STAR TREK REWIND: “Up The Long Ladder”

“Send in the clones.”

If there are two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that fans get positively stupid about, they are “Code of Honor” from season one, and “Up The Long Ladder” from season two. There are, of course, the Lwaxana Troi episodes, with the exception of “Half a Life” and “Dark Page,” but that’s because she’s a traditionally hated character in the Star Trek community. With the former episodes, the hatred comes down to silly components of inferred racism and “stereotypical” behaviors which, in observance, say more about the racism of typical viewers.

“Up The Long Ladder” continues this unsettling and destructive tradition. I don’t know where people get these ideas, but it seems they selectively don’t understand the dynamics of science fiction. It’s a bit like blaming all Germans for the events of “Patterns of Force,” a story that takes place on a planet modeled after Nazi Germany, or perhaps that Southern racists and slave-owners are to blame for the strife on the planet Cheron from “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” In “Code of Honor,” viewers saw the specter of racism in the physical depiction of characters that were black.

In this episode, it’s the Irish (whatever that means) that appear to be the target, but that’s only one half of the story. It seems the Enterprise picks up a distress call from a ship launched a couple hundred years before called Mariposa (Spanish for “butterfly”). The ship’s compliment consisted of luddites called the Bringloidi who craved an escape from technology, as well as a group of scientists. After the ship crashed, the crew splintered off in two directions. The scientists started dying off from radiation poisoning and had to resort to cloning to survive.

The Bringloidi, made up of hardy Irish stock, survived and were fruitful. I don’t know how or why these depictions are considered broad stereotypes since we only get two of them; Danilo Odell and his daughter, Brenna. They both look and sound Irish. The rest of the Bringloidi are made of congenial farmers, complete with a hilarious assortment of animals. Brenna is quickly shown to be the true leader of the Bringloidi colony, while Danilo is just a jovial drunk. Is this what offends viewers? Indeed, Danilo is the only character to make any reference to being Irish when he addresses O’Brien (before offering him a drink of his whiskey), and it’s not exactly a case for the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Civil Liberties Union.

Neither was “Code of Honor,” but it’s become embarrassingly fashionable to hate and rag on these episodes. Writer Melinda M. Snodgrass intended for the episode to be a commentary about U.S. immigration policies, and proud Irishman producer Maurice Hurley backed the story’s development. Perhaps the Irish have a sense of humor about themselves. We’ll never know since it seems humor has been outlawed in 2022. My issue is if the actors had such a hard time making these episodes (which they now claim in our “enlightened” future), why didn’t they demand changes? “Up The Long Ladder” is one of my favorite episodes of the second season. Yeah, I said it. Come at me, Bruh!

The humor lightens the mood of what could’ve been yet another serious episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the introduction of the Mariposa clones in the second half of the episode (as well as their subterfuge in stealing genetic samples from Riker and Pulaski) is very well staged, as is the production design for the episode as a whole, but I’m getting ahead of myself. After visiting the Mariposa colony and noticing that the population all twins, triplets, and quadruplets, Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) realizes they’re made up completely of clones. Walter Granger, the colony’s leader, asks Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew for tissue samples from which to create a new batch of clones.

When he refuses, they steal said samples. Riker, Pulaski, and Geordi beam down with phasers and destroy their cloned bodies. Picard comes up with the idea to reunite the two colonies, Bringloidi and Mariposa. It’s a brilliant solution for a very clever story with all the hallmarks of great science fiction, but Irish drunks so nevermind. In a tiny subplot at the beginning of the episode, Worf (Michael Dorn) collapses on the bridge and suffers the Klingon equivalent of measles. Pulaski covers for him, telling Picard he was fasting and passed out from sheer exhaustion. In gratitude, Worf performs a Klingon tea ceremony with her. It’s a nice little character beat that gives us information about Pulaski and Worf.

Like “The Royale,” this is an episode I can watch over and over again, and it’s never boring. People need to get off their collective high horse and appreciate these early episodes. As Picard says, “Sometimes … you just have to bow to the absurd!” Speaking of absurd, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier would be released two-and-a-half weeks after this episode premiered. It was a disturbing juxtaposition for Star Trek fans to see that the movies had been effectively surpassed by the television show in terms of quality. “Q Who,” the episode that introduced the Borg and changed Star Trek forever, premiered two weeks before “Up The Long Ladder.”

Star Trek Rewind explores the Star Trek universe. From Archer to Pike, Kirk to Picard, and Sisko to Janeway— boldly read what no one has read before!

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