Written by Hannah Louise Shearer and Tracy Torme
Directed by Kim Manners
The Enterprise follows a trail to a legendary planet that no one has yet been able to prove exists. When the planet Aldea is actually found by them, initially no one seems to question why, after all these years when no one else could find it, the Enterprise and its crew manage to. Eventually, Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), the ship’s First Officer, does comment that it did seem like they were being led right to the planet.
Unfortunately, this does not seem to deter Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) in the least as he immediately seeks to establish relations with the Aldeans. Their technology seems to be much more advanced than that which the Federation currently possesses. The half-Betazed ship’s counselor, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), also cautions that all is not what it seems after her empathic abilities kick in during a conversation with the Aldean leaders.
For a very long time the Aldeans managed to conceal their planet using a shield similar to a cloaking device. Why have they suddenly allowed themselves to be seen?
The answer comes when all of the children mysteriously disappear from the Enterprise. It seems that the Aldean race is dying off and they wish to take the children to replenish it. They offer technological and logistical information in return for these children. Captain Picard must now find a way to get the children back through the powerful Aldean planetary shield before they decide to enact the cloaking device and disappear.
This part of the plot is very well done. Watching Captain Picard deal with the Aldeans on one hand and the irate parents on the other was very interesting. Patrick Stewart has done a wonderful job, especially conveying the fact that Picard does not like children and feels quite uncomfortable around them. This does not prevent him from having empathy for the parents who do not know what has happened to their children.
The biggest part that doesn’t work, however, is the Aldean culture itself. This is a supposed advanced race with technology the likes of which the Federation can only dream. However, not one of the surviving Aldeans seems to have any clue as to how it operates. Doctor Crusher (Gates McFadden) eventually figures out that the power source for the great shield is depleting the ozone and allowing dangerous radiation to the planet which has caused the sterility. If this is so easy for her to discover, why weren’t one of the early scientists aware of this?
Here on Earth, we have noticed ozone problems with technology that is far behind that of the Aldeans, so it does not make sense that the people who created all of this technology would have no idea of the damage it could be doing. Even if it were believable that the remainder of the Aldean population has no mathematical or scientific education, the people who originally conceived of this technology should have been more adept. The Aldeans we see now seem to be totally clueless as parents as well when they have to deal with mild rebelliousness on the part of the children when they stage a “sit-in” demanding to be returned to the Enterprise.
If I had to guess, I would say that this episode was written by someone who hasn’t had children. They are entirely too well-behaved and seem to feel at home on Aldea entirely too fast. There are no signs that they miss their parents or act out until Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) organizes the “sit-in”. The one boy, who we are shown being scolded by his father for not wanting to learn calculus in the beginning of the episode, seems to prefer being on Aldea. When they are eventually reunited with the parents, it seems as if the parents are being played as the “bad guys” for telling the boy he has to go to school, rather than letting him do whatever he wants.
This is not bad for one of the episodes for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, if a more plausible scenario was found for the source of the sterility of the Aldeans rather than the ozone depletion, it would have been much better.
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