First up, there's "When the Bough Breaks," an episode that features some seriously weird plot development. The Enterprise arrives at a location where a planet has de-cloaked. Apparently, this planet, Al-Daea, is sort of an urban legend (spatial legend, perhaps?) not unlike Atlantis and the people on it are rumored to have Miraculous Technologies that everyone on the Enterprise is keen to have. The people from the planet immediately want to talk, and it turns out they want to swap the ship's children for technology from their home planet because they're all unable to have children anymore. When Picard and Troi refuse, the Al-Daeans kidnap some of the most photogenic of the ship's children anyway, and then use their ~*~Fancy~*~ technology to zap the Enterprise far, far away, with threats of re-cloaking, and thus stealing the children FOREVER.
This was my first problem with the plot. Since the Al-Daeans can't exactly drive their planet somewhere else, why does it matter where the Enterprise is in relation to it? Couldn't Picard call another ship for back up and just give them the location of the planet? My second problem came as Picard and Crusher told the parents of the kidnapped, photogenic children that they'd accepted this as a risk of space travel/Star Fleet service. Uhm, WHAT? Seriously? That's in the Star Fleet employment contract? ("Section III, Paragraph 4, Subsection Alpha, Progeny of Star Fleet employee are subject, but not limited to, unspecified space illness(-es), kidnapping, possession, etc.") Because my dreams of joining Star Fleet are pretty much crushed now. Oh, and speaking of crush, Crusher is her usual badass self throughout this entire episode. I kept looking at her face and thinking of "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J.
Anyway, there are several montages that show the Al-Daeans as well-meaning but pretty foolish people, and Crusher quickly susses out what's actually happening with them. Thanks to a hunger strike organized by Wesley, everyone gets to go home, no harm done. One of the photogenic kids leaves behind a statue of a dolphin he made, and that's nice. All in all, I thought there was a lot of squandered potential here, a Children of Men-esque story that could have been very poignant if the people of Al-Daea hadn't turned out to be such clueless jerks.
And from one group of clueless jerks to another, in "Home Soil," the Enterprise arrives at a planet that's being terra-formed, where some nebulous reports of trouble have stalled production. Moments after a crew from Enterprise beams down, one of the engineers on the planet is attacked/murdered by a laser (!!!) which then attacks Data. In investigating what happened, Data and Georgi find little metallic particles that emit light in some of pattern and bring them back to the Enterprise, where it's determined that the lights are a life form that was already on the planet and was rebelling against the terra-formers. The head terra-former dude had an inkling but let the project go on anyway. (Way to go there, jerk.) Once the metallic particles replicate and interface with the computer, they're able to talk, and they demand that the "ugly bags of mostly water" leave them in peace so they can go back to the planet below. It also has a very specific demand that Star Fleet wait three centuries to return. Uhm, OK. They're beamed down, and presumably, the terraforming project is shuttered and moved somewhere else.
There was one utterly hilarious line in this entire episode that was so ridiculous that I had to rewind and make sure I'd transcripted it word for word. One of the terraformers is a woman who reminds me a lot of Slartibartfast from HHGttG. (She waxes poetic about creating continents and land masses and I kept expecting her to inform Data or Riker that she's won an award for Norway.) In assessing the relative jerkitude of each of the terraformers, Picard asks Troi about this woman's mental disposition, to which Troi replies, "Terraformers are often obsessive... she is possessed of a highly abstracted reality." I want that last sentence on a t-shirt. Seriously. It was so completely ridiculous, and uttered with a sincerity unequalled in the rest of the episode. That's gonna be my go-to excuse from now on, for EVERYTHING. ("Sorry, Dentist, I can't attend this appointment because I'm possessed of a highly abstracted reality." "What's that, Jury Duty? Nope, can't do it, highly abstracted reality.") Thumbs up for that part!
Signs that it's THE FUTURE: Terra-forming a planet! The future, ladies and gentlemen! If science fiction has taught us nothing else, it's that nothing could possibly go wrong there!
Signs that it's NOT THE FUTURE: Uhm... there's still a necessity for HR and legal, both of which are sorely needed in both of these episodes. This week on Star Fleet: Law and Order, Contract Law! Existentialist debate! Kidnapping and extortion!