Star Trek (TNG): When the Bough Breaks

Opinionated Next Gen Episode Guide returns yet again to Season 1. An alien Atlantis-like legendary world reveals itself at last to the Enterprise… then kidnaps all their children. Stupid space Atlanteans.

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  1. Creating a plot point only to not bring it up again…I saw them do that a few times on CSI, although there I think they were actually doing it on purpose to mess with the viewer. Either that or they weren’t finished writing the episode while shooting was still going on. It’s also possible that since the STTNG scene you pointed out wasn’t integral to the episode the connection was cut while shooting or was dropped during editing due to time constraints.

    • I also loved that bit about the “Custodian”. I can only wonder if maybe in the original script it was written as “Caretaker” and then someone spoke up saying, “No no, that name is reserved for a character in the second spinoff of this series that’ll debut about eight years from now.”
      Taking a look back I also wonder if maybe the writer/s were dreaming bigger than the budget would allow. It’s an entire planet, which I’d expect should still have several hundred thousand, or at least several thousand people still living on it, and yet we only see a handful of people. With a story like this you’d expect to see more…of everything, and it just wasn’t there. I think this episode should have been shelved for something better. I wrote up a whole other paragraph explaining a significant fault with the episode but I think we all can figure it out without much trouble.
      Nice episode.

      • It’s actually a fairly common habit old TNG episodes engaged in when devising planets. So much so that it helped contribute to the “planet of hats” and “single biome planet” tropes.
        See, one thing a LOT of science fiction tries to do is equate planets with countries, cities, or villages, and aliens with ethnic groups. Star Wars got so bad about it that when they finally had the opportunity to have two species from the same planet due to a flub in writing, they instead retconned the whole concept.
        And thus the “Sci Fi writers have no sense of scale” trope 😛

  2. 4:13 – A fish-eye lens? “WAUGHMP! WAUGHMP!”

  3. I like this series in that it enables me to review one of my favorite shows ever.

    Oh, the nostalgia!

  4. Thankfully watching this review was much better than watching the actual episode. Even when I was 7 when this episode first came out and I watched it with my dad, I new a lot of 1st and 2nd season episodes were mostly garbage even at that age. Thank god it got better.

    • thespecialneedsgroup

      Embarrassingly, I actually looked forward to first and second season episodes at that age because they never ran in syndication where I lived. I watched TNG obsessively, and every time one was aired, I thought ‘Oh, cool! It’s an episode I never get to see!”

      It took a couple of years for me to realize exactly *why* they never ran.

  5. There was one hint dropped in the episode about the nature of the people’s condition. The artist boy carved a dolphin out of that piece of wood, and his foster parents mentioned that their oceans USED to have similar creatures. That was the hint that whatever was killing the people had to be environmental and not genetic, since apparently all or most of the planet’s wildlife had died out from the UV radiation that was bombarding the planet. Actually that probably explains why the planet looks so orange from orbit, outside of the artificial structures maintained by the custodian the rest of the world must have been reduced to barren desert as the UV radiation killed off all the plant life.

    • thespecialneedsgroup

      Something about the way you wrote that makes the clues sound like plot points on an episode of “House.”

      • thespecialneedsgroup

        Actually, now that I think about it, it wouldn’t be all that hard to turn this episode’s script into an episode of “House.” Just lose the stuff that happens in space, add a scene where someone insists that Lupus, throw in a humiliated clinic patient and a sexist comment about Cuddy’s ass, and you’ve got yourself an episode.

  6. I remember seeing this episode as a rerun. Even at a young age, I remember thinking that this supposed “paradise” of a world really wasn’t so great. The people had all this sophisticated technology, but it didn’t seem to be much more advanced than the things they had on the Enterprise. And then there’s also the squick factor, about how they kidnap half a dozen kids because they need to repopulate their planet. So are they going to have Wesley and that other boy impregnate those girls in a few years’ time? Eww.

    For all their vaunted enlightened values and so on, those people really didn’t think their plan through. If they are that advanced, and their planet is so great, can’t they just send out a signal and ask for people who want to immigrate?

  7. Every time I see a season 1 episode of TNG I wonder how they made it to season 2. Then I have to fight off the urge to punch Picard right in his smug hole. Wesley wasn’t half bad in comparison to those enlightened hypocrites. Good thing Riker grew that beard.

    Speaking of, I already have a goatee (Mirror Spock is my hero), should I shave for next week instead? Or go for the true fashion of evil, sleeveless. Because apparently people in Trek literally wear their morals on their sleeves. (Which is how you can tell the 80’s was evil. No sleeves.)

  8. The idea of using one great computer to solve all of the world’s problems always bugs me. First of all, to really solve all of society’s problems, you would need to precisely define a bunch of problems that have remained poorly defined for thousands of years, such as, what exactly constitutes a good and just society in the first place and what constitutes a good life. Defining problems for us is not something that computers will ever be able to do. Then there is solving all problems that involve subjective evaluation. Subjective evaluation is necessarily beyond computers. Then there is how we know from Godel’s Incompleteness theorem that no singular system of mathematics can solve all possible problems because in any internally consistent system capable of doing basic arithmetic self-reference arises and generates statements that cannot be proved or disproved. In other words, a singular device that solves all problems cannot exist even in pure abstract thought.

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