Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S2E18 "Up the Long Ladder"

Series:Star Trek: The Next Generation
Episode: Season 2, Episode 18
Title: Up The Long Ladder
Previous: Samaritan Snare
Next: Manhunt
Recapper: Vengeance Karl

Picard calls Riker into his ready room and plays a beacon that’s been transmitting from deep in space for a month. They agree that it sounds like an SOS code, but it’s a Terran code that hasn’t been used in centuries. Upon leaving the ready room, Picard finds Worf collapsed, and Data calling for Doctor Pulaski. But don’t worry; this cliffhanger is irrelevant to the episode’s plot. Worf just has the Klingon measles, and Pulaski gets him in shape in no time.

The ship discovers the planet where the beacon came from, and finds that its sun is undergoing ominous solar flares. It’s quickly decided that they must evacuate the planet, but they aren’t quite prepared for the inhabitants’ insistence on bringing their livestock along. The colonists, called the Bringloidians, have given up much of their technology and are now farmers that somehow fit every Irish offensive stereotype in the book despite having left Earth centuries ago. This is especially true of their cheerful, folksy leader, Danilo O’Dell. Picard sets the colonists up in one of the cargo holds, which they quickly turn into a makeshift farm, with chicken coops and homemade stills in every corner and straw all over the floor. The silliness of the situation even gets a laugh out of Picard, although Riker is too busy flirting with O’Dell’s daughter Brenna to appreciate it. But either way, the colonists are safely aboard and it’s a short trip to the nearest starbase, so everything seems to be going swell, until O’Dell asks if Picard has heard anything from the other colony.

They find the second colony easily enough and make contact with its prime minister, Wilson Granger, who invites them down for a visit, but Troi cautions that there’s something he’s not telling them. Riker, Worf, and Pulaski beam down to the colony, which is much more technologically advanced than the Bringloidian society, and they notice quickly that everyone they encounter looks alike. Pulaski guesses easily enough that they entire population is made up of clones, and Granger confirms it. He explains that only five of the original colonists survived, and cloning was the only way for the colony to continue, but they are deteriorating with each generation, which means they need new genes to introduce into the gene pool in order to survive. Granger asks for tissue samples from the Enterprise crew to create new clones from, but Riker shoots the idea down with prejudice. He says people preserve their legacy by having children, not by cloning themselves, which is pretty much just rubbing salt in the wound since the entire reason these guys need help is because they can’t do that. Picard decides for everyone on the ship that they all agree with Riker, but he does order a repair crew down to the planet to fix their equipment. Somehow, it doesn’t occur to him that he’s almost begging for the colonists to kidnap them and clone them without their consent. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as they get Riker and Pulaski alone, that’s exactly what they do.

The two of them return to the Enterprise with no memory of what happened, but they piece it together when Geordi asks them where they disappeared to, claiming that he could tell the clones were lying about their whereabouts with his visor (a talent never mentioned before or since). They beam back to the lab and destroy their clones, unconcerned with the fact that it’s technically murder, but it does get them thinking that maybe they should do more for these guys than just wishing them luck. Pulaski far too belatedly points out that even adding new clones to the mix wouldn’t save them for long; what they really need is to breed with other humans. And as it happens the Enterprise has a whole cargo bay full of humans to offer them.

Now, they do at least address how unreasonable it is to decide other people’s breeding choices for them, but after a session of negotiations Picard does manage to convince both parties that it’s in their best interests. Pulaski tells them that the best way to get the gene pool to a sustainable size is for each female to breed with three different males, which strikes O’Dell just fine, and even his daughter warms to the idea once she takes a shine to Prime Minister Granger.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Biology: Cloning Riker wouldn't make an exact copy of him, only a person with identical physical traits.
    • Even with the two colonies combined the population is too small to be genetically viable. The Bringloidian colony's is explicitly stated to be 223 (plus two who are still in the womb). While the Mariposans are more numerous in terms of individuals, genetically speaking there are only five of them. Most estimates put the minimum starting numbers for a permanent population in the thousands.
      • If you control breeding to a ridiculous level then you can actually make do with fifty according to some studies. However, really, Picard's solution will probably just make things easier until the merged culture can rejoin the galactic community. They don't need to be permanently this way, just readjusted to how the rest of the Federation functions and past their current crisis.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Brenna Odell, when she is advancing on Riker.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The name of the colony, Bringloidi, sounds like the Irish Gaelic word for dreams, "brionglóidí." Appropriate for a utopian space colony originally founded by an Irishman.
  • Clone Degeneration: The Mariposans have this problem, as a civilization of clones made from previous generations of clones. Genetically-speaking there are only five of them.
  • Expendable Clone: How Riker and Pulaski view their clones, created without their consent.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: Something else the Mariposans have to dread, given that they are a technologically advanced civilization about to be overrun by an influx of Space Amish. Prime Minister Granger looks rather mortified upon seeing the Bringloidi encampment in the Enterprise cargo bay.
  • Oireland: Even though the Bringloidians left the Earth in the 22nd century, and have been living on their new planet for a couple of hundred years, their appearance, language, and behaviour fits the 20th century stereotype of the rural Irish. This is somewhat justified, since the Bringloidians are the descendants of a movement that set out to build a Space Amish utopia on another planet, though it remains unclear why the said utopia is based on historical Irish clichés.
  • Moral Myopia: Cloning someone without their consent is a huge crime. Forcing a group of traditional monogamous rural people and another group physically repulsed at the idea of sex, neither of which you have any legal authority over, to form a new polygamous culture by threatening to steal the technology they depend on to survive is apparently a laudable deed.
    • Also, killing a potentially sentient being because it had been done without your concept. Albeit, plenty of people would agree with the closest real-world equivalent being the choice of the DNA donors.
  • Polyamory: The solution proposed to get rid of the genetic problems the locals are going to run into.
  • Space Amish: the Bringloidi.
  • Spit Shake: How the Bringloidi and the Mariposans seal their merger.
  • Worf Had the Flu: He really did, even though it didn't affect the plot.