**** (4 stars out of 5)
Children's programming, even in the 24th Century, can be deeply heartfelt, engaging, and instructive.
Say, for example, the Hasbro company had an army of toxic plastic horses they needed to push on little girls, who, BY LAW, love horses. Why not build a magical cartoon world and populate it with adorable tiny equines that learn lessons on how to be better friends each week? Would that not be a useful thing to learn, even for crusty old men with hearts made of flint and bitterness?
Perhaps. But a crusty old man with a heart of flint and bitterness might find the teasing difficult to endure. And does he really HAVE to be known as a Brony? Well, yes. Yes, he does.
Back on topic, holodecks aren't just for tommy-guns and tawdry hook-ups. They are full of delightful fantasies for children, too. The Adventures of Flotter T. Water and his elemental chums in the enchanted forest are well-known to former kids Captain Janeway, Ensign Kim, and Ensign Wildman (Picard probably not so much. His dad didn't even approve of replicators, as you'll recall, so Jean-Luc no doubt spent his youth in the ACTUAL outdoors, poor soul). And now Wildman's daughter Naomi learns and grows in the holo-forest, while Neelix holds back the distressing news that her mom may not have survived the latest ubiquitous shuttle crash.
Fiercely protecting Naomi from her worst fears is how Neelix deals. And when the story of the forest fire prompts the memory of his own losses, it is the bravery of the little girl that prevails.
"Once Upon a Time" it seemed there were lessons in so-called kid's stuff that will always matter. Such as: that friendship is magic.