Season 2, Episode 18
Watchers: Mike & Brendan
Whenever Brendan and I sit down to watch Star Trek together I try to choose an episode that has a lot of humor in it. He seems to like the funny ones– just like my husband Tim does actually. One day I’ll get him on here as a co-host. 😉 Anyway, the episode I chose today is “Up The Long Ladder”.
I think I’ve noticed a trend in these season 2 episodes. The teaser often introduces both the A & B plots– but the B plot is often wrapped up in the 1st act. In this episode’s teaser the Enterprise is ordered to investigate an old Terran distress signal coming from a remote planet (the A plot). Meanwhile Lt. Worf faints on the bridge (the B plot). Once we’re in Act 1 Dr. Pulaski quickly diagnosis Worf’s illness as the Klingon version of the measles. She cures him and protects his privacy on the matter. He shows his appreciation by making her some tea. The end. That’s the entire B plot and it’s all wrapped up within the first 11 minutes of he episode. It also could be cut and not affect the A plot at all. Strange, right? It just seems like weird storytelling to me.
To getting back to the A plot (and the comedy) they find a colony of Neo-Transcendentalists who had rejected modern technology before leaving Earth 300 years ago. Translation: they live like 18th century Irish peasants. Their colony must be abandoned because of solar flares and the whole lot of the, farm animals and all, are beamed up– comedy ensues. They are used to cooking over an open fire, have children chasing chickens, most of the men seem to be drunk… etc. I think the writers did just purely for comedy value with moments like a chicken flying around in the corridor. As Picard puts it “Sometimes you just have to bow to the absurd”. Needless to say, the Bringloidy (as they are called) are a little more than out of place and a pretty rough around the edges from a 24th century perspective.
The only exception is Brenna; a lovely young lady who Riker… well, as Brendan puts it “Riker like-her!” Ah yes, we’ve found Will Riker’s woman of the week. He really is like a TNG Kirk, right? She asks him where a girl goes to wash her feet on this ship so he gives her a tour … which ends in his quarters (of course). As soon as she walks into the room she starts cleaning it. That kind of traditional gender roll as Brendan points out, seem pretty out of place on Star Trek. Even though she’s presented as a strong female character– a leader, quick to speak her mind, she still falls into the trap of doing “women’s work”. Her father insists that every moment of pleasure must be bought with an equal moment of pain— the pain usually brought on by the sharp tongue of his daughter. Brendan asked if we are watching a Star Trek retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. In a way, I guess we are. But the plot is complicated when the father asks about the other colony. Their ship had two groups, the anachronistic Bringloidy and a group of scientists.
We soon find the other colony and thanks to Dr. Pulaski being amazing at her job, we learn almost immediately their entire population is made up of clones. Most of the original colonists were killed in an accident. Todays’ population are all clones clones of the 5 survivors. They need fresh DNA– and they ask for donations from the Enterprise crew– who refuse to be cloned. Of course they don’t take no for an answer and they steel cells from Riker and Pulaski and start making clones without permission.
When our crew discover what has happened, Riker kills the clones. Brendan was shocked: “Murderer! What the..?? Is this like an abortion argument?”
I had never thought about it that way. I mean, does the original have the right to murder his own clone? I mean, the clone is a living being after all. Ultimately Riker argues that he has the right to his own body and his own cells. He and Pulaski didn’t authorize this reproduction– they were violated. He doesn’t hesitate to kill the clones. Is he right? I’m not really sure. But I do think his decision would have been more difficult if the clones were fully formed– walking and talking living beings. Then it really would feel like murder.
In the end Picard comes up with a crazy solution. Instead of transporting the Bringloidy to a starbase just drop them off on the clone planet! They certainly have enough DNA to to add into the mix– and they could reproduce sexually with the clones. It’s the perfect solution, right? Right??
Brendan and I aren’t so sure. Surely there are other options right? Now that they’ve been found by Starfleet both groups are part of the Federation and an entire galaxy of options. Why are they stuck with each other? What will Starfleet say about this? I dunno… it just seems too convenient.
Also, did Riker use protection when he… um… washed Brenna’s feet? Because he might have just left behind a little DNA after all. Luckly the littler Riker baby will now have 3 clones for stepfathers. Hmm…
In the end, this story is fun but would be told differently today. The writers really had to squeeze a lot into the 1 episode– so much so that they should have just dropped the Worf subplot. There are a few plot holes, like how did Riker, Pulaski and LaForge escape the clone lab? Before the commercial they were at gun point and after they’re safely back on the Enterprise. Really this whole plot could have been fleshed out much better if spread over a longer story telling arch of several episodes. Also, do the simple folk really need to Irish stereotypes? It seems a bit insensitive and wouldn’t fly on TV today.