Picard calls Riker into his ready room and plays a beacon thats been transmitting from deep in space for a month. They agree that it sounds like an SOS code, but its a Terran code that hasnt been used in centuries. Upon leaving the ready room, Picard finds Worf collapsed, and Data calling for Doctor Pulaski. But dont worry; this cliffhanger is irrelevant to the episodes plot. Worf just has the Klingon measles, and Pulaski gets him in shape in no time.
The crew discovers the planet where the beacon came from, and finds that its sun is undergoing ominous solar flares. Its quickly decided that they must evacuate the planet, but they arent quite prepared for the inhabitants insistence on bringing their livestock along. The colonists, called the Bringloidi, have given up much of their technology and are now farmers who somehow fit every offensive Irish stereotype in the book despite having left Earth centuries ago. This is especially true of their cheerful, folksy leader, Danilo ODell. 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 ODells daughter Brenna to appreciate it. But either way, the colonists are safely aboard and its a short trip to the nearest starbase, so everything seems to be going swell, until ODell 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 theres something hes not telling them. Riker, Worf, and Pulaski beam down to the colony, which is much more technologically advanced than the Bringloidi society, and they notice quickly that everyone they encounter looks alike. Pulaski guesses easily enough that their 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 cant 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 doesnt occur to him that hes almost begging for the colonists to kidnap them and clone them without their consent. And wouldnt you know it, as soon as they get Riker and Pulaski alone, thats 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 its 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 wouldnt 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 peoples breeding choices for them, but after a session of negotiations Picard does manage to convince both parties that its 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 ODell just fine, and even his daughter warms to the idea once she takes a shine to Prime Minister Granger.
This episode contains examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Picard gets a good laugh out of the Space Amish being on his ship, even though Riker seems to think he'll find it annoying.
- Anachronism Stew: Lampshaded In-Universe re the Bringloidi, not just in their ancestors' time but especially on the Enterprise, and then among the Mariposans.
- 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 Bringloidi colony's numbers are 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, unless breeding is very strictly controlled.
- Bare Your Midriff: Brenna O'Dell, when she is advancing on Riker.
- Bilingual Bonus: The name of the colony, Bringloid, sounds like the Irish Gaelic word for dreams, "brionglóidí." Appropriate for a utopian space colony originally founded by an Irishman.
- Blatant Lies: Worf claims that Klingons do not faint — shortly after doing just that.
- Cloning Blues: The Enterprise crew barely conceal their discomfort around the Mariposans and Riker does not even do that, outright telling the Mariposan leader (who is of course himself a clone) that clones would "diminish [Riker] in a way I can't explain." Picard phrases things in less insulting terms but still makes it clear most Federation humans would find the Mariposans abhorrent.
- 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.
- Clucking Funny: A chicken flies out of the cargo bay, which pretty much spells out how this encounter is going to go down.
- Expendable Clone: How Riker and Pulaski view their clones, created without their consent.
- Gargle Blaster: Worf introduces the Bringloidi to a very potent Klingon potable.
- Halfway Plot Switch: Picard and crew have their hands full dealing with the Bringloidi when O'Dell asks about the other colony. This leads the Enterprise to the Mariposans and their problems.
- Living Lie Detector: Geordi's VISOR allows him to view heart rates and breathing patterns, by which he can tell when people are lying to him. As to how he was so easily taken in by the Pakleds in the previous episode, he claims that he's only trained himself to detect lies from humans.
- 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.
- 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 consent. Albeit, plenty of people would agree, with the closest real-world equivalent being the choice of the DNA donors.
- Oireland: Even though the Bringloidi 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, including Irish Travellers. This is somewhat justified, since the Bringloidi are the descendants of a movement that set out to build a Space Amish utopia on another planet, though it remains unclear why said utopia is based on historical Irish clichés.
- Old-Timey Ankle Taboo: In one scene, Riker is having a conversation with one of the women from the colony and she lifts up her skirt to show her ankles, indicating she wants a relationship with him.
- Polyamory: The solution proposed to get rid of the genetic problems the locals are going to run into—specifically, each woman needs to have children by three husbands.
- The list of deep space launches between 2123 and 2190 seen on Picard's desktop monitor includes references to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and Urusei Yatsura.
- The Bringloidi half of the plot is reminiscent of Operation Petticoat, with the crew dealing with an increasingly ludicrous situation aboard ship to the point where The Captain himself is forced to bow to the absurdity of it all.
- Space Amish: The Bringloidi are Space Rural Irish, complete with whiskey stills.
- Space Whale Aesop: Riker's killing of his not yet fully-developed clone was actually intended as a pro-choice message by writer Melinda Snodgrass and showrunner Maurice Hurley. However, the way it's handled—Riker casually kills the clone, later comments that he did it because "one Riker is unique," then the matter is never brought up again—completely obscures the intended message, and even with the necessary leaps in logic could actually be interpreted to mean that abortion should only be legal in the case of rape victims. It's an Aesop that has aged poorly, because pro-choice arguments thirty years on largely focus on the iniquity of requiring a woman to allow another creature to inhabit her living body against her will, and sometimes even claim that if pregnancy could be ended safely without harm to the fetus then that would be preferred. The idea that you should be able to destroy your own offspring, were it able to exist without harm to you, isn't a factor in the discussion.
- 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.