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?