Thu
Oct 13 2011 1:00pm
Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Up the Long Ladder”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Up the Long Ladder”“Up the Long Ladder”
Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 2, Episode 18
Production episode 40272-144
Original air date: May 22, 1989
Stardate: 42823.2

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is given custody of a distress call that a starbase picked up. It took the starbase hours to figure out that it is a centuries-old S.O.S. that was in use by the European Hegemony in the twenty-second century. But there’s no record of an Earth ship in the Ficus Sector, where the signal’s coming from. The time frame was sufficiently chaotic, following World War III, that the lack of records isn’t surprising, but Data suggests looking for a manifest, which turns up the S.S. Mariposa, which fits the bill. Said manifest includes some incredibly sophisticated technology for the time, as well as a great deal of farming equipment and livestock.

The ship traces the signal to a system with a habitable planet, but which also has nasty solar flare activity — which explains the distress call. There are about two hundred colonists — as well as a considerable number of animals. These are the Bringloidi, who have no technology beyond the radio they used to send the S.O.S., but live an entirely rustic existence that was considered a throwback in their own time (and in ours).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Up the Long Ladder”

As they settle in, the colony leader, Danilo Odell, asks Picard if they ever in their travels heard from the other colony.

Assuming that that was where all the high tech stuff went, they find another Class-M planet only half a light-year from the Bringloidi colony, only to discover a colony of humans. They had thought Earth had suffered some catastrophe when nobody checked on them, when the simple truth was that they were lost in the bureaucracy.

It turns out their arrival was fortuitous. The S.S. Mariposa was damaged upon arrival, and only five people survived. Three men and two women weren’t enough to form a viable gene pool, so they turned to cloning. Unfortunately, after three hundred years, the clones are suffering from replicative fading — subtle errors that creep in when you’re making a copy of a copy. Apparently clones are analog and not digital.

The crew refuse to offer tissue samples so that the Mariposans can create new clones. Riker is particularly effusive on the subject of his refusal. The Mariposans try to steal tissue samples from Enterprise crew, but that is discovered and stopped immediately.

Pulaski points out that even if they did clone Enterprise personnel, it would just delay the inevitable. What they need, she says, is breeding stock.

Everyone stops dead: “The Bringloidi,” Picard says, and suddenly they have a solution both to the Mariposan problem and to getting all this stuff off the ship.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Apparently, the cells lining the walls of the stomach are the best ones to use for cloning. For those of you planning to raise a clone army out of your basement lab.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi tells Picard that Prime Minister Granger of Mariposa is hiding something. But she can’t say what, so her advice really just serves to create artificial suspense.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf suffers from Rop’ngor, a childhood ailment. In exchange for Pulaski keeping the specifics of this rather embarrassing illness a secret, Worf performs a Klingon tea ceremony for her — though it requires her to take an antidote, as the tea is poisonous to humans.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Up the Long Ladder”

Later, Worf gets to intimidate Odell (“I can’t imagine security is much of a problem for you”), provide Odell with booze (“If you wish, it can be real alcohol, with all the deleterious effects intact”), and fail to intimidate Brenna (“She is very much like a Klingon woman”).

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data is the one who thinks of checking the manifest, and who also cites a contemporary “back to nature” movement led by someone named Liam Deegan that was likely the inspiration for the Bringloidi’s way of life. He also tells Picard, rather uselessly, that mariposa means “butterfly.”

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Worf tells Pulaski that it is among the Klingons that love poetry achieves its finest flower during the tea ceremony, prompting her to ask him to quote some of it.

Riker and Brenna totally hit all over each other and are knocking boots within an hour of meeting each other. (Or, rather, “washing feet,” which seems to be the euphemism among the Bringloidi.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Up the Long Ladder”

Both members of the Odell family salivate at the idea of having multiple partners in order to re-seed the Mairposans.

I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: Busy week for Pulaski. She gets to hide Worf’s embarrassing illness, have a Klingon tea ceremony, suggests sending the Bringloidi kids to the ship’s school, surreptitiously examines the Mariposans to discover they’re clones (which is probably unethical), and helps Picard broker the deal between the Bringloidi and Mariposans.

Welcome Aboard: Rosalyn Landor and Barrie Ingham are walking, talking clichés as the Odells, but they’re actually very entertaining with superb comic timing, for all that their characters grate. Jon de Vries is mostly awful as the various Grangers.

I Believe I Said That: “What the hell was that thing?”

“Automated fire system. A forcefield contains the flame until the remaining oxygen has been consumed.”

“Ah, yeah. What — what if I’d been under that thing?”

“You would have been standing in the fire.”

“Yeah, well, leaving that aside for the moment, what would have happened to me?”

“You would have suffocated and died.”

“Sweet mercy…”

Odell asking about the shipboard fire-suppression systems, and Worf answering.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Up the Long Ladder”

Trivial Matters: This episode would be followed up on in the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers eBook Out of the Cocoon by William Leisner (reprinted in the eponymous trade paperback), where the U.S.S. da Vinci goes to Mariposa eleven years later to find that the melding of two cultures hasn’t gone as smoothly as Picard had hoped.

The episode was initially titled “Send in the Clones,” which would’ve been a much better title. The line is used by Odell in the episode.

Writer Snodgrass’s original notion was to do an immigration riff, and it was co-executive producer Maurice Hurley — an Irish-American who leads the St. Patrick Day Parade — who suggested they be agrarian Irish people.

The Mariposa launched during the rough timeframe that Star Trek: Enterprise would take place in, which was established as a period of intense colonization.

Make it So: “I must be out of my mind.” It’s remarkable that an episode with this pedigree — the writer responsible for “The Measure of a Man,” the best director in the TNG slate of regulars, not to mention a guest star of Barrie Ingham’s calibre — is such a total misfire. The episode has two major shifts in tone, from the artificial suspense of Worf fainting on the bridge, which turns out to be utterly meaningless, switching to the low comedy of the Bringloidi, switching to the cheap drama of the Mariposans, and none of it works particularly well.

The Bringloidi are the worst Irish stereotypes, and the Mariposans are even worse — they’re boring.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Up the Long Ladder”

Having said all that, I will give the episode this — it’s funny. The gags are cheap, yes, but you watch this episode and you laugh. Not only the lines I quotes above, but so many others (“I have a daughter.” “Felicitations.”) are just out-and-out funny.

But the laughter does catch in your throat when you realize just how dumb it is.

 

Warp factor rating: 4


Keith R.A. DeCandido has short stories out in the anthologies Liar Liar, More Tales of Zorro, and Tales from the House Band. His most recent novels are Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his podcasts, Dead Kitchen Radio, The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.

33 comments
Sorcha O
1. sushisushi
This one looks like it's made up of such a metric tonload of groanworthy tropes, that I'm intensely glad I never clapped eyes on it (says the urban Dubliner). Talk about getting the 19th century agricultural cliches out for an airing - I'm surprised there wasn't any brawlin', just to complete the list.

And for what it's worth, Bringloidi is an only slightly mangled version of the Irish word for dream or vision, brionglóid.
Seryddwr
2. Seryddwr
Utter crud; 4 out of 10 seems generous. This episode is, however, Pulaski's finest hour - she gets lots of choice lines.
Seryddwr
3. Pendard
You gave this episode a 4 because it was funny, when "The Naked Now" only got a 2 and "Haven" got a 3??? Snodgrass paid you off, right? :-)
Seryddwr
4. Lsana
I always found this episode rather offensive, especially the ending. There doesn't seem to be any logical reason to put these two cultures together except for the fact that they both appear in the same episode and thus merging them gives us the best chance of getting them out of Picard's hair in 60 minutes minus time for commercials. Given all the planets in the Federation, there is really no agricultural planet where they can settle the Bringloidi and allow them to continue the lifestyle that they chose? And no biotech experts who might find a way to help the Mariposans without forcing them to give up their culture?

Oh, and let's not forget about Pulaski and Riker murdering their clones. I get that they're upset about their DNA being stolen, I would be too, but I'd be even less thrilled about murdering my siblings/children.

Blech.
Seryddwr
5. DRickard
Gods below, this one was aweful...
Lsana @ 4 is right: Riker and Pulaski are murderers, which no-one in universe seems to notice or care about. Not to mention the standard Hollywood assumption that cloning means instantaneous Xeroxing of people.
The less said about the "Brigadoon IN SPACE!" other colony, the better...
Seryddwr
6. C. Wildeman
Really? I like this episode! Granted, it's not making any of my Top Star Trek lists, but its funny. Sure, the Odells are walking, talking stereotypes, but Barrie Ingham and Rosalyn Landor play it to a tee, and play off each other quite well. Also, Rosalyn Landor is easy on the eyes.
This episode may have it's faults (and I acknowledge them), but I still enjoy it each time I see it.
Seryddwr
8. Idran
@4: Funny you mention that, since that's a big part of the SCE story krad mentioned: that it seemed like Picard made a bad decision just to get the Bringlodi off his ship as fast as possible, and obviously it didn't turn out as well as anyone hoped.
Seryddwr
9. Anony
This episode's footwashing scene and Dauphin's constant references to Thalian chocolate mousse left thorns of annoyance in my brain that never came out.
Seryddwr
10. StrongDreams
I always remembers season 1 as weak but I forgot how many groaners there were in season 2.
Daniel Goss
11. Beren
Idunno, I had a bit of a 'fridge brilliance' (I refuse to link to TV tropes -- go there at your own risk) moment with this episode regarding the agrarian Irish group. Of course they're going to be stereotypes. It's been so long since the original group existed that, when these people decided to build their culture based on a 'throwback' way of life they are not going to create their culture based on what it was actually like, but on an idealized vision of what they think it would have been like. It's as if a bunch of Ren Faire attendees decided to build a society based on those days -- do you think that culture that they created would be an accurate representation of medieval times? Of course not!

Not saying that the episode is actually good, but . . . just had to share that when it hit me.

-Beren
Bob Weld
12. WaitingShadows
I am going to mesh two of my favorite shows together here, and sadly TNG doesn't seem to measure up. In this episode, Pulaski mentions that she and Riker are missing "epithelial" (or something?) cells. She then mentions that epithelial cells are the cells lining the wall of the stomach. I also watch CSI, which frequently mentions epithelial cells. However, CSI identifies them as sluffed off skin cells. Unfortunately, I am no biologist, but I am inclined to believe CSI over TNG. Is there anyone who can actually confirm exactly what epithelial cells are? Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
Daniel Goss
13. Beren
from http://www.bio.davidson.edu/people/kabernd/BerndCV/Lab/EpithelialInfoWeb/index.html
"Epithelia are formed of cells that line the cavities in the body and also cover flat surfaces. Of the four major tissue types found in the human body (Figure 1), epithelial cells are by far the most prolific."
So the answer is . . . both? Idunno, I know very little about medical stuff. Seems to be saying that it's the stuff that lines . . . everything. On the inside and the outside.

-Beren
Bob Weld
14. WaitingShadows
@13 - Thanks a lot :) I REALLY appreciate being able to think that TNG wasn't careless or mistaken.
Seryddwr
15. Cradok
Despite being Irish, I've always loved the Bringloidí. Maybe it's the self awareness of the script, maybe it's the over the top acting, I don't know.
Seryddwr
16. StrongDreams
Epithelial cells are found in both places; however, the idea that one could detect a few missing cells is fairly ludicrous. The lining of the digestive system is in a state of constant regeneration (it is subjected to a rather harsh environment after all) so the idea that one could tell that a few cells were stolen out of millions that die and are replaced every day is fairly silly. (Not as bad as the airborne T cell that turns Barclay into a spider, but bad enough.) If ST routinely abuses physics first, it abuses medicine and biology second.
Seryddwr
17. Rory O'Brien
This is not just a bad episode, but I actually find it racist. If the brigiloidi were shuckin' and jivin' feets-don-fail-me-now hey massa figures, people wouldn't be having any of it. And they *are* that level of crudely-drawn stereotype.

This episode is the reason that I avoid anything Snodgrass is involved in.

I'm sure if you ask her, she'd assure you that it's okay, some of her best friends are Irish ....
Justin Devlin
20. EnsignJayburd
It would be later established by Constable Odo on DS9 that "killing your own clone is still murder." Leastways, according to Bajoran law it is. In the Federation apparently it's perfectly OK.
Seryddwr
21. CNash
DRickard: the colony in DS9's "Meridian", which appears only once every sixty years, could more accurately be called "Brigadoon IN SPACE". This one isn't quite the same thing.
Seryddwr
22. D. Bent
No one mentions what I consider one of the funnier scenes in which Picard just loses it and starts laughing. Riker calls him on it and Picard says something to the effect of bowing to the invetiable or the absurd. Cracks me up every time.
Seryddwr
23. silhouettepoms
ok it may not be scientifically accurate, or politically correct but this one always has me laughing and for that reason if I see it on, i will always stop and watch!! LOL
Seryddwr
24. Electone
Just like bowing to the absurd, occasionally one has to just put aside pre-conceieved notions and just enjoy the episode for what it is: a funny romp. And although I hate beating a dead horse, Ron Jones' score is fantastic. The individual themes for the Bringloidi and Riker & Brenna are things that Jay Chattaway could only dream of composing.
Seryddwr
25. Laurence
Just watched this one again; had me laughing out loud again. Excellent episode.

Is it racist? Of course it isn't! Though it could show how a form of racism - as shown by the Mariposans and to a lesser extent the Bringloidi - can be overcome for the benefit of all.

Anti-pro-life? Of course it isn't! The reaction of Riker and Pulaski to the clones is perfectly reasonable and understandable. Just because you wouldn't do it isn't a reason to complain.

It's a story, for crying out loud! People really need to get over themselves.
Seryddwr
26. Pola
Note to Americans: please don't try to 'do' Irish or British. The resulting car-crash is intensely painful to watch to those of us who are actually from these places.
Seryddwr
27. Bone
Lets change the story slightly: Imagine Riker finding out that he has a twin that was kept secret from him for whatever reason. What would his natural reaction be? Well of course kill him, because he is and wants to stay unique. And everyone is perfecty fine with that?

This episode really bothered the hell out of me.
Seryddwr
28. Valhallahan
I had to look up this godawful episode after catching it on TV the other day. It's genuinely offensively bad. I'd heard of it but luckily somehow missed it till now.

I couldn't stand to watch the whole thing but I'd like to know why teleportation accident 'Thomas' Riker gets to live but not a clone.

Also, I'd love to know what Colm Meaney thought of it.
Melissa Bartell
29. MissMeliss
I didn't start reading the re-watches until sometime in 2012, which is why this comment is years after the fact, but the foot washing thing makes me grin, as pretty much any Biblical scholar can tell you that 'foot' is a commonly-used euphemism for (male) genitalia in that Book. Not always, of course, but it makes Bible-as-Literature courses really interesting.
Seryddwr
30. Jannisar
Kill the clones ! keel zem, zeel zem all!
Matthew Clark
31. clarkbhm
My favorite is when Worf serves up a Klingon drink from the replicator. I love the look on his face!
Seryddwr
32. anthonyholl
I know it's only a story, but when you're a star trek fan, you come to expect certain behaviour, and the enethical MURDER of the clones is just so totally absurd, even in our current time period of 2013, let alone in the tng time line where they are supposedly much more enlightened and have eliminated poverty, disease, corruption etc.
Now we have seen many many examples in star trek where killing a clone or duplicate was unethical, I could list dozens of examples but most important is when Riker was duplicated and yet his clone was allowed to live (the same character who murdered his clone in up the long ladder)
Also let's not forget the flawed concept of cloning.. since when does a clone of a clone of a clone "develop subtle flaws" if the clone is copied exact each clone will be identical. Also if you take a dna sample of the or original human, each subsequent clone will only be one step removed from the orginal, not the clone of a clone of a clone, with the stored dna of the original you never need to take fresh samples from each new generation of clones, only from the original !

let's not also forget the atrocious imitation of the irish... Americans always badly portray irish british or pretty much any foreign (to them) culture.
Seryddwr
33. Exile
@32 Here is what I assume about the clone and replicate fade. In order to make clones they need actual cells with DNA in order to make stems cells. This could also mean they lack the technology to store DNA as computer information and replicate the cells to produce clones from computer information. They might need actual cells to splice to stem cells in order to make clones. DNA degrades over time and the amount of deterioration after a period of time could be significant enough that new clones using the original cells is impossible.

Now this would mean they take cells from a clone to make future clones, but this present another problem. It is suspected that telomeres are one of the possibilities that causes aging in people, yet each time a cell divides telomeres get shorter and shorter. So original person would have the longest life span, while first generation of clones will have a shorter life span then once the first set of clone cells become unusable for production then second generation of clones would be produced would have even shorter life spans. This process of shorter and shorter lifespan would continue. Over 300 years this could very will result in the situation of the Mariposans now face.
Seryddwr
34. Matt_in_Boston
Nothing about the whole "Force the Mariposans to have sex with the Bringloidi" "solution" to this week's contrivance? When your plot is resolved by having one group of people rape another, I think something has gone seriously wrong with your show.
Seryddwr
35. Adara
Thank you Matt_in_Boston! You took the words out of my mouth. That saves me from that particular rant...

I'm hearing a lot of false comparisons to the clone killing scene. The clones were only partially formed and had never experienced consciousness, so what Riker and Pulaski did was more akin to abortion.

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