Star Trek 151: Up the Long Ladder

151. Up the Long Ladder

FORMULA: Unnatural Selection + Elaan of Troyius + The Outrageous Okona

WHY WE LIKE IT: The controversy around cloning is with us more today than when it was aired. Riker's line.

WHY WE DON'T: Offensive Irish stereotypes.

REVIEW: The ideas behind Up the Long Ladder have promise, but the execution... eeech. The episode concerns two colonies (great looking systems, by the way), dropped from the same seed ship, but who have developped along very different lines. In the end, they'll have to realize they need to reunite for both their sakes. Typical SF irony, but it's not a bad story structure. Furthermore, one of the societies is made up of the clones of only 5 people who are looking to clone the Enterprise crew to inject new DNA into their gene pool, a controversial subject today, and by the reactions of the crew, it seems humanity will reject this idea as fundamentally wrong. It's a one-sided debate, really, but the ideas are certainly worth thinking about.

But beyond that, I'm afraid Up the Long Ladder just doesn't work, and is even annoying. The more primitive Bringloidi are especially offensive Irish stereotypes, causing havoc on the ship with their ancient ways and more concerned with getting drunk than anything else. It's supposed to be funny, but it isn't. The O'Dell character is especially bad with his over-the-top accent, in particular when he makes those funny faces after drinking Worf's powerful cocktail. Nothing funny about it (or about his "send in the clones" line at the end). The Irish jig music in the background is equally condescending. Brenna O'Dell is a stronger character, but is reduced to manhunting and/or manhating, as if she couldn't make up her mind. A highlight of her scenes with Riker remains his pick-up line. To "What are you staring at, never seen a woman before?" he answers: "I thought I had." Oh, that Riker.

The Mariposans aren't as silly, but they are very badly written too. I'm sure there are synonyms that could have been used for "repugnant", or is their vocabulary cloned as well? They steal some DNA, the clones get destroyed (how are these clones educated if they're created full-grown?), it's all pretty pointless in the end. The final solution is serendipitous and seems forced on all concerned by the Enterprise crew. Not as elegant as the show's creators would have us believe, I'm afraid.

There's also an odd little subplot about Worf getting the Klingon measles and then sharing poisonous tea with Pulaski. Intriguing, but since it doesn't figure again... padding, anyone?

LESSON: Klingons do not feint. (Must be what he meant, because they obviously do faint.)

REWATCHABILITY - Low: Tries to be light-hearted and humorous, but falls flat on its face. Not one to make copies of and pass around to your friends.


Anonymous said...

The English language cannot contain my hatred for this episode. I despise it with the sort of burning passion which really should be reserved for something more serious than a TNG episode. The whole 'Riker and Pulaski go clone-murdering' scene made me not watch TNG for a year and a half after that (I came back just in time for Best of Both Worlds...)


--John Biles

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Seconded. Besides making Riker a murderer, and being headache-inducing, this episode is bone-stupid. And a personal quibble at the end; either the characters, or the writers, are mathematical and statistical idiots. When it's stated that each woman will need to take three husbands, the brigloidi leader immediately goes to pick out his three WIVES. It doesn't work that way, nitwits! It's 3 males to one female, not three females to one male! And let's not forget Troi's absurd leap of logic to the most illogical conclusion based on a single word from Picard when proposing this 'solution'- makes Adaw-West-Batman's solving of the Riddler's riddles look positively sane. I LOATHE this episode most of any in TNG- yes, even more than Shades of Grey.


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