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When The Bough Breaks (episode)

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"When The Bough Breaks"
TNG, Episode 1x17
Production number: 40271-118
First aired: 15 February 1988
17th of 176 produced in TNG
16th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
121st of 728 released in all
Passive resistance
Written By
Hannah Louise Shearer

Directed By
Kim Manners
41509.1 (2364)
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Wesley Crusher must protect a group of kidnapped Enterprise-D children while Captain Picard fights for their release.

Summary Edit

Wesley scanned by Aldean probe

"Don't touch him!"

While investigating the faint energy readings coming from the Epsilon Mynos system, the crew of the USS Enterprise-D are witness to the revealing of the legendary planet Aldea. Radue, leader of the Aldeans, contacts the ship and asks to meet with them. Suddenly, Radue and Rashella appear on the bridge, startling everyone, notably Dr. Crusher, as they did not undergo decontamination procedures by going through the transporter, but they quickly explain that the Enterprise's transporters won't work because of the planet's shields. They also show visible signs of discomfort, which they justify by not being used to bright lights and soon afterwards they beam back on the planet.

Commander Riker, Deanna Troi, and Dr. Crusher are transported to the surface of Aldea, and they're quickly welcomed into their community. However, the Aldean's motives are quickly revealed, as Radue explains that he wishes to acquire some of the Enterprise's children, in exchange for technology. This outrages both Riker and Crusher, and Troi explains that Human children are prized above all else in their society; other species might be able to contribute. Then Radue explains that the Aldean society is dying out, and they've become infertile. Riker expresses his sympathy, but declines their trade offer and they are all returned to the ship. Meanwhile, strange beams of light come from the planet, scanning everyone on board but focused only on the children.

Picard faces scared parents

Picard faces a group of scared parents

Suddenly, disappearances of some of the children are reported, including Wesley Crusher. The Captain is infuriated, and contacts Radue, demanding to have their children back. Radue appears on the viewscreen and informs Picard that the children will be well looked after, and that they'll want for nothing. Picard and Dr. Crusher along with Troi have a meeting with the other parents in the conference lounge. The officers explain what's happened; the Aldeans want to negotiate for "compensation" for the children, which will buy the crew time to figure something out. Picard will have Dr. Crusher with him to represent the parents, and assures them that the Enterprise will not leave without the children.

On Aldea, Wesley and the children get to meet their foster parents, and are quickly enticed by the skill-enhancing instruments that are offered to them. Wesley, however, is not impressed by the Aldeans and wants to know more about the computer system known as the Custodian, which takes care of the Aldeans' every need. With Duana, Wesley interacts with the Custodian and learns the controls. He also asks what's behind one of the doors, but Duana doesn't know.

Aldean holographic toy

A land of magic

Riker reports that Data has discovered random fluctuations in the shield, holes in essence, that could possibly be used to transport an away team through. Riker is surprised that the Aldeans haven't perfected their technology after all this time and eliminated the flaw. As using a hole would have to be precise with timing and there would be no guarantee, Data notes it may be better to crack the code used to transport through the magnetic shield, but it will take time as the sheer number of possible codes is almost endless. While Data works on it, Picard orders Riker to work with La Forge to figure out a way through a hole. An away team can then find the power source for the shield and neutralize it; Picard knows that they have to keep the Aldeans talking, because once they realize the crew will not accept anything but the childrens' return, they will just turn the cloaking device back on and the Enterprise will have lost any chance to get them back.

Picard and Dr. Crusher are transported to the planet to negotiate for "compensation" for the children. They refuse to give the children back, thinking that it's not a problem as Humans can more children, but the captain warns that the Aldeans are messing with a primal Human instinct and that parents are willing to die if necessary for their child. To Crusher's questions about the children's future fertility, Radue is convinced that the problem is a genetic dysfunction and not contagious. Picard nevertheless remains amicable and says they sympathize with the Aldeans and is open to a satisfactory solution to both sides. The Aldeans see the problem as solved and they're offering the sum of their knowledge: what more could they want? Picard manages to convince them to let Dr. Crusher see Wesley, and while with him, she coordinates a covert scan of Duana with the hand scanner from her medical tricorder. Rejoining Picard, she reports her son and the others are well; Radue states that the crew have their offer, which is final, and the away team is sent back to the ship.

Radue decides to show the Enterprise that there is no bargaining room and displays the planet's power by blasting the ship, and throwing it back in ten seconds the equivalent distance of three days travel from the planet at warp 9. He claims that he could very easily push the Enterprise so far away that by the time they returned to Aldea, their children would be grandparents.

During the return trip, Dr. Crusher analyzes the covert scan and discovers that Duana is dying, suffering from acute radiation poisoning. This the reason why their society has become infertile. It also explains their pallor, general lack of appetite and sensitivity to light. It is similar to the situation on Earth in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Wesley convinces the younger children to go on hunger strike and to not speak to their hosts, in an attempt to make the Aldeans return them to the ship. He explains to them that it is a form of passive resistance. While a couple are not sure, he reminds them that while the Aldeans are very nice, they all want to go home and gets the mutual solidarity he needs.

Upon the Enterprise's return, Radue, angered by the children's actions, contacts Picard again, and demands that he makes the children co-operate. While they are being beamed down, Worf lets the transporter room know from the bridge: Riker and Data make it through the shield and begin disabling the Custodian. Doctor Crusher tries to convince Radue that the cause of their infertility is the planetary shield and cloaking device affecting their ozone layer. Eventually, even the children will become affected as well.

Wesley uses custodian

Wesley and the Custodian

Radue insists that their scientists would've known but Crusher retorts that they have been so reliant on their technology, they've stopped questioning it or know how it works. Just then, Picard arrives with the children, saying they are going home. Radue attempts to beam him away but his commands to the Custodian are not responding; Riker and Data have temporarily disabled it. Picard has Enterprise to beam up the children, but not before young Harry Bernard says goodbye to his "adoptive" father, Accolan. When they are gone, Radue is convinced that Picard has destroyed them. The captain says they are doing the exact opposite.

The Aldeans, lead by the Starfleet personnel, go to the mysterious door and find what Data identifies as a huge power source, which has been powering their community, but which has also been slowly killing them through the shield. Radue muses that they need to relearn how to look after themselves and use the power source safely. Picard offers their help, which is gladly accepted.

The crew successfully reseeds Aldea's ozone layer, which to be maintained, the cloak nor the shield can ever be used again. Dr. Crusher reports that the population is responding well to treatment, and will become fertile in time.

The Enterprise leaves Aldea, with all the children safely back on board. Wesley escorts Alexandra, one of the children, to the bridge as she wants to thank and hug Picard. When she leaves, everyone on the bridge giggles behind the captain's back as Alexandra's plush toy has become accidently stuck to his back.

Log entries Edit

Memorable quotes Edit

"Data, find a way to defeat that shield."
"That may be impossible, sir."
"Things are only impossible until they're not."
"Yes, sir."

- Picard and Data


"It's Aldea, Captain. It has to be."

- Riker, to Picard after the fabled planet suddenly appears in front of the Enterprise


"We need some of your children."

- Radue


"Our children are not for sale at any price."

- Beverly Crusher, to Radue


"What's your hurry, Harry?"

- William Riker, to Harry Bernard after he runs into him


"Captain, we will continue these discussions when you have calmed down."

- Radue, to Picard after kidnapping children from the Enterprise-D


"The Aldeans are suffering from a form of radiation poisoning."
"Is that what made them sterile?"

- Crusher and Picard


"OK, kids. Let's go home."

- Wesley Crusher


"The legend will die but the people will live."

- Picard


"Captain, I am not aware of regulation 6.57."
"No Data, neither am I."
"I see sir. (Pause, understands) Oh, I see sir!'"

- Data and Picard

Background information Edit

Production history Edit

Production Edit

  • "Aldea" is Spanish for "village."
  • "Aldea" was not the originally scripted name for the planet. In the teaser, when Riker is telling everyone about Aldea, you can see Jonathan Frakes mouthing some other word (and you can clearly hear that all his lines containing "Aldea" were subsequently looped).
  • This is the very first episode of the series not to open the introductory teaser with an external visual of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D). The next episode to also forego an exterior Enterprise visual will be the 20th episode of Season 2, "The Emissary", which opens with a game of poker between several of the senior staff.
  • This is the only Star Trek episode directed by Kim Manners.
  • There is some sort of production equipment barely visible, perhaps a tripod, in the turbo lift Riker uses in the teaser.

Cast and characters Edit

Continuity Edit

  • The title of this episode takes its name from the children's lullaby "Rock-a-bye Baby" ("...when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall..."). The Doctor would later adapt the lullaby for B'Elanna Torres's baby and sing it to Seven of Nine in VOY: "Human Error".
  • The Enterprise-D being blasted away from Aldea is similar to the original Enterprise being hurled 990.7 light years away from the Kalandin outpost (minus the earthquake effect) in TOS: "That Which Survives".

Special and visual effects Edit

  • The visual effect of the Enterprise-D being blasted far away from Aldea is reused in "Q Who" and "Tin Man".

Sets, props, and costumes Edit

  • The large dome window in the Aldean's meeting room was later put on top of a building in Paradise City on Nimbus III in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
  • The Aldean's planetary shield and cloaking device was not a full scale set piece but rather a three foot long maquette, as was revealed in the Reading Rainbow's episode "The Bionic Bunny Show". Effects Supervisor Robert Legato explained that it was kit-bashed out of parts from model-kits of aircraft carriers, tanks and cars. Michael Okuda elaborated in 2012, "I built the Aldean reactor core. Rob Legato and Gary Hutzel came to me and asked me to work with them on that shot. They needed something cool and powerful looking, but had no money in the budget to build anything. I had an idea for an internally-lit structure that would be seen mostly in silhouette. The advantage of this would be that the model could be fairly simple, but would look dramatic because of lighting. I used parts from several children's toys and model kits, including a Space Shuttle launch tower. I think I even used some left-over pieces from the Star Trek: TMP space dock model in the base. Rick Sternbach helped out with some of the scaffolding around the core. The core of the model was a clear acrylic tube with a fluorescent tube in it. Wrapped around the tube was a sheet of high-contrast black and white film with a pattern that I designed for this. The design incorporated lots of vertical lines and a series of hexagons, which was one of the signature graphic elements that I had used for this planet. Later, I used the same art for the back wall of the Klingon transporter room and the back wall of a Starfleet interrogation room. Rob and Gary loved the model and made it look like this huge, mysterious, powerful reactor." [1]

Music Edit

Reception Edit

Video and DVD releases Edit

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Guest stars Edit

Co-stars Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stand-ins Edit

References Edit

14th century; 21st century; Aldea; Aldean; Aldean holographic toy; Aldean musical instrument; Aldean transport device; Aran; Atlantis; atmosphere; beach; bed; bridge; calcium; calculus; cancer; carbon monoxide; chromosome; cloaking device; corridor; custodian; dedication plaque; defense shield; desktop monitor; diagnostic analysis; dolphin; Earth; Epsilon Mynos system; father; First Appointee; fish; fork; fruit; gamma ray; gravity; industrial waste byproduct; infertility; Katie's instrument; kidnapping; lesion; medical doctor; magnetic field; medical tricorder; Milky Way Galaxy; mother; musician; mythology; necklace; Neinman; neutrino; nitrogen; number one; observation lounge; oceanographer; orbit; oxygen; ozone layer; painting; passive resistance; personal hygiene; planetary defense system; potassium; Progenitor; quark; radiation; radiation poisoning; red alert; red dye number two; repulsor beam; Romulan; school; sculpting tool; sculptor; sculpture; sickbay; skant; solar flux; son; Starfleet Regulations; statue; stuffed animal; teacher; three-dimensional chess; toy; trace element; transporter room; tricorder; turbolift; ultraviolet radiation; unit; unnamed plants; viewscreen; visible light; VISOR; vitamin; Vulcan lute; water; window; wood; Xerxes VII; Zadar IV; Zadarian dolphin; Zena

External links Edit


Previous episode:
"Too Short a Season"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 1
Next episode:
"Home Soil"

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