Monday, January 21, 2013

S1E17 When the Bough Breaks

Season 1 Episode 17: When the Bough Breaks

Watchability: Recommended
Short Answer: Well written episode, that has a couple interesting angles.
Favorite Line: "Things are only impossible until they're not."

Following a trail of strange sensor readings, the Enterprise finds a planet that has been cloaked for centuries. The crew realizes that they have found a civilization that was thought to be only a legend. The technology of the planet is much more advanced than the Enterprise and the people live in relative comfort. Of course, there is one problem. They can't have children, so they abduct some from the Enterprise.

Some Spoilers Below - Not that big in my opinion, but does give away the ending...

Overall, the episode is a rather heavy-handed moral parable about using technology wisely and not taking it for granted. And to that effect, it works fairly well. When Wesley is introduced to the computer that runs the entire planet, he asks several questions about how it works. The woman showing him responds by saying equivalent of "It just works." Surprise, surprise, it's the computer that has been killing off their race the whole time.

That plot line is interesting on it's own, but there is another thread that I found interesting. The children are sorted into "units" which appear to represent different trades. One of the boys is made to join a group of sculptors, even though he has no apparent interest in sculpture. At one point, Wesley asks why they are making the boy into a sculptor. The reply, predictably, is that he already is a sculptor. We see this effect pan out at the end of the episode, when the boy asks his dad if can be a sculptor.

I'm not really sure what it is about that aspect of the episode that strikes me. Perhaps it is that, despite how much they are in the wrong, the civilization does have something to offer. Or perhaps it is the idea that what we ultimately do in life comes from unexpected places. Given that the main plot is decent, I would probably give this episode a Extra Credit. Since it has a couple other thoughtful pieces like the one above, I gave it a Recommended.

Side Notes
(1) Why do they only kidnap five children? That's not enough to recreate a civilization! Apparently they forgot how genetics work...

(2) A humorous detail that bookends the episode is the kid that complains about having to go to Calculus. I don't know if his age is ever stated in the episode, but he seems to be at most ten years old. That seems really young to be learning Calculus. I wonder if the writers are positing that in the future we will be learning advanced concepts at earlier and earlier ages.

It certainly explains why everyone seems to know a lot about everything. I am continually surprised that the Command officers, for example, seem to know to fix the warp engines. It is like the CEO of Amazon, walking into their data centers and fixing the servers.

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