Following faint energy signals like a trail of bread crumbs, the Enterprise ends up in the Epsilon Minos system. Riker is excited because this is the area where the mythical world of Aldea is located, an advanced civilization rumored to be centuries old, peaceful, self-contained, and technically sophisticated, where the inhabitants devote themselves to art. What luck, then, that they end up parked just outside of the orbit of this legendary planet and lines of communication open up. Good luck turns to bad when the Aldeans kidnap a bunch of children from the Enterprise and try to pay off the parents by giving them advanced technology. Turns out the Aldeans are impotent and dying off, and need a new generation of children to help repopulate the planet. They try to be good surrogate parents, opening up the kids to their artistic potential, but that doesn't placate the birth parents. "When the Bough Breaks" capitalizes on a natural mistrust of artist colonies, combined with a fear of forced adoption. --Andy Spletzer
The Enterprise accidentally discovers Aldea, a utopian world hidden behind a sophisticated shielding device. After initial contact is made, tragedy strikes when several children disappear from the Enterprise, Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) among them.
The crew is shocked when the Aldeans reveal that they are responsible for this heinous crime. Having lost the ability to reproduce, the Aldeans need the children to perpetuate their dying race.
As Picard (Patrick Stewart) struggles to find a method of penetrating the planet's shield, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) discovers the Aldeans suffer from radiation poisoning, which is slowly destroying the planet's atmosphere. Can the starship crew rescue its children from a dying planet?