favorite line in all of Star Trek is in this episode: Things are only impossible until they're not.
Van_Patten - Tue, Jan 8, 2013 - 6:49pm (USA Central)
Oh boy, it would appear that '11001001' was looking more and more like an isolated one- off. This episode really hasn't aged well. The basic premise, as Jammer says, is inherently ludicrous, although this episode seems to have attracted a significant number of defenders in the Comments here. I could take the point that the concept is an intriguing one but the implementation is dreadful.

Stumbling across the hitherto mythical world of Aldea, and the Aldeans want something the Enterprise will be extremely reluctant to give up.

Hoary, predictable and simplistic, I erred in my review of 'Too Short a Season' - this is, for me the low point of Season 1- thinking ahead to the remainder of the season, I can't quite think of anything this poor. The plot makes Wesley into the 'Mary Sue' , having the brilliant idea of 'maintaining the computer', and whilst I love Jerry Hardin as 'Deep Throat' in the X Files, here he fares badly, coming across as absurd in the role of potential 'villain'. The scenes following the children's abduction are pour rire, as the parents sit around apparently barely bothered that their kids have been abducted. No - Sorry, for me this is a definite turkey - Half a Star from me - though fortunately at least two of the next three episodes see the series turn in the right direction.
William B - Sun, Mar 24, 2013 - 5:30am (USA Central)
I take back what I said on a previous comment, in which I said that the three worst episodes of the season were "Code of Honour," "Justice" and "Angel One." Rewatching this, this is way worse than "Justice" and "Angel One." Actually, I found it harder to watch than "Code of Honour," though I don't know that I'd say that it's worse.

My favourite part of this episode is when they use the big suspense/action score and have an *act break* for the passive resistance scene. And the ironic thing is that a couple of kids half-heartedly not eating genuinely *is* the most exciting thing in this episode.

So, which of the girls do the Aldeans figure Wesley is eventually going to breed with?

I appreciate that this episode does have its defenders -- I am glad to hear that others enjoyed it more than I did. But seriously, this was *painful* to get through for me in a way I really hadn't prepared myself for. I can't even sift through my mind enough to articulate how badly it played.

1/2 star.
Gojirob - Thu, Nov 7, 2013 - 12:33pm (USA Central)
The thing that bothers me here also bothered me in DS9 S2's Paradise - the lack of fury. Civilized people or no, not only was this kidnapping, but they did something every kid knows to try and avoid - taking something after you were told you couldn't have it. A simple line like this could have aided the weak story.

Picard : Understand that you are forgiven, but that this is far from forgotten. The time may come that you regain the knowledge of your ancestors, and perhaps even perfect your cloak against harming you. But take this as a given : However well hidden you once more become, Aldea will be watched, and a repeat of this loathsome tactic will not go well for you. Read that however you see fit.

No vengeance. Just some blatantly stated displeasure, if only for the 'angry-at-you-for-not-giving-up-the-kids-to-start-with' spoiled brat attitude. I think a sad relic for TNG of S1 was this idea that you can never ever take jerks to task, even verbally.
Adara - Wed, Mar 5, 2014 - 9:15pm (USA Central)
The first half of the episode was great. The thought of parents losing their children is chilling. But then things started to get stupid, and it just kept going downhill. I give the first half 3 1/2 stars and the second half a reluctant half star.
ender4life - Sat, Jun 7, 2014 - 8:41pm (USA Central)
Am I the only one who noticed that there's another random boy in the group? In some shots there's a boy besides Wesley and Harry, making a total of 7 children. In others he's gone and there's only six.
This is my only problem with this episode. Otherwise, it's just as believable as the other crazy plots from season 1.
KevinW - Sat, Aug 9, 2014 - 9:42pm (USA Central)
For some reason, back in 1988 I recorded "When the Bough Breaks" and "Home Soil" onto VHS, so I've watched those episodes more than any others in season 1.

Actually the Aldeans' motivation for negotiating is established, if only just barely. When the spokesman guy is first talking to Riker, he explains that the Aldean economy is based on mutual exchange; whenever something is received, something else must be given. So they owe the Enterprise fair compensation for the children. Or something.

But yeah, this episode is terrible. The effects and costuming have not aged well. The child actors' performances are totally unconvincing. The reaction of the parents is ludicrous in both scripting and performance; from their reactions you'd think they were being told that their insurance rates were going up, not that their children were being abducted permanently. Was there any point to the subplot about the Enterprise being tossed away, other than padding out the episode? The planet-wide cloak is an interesting idea, but is also a can of worms. If Starfleet has access to that technology, why didn't they use it to forestall the Borg and Dominion invasions? Sloppy writing.

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