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Star Trek TNG - Season 2 - Episode 18

Star Trek TNG - 2x18 - Up The Long Ladder

Originally Aired: 1989-5-22

Two races fight for survival. [DVD]

My Rating - 4

Fan Rating Average - 1.46

Rate episode?

Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
# Votes: 136 607 13 11 17 19 22 7 16 4 8

- Not so much a problem as a nitpick, the synopsis from describes this episode as two "races" fighting for survival when they are clearly both human.
- That class M planet that the advanced half of the colonists were from looks remarkably like Saturn, which is hardly class M.
- The concept of replicative fading is ridiculous. Even if we do accept it at face value, all they'd need is a small sample of an original host's DNA, say, oh, a few trillion cells. Which isn't very much physical material. They'd have clones for thousands of years.


Remarkable Scenes
- Data: "Mariposa. The Spanish word for butterfly." Picard: "Thank you, Data." Data: "I thought it might be significant, sir." Picard: "It doesn't appear to be, Data." Data: "No sir."
- Data talking to himself whilst Picard is talking to himself and Picard's subsequent interruption.
- Worf: "Like tea, death is an experience best shared."
- O'Brien appearance. I love O'Dell's interaction with O'Brien regarding their Irish background.
- Picard: "I do not own the Enterprise, I command her."
- O'Dell trying to marry off his daughter to Picard.
- Worf: "She is very much like a Klingon woman." Regarding O'Dell's daughter.
- Worf replicating a Klingon drink for O'Dell.
- Worf: "Madam! Have you ever considered a career in security?!" To O'Dell's daughter.
- Riker: "One William Riker is unique. Perhaps even special. But 100 Rikers? A thousand? Diminishes me in ways I can't even begin to imagine."
- Geordi the human lie detector.

My Review
Vibrant Irish drunken farmers and incompetent cloners with sex phobia. This episode is, in a word, cute. The humor is effective but the science is not. The episode loses some points for its bad science fiction, but retains quite a few points for being just so damn entertaining in that charming and funny way. O'Dell's daughter alone makes this episode worth at least a few points.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From DSOmo on 2007-07-01 at 12:32am:
    - How did the Bringloidi send a distress call in the first place? When the Enterprise arrives at the Bringloidi's planet, the sensors show no advanced communication network and no artificial power source. These people use spinning wheels and were still able to send a distress call all the way back to Earth?
    - Dr. Pulaski claims that the clones are "among the walking dead now. They just haven't been buried yet." If the clones are really that bad off, why would anyone want them to be part of the gene pool to repopulate a planet?
    - When Riker and Pulaski go to the cloning lab, a close-up shows the markings on the machines. The markings are some sort of alien calligraphy. These people are humans. Wouldn't it make more sense for the writing to be in English? True, the clones have been isolated for three hundred years, and language does evolve. However, three hundred years is not a very long time. Old English documents from three hundred years ago are still readable today. A few characters differ, but the majority are the same.
  • From JRPoole on 2008-02-15 at 10:17pm:
    I'm in almost total agreement with the review here; this is an entertaining episode if you just take the bad science at face value. O'Dell's daughter is an entertaining character--as are all the Bringloidi, even if they're a little stereotypical. She's also exceptionally beautiful.

    I'm also enough of a dork to like any episode that shows us the inner workings of the Enterprise, like the fire containment field.

    I do have a few other quibbles with this episode. The first is fairly serious: I don't buy Riker's response to seeing the clones. Despite the fact that these beings were created without permission, they're still life forms. They seem virtually ready to be viable outside of their cloning chambers, and this is still murder. Even if we don't define it as murder, it's enough of a gray area that I can't imagine Picard and Star Fleet would approve of Riker's rash action.

    The other two are fairly minor. Geordi's lie detecting abilities are problematic. Does he cheat at poker? Wouldn't this have come into play earlier in some more serious situation?

    And finally, just what is a normal shift like onboard the Enterprise? Is Will free to go chasing tail in the middle of his duties? I always wonder about this when a bridge officer gets a summons to the bridge in the middle of a holodeck program or something, and this episode made me wonder what a normal workday on the Enterprise is like.

  • From Eric on 2011-02-07 at 4:57pm:
    I think many TNG episodes are fraught with problems, but this one horribly so. As mentioned, Riker nonchalantly murdering the clones seems awfully unethical. A cloned human is a human.

    O'Dell's daughter commented on not being sure she wanted to be Eve. Isn't she already in that position? How many of their people are there? It didn't look like very many.

    Watching it this time around, I was really bothered at the crew's attitude toward the Bringloid. Those people didn't have much choice other than be fairly unsophisticated. Also, surely the crew would have interviewed them at the earliest opportunity to learn anything they could. They would have known about the other ship. Instead the Enterprise beamed them up,was repulsed by them rather than interested in them, and made no effort to learn anything!

    I like the premise if the episode could be 99% re-written.

    This time around I've also noticed that the writers were really trying to make Pulaski an important character. For at least a few episodes she was on the bridge a lot, for no apparent reason.

  • From CAlexander on 2011-04-12 at 3:48pm:
    A mediocre episode at best, but amusing. There are a lot of things that are odd or out of character in this episode, but I didn't mind as much as usual because I chalked it off to being a humor episode.

    - When the Mariposans ask for 5 cell donors, Picards says no one on the Enterprise will agree, and acts like that is the end of it. This seems rather disingenuous on his part. The Mariposans won't die out for years; surely they could find somebody – somewhere – who would sell them some cell samples. I can only imagine that cloning is viewed by the Federation as either illegal, or so abhorrent that Picard will have no part in helping the Mariposans.
    - It is hard to figure out the ethics of disintegrating the clones, when the cloning technique makes no sense to me. At first I assume the Mariposans were making real life clones who start as babies. But no, we see they are making Hollywood clones that start as adults. But that kind of clone usually involves copying the mind of the clonee, and there is no indication of that. And Mariposan technology is too primitive for that anyway. So how are the clones given personalities? Are they raised like children, but in adult bodies? Seems strange, but the most likely possibility. In which case I guess they are total blanks when they are killed by Riker.
    - Speaking of ethics, it seems odd that there is no moral debate about killing the clones. But it does have some nice continuity with the Federation dislike of genetic engineering and computer-controlled starships and cyborgs. They seem to have a humanistic belief that people should live out their own potential and not change themselves into something else.
    - I'm not convinced replicative fade is totally unreasonable, but it is odd. The presumption has to be that the cloning technique only works on cells fresh from a living host. But I certainly couldn't say why. Especially when suspended animation was standard technology in the 1990's in the Star Trek universe.
    - I agree with the gene pool comment, I also thought that the Mariposans wouldn't have great genetic material. But I don't think we can complain, the DNA just has to be good enough, and more diversity is better, especially when the Mariposans' have an understandable desire to be included in their own gene pool. Maybe that is the reason for the three husbands concept.
    - I agree that Geordi's lie detection is problematic (and soon forgotten).
  • From John on 2011-11-21 at 3:44am:
    @DSOmo: The Bringloidi didn't send the distress message, the other colony did -- the two planets were within half a light year of one another. The Enterprise just happened to enter that sector of the galaxy nearest to the Bringloidi planet and encountered them first.
  • From Inga on 2012-01-06 at 11:26am:
    @John Then why were the crew surprised to learn that there were another colony?

    Also, why didn't the Mariposans take Geordi's DNA? They did ask for 5 donors, so why take only 2, when you can take at least 3?
  • From Ed Flinn on 2012-03-31 at 12:49am:
    Stan Freberg used to claim that the Swiss were the last ethnic group against whom bigotry was safe. Star Trek claims that in the 24th Century it's the Irish, as long as its done with a smile.
  • From John on 2012-12-03 at 3:48am:
    @Inga: they were surprised because they were under the impression that the one ship they found the record of only went to one destination. The only information about that ship was the cargo manifest, which said nothing about the mission itself.

    It's not shown, but I suspect a red flag went up when they discovered the Bringloidi had no communications equipment. A second colony was confirmed when the leader asked about the 'other colony'.
  • From Arianwen on 2012-12-15 at 6:46pm:
    Cute? Fecking offensive would be my word for it. I'm not Irish, and I'm not hugely familiar with Irish stereotypes, but this is so unsubtle it sets even my alarms blaring. And hey, the only two speaking parts are given to English actors (good though they are) because there are clearly not enough actors in Ireland: aside from dialectisms, the accents sound very Scottish at times. And, of course, the accordion, the whisky and the sweary women who complain that the husbands do no work. See, when an Irish show does it it's self-parody, and it's funny. That's the difference.
    The other objection I have is the moral of the episode, or rather the lack of morals. The crew simultaneously preaches tolerance of other cultures while displaying an uncharacteristic revulsion towards both sets of colonists. Case in point, Riker kills the clones with no move to check whether they're alive yet. He's motivated solely by disgust and a sense of property (my DNA! mine!) and yet no-one calls him out on this. The "solution" to the population problem is to effectively press-gang a more primitive people into becoming breeding stock for a technologically advanced elite. Not a hint of dilemma throughout. WHAT.

    One point, for the
  • From bodner on 2014-05-27 at 8:36am:
    Pretty troubling that they just murder their clones and there are no repercussions.
    But maybe Picard showed the way when he murdered the timeshifted version of himself some episodes before.
  • From Rob UK on 2015-02-16 at 11:58pm:
    Beardy Bill the Enterprise's resident sex pest at it again

    "As first officer i feel it is my duty to smash your back door right in pet, legs get them dorty feet washed"

    Fun homour episode, i like the old hooch fiend trying to palm his mental henpecking daughter off on anyone he can he thinks has a few quid
  • From Jadzia Guinan Smith on 2018-02-12 at 2:34am:
    I find myself agreeing with every criticism I’ve read here. This episode is morally and culturally offensive; logically and scientifically absurd.

    I would also ask: even if cloning was the primary way they grew their population, why would it have been been necessary to “suppress the natural sexual drive”? It’s not like sexual activity would get in the way of cloning! Also they could get a few new gene combinations, that could add some strength, it certainly wouldn’t do any harm.

    And... why would they not try to get LaForge’s tissue sample? Is it because he is blind? It’s not the sort of thing the audience should have to guess at.

    I do like the idea of 2 peoples who started out together being separated for centuries and then being the exact answer to each other’s problems. But beyond that generic notion, nothing about this episode is remotely tolerable. Even the so-called “humor” is nothing more than derision based on ethnic and gender stereotypes. I give it 1.
  • From jeffenator98 on 2019-05-30 at 5:24pm:
    Picard had more fun in "Chain of command 1 and 2" than I did watching this episode. Embarrassing 176 out of 176.
  • From Alex Malizia on 2020-08-28 at 3:02am:
    While a terrible episode, the bit with O'Dell and Worf and talking about the moment of fun/silence being paid for by his wife shrill yell in the background (err, daughter i guess) is hysterical.

    "Every moment of pleasure in life has to be purchased by an equal moment of pain."
    "Remember what I said about the moment of pain? Well, 'tis about to begin!"
  • From Poutine_On_The_Ritz on 2023-02-01 at 5:40am:
    O'Dell and his daughter definitely salvage the episode, as you say. Otherwise, I'd give it a 1 or 2.

    I do have one factoid on this one: there's a 1981 Broadway musical called Copperfield. It includes a song called "Up The Ladder" performed by a character named Uriah Heep. Heep is played by Barrie Ingham, who also plays O'Dell in this TNG episode. I have no idea if the writers of this episode named it after the song that O'Dell performs in Copperfield, but it seems like a crazy coincidence if they didn't.

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