Season Two - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Up The Long Ladder

Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

This is one of those episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that sort of leaves me scratching my head. I enjoyed it, but I really shouldn’t have. There are so many negatives to the episode.

The Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Ficus Sector put out by a distress beacon used on Earth in the years 2123-2190. The society in peril calls themselves the Bringloidis and they are the descendants of people who rejected the technological advances of Earth. The lives they wanted to live are of the “back to nature” variety. The planet they settled on is being subjected to stellar flares and they have been residing below the surface until the arrival of the Enterprise.

The Bringlodis come off as an incredibly stereotypical group of what seems like Irish gypsies. They refuse to leave their animals, all the men drink, and many of the women appear to be airheads. The exception to this is Brenna Odell, daughter of Danilo who appears to be the leader of the colony. Brenna is probably more the leader but their society seems decidedly patriarchal. Danilo even attempts to marry his daughter off to Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) before either party has laid eyes on each other.

That the episode does not come off as a total joke is a credit to the actors. Patrick Stewart is believable as the Captain, even when he laughs at the outrageousness of the situation as he’s watching the Enterprise cargo hold be turned into a stable. This is what makes it work for the viewer as well. I think had Picard been his usual stiff self, it wouldn’t have worked so well.

Rosalyn Landor plays Brenna with a fierceness and tenacity that is believable, even when she sets her sights on Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) for a starship fling. It makes it seem that her strength is what is holding the colony together and her one moment of indulgence comes with Riker. Barrie Ingham is good as her father, a daffy sort of man who has the best of intentions, but seems to get sidetracked a bit too often.

If it seems like the episode focuses too much on guest starts, that’s because it does. That would be another quibble I would have with the episode were the performances not as good as they are.

And as if all of this wasn’t enough on the canvas, Danilo casually asks Picard if he knows what became of the “other colony”. Apparently the Bringloidis were deposited on their planet while scientists headed for another one not too far away. A bit of investigation leads Picard to the correct place where he learns that only five of the scientists survived. Their society has been maintained through cloning, only they are having a problem with the DNA pattern fading as they are making a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy…

I knew how the episode was going to end right there, but a plot had to be thrown in where the Mariposans (as they call themselves) steal DNA from Riker and Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur). It’s really unnecessary and pointless and could have been left out without harming the flow of the story at all.

Yes, in the end the Bringloidis decide to settle on the same planet as the Mariposans. To start a diverse enough DNA pool, each woman must have at least 3 children with at least 3 different men. Brenna sees that as an opportunity and immediately seizes it. I don’t think the Mariposans know what they are in for.

There is also an interesting bit with the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) in the beginning that builds up and goes nowhere. When he faints on the bridge (despite his assertion that Klingons do not faint) he is brought to sickbay where it turns out that he has the Klingon Measels. Embarrassed over the fact that a childhood illness has fallen a Klingon warrior, Dr. Pulaski covers for him. He then enjoys the Klingon Tea Ritual with her which is also interesting and again paints a portrait of Klingons as having a very deep romantic side.

The episode is truly funny as opposed to the occasional smile or giggle during a serious episode. It shouldn’t have worked, but it does nicely, leaving the viewer with a smile on their face. Though I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone as an introduction to the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it’s a fun episode for regular viewers.

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