The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Up the Long Ladder

When the Enterprise identifies a distress call from a lost Earth ship, they find a colony threatened by solar flares. This colony was an attempt to move to a simpler way of life, and their agrarian lifestyle is a shock to the Enterprise crew. But then a second colony is discovered – one in which every inhabitant is a clone of just five people. Can the Enterprise solve the problems of both colonies?

This is a bit of a disjointed episode. After some faffing about trying to trace the distress call and the ship it came from (which feels like a lot of palaver surrounding a couple of Google searches), we spend half our time with a faux-Irish colony causing havoc aboard ship, before suddenly shifting tacks. The second part read almost like “someone had a good idea about exploring the long term effects of cloning”, before everything comes together in a “let’s just have the two colonies interbreed” ending that could hardly have been more obvious.

Character moments

  • Retrospectively, Riker has a reputation as a bit of a ladies’ man, but it’s actually been a while since he got it on with anyone.
  • Brenna Odell, the woman who conquers Riker, is a strong character, and it’s almost a shame she doesn’t stay on board – away from her irritating father and fellow colonists, she could really come into her own.
  • Pulaski is actually not objectionable in this episode – she covers for Worf when he doesn’t want the bridge crew to know he was suffering from the Klingon equivalent of measles, and later participates in the Klingon tea ceremony with him.

Other observations

  • The Klingon tea ceremony involves two warriors drinking tea together as a reminder that both death and drinking the tea are an experience best shared. The tea is poisonous to humans and none too pleasant to Klingons, but Pulaski is able to partake by first injecting herself with an antidote.
  • How does Pulaski know about the Klingon tea ceremony? It seems awfully easy for outsiders to find out about these secret and sacred Klingon rituals.
  • The Enterprise transports all sorts of delegates, and even had live animals on board before for the Anticans to eat – and yet they don’t seem to have any diversity of provision for guest accommodation.
  • The Bringloidi claim they need their animals in order to maintain their lifestyle, which is fair enough, except that there don’t seem to be enough animals for a sustainable population. Maybe there’s a second cargo bay just filled with extra livestock.
  • Why did Pulaski have to tell Picard what was wrong with Worf anyway? Just cite doctor-patient confidentiality and refuse to say anything.
  • Geordi can apparently use his VISOR to tell when people are lying. Move over, Troi, your powers are no longer needed.
  • The Mariposans are able grow clones from scratch in a matter of hours, and they are grown to adulthood in a machine instead of being carried to term by a human. It’s arguable whether Riker and Pulaski’s clones are alive enough at the point they are phasered for it to constitute murder.
  • Riker is keen for the Enterprise crew to have control over their own bodies and how they are used – although no one cared much about this in The Child. Then, rather uncomfortably, a group of predominantly men get together to decree that the women of the combined colony must have three children by three different husbands if the colony is to survive.
  • Picard says Brenna can choose not to participate in the broodfest of the combined colony, but then basically emotionally manipulates her into doing so anyway.
  • The Enterprise has automatic fire suppression forcefields, which is a good thing in space, but which don’t stop Riker from cooking (maybe he was using an induction hob), or the romantic candlelit events that I’m sure occur in some episodes.
  • The replicator can produce both synthehol – all the fun of alcohol without the unpleasant side effects – and real alcohol.
  • In the early 22nd century, the European Hegemony was precursor to a United Earth.
  • Riker is able to identify a distress call in moments, and then Data is able to figure out a way to Google for it, whilst Starfleet Research take hours just to figure out what it is. And it’s even a standard distress call that’s in the computer banks!
  • Apparently the Enterprise is self-cleaning, which is great, but how does it differentiate between actual rubbish and “something I left on my desk but planned to pick up later”?

Summary – Up the Long Ladder: An Englishman, an Irishman and a clone walked into a briefing room…

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